Yellowgroove @ Smokin’ Aces

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Yellowgroove @ Smokin Aces 18 NovThis is Yellowgroove‘s debut at Smokin’ Aces – it’s to be followed up with their second gig here, next week. They start the second set with Hero Wanted – I’ve missed the first set due to being late. They also perform Wheels of Fire, which was acoustically debuted on the show they came on, on Wednesday. Its good hearing the full-on version on stage, even with the cut back sound that’s needed here.

Yellowgroove window of sound @ Smokin Aces 18 NovHaving said that, its not as cut back as bands normally include here – they don’t have any small amps, so they’ve stacked everything up in the window – this gives them even less room on the small stage than normal, not that one would notice, they’re still moving about as normal, its just a few paces, rather than strutting across the whole stage as they would normally do….

Their progressive song Avalon starts more laid back, yet still aggressive and passionate, just ‘cos they can’t move a lot doesn’t mean they’re not still putting everything into the performance. As the progressive nature takes hold, Avalon is seriously moving on. Surprisingly they don’t do an encore; I was seriously hoping for a repeat of personal fave Son Of A Working Man (which they started with tonight, looking at the set list). The lads tell me since new drummer Chris has joined, they’ve extended it (something I’ve wanted for a while with this great yet short song) with a drum section. Oh well, another time :).

Trev's Yellowgroove Birthday Cake @ Smokin' Aces 18 NovI then spend some time hanging about enjoying the Smokin’ Aces vibe, DJ Jevon playing some cool tunes, all part of Trevor Hill‘s (Dorset Music Awards, Devils Music) birthday celebration – Yellowgroove have even made him a ‘Y’ shaped cake…a brilliant touch capping a brilliant night out.

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May Focal @ Smokin’ Aces

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Smokin’ Aces is a great little bar – its obviously a good place to hang out, many people I don’t recognise as musos are here just enjoying what’s going on. The only blights are the abysmal lack of free parking at 10 pm in the town centre, and an exhorbitant £1.50 for half a glass of squash.  Just a short report tonight…

Isobel Thatcher

Isobel Thatcher Smokin AcesShe’s on when I arrive, she’s got a great voice, she’s also sickeningly young with a huge amount of talent. She’s just playing an acoustic guitar and singing, but I’m doing her an injustice with that description, definitely worth seeking her out again.

Natalie Betts

Natalie Betts Smokin AcesBelied by the name as this is a four piece band, Natalie leading on acoustic guitar and voice, with bass, drums and accompanying female vocal. They are playing good stuff too, voices working well in harmony. At the end they cover Teenage Dirtbag, its rhythmic, and an amazing difference to the original showing their creativity.

Vida

Vida Smokin AcesThese are the house band for Focal evenings. Three incredible ladies with amazing individual voices, combining their talents together and having a good time with it. Oh – there’s Karl & Rio playing for them to sing against. The ladies being Kristy, Elena and Natalee, they all have their various heritages, indeed Kristy and Elena were in much missed funk band Otto together.

Vida Smokin' AcesThey take turns leading each song, with the other two placing harmonic Ooohs and Aaaahs accordingly, or singing a choral lyric, again harmonised. Their cover of In The Air Tonight is incredible, each takes a different harmony, combined singing a capella, plus taking one line at a time solo, while still in their harmonic key.

As Karl gently brings the music in the verse is more poetised than sung, and we get two drum ‘ins’. The thing I really like is the clear communication between the ladies, signals showing counts, going high or low, and ordering their voice parts. Brilliant.

Dorset Music Awards – Semi Finalists revealed.

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DMA logoThe results are in from the Quarter Finals of the Dorset Music Awards 2011 , the Semi Finalists being:

Bel Casino
Big Face Reggae
Cella Creeps
Constellation
County Hospital
Evolver
Fearne
Hessian
Mischa
New Volunteer

There are definitely some surprises for me there, thought The Neon Tigers would have had it nailed, but then at the expense of whom? – all are deserved looking back at my blog notes.

I am slightly disappointed that Powdered Cows didn’t make it, then surprised and pleased that both County Hospital and Cella Creeps have gone through;  thought two of them would be a victim to the other one of those three rather than vice versa – all three by far offered the best artistic efforts of this round.

