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Fair play on the club thing, it was great to get a proper binge drink on back in the day but I'd agree with you these days.
There's a few nice open mic nights, there's a new one at Passing Clouds, and there's one at Wilders that's been going on every wednesday for at least 20 years, there's one at Rosies, though I've never been, I've just seen my mate's played there before, and there's two a week at the Old George - all fairly standard open mic type things. There's also Tyneside Irish Centre near Chinatown, and that has a proper session type thing going on. I can link all these places if you want but I'm sure you'll find them. Pubs are always looking for artists, too.
Newcastle has a great little band scene that I was a part of for a long time, and you'll surely meet people if you hit open mics, but also get yourself to J.G Windows music shop, they have a bulletin board there where people recruit/start bands. I'm sure there's an internet thing for it these days too, somewhere. Newcastle college has a great, and massive music course so there's never any shortage. I probably still know some organisers if you ever do get a band going.
There's two fantastic local magazine/guide things with loads of information in them, and have been the heart of the band scene there forever. http://narcmagazine.com and http://www.thecrackmagazine.com. The latter used to be the cooler one, but I'm too old to know which is now. You'll find paper copies of these almost everywhere in town, anyway.
Sand dancer is definitely the term and people will always know what you mean, but I'm not sure it's that commonly used. You'll probably impress a few old men in pubs with it but that's about it.
I had forgotten how much goes on up here until this post, to be honest. I've only just moved back up myself. I hope you enjoy it.