Solid Air Cramming & Jamming for Chinese New Year

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Kimari Raven @ Solid Air 23 JanKimari Raven is on stage playing Monster as I enter the cellar; she continues with some softer gentler songs. Some of these require her singing when she’s stopped the guitar and takes short a capella excursions, which shows she can do it and keep it in tune.

Chris Poole (Sola Infrared) @ Solid Air 23 JanChris Poole (from Sola Infrared) does a solo set on acoustic, no effects or anything, which shows the undercurrent of good music there is behind all the processing and synth work of the band. I love some of the chords and notes he’s putting together, one song when combined with added delay fx from Conrad works incredibly well and delivers goosebumps.

Kathryn Price @ Solid Air 23 JanKathryn Price is next up, she’s introduced as the authentic act for tonight’s year of the Dragon Chinese New year – even though she’s from Hong Kong. She plays strummed chords and has a good clear voice, with moderate range; she likes going towards the top end of this. She’s also suffered some tech hassles such that she’s not using her own guitar, for want of a battery for the active pickup.

Aaron Gregory @ Solid Air 23 JanAaron Gregory is fourth on, starting with Bethnal Green, a song that has grown on me since he slipped me an EP for the radio show a few weeks back. While the production quality on the EP is OK, it doesn’t capture the essence of Live. Its a sad song, mournful, yet it is beautiful rather than dirgy. An added phaser effect just towards the end from Conrad is a nice touch as Aaron comments. Social commentary on a seedier side of the town features in Derby Road. He strums a varying amount of chords, ranging up and down the fretboard.

Milk Machine @ Solid Air 23 JanMilk Machine finally reach the stage, starting with an instrumental, Oozlin Daddy Blues, they move into People Are Strange, starting slow then moving into a fast pace for the chorus and remainder. After The Model we have Enola Gay, with kazoo solo – first outing for this song. The synth riff from the original has been ported to the mando, giving Andy “the tricky bit” as they say. After Anarchy In The UK (where they all sing in unison and harmony) into Losing My Religion; this “has to be done as its The Law”, if you have a mandolin in the band ūüôā

Daddy Cool follows Take It Easy, then Brick In The Wall, before Blue Monday makes an appearance, first time I’ve heard their version of it – Taff has a strident rich voice and the dub beats from the original are originally replicated on Crowman’s cowbell and cymbal, the twiddly bits covered by kazoo. Sit Down follows Kiss – its a shame that a party I was at once stuck the 12″ special remix of this on, it was parodied then by a chap as “boring song, a boring boring song, a-” and this image stays with me for this song, especially as its a pretty straight cover! They finish with Ain’t Gonna Rain No More and would have used their Dorset love song I Adder as an encore, instead are pressed for more fast ones so pull out Fishermans Blues and a very weird version of Run To The Hills.

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Dorset Music Awards Live Heats

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I started writing this halfway through the “DMA40”, 41 live bands over one weekend of amazing live music heats, for reasons that will become obvious as other blog posts materialise, I was unable to publish halfway through the weekend. ¬†For those that don’t know, I had been invited to be on the judging panel for this, the most active event ever on the local music circuit.

I’ve spent 12 hours over two days watching, listening to and critiquing 39 bands (1 extra slipped in at the pre-heat stage, 2 didn’t make it), and while the upfront thought of this was daunting (12+ hours?, 40!? acts), during the day itself it’s an absolute delight. ¬†As ever with the Dorset Music Awards, it’s a highly polished event, and somewhat charged (not as highly charged as some of the later stages can get) as many bands here are¬†aware of how important these awards can be to careers. ¬†I take my role in these proceedings seriously, yet hopefully good humouredly – we’ve all got to live with each other after this, after all…

Overall, the absence of ladies was particularly noticeable – particularly for the rock acts, hence I saw very little to differentiate vocally or visually, and just playing your stuff loud and proud isn’t going to help sway opinion.

