2010, and the last weekend in May sees a major music competition, a multitude of bands descend on one venue and play their hearts out in front of a large, screaming audience in order to gain the votes of a panel of experts, resulting in one being crowned winner with prizes including some high-profile gigs.
No, I’m not talking about Eurovision. That was last night. Tonight is the final of the Fibbers Battle of the Bands contest. To be fair, the two events are fairly similar. Except BotB is a lot smaller than Eurovision, there’s less cheese, a lot less Lycra, very little silly dancing, a lot less (I would hope) political voting and an act from the UK has a very good chance of winning.
Oh, yeah, and the music is orders of magnitude better.
As I understand it, bands reach the final through a series of knockout heats and semi-finals, during which it is the audience which votes for the winners. So, the more fans, friends and family members the band brings along, the more chance of progressing. I think one finalist is put through by a judging panel. This year, this method resulted in five very different bands making it through to tonight’s final.
Sadly, Kill The Captain had to drop out at short notice. A shame as I’d not heard them before. Some other time maybe.
The running order was decided on the day and first to take to the stage were The Littlemores, a band I had seen and enjoyed earlier this year, despite their music not being to my usual tastes. Ska-like, I stand by my earlier description that they sound like The Jam gone pop. As last time, they were joined on stage by multi-instrumentalist Ben Crosthwaite, who added the accordion to the previously featured trumpet. Ben adds a different dimension and a large degree of originality to the band’s songs, which deal largely with aspects of youth and contain a degree of humour. My favourites from tonight’s set were For The Lads, which tells the “story” of a young man who ends up joining the BNP, to the disappointment of others and something whose title begins with “O” (I’m writing this a week after the event and can’t read my notes…) which featured the aforementioned accordion and some strangely Santana-like guitar-playing. The overall feeling is one of fun and The Littlemores had their large and somewhat vocal support bouncing.
It was all change in the audience as the next band took to the stage and fans of Scarborough boys The Shadracks moved to the front. If the Littlemores embody fun, the more traditionally indie sounding Shadracks could be said to represent cheekiness. There’s lots of Cheshire Cat grins and more than one audience-involving gimmick, such as getting a volunteer to play tambourine on stage or keyboard-player Joe running into the audience with a small hand-held keyboard. Sadly, the vocals weren’t as clear and the songs a little less memorable, but the set did include a reasonable drum solo (not something you see very often from local bands). It was, however, another very good performance.
Third up were Lost From Atlas and regular (hah!) readers will know that I really like this band. (In fact, they were one of the two reasons I was here tonight.) Unusually, the Atlas boys broke up their set a bit so that Danny could speak although, to be honest, he did look a little uncomfortable doing so and I can’t help but wonder whether they thought it was expected of them to engage with the audience a bit. I’m fairly certain that there as some new material in the set which was another excellent one from an outstanding band who were described by tonight’s host (Alexander King who, it has to be said, did a particularly good job as compere) as “bewilderingly good”.
Finally, and with quite a disparity in age to the rest of tonight’s acts, Maybe She’s A Clone took to the stage. Described to me as “loud guitar rock”, they are listed on the link above as “rock / emo / indie” What is emo anyway?? This was another new band to me, despite knowing one of the members. They follow the twin guitar pattern of one of my favourite local bands but manage to sound very different. Although I thought I detected a little Southern Rock (a la Black Stone Cherry) in the first song, that soon disappeared and the overall impression I was with was something more akin to The Engineers as, even without keyboards, they managed to produce a similar soundscape. Again, the vocals, shared throughout the band, weren’t that clear from where I was standing but the riff-driven guitar-playing was superb. Highlight for me was the brilliantly melodic Breathe Again.
And then, after a short deliberation on the part of the judges, the results were announced. Perhaps a little unfairly, the acts were announced from three to one, leaving fourth place somewhat unrecognised. The full order was:
4th: Maybe She’s A Clone
3rd: The Shadracks
2nd: Lost From Atlas
1st: The Littlemores -a result which went down well with what seemed to be the majority of the audience.
Personally, I wouldn’t have ranked the bands in that order. Based purely on personal taste, Lost From Atlas would have been winners, followed by Maybe She’s A Clone, The Littlemores and, finally, The Shadracks.
That’s not to take anything from any of the bands – despite two of them not being my “thing”, all of them were thoroughly entertaining and, overall, it was a fantastic evening.