Dorset Music Awards Grand Final

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DMA logoWe start an evening celebration of local music in Dorset tonight at the (rarely visited for this hack) O2 Academy, with the new Dorset Music Award prizes for 2012.
One Best SongDisco’s Out (Murder’s In)
Best Album / EPConstellation
Favourite Venue (Voted By Musicians): Mr Kyps
Contribution To The Music Scene: HopeFM

DMA judgesSurprised and pleased with those results, HopeFM can only play a part in the scene because there is a scene to contribute and participate in, therefore are standing on the shoulders of all the other nominees in this catogory, promoters and studios alike. Mr Kyps have a great venue, I’m sure more bands have played other venues than Mr Kyps, however they are the stage local bands aspire to, so deserved for that. Since I love Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) and Constellation so much, I’m chuffed on their behalf for the music awards.

14 April DMA final - Know One pwn the O2 AcademyOn to the Best Live Act, and Know One start in grand style jumping all over the stage, making the most of the various risers and podiums; the fans are loud and vocal even above the massive bass whumps and brass/wind showoff. Dean drops off the stage and skanks around in the camerapit, before jumping into the crowd (security chasing him) while the others in the band continue. 14 April DMA final - crowd shot attemptThe interlude while he rejoins the stage is filled with crowd chanting as encouraged by the band via drum beats, and jumping on the risers. A great opener and setting a high bar for the others to follow.

14 April DMA final - Bad Magic rock outBad Magic work really hard to reach said bar, and in my mind do achieve this towards the end of the set, with the crowd finally jumping around to their hard rock. While some say they are a blend of Guns and Roses and Def Leppard (possibly why I’m not personally a fan of their music – I gave this up as I left my teens), their guitarist is awesome, and lead Chris’ Freddie Mercury-like posturings result in shouts from the crowd. A good performance, with all the movement worthy of this stage, and though I’m not into their genre, its a solid performance overall.

14 April DMA final - Peace Love & Gloves Peace Love and Gloves are next, we can’t get away from the goujon crowd shouts even as they are setting up. 14 April DMA final - Peace, Love & Gloves soft toy merch - very originalThe crafty mums -literally- have been busy behind the scenes making hundreds of Peace Love and Gloves logo soft toys, which are liberally thrown into the crowd. As ever the music is good, and Mark’s lyrics about life and love, won and lost, are insightful. The crowd are moshing from the off, everybody – band and crowd alike – are really happy to be here, and the exuberance shows.

14 April DMA final - PachangoPachango have the unfortunate task of combating a now very noisy crowd, there are shouts all over for all of the bands. How to do this? Kick off loud and proud, and blast us away with sax ensemble and awesome percussion. Making the most of the huge stage just in being able to fit, rather than active movement compared with say Know One, vocalists Selby and Claudia are the only ones dancing about. No one can deny the fiesta atmosphere they create, its really good to see all the floor area filled with moving bodies, not just the front mosh area.

14 April DMA final - winnersThe winners are announced – Pachango win all the festival slots, Peace Love and Gloves are given an unprecedented Larmer Tree second slot, and also scoop up the big prize. Big Congratulations to both those bands.

The result astonishes many, until one understands how the three judges reach their decisions – they each pick two bands, one for their festival, and a different for their award winner. All unanimously pick Pachango for their festival, and pick each of the other bands as their winner, creating a 3-way deadlock. All bands have performed well and are absolutely fantastic at what they do, yet are all deemed derivative of their chosen genre. Peace Love and Gloves are considered the most original and “now” so walk away as the best out of the deadlock.

Again we have controversy aroused from the passions all fans feel for their love of music, all it means to me is that music is the overall winner and that everyone can choose to walk away from the 2012 Dorset Music Awards celebrating the vibrant variety and passionate nature in the Dorset music scene.