Not at all surprised that we have four acts from the last Quarter Final, at the expense of only two from each of the earlier Quarter Finals – although the lack of crowds that turned out for that QF doesn’t bode too well for the near future. As I said at the time, the concluding QF lineup could have been many people’s ideal Final lineup…

It almost disquiets comments about the voting system, in that those bands that had the least people seeing them at this stage have managed to do enough on the campaign trail to reach the next stage. Then again, bands that pulled out all the stops for their QF appearance (Cella Creeps, Pachango , Constellation, Sirpico) have had mixed fortunes.

I do feel for other artistic talents that haven’t made it – particularly Saturday Sun, who fit perfectly into the South-Coast-beach-induced vibe alongside Bel Casino, Fearne and Big Face Reggae

I’m disappointed that after last year’s phenonemal effort, Sarah Griffin didn’t make it; not having a band seems to place one at a large disadvantage at this stage – Lauren Bannon being the only other similiar act to make it through the heats to then fall at this hurdle.

My thoughts for the public voting round to any acts lucky enough to be here next year? Make sure you have a pile of gigs lined up in different places, and get out there and win a new crowd over (easy for me to say – I always bear in the back of my mind that anyone can be a critic, it takes hard work to be an artist).  I think that’s what some bands in particular did in 2010, not that I was keeping that a close an eye on last year’s proceedings 😉

Again, lots of hard and quick work by Rich and Trev to announce the results so swiftly, thanks fellas!  Here’s to the Semi Finals in a couple of weeks at Mr Kyps.

Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 4

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DMA logoWe’re at the last week of the Dorset Music Award Quarter Finals, and anyone watching Facebook and Myspace will already be well aware of this – 20 bands, most of which are actively on the “vote for me” campaign trail have reached this stage, ten will be decided upon by this, the public voting round.  On paper, this last night promises to be the best of the four, the line up could almost be construed as anyone’s ideal final lineup, all the acts here are huge names on the circuit.

Sarah Griffin Dorset Music Awards QF 4Sarah Griffin opens, again she’s performing solo, and being soulful with it, really pouring out her heart into the songs. Upbeat Crazy Kate is an exception, otherwise she’s keeping with her ballads. There is promise of upbeat to come, (or even a beat, she jokes) if she gets through to the next round.

issTV are here again this week, catching interviews with a number of the bands (OK, I have a little bit to do with some introductions). They’re intending to produce a package on the whole music awards, so are trying to catch everyone they can in these stages

Mischa Dorset Music Awards QF 4Mischa is the second act presenting himself to us tonight, he’s again gone with the full more or less unplugged band; he was on the show the other week with Roland (cello, ukelele), he’s also brought Ed  on bass and Si C on cajon, making for a full rich sound, yet still laid back and summery feeling. Opening with his classic Air I Breathe, its more of an extended jam session as they all bounce off each other.

I also have another catch up with Alex Marle – he runs the Music Mania events at the Winchester, and is organising a stage at the Rugby Sevens over the Spring Bank Holiday (6 bands,2 days, £30 a ticket, unless you speak nicely to Alex as he has some reduced price ones available.)

New Volunteer Dorset Music Awards QF 4New Volunteer seem to take a long time to set up, but its worth it. They open with just a looped glockenspiel, growing their sound and building it in a very open manner – not much soloing going on, just a laid back crescendo. As the set progresses they become more mainstream – one song reminds me a bit of See Emily Play by Pink Floyd, melody-wise. They are flamboyantly dischordant and wonderfully artistic musically.

What I am disappointed at is the crowd, or lack thereof. This is really surprising since (as I said at the start) the 5 acts on tonight on paper make the best line up of the competition so far. Having said that, none of them (with one exception) have really brought much of a crowd with them, excuses could be it’s paddy night (I’m still puzzled that everyone goes a bit mad for an Irish night) or that they are on too late (in Fearne’s case probably true, they have a lot of fans at the younger end of the age spectrum).

Big Face Reggae Dorset Music Awards QF 4Big Face Reggae (Si Crockett in band mode) is our penultimate liner tonight – I’m wondering if he’s feeling a bit misplaced – this is his 3rd gig in 2 days now and he starts with a cover (I thought DMA was an original music competition, unlike last nights comp.!)
He’s roped in Nacho Jase, and Si Genaro again tonight, with the addition of Ant Lewis on bass. The cover was a laid back Bobby McFerrin number which settles the lineup and sets a good scene, he then slips more into his beach induced surf / skank material. The four of them are very tight, as pauses, accelerandos and rallentandos in the music demonstrate.