It’s a little different this year – the bands can ask us for instant feedback after they’ve played; many unfortunately didn’t take this opportunity, however for those who are interested I have one hopefully two “good thing”s, and one perhaps two “room for improvement”s for each act (looking at it, much of these are repeated comments). ¬†I’ll share these “verbal one liners” that have been shared with those bands that asked, Trevor and Richard have asked me not to publicly share anything about any of our thoughts on details (I’ll be writing individually to bands using the contact email the chaps provide). ¬†I’ll also not be talking about who’s got through and so forth.

Judging Notes

There seem to have been an awful lot of rock bands this year, all playing good stuff, and only some providing anything more than just the music – and we are being asked to judge on live performance above all else. ¬†To me, this means being good at performing, drawing in and working with an audience, a bit of stage movement where possible to suit the music and the mood, it’s not just about having good music, as that’s been proved to reach the live heats. As there were so many rock bands, those that captured our attention for whatever means were seen in a different light than those that just turned up and played (probably really good) tunes.

I’ve also seen many of these acts (25/41), some of those many times before, and some I would count as good friends (12/41). ¬†To keep my impartiality, and prove for Richard and Trevor’s sake that I’m keeping impartial, these acts are “marked” harsher than they would normally. ¬†We supply a “Yes, Maybe Yes, Maybe, No” score for each to enable uu to quickly seek agreement on the majority of the 20 that do or doin’t go through, then “haggle / agonise” over the rest. ¬†I deliberately down-change friends to the next value along, and then rely on the other judges to provide their thoughts to put a band through either directly, or into the melting pot.

I also cannot count past performances (good or bad) into the mix. ¬†I purely have to go on what is presented to me on the day. ¬†This is very harsh, because the number of times I’m out mean I’ve seen bands generally play good gigs and bad gigs (that’s why I still keep the blog going after the first impetus, so I can look back at bands to see what I think). ¬†This will often play against a band in these type of do-two-song competitions, as in the back of my mind I think I know they can do better, or worse, than what they’ve done. ¬†E.g. I saw Mobius Strip on the Saturday night, not twigging they’d be back on the Sunday in the line up. ¬†They performed well both times; on Saturday night they had a massively active crowd going for them, which wasn’t there in entirety on the Sunday.

Feedback Comments

As ever, these are my opinions, offered (as ever in my blog) in the interests of encouragement and yet to provide opportunity for improvement. ¬†My opinions aren’t offered to try and pull down or discourage, but in the hope that those that go through will know something to try in the next rounds perhaps, and those that don’t go through perha

Day One

So to some brief notes, in order of appearance, we have:

Sepia Daze РTough opening as the first band, and did good with this.  Energetic music, would like to see more audience engagement during songs.

Bad Magic – Good solid rock, well played and balanced.

Darren Hodson & The Southern Companion – great South Coast (USA) sound, longest name here, does the “Darren Hodson” bit need to be present? (later discussed it sets them apart from Darren Hodson solo).

States Of Matter – Tidy endings and well conducted to do this. Bit cliche rock. Consider more audience engagement.

Krista Green РEnjoyable.  Visibly get the crowd on your side if you can.

Veetacore – Good 80’s style (retro). Good crowd engagement – looking around etc. ¬†Could smile a bit more.

Escapefrom’98 – Better than last time seen (see last week’s write up). ¬†Good ska/punk and a lot of fun.

Robin Joynson – Good catch of vocal levels (enabling tuning) between songs. Good demonstration of confidence.

Voice of Reason РLot of fun. Good voice.  Bass player hat entertaining (kept slipping over face).

Estee’s World – What you did would be good for street work, consider finding a DJ for live performance?

Ollie Mutter – Good working the crowd. Would appreciate more interest going on with the guitar work.

Pachango РAwesome.  Never apologise or comment from the stage on how feel about own performance.

The General Public Рsmashed it (was an amazing performance).  Could Hope (keyboard) stand up?