14 April DMA final - all finalists14 April DMA final - Paddy - Dare 2 Festival14 April DMA final - Catherine - Purbeck Folk Festival14 April DMA final - James - Larmer Tree festival

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November Big Night Out

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Blues Machine @ O2 19 NovI start what portends to be a busy evening early, at the O2. The Blues Machine have offered me a ticket to come and catch them live, I’ve missed them in loads of places but the lure of an O2 set was far too tempting for me to stay away…ooh how cheap am I ? 🙂 I like their walk on. Ash (on guitar) playing a little riff as the house lights dim, walks on from stage left, he’s then joined by Dan (bass & vox) on stage right, who does a little intro speech, calls the crowd in (nice touch), and picks up the same riff. Meanwhile Josh has reached the drums to kick the opening song off.

Ash - Blues Machine @ O2 19 NovThey make use of the full stage they’ve been given, including use of the side stacks, which unfortunately aren’t spot lit by the crew, blowing their opportunity to shine a bit. They are also meandering around the portion of the stage they’ve been given like pros, and looking like they’re really enjoying themselves.

Blues Machine Doubled up @ O2 19 NovAs to the music, its well executed, confident, even if the first few are covers. During a Wishbone Ash song they do a move I’d first seen done at DMA 2011 by Evolver – switching their guitars to their backs, then lean over each other in a sort of hug to play each other’s instrument. They switch to a slow blues number, Dan’s vocal soars slightly too sweetly over the bass thumps, with the barest twiddles from the guitar. For their last number they name check each other out as each showboat solos, a nice touch. Good stuff & worth catching if one fancies a blues gig, even if tonight it seems only the young fans they’ve brought with them are appreciative.

Voodoo Vegas frontline @ O2 19 NovVoodoo Vegas are next in the line up here; they choose an all on stage entrance, backs to the crowd as the lights rise. Ash (bass) breaks into a fat riff as Lawrence (vocals) welcomes the crowd, then something happens and they reset and start again. Mishaps happen sometimes, tonight they just take it in their stride.
Voodoo Vegas action @ O2 19 NovThe music is great hard rock; there are a few new songs present to my ears before they break into King Without A Crown. This song is where they really let rip, all on the risers and posturing. Its really cool to see such a great local band on the best stage in town. They go on a harmonica led blues journey, through some rolling rock, then into So Unkind where they really hit it hard for the audience reaction.

Lawrence - Voodoo Vegas @ O2 19 NovThere is no question they are both bigging up themselves, while pumping and primping the crowd for Doors Alive, who they’ve got the gig through. Awesome sound, good stage use (they warrant the crew providing spotlights on the side stacks), and I think they’ve found themselves a new spiritual home 🙂

We’re kept waiting 30 minutes for the headline act. I don’t just want to walk out before they start – that’s what I commonly don’t like about some fans of some acts, however I have another set of gigs to get to, and really need to dash so only stay for their first song as a result of what I see as an unwarranted delay.

Doors Alive @ O2 19 NovDoors Alive start with a drum solo before keys are blended in, then joined by guitar as singer joins the stage. There seem to be vocal mic troubles so we wait further until that’s sorted out, however those sets of vintage key synths are really making some amazing noises.

Doors Alive key synths @ O2 19 Nov

Compared with Lawrence’s antics, they seem pretty pedestrian in this first song, I appreciate I’m not seeing a full representation of a set, as I split to the next gig. I later find out that this was pretty much the order of their performance; recognisable music, well reproduced, without any stage antics.

Pump Action Radio @ Inferno 19 NovDue to waiting around for Doors Alive, I arrive at the Inferno to find I’ve missed Escapefrom98. I hear they were good, punk style, and went down well with good crowd feedback. Pump Action Radio are getting set up as I arrive.  They are pumped up, with steaming tunes and massive distortion – too much for the sound system – they come across as just loud and unfortunately unintelligible, even through my decent ear plugs. Shame, as it means I make an early departure for the next gig.

Monkey Puzzle @ Glow In The JungleThere’s a massive party going on at the Winchester, facilitated by the excellent Monkey Puzzle. The event has been called Glow In The Jungle – UV lighting is in abundance, meaning face painted individuals really shine, and the crapberry doesn’t do justice. Glow sticks are also available making a cool scene.