Fearne Dorset Music Awards QF 4Last on tonight are Fearne who kick off an awesome set – they are really antsy on stage as if they have a point to prove, like they own this competition (as they well should). This is DMA year 6, Fearne have been going in varying guises for 6 years, and this is the first time they’ve entered. They are also the only band tonight that have a vocal crowd, that (as per last week’s final act) have to be in contention for most tenacious fans award. The fans are active, moving forward on request and very vocal. I really hope that in particular these guys have done enough to get through this fan vote round.

In conclusion then, Fearne have given the best overall performance, and New Volunteer are my pick for the most “arty”, and also just about have an edge on the others for providing the most musical interest; all acts have been superb tonight.

Cut up Disco’s Out (Murder’s In)

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The first Friday night of the month is always a tough one; I help out at a craft evening for 4-9’s which always takes it out of me. This time, inspired by a good rugby result (I get in to see the second half of the Wales-England game). I drag myself over to Smokin Aces for what I anticipate is going to be an great party, courtesy of those fun-loving people known as Disco’s Out (Murder’s In).

Band In A Window

And I’m not wrong. Despite being crammed into the window they are doing what they do best, but this time messed up and more acoustic. Tubbs has been forced onto an electric drumkit, three are in the window with him, the brass are in the crowd.

They are running as a jukebox – pick a number between 1 & 16 and they’ll play it. The band sound awesome, the crowd are up for it, the bar is rammed and we’re all having a great time.

Band in the Crowd

I was trying to take this photo to give a further impression of the madcap antics, when Mischa piles in and starts jumping all over the place, he’s really happy to be here!

It’s odd to have the band so up and in your face , when they are still doing such a big sound as would normally be expected.  Towards the end of the night individuals in the crowd take over the mic-in-the-crowd for funny abuse and interjections, totally putting off Ed & Imogen’s brass sounds.

goes out to Martin (trombone, rapping, other assorted instruments) unable to make it to much disappointment, him most of all no doubt!

Dorset Music Awards – Heat results announced

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Well, it’s all over, and 20 of arguably the best acts in Dorset have made it through to the public voting Quarter Finals of the Dorset Music Awards 2011 – and I feel able to talk about it properly 😉 

First off, big kudos to everybody daring enough to enter the awards in the first place, and to then play in the heats – it must be absolutely daunting to know that you’re giving a performance that you will be assessed on, that could possibly change where you’ve been heading so far.  I don’t play publicly anymore, so you’re already way many steps ahead of me, a mere critic. Admittedly I’m one who prefers to offer critical appraisal rather than pure criticism, so I found it hard to make some harsh decisions in the judging chambers.

Those acts chosen are (in the order seen in the Heats):

Sarah Griffin
Mischa
Powdered Cows
Saturday Sun
Sirpico
  Lauren Bannon
Pachango
Cella Creeps
Big Face Reggae
Not Made In China
  County Hospital
Rapids
Hessian
Evolver
Bel Casino
  Fearne
New Volunteer
The Neon Tigers
Constellation
Kinnie The Explorer

 
I had some disappointments – Blackwater Caravan were one band who I had heard of but never seen before, and I had passionate discourse with the other judges that I just didn’t “get” why their loud and up to 11 show was so stunning – they didn’t really stand out to me.  Moontown and Amity Road were the same – I enjoyed being entertained by them, and was enthused by their attempts to win the crowd over, yet wasn’t able to sway the other judges to my opinion. Other acts that got a positive yes from me and didn’t go through were Moll Storey and Transend – which surprised the others!