Sean Hatton (Solo) РWell played, well sung.  Brave and confident doing a new song (and telling us about it).

Know One – Again, another smashed it performance. ¬†Uniforms good (only band noted to have a “look”).

Lets Go Safari – Liked the harmonies. ¬†Good guitar work, but didn’t really “grab” me

Aaron Gregory – Can tell he’s absolutely passionate about the music, yet guitar sounded unclear and “mushy”.

Icarus Falling – Good contrast, and good vocal, though was unsure by the mumbled introduction to songs.

Shaun Gary Palmer – Good vocals and good guitar style, though it sounded “mushy”.

Yellowgroove – Love it. Like the jumping around and the audience incursion. ¬†Normally have a crowd – didn’t see them this time.

Peace Love and Gloves РGood commercial sound, brought a huge crowd (though unsure what they were shouting).  Personally not a fan of the shouted lyric.

Day Two

Simon Lane РGood songs, good vocal range.  Unsure about the use of the music stand.

Dirty Jerkers – Good and loud (not overblown) despite the early start

Blue Stone Walls – didn’t show (think the same band didn’t show last year)

Tom Clements РWant to see again.  would be good for Bournemouth Unplugged (if it runs)

Constellation – Good engagement with the crowd. Second song a winner, unsure about the first (uniqueness)
Monkey’s Uncle – Good crowd winner. ¬†Good harmonies. Cheesey dance, but I like it.

The Devils Rejects – Good songs well played. ¬†Would like to see more stage animation to suit the music (second song better than first). [hard to find on facebook…]

Switchmen – didn’t show

Manikin Time Shark – Like the space they’ve given to each other to solo in. ¬†As this is progressive rock (and niche) consider also dropping keys out for a time too, to make the music more accessible for non-prog fans.

JCJesus РGood bass and violin combination.  Not my preference of musical style but well performed.

Yoofs РWorked on the look re:hair.  Get out there and gain gig experience (easy to say, hard to do I know).

Paint It Blue РTight band.  Clean guitar work. Hannah is an asset. They noticeably stuck around for much of the day.

Empire Affair РGood tunes and well performed.  Felt they lost the thread through being overblown loud.

Sketchy – Liked the keys work (although they didn’t seem to – used the F word).

Tim Somerfield – Here all day (+++). Good technique, ace timing (counting silence).

Space Ace Robot – What ?!?. ¬†They’re enjoying what they’re doing, though it’s pretty inaccessible – futuristic Jazz.

Mobius Strip РLots of moving about in keeping with the music.  Need to get the crowd moshing around.

Jack Grace – Like the groove, and like the vocal lines without the band being full on – different.

Pump Action Radio – Good solid rock, well played. Would need to be a bit more animate on stage for me.

The Deltorers – Good vocal work, and OK sounds. The live performance wasn’t stand-out (seen a lot of rock this weekend). [say they’re from Bristol]

Overall Impressions

What am I walking away with from seeing all these acts? Which ones were memorable? Which ones would I like to see go further?

Veetacore impressed me – they were the only band doing what they’d done – and I still have “Dogger Bank” running round my head, despite hearing loads of music since. (I have played this on the show, but even so it’s just memorable). They also one of the groups to feature a female lead, doubly memorable.

Pachango¬†put on a great show – everything seemed to come together for them, though negative comments from the stage at the end spoilt it for me. Remembering back to last year (which I can’t count for the judging part of the job), the performance this time was so much better.

Know One¬†seemed to be the only group that had thought through their appearance with regards a “uniform look” of black shirts and ties, they also played excellently.

Tim Somerfield seemed to have arrived before I did on the Sunday and stuck around for near enough¬†the whole day. ¬†He also played well, though his legendary customary crowd vitally didn’t seem to make an appearance for his performance. I also found out (at the end of the judging process) that he was supposed to have had a fuller band with him