Dan - Monkey Puzzle @ Glow In The Jungle

The music is amazing, their versions of staples such as Summertime are done as Jazz in a Turquoise mood – this is also true for e.g. Rock Steady, everything is pumped up to the max in a funk / jazz vibe. The mauve references continue as everybody is a translucent purple thanks to the lighting.

Where's Billy? @ Inferno 19 NovBack to the Inferno, where Where’s Billy? are playing a rock ballad. By all accounts in the crowd, they’ve been amazing, however vocals are suffering from the blown out speakers of the PA too. Their next song is jumped up rock, musical with good lead guitar riff and a strutting bass line. Shame these lads are from Kent (as their photographer Jenna informs me) – would like to see them again. Apparently they play the inferno semi-regularly, so keep an eye out for them.

Brothers Grimmer @ Inferno 19 Nov

Brothers Grimmer are finishing the night at the Inferno. I like their intro “we’re Brothers Grimmer and we’re gonna rock you” then get straight on with the heavy music (again affected by abysmal vocals thanks to the PA). Music is good though, decent chord sequences and progressions leading to a tuneful performance. Visual entertainments are again provided by their break dancer – at one point he holds himself on a single hand for what seems like a whole chorus – excellent balance control.

Brothers Grimmer @ Inferno 19 NovAfter they’ve performed a pretty brilliant rendition of Jethro Tull’s Living In The Past, I depart to hopefully catch the Deltorers at the Cellar Bar. I return soon after as the Deltorers have finished their set already (they only had a short set of material), and Brothers Grimmer are still rocking out big style, with some serious moshing action by the drunks in the corner. Makes for a great end for a good music evening albeit I’ve only seen 7 of the 10 bands I’d hoped for; I head back to the Cellar Bar for an after night-out hang out with some mates.

Talentcall Band Semi Final

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Talentcall 2011 logoI received a quick phone call from a friend in the music scene – can I get to the O2 tonight to judge another music competition.  My answer was “Yes”, even though I didn’t know anything about the competition in question.  Talentcall is happening during the summer, spread out over the weeks, with junior nights, senior nights, band nights, soloist nights and so on.  Tonight is a band night, means 7 bands get to play for 20-25 minutes (i.e. 3/4 songs) and we just have to give a mark out of 100.  All the marks get added up between the three judges and the best band goes through to a semi final at the Pavilion in October, I think.

My quandary is, how to award 100 marks?  Using my previous experience I jotted down some criteria to award 10 points to each of: Originality, Variety of set, Crowd Response (before (4) & after (6)), Technical Ability, Song Writing ability, Stage Presence (entertainment), Band Look (uniform etc) and Crowd Interaction.  I also had a No, Maybe, Yes in my “who do I like best / have they done enough to warrant the next stage / would I want to see them again” in case of ties. Then just multiply by 1.25 to turn out of 80 to out of 100.

 The following notes are more or less what I wrote about each act, I’ve edited them here for clarity only. 

Realm Essence

Realm Essence Talentcall O2These guys are a DJ & MCs. They have a slow start, lots (far too much) of “hold tight” shouts when nothing is really happening. I like the colour match hoodie & hat uniform. Its a bit of a shambolic start – but is this shambles part of their act? I can’t make out the rap words (1st) (2nd). I like the shout to the front row to get them involved. Then a shambles again as 3rd man Dan joins, there are good beats as he comes on, then they lose it and start something else. The DJ is doing good clever stuff, and the MC’s are tight together within the beats. Not a lot of Variety or Originality, apart from being a rap outfit rather than a band. In short they are OK once they get going. See again /good enough? No

Voice Of Reason

Voice Of Reason Talentcall O2Dramatic OTT spoof / parody introductory backing track, then they jump onto the stage. The PA is a bit slow on drums & vox during the first song. Well high energy, and they segue the first two songs nicely. They give a decent introduction to the drummer, with him standing on the kit while he’s name dropped, then on into the rest of the song. The drumming itself is very busy, and the drummer is sort of ok on those busy bits (many drummers lose timing when busy). There is very good use of the stage, side risers, foldbacks etc. In short energetic rock well presented. See again /good enough? Maybe Yes.

