Warm Up For The Big One

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Krista Green @ Seabournes 19 Oct Its Friday night, its not 5 to 5, but it is my warm up to the big Oxjam takeover. I’m starting tonight’s journey at a new venue for me, Seabournes in Pokesdown. Krista Green is playing her first gig here, and reads the crowd well, starting with Wonderwall in her own inimitable fashion. I think I’m the only one paying attention to the music, which is in competition with the sports screens; I’m wrong judging by the applause this raucous lot give her.

County Hospital @ Cellar Bar 19 OctTim Smart is opening at the Cellar Bar tonight in County Hospital guise, he got stuck on the train so wrote 6 new songs for tonight. The soundcheck comprises Tim running through them with drummer Ed (just arrived from Liverpool) and bassist Luke. Jim is only occasionally on conga so isn’t on stage at the start.

Straightaway Tim is up to some inventive antics, using the mic stand as the noise make for his guitar, while trotting out two regular songs before starting on the new stuff.

This latter is dead good, for what is effectively an unrehearsed jam, and causes much merriment as Ed totally stuffs up a 4 beat-4 beat-4 beat-3 beat rhythm. They restart once he gets the beat, with the last verse, chorus and big end – all together this time. Hopefully you get the vibe for how County Hospital write a song, even though Ed’s heard to mutter “I’m supposed to be a professional”. The others are having fun, and that Ed can even pull it together demonstrates his impeccable ability.

Bad Magic @ Cellar Bar 19 OctBad Magic make a fast changeover for a decent start kicking off with an angry Roadkill. There’s been some hassle with the non-regular bouncers not letting lead Chris into the venue, he’s restricted to the stage only then supposedly straight out the door afterwards.

What I’m liking about this set is Bad Magic realise they’re on a small stage, can’t do the stadium antics, so are punching out tune after tune with no let-up between.

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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

Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2

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DMA logoHere we are again, Mr Kyps, Saturday night, Dorset Music Awards, all of last weeks’ bands are represented in the crowd, good to see as this is one of the core reasons the DMAs exist for, musicians celebrating musicians being what its all about.

Darren Hodson & The Southern Companion @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchThis second semi final is being started by Darren Hodson & The Southern Companion. Noticeable for the good music groove, the keyboards, a thumping kick bass, and the backing vocalists synchronised in their dance bobs with the beats and with each other. Starting up-beat before slipping in a slower love song, which has an instantly sing-along chorus and more good grooves. Halfway through they start with the work I really appreciate (I mentioned before the Allman Brothers style of guitar work), I notice augmented with a bottleneck slide coupled with Darren’s clear vocals to create a great sound. Unfortunately I miss having a catchup with them afterwards; they have gigs tonight with two other bands that members are in, so they have to dash off.

Jack Grace solo @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchJack Grace makes an interesting solo start on stage with acoustic riffs and harmonised “oohs” into a loop station, while the others join him on stage, and kick into an incredibly lively opening number – Alex playing some fast drums, Elliott on his special homemade bass, and Jack switching to electric guitar, while the acoustic loop keeps an undercurrent. Jack Grace band @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchI missed their DMA Quarter Final appearance and heard it was good, now I can see why people rave about Jack Grace. They slip into playing some really good tunes, however they seem to start sounding a little samey to me; other commenters suggest that other sets (e.g. at Boscombe Community Fair) have been slightly more involved and varied. I like the name checking halfway through the set, and the beats pick up again for a strong end

Bad Magic @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchBad Magic give us a resounding slap in the face with their musical attitude, and are also the first of the three acts so far who seem to have noticeably pulled a crowd along, lead Chris invites us to get involved, and the response is good with claps, shakes, jumps and shout backs. They are the only one of the many harder rock bands this year that have reached this stage of the Awards, they are the first tonight to make a lot of the large Mr Kyps stage, perhaps as they were here last week seeing what other acts did. What I really like about them is that they may be young, yet they’re not holding that up as a band wagon, just getting on and playing the good music, loud! They’re also brave enough to announce a new song, wouldn’t have noticed if it had been unannounced, to be honest, its as polished as the rest of the material.

The Devils Rejects @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 March As expected The Devils Rejects pull no punches musically and take Mr Kyps by storm with their furious and frantic Irish induced punk folk. The lyrics are clear, the music is great, the crowd are enthusiastically jumping around, and everyone seems to be enjoying the performance. Matt (vocals) is name checking the songs throughout, giving enough of a miniscule intro to each one to keep interest and information without interupting the pace, very hard to do and pulled off well. Likewise the constant instrument changes accordian / violin and guitars are very slick. The whole means there is no let up in the unrelenting pace and the ensuing mayhem in certain parts of the crowd makes for a fun spectacle.

Pachango whole band @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchOur finale tonight is presented by a very on form Pachango, confession time here – I used to find them quite variable in their output and production, this has totally been replaced by consistently amazing, vibrant performance. Pachango horns & percussion @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchThere’s so much movement in the crowd, also reflected on stage, hence the multiple photo treatment. Unfortunately the crowd has thinned out before the eleven pm start, yet as last week, those remaining are being treated to even more dance-able music than the previous act, which itself is hard to follow. Pachango vox & strings @ Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 2, Mr Kyps 24 MarchIts great seeing the chaps from Know One particularly bouncing out to the beats. Unusually and slightly naughtily, we are indulged with an encore – this crowd baying for more being hard to resist – this creates slight confusion as Pachango replug in for this unexpected development but handle it well and more or less straight in to an even bigger finish.

Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 2

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Dirty Jerkers can’t make it due to acute illness, so get well soon. Shaun Gary Palmer @ DMA QF2 17 FebThis means the starter is Shaun Gary Palmer, who plays an awesome looking and sounding acoustic guitar. He starts with the intricate fingered chords that won his style over to me in the heats, before slipping into some sombre strummed songs, before livening things up again near the end of his 20 minute set.

Sean Hatton is next; Sean Hatton @ DMA QF2 17 Febhe demonstrates a wider range of strumming chord