DMA logoWe’re reaching the end of this year’s marathon that is the Dorset Music Awards 2011, being kicked off by The Longest Day in the O2 Academy. Probably understandably for the early start, we have maybe 200 people here, which makes things look really sparse in this wonderfully large venue.

The stage is a vast space, which can really be appreciated from the balcony. There are stacks of subs on either side at the front, providing outrigger platforms for those screaming guitar solos. Surprisingly for a venue the quality of the O2, the on stage lighting struggles to provide sufficient illumination – drummers are in relative darkness, and the ambient lighting isn’t sufficient quality to take photos without flash – even the pro photographers are struggling.

The Longest Day DMA O2The Longest Day have definitely taken things to the next level; their entrance is onto a darkened stage with an introductory narrative piece over the sound system comprising their short track Utopia with voice over.

Dan is singing alone for their opener, then picks up the guitar for Kamikaze Dream, which is kicked out with fury and action – as he has just announced they’re here to have a lot of fun and be the warm up act for everyone.

This fun continues all the way through their set, animated antics, heavy bass and guitars throughout – by the time they reach Breathe More Air they’ve reached a crescendo and hence go out with a real bang.

New Volunteer DMA O2New Volunteer come in with an interesting opener, all gathered around Rich as he opens on the glockenspiel (that’s why the photo shows them huddled together.)

Halfway through Surrounded is simply fantastic, and sounds great on this stage. I miss the end of the set as I’ve been grabbed by Sarah from ISSTV for my thoughts on the Dorset Music Awards; I hear they played their usual brilliant end with drum solos – very brilliant musically and artistically, however some weren’t happy with the lack of visual animation between the start and end of the set.

County Hospital DMA O2County Hospital are next, and are still dressed in scrubs after a fashion. Ed this time chooses a naughty nurse outfit to sit behind the drum kit in. They’ve also set up a traffic cone, and a roadworks sign is collapsed to one side.

By this stage my estimate is we have 400 in the main arena, a good 6 rows deep at the front, spread across the whole stage to appreciate the artists.

Antics including Ed walking out (in said nurse outfit including short skirt) to take the traffic cone behind the drums, while Tim sets up the roadwork sign. He’s also taken the top of the mic stand to play guitar with, holding it under his arm while still jumping around playing. This promptly messes up his tuning, causing a smart aside from Ed as cover for the re-tune..

They are playing a blinder; some comment they’re not making the full use of the stage space available to them – they’ve chosen to set up in the front right corner, though Tim is prancing about in his usual fashion all over the place. All in all an eccentric display of shambolic excellence…

Evolver DMA O2Evolver are third up of the finalists. They are immediately very slick, and look like they own the stage rather than the stage owning them. They have their incredibly vocal fans with them again, which account for half of the front of the crowd.

One other comment from someone else – they have a very 80’s look with the jackets and T shirts, yet also endearingly School Of Rock for those that can picture the band that won the competition in that movie. This look works for me, and fits their sound for tonight.

Evolver Interleaved from Dreadlock PhotographyThey are going all out with the music, and the act – Bring It Back featuring megaphone vocalist and interlocking guitarists anyone? Thanks to Dreadlock Photography for this photo. This coupled with the rest of their performance makes them many’s most enjoyable band so far; I’m still sold on County Hospital

Cella Creeps DMA O2Cella Creeps make a big entrance, Ollie opening on drums as Mark and Ed stride in then immediately start pumping out hard rock.

While other bands’ lead guitarists alone have used the outriggers on either side of the stage front to solo, Ed and Mark each take one simultaneously and rock out on them together

Ed generously dedicates Ride Beat to me from stage, “Tim Heywood who does HopeFM” and then goes on to accuse me of being their number one groupie! Which reminds me, I still haven’t had them on the show in this guise…

Cella Creeps moshpit DMA O2Their finale has to be handed to the fans, big moshing going on, encouraged by the anticipatory suspense brought in by delaying and delaying the big chorus, through a huge build, to a final explosion of musical immensity. Love it.

One can tell Fearne are about to take the stage – for nearly the whole time since Cella Creeps leave the stage their fans have been active and vocal all through the interval. Fearne make a classic entrance all walking on together then start with Sundays Coming.

Fearne DMA O2No moshing going on, however there’s a fair bit of ladies underwear being thrown towards the stage until prevented by security. All while the band play on seemingly oblivious, yet clearly enjoying what’s going on.

What I can’t really express is the feeling of seeing one of my favourite local bands playing one of the top two venues in Bournemouth, punching out their oh so familiar tunes to an awesome house.

There are a couple of comments about the lack of big movement and dance, but that isn’t Fearne‘s forte, they just get on and bang out tuneful and delightful song after song. Alex gives Lily Allen a big build up, talking briefly about the other female stars he wrote songs about before getting a winner with this one. The crowd absolutely erupt at the end of their set, before dispersal for the judges deliberations.

Trevor Hill DMA O2Finally we are at the end of the night, and the end of the awards.

All acts get a trophy award just for reaching this stage of the competition, then the individual judges announce their picks:

Endorse It In Dorset Festival: County Hospital
Beach Break Festival: Fearne
Larmer Tree Festival: Fearne

Stephen Machat DMA O2Finally Steven Machat, music entrepreneur and special guest judge tonight takes to the stage to announce the winner of the 2011 Dorset Music Award. He makes a short speech, specifically stating that normally he’s looking at acts for tomorrow that will make it in the more distant future. However tonight he’s looking to pick the band today that he thinks has the most chance to make it tomorrow.
After much build up, to an increasingly noisy audience, he makes his announcement : Fearne

The place goes wild, Alex looks to be in tears, I’m well pleased, and hearty congratulations go to everyone.

An amazing end to another amazing year of Dorset Music Awards, and we’ve all reached the marathon end tape together. The real winner tonight being live original music in Dorset.

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