Sepia Daze

Sepia Daze Talentcall O2No walk-on, they’re already on stage. Energetic, with a good audience at the start, and then they work them near throughout. Unclear vocals means they lose out on their Songwriting score. They have an OK look, ‘uniform’ hair & black, but not standout. Some demonstration of variety, they’re the first act to do so. They lose a bit on the Technical too, I’m really not a fan of untrimmed guitar strings as they just look messy and tell me they don’t care overmuch about appearances. They gain on Originality with constant synth/keys. See again /good enough? Maybe Yes

The Worry Dolls

The Worry Dolls Talentcall O2PA problems with lead female vocals (& the viola). Despite that the band handle it well and make a good recovery. Their look isn’t particularly coordinated. Highly Original – viola, ukelele, keys, guit (x2), mandolin, bass, drums. Technically the viola sounds flat, although this is OK once the PA is fixed. Also high Variety between songs. Unfortunately not much Crowd Interaction during the rest of the set after good example while the PA was missing at the beginning. Very tight for a “loose” band. Good songs & clear strong vox (after PA fixed). Ending of song four unclear. See again /good enough? Maybe Yes – would probably upgrade that to a Yes.

Shades Are Grey

Shades Are Gray Talentcall O2Only band noted to give a facebook shout.  I’m not a fan of the wailed lyric, especially when the vocals are unclear. Bass & guitar not really engaging crowd, indeed the bassist had his back to rest of band during first two songs. Good trying to get crowd involved throughout. Not really together, comes across as too self indulgent hard emo. Crowd like them though. See again /good enough? No

Brothers Grimmer

Brothers Grimmer Talentcall O2Delayed start through apparent dicking around. Interesting having a dedicated dancer – really works the crowd. Tight, good drumming. Not much to lyrics. Well played, amazingly danced. Tight band. High technical ability score – particularly becuase of the dancer and the clever instrument work / tightness. See again /good enough? Maybe Yes – would probably be my other yes.

Sketches Of The Adverse

Sketches Of The Adverse Talentcall O2Overall technically OK, and with OK songs. Nothing stand out or that grabs me about it, not a lot of interaction or stage presence for me. Do they know timing seems to be adrift (first song?). One thing I’d say to them direct: Don’t big up another band as your crowd interaction example. To my estimation it breaks up a little in the breakdowns See again /good enough? No

So there we have it, seven bands, the eventual winners are announced as Brothers Grimmer – well done fellas (and everyone for reaching this stage of this competition).  My personal faves (by a couple of points) were The Worry Dolls, would like to see them again, although will perenially have PA problems with the size and type of their band, no doubt.

I dash off since I want to see Disco’s Out Murder’s In at the Inferno (they’re doing a double header with Big Face Reggae).  More about that in another post…

Dorset Music Awards Final in O2 Academy

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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.

The Cat Empire, Tuesday 19 October

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So I received a call from my good muso friend David Lambert

“Jennet can’t come to this gig, do you want to take her ticket?”

This isn’t the first time he’s done this to me – I had a brilliant night at an audience with Bob Harris sometime earlier this year as a result of David. His recommendations are normally spot on.

So I said yes, then checked out the band online. Boy they sound good from the recordings.

Tin Pan Orange

Tin Pan Orange

Support was from Tin Pan Orange,  youngish looking Melbourne based band, who I guess are touring as resident support.  First thing that strikes (all the way to the back bar of the O2 Academy) is lead singer Emily Lubitz’s clear crisp vocal line, she looks cute as well to boot.

Good sound, clever workings of violin, mandobird, guitars and keys making something very interesting, coupled with trumpet strains and refrains.

The Cat Empire

The Cat Empire

Then the main act – a massive (mainly Australian ex-pat) crowd enjoying the surging and moshing as Latin vibes fuse with Country styles, all with a jumping drum beat and strident horns.

Turns out they were celebrating their 800th gig, which made this an evening not to be forgotten for a while – even if I did feel like a traitor going to the O2 instead of one of the local music bars.

Tempered that with a nice pint in Chaplins and the Cellar Bar afterwards – Si Crockett and Jonny Neesom providing tunes into the later evening.