In the vein of offering critical appraisal, all my comments have been made available to the bands via the event organisers, good and bad.  I’ve also offered an opinion on what they could do to improve my view of them, which will possibly get me into a lot of trouble. Controversy here we come :D.
My performance highlights looking back were :

  • Mischa, who reached the Semi Finals last year and re-entered, turning up this time with a full band to up his game – big UP
  • Hessian – filled the place with a really buzzing crowd and woke up the venue just before lunch
  • Sitting Pretty – while the grunge look and sound isn’t a preference of mine, they just got up and did it, just not quite well enough to make the cut for me.
  • Transend – I really don’t like their music style, but I didn’t care.  They came in with great ‘attitood’ and woke the place up.
  • Amity Road – Many of the bands on the stage nearest the door had a hard time drawing the crowd away from the bar – these guys already had an audience, called for (and received) more, then gave a strong visual performance to enhance their sound.

My tips for the finalists?  Sarah Griffin again, The Neon Tigers, Mischa, Big Face Reggae, Fearne. Now watch my kiss of death see them all go out in the Quarter Finals :-o. 
Who would I really like to see do full sets on one stage? Cella Creeps, County Hospital & Powdered Cows purely because they were the most artistically stylish, and The Neon Tigers because of their sense of musical theatre.

What surprised me were the number of acts that weren’t a definite yes from all three of us judges – it did make me wonder if those who entered had really taken on board the Tips for Entrants notes provided by Dorset Music. Having said, that, I’m also guilty of not reading them until afterwards, yet I am in accord with the “Band Persona” and “Stage Presence” comments.  I felt that acts had some members that were trying, yet were let down by others in the band.

I’m reminded of a time I saw The Strokes I think it was (my sister-in-law had them on the telly) – they were just standing there, live on stage, playing the music, looking at the floor.  Why bother doing a live gig if that’s all you’re going to do? Is being part of the crowd (and that wonderful experience) enough to compensate when the same tunes can possibly be heard better on your Hi-Fi?  I’ve probably just alienated many in the Bournemouth gigging crowd, and perhaps you my audience, by being so candid, however I feel that if I want to see a band live I want to be captivated to some extent by the live show.  If I just wanted to hear good music, I can pick up the CD and listen without going out.

I’m minded that the vast majority of acts in Bournemouth are absolutely fantastic, strong musically and in stage presence, which is perhaps why this is such a tough town to make a break in – we just haven’t got enough venues and outlets to showcase the massive talent visible to us all.  I’m very glad and grateful Dorset Music (amongst soooo many others) push themselves and the boat out so far to make this scene what it is.

Here’s to more great music on the scene, and to the Quarter Finals near the end of the month.

Second Update on Dorset Music Awards

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…So we’ve reached the end of the Dorset Music Awards heats.  Amazing music – I will be posting my thoughts on the bands seen later (when permitted by the team). I also now don’t envy those who will have to judge the next round but one (the semi finals) – the quarter finals are down to public vote, where acts need fans to help them get further on.

Suffice to say we had a long debate over a large number of acts. Yes, some decisions were more or less automatic (if 2 of the 3 of us agreed “yes” or “no”).  That still left a large number that were debated long and hard.  Us three judges each made some tough calls, we each “fought our corner” for those we’d liked (or even not liked enough), we each have had to make concessions that we didn’t agree with, however at the end of the 90+ minute session, we are all satisfied with the final list, albeit still perhaps personally disappointed we didn’t have it all our way… 😉

We know there will be some surprises, and apologies in advance as we know there will be some big disappointments.  It is my understanding that each act will receive feedback on what they did or had that allowed them to go through, or what it was that meant they failed to go through, or that they were close and either just did or just didn’t make it.

Admittedly, that means I now need to write up nearly 40 pages of notes made during the sets we’ve seen.  Gosh.  Overall (apart from that seemingly daunting task) I’ve had an absolute blast; I only hope my input has been of sufficient quality for Rich and Trev that they allow me the privilege (and pain) of judging again another time.

Now, I’m almost looking forward to judging in the next competition I’ve been asked to participate in, Bournemouth Unplugged.

For the record, the bands/acts seen today were (in order, and for anyone that didn’t get to see these, sorry in the main you’ve missed a blast):

Connor Heather

Lucas Raye

Not Made In China

Looking Through Glass

County Hospital

Rapids

Sitting Pretty

Dan Rumsey & The Bitter End

Hessian

Evolver

Transend

Icarus 1

Bel Casino

Moll Storey

The Blackened Blue

Fearne

New Volunteer

The Neon Tigers

Dead Lettuce

Constellation

Kinnie The Explorer

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