DMA logoMr Kyps logo (Rock Regeneration)There is an eager crowd in Mr Kyps this Saturday night, lots of people milling around, catching up with each other, various nervous band members included. There is a buzz about, an air of anticipation and expection, everyone knowing they’re going to hear great music, even if only the band they are supporting.

County Hospital are first on, with a couple of extra players who have obviously been drafted in for tonight’s show; this isn’t mentioned at all, and it is barely noticeable, they are so tight together.

County Hospital DMA SF1As for the Quarter Final, the hospital scrubs are again in attendance, however this time the dustbins seem to be absent. They start with 3 punchy numbers, brash and loud, before spreading into a very laidback Grateful Dead style jam in the middle of Robot. For no reason at all apart from it’s a fun thing to do, lead Tim Smart and Bass Luke are standing on an illuminated red boxes. Tim’s also suffering from an unusual number of guitar lead failures, switching them around a lot.

This is always the way with a Smart performance – it is always at the cutting edge of what are Tim’s capabilities, and lots of work and thought goes into how the show might come off – when it works it is brilliant, when it doesn’t, it’s normally endearingly comical.  This time around it seems things aren’t working as well as they would, so while all the effort is there, the results don’t come across as I know they can do, I sincerely hope the judges see past the kit, and look for the performance excellence.

During the ballad they usually close with, Tim jumps across and falls over, gaining small applause, while Ed kicks off some tricked out drum moves. Tim’s sister Claire joins in the refrain, while Tim switches to the megaphone he’d used to open the set. They don’t finish here, instead switching to an up-tempo song. At the end they all jump off the instruments and pick up drums to close percussively, which is a moment of perfection at the last. 

Constellation DMA SF1Constellation are next, as they are announced at the end of County Hospital a shout goes up – they have clearly brought their previously noted crowd with them. They are energised, pumped and clearly putting everything they can into this. Band T-shirts are spotted so they’ve also been on the merch trail…

They open with some very mainstream rock, and this crowd of theirs are loving it, based on the massive reaction both during and at the ends of songs. The third song is leader Ali’s favourite, and small wonder, it stretches his voice to the strain point at both ends of his quite immense range, while the music breaks down into the smooth 4/4 anthem Flowers

What helps me is that by now I’m beginning to get to know their material, having seen this particular song as one their two in the heat, and in the near full set for their Quarter Final. This isn’t appreciated by some in the crowd – one comment very deliberately given to me is “their chord progressions carry all the crushing inevitability of western paternalism” – in other words this critic wasn’t being particularly complimentary about the sequences chosen, even though I think they work for the style of music Constellation have chosen.

They’ve clearly been working hard in the past few weeks, they close with a new song Don’t Stop the Music, and it is tricky and ambitious, lots of pauses and breaks, awkward rhythms. I say it must have been hard work, to my ears the performance is flawless, no hesitation or funny looks as normally happens when something misses in a new song.

The crowd clearly want more of them, and want to let the judges know that as well, calls for encores and more carry on for a long time afterwards. My only concern is that this fantastic crowd could dissipate towards the end of the night.

Fearne DMA SF1The mood continues as Fearne are announced, even more volume and screaming hysterical girls, coupled with being really active all over mr Kyps. The lads have also sorted out their wardrobe for this important gig – they previously announced earlier today they were being sad and going shopping together – its worked, they’re looking mighty fine in smart shirts and waistcoats, and Nick is still sporting his bling bass guitar strap.

The stage presence and crowd interaction is outstanding – a guitar falls over, causing a muted pause, Alex recovers it and shouts “cheer” – they do. For 2010 single Closer the crowd are shouting out the lyrics as the band give space for them, even drowning out the band at one point.

I must admit, it is a little much, all the screaming, probably just because I’m not used to hearing it at the majority of local gigs I go to. However (as pointed out to me by a discerning mind) the band are sporting big smiles, this is reflected in the faces of the crowd as well.

Bel Casino DMA SF1Bel Casino make a big entrance – as the screen is lifted up, they are positioned behind it and start immediately, positive and energetically upbeat, making the most of the boost the crowd has given. Josh has picked up a lead riff for song Somewhere New and it draws us in, then drops us as Chris walks on and the song begins, to me just like waves at Chesil beach.

One harsh commentator feeds me with ” its not quite elevator music, but…”. Maybe I’m even being harsh by repeating that – at least that person was in, listening, rather than giving up outside. Other comments I hear: “charming”, and that the check shirts don’t do it with the sound – check shirts = lumberjack = rough & edgy, and the music is as far from rough and edgy as it can be. This one I can agree with, having had that pointed out to me I can see their point.   That Bel Casino are uniformed is good, my next question could have been “so what uniform does go with this sound” – I only think about this afterwards though.

Those crowd Bel Casino do have are vocal and are around the venue, rather than just being at the front. I love Josh’s hook in their last song, and JD is giving it his all behind the drums, they make an excellent smooth band, and I hope this is picked up by those fans who prefer their music to be more of the pure-rock variety.

Cella Creeps DMA SF1Cella Creeps also stage a grand entrance. Mark is alone on stage playing an awesome grungy riff on guitar. Ollie (drums) walks on and starts up in perfect synch. Then Ed (bass) struts on, back to crowd and bopping while he plugs in, before kicking off the song in proper style. As hopefully captured in my shot, they are pumped, Ed particularly pacing around the stage. As they close this start, they semi apologise for kicking off with such a heavy riff led track, after “the amazing acoustic-led acts before us”

Their second song Ride Beat has to be the song of the entire competition for me, Marks guitar synth led air cuts to my heart, when Ed’s lyrics are placed over them its just so awesomely lonesome, words fail me.

What is becoming clear is how much the bands are taking on board from us hacks and critics. Ed announces their third song as written specifically for Tony from bhone, since they’d been decried by him as having no hooks or leads. As per their quarter final presence, there is a mention of the other band, Mutant Vinyl, since 2 of 3 of them are also in that; they wanted a difference for their heavy sound, so found Ollie and went with Cella Creeps.

My only disappointment is the endemic Bournemouth music scene problem, some fickle members of the audience have now deserted the venue having seen their band play, not even giving Cella Creeps the benefit of the doubt regarding appreciation. Please guys, these types of multi-band showcases only work if all bands are given a fair crack at wowing you with their sounds – if you’re not wowed by one don’t give up on the whole night…

I have to interrupt my musings – Ed’s now in the crowd, crawling over the floor while still keeping the undercurrent bass going, leaping back to the mic just in time to start the next verse. At the end they cheekily include in their rap “we’ll hopefully see you at the O2” – many will probably know that the “other band” they’ve mentioned earlier are playing there on Monday night.

What I’m definitely going to take away from their performance is how much fun it is – I have a huge grin on my face thanks to their antics, particularly of Ed’s struts and screams. thus ends an awesome evening of music, and I’m anticipating some eager debate over the next week or so on opinions of the bands’ performances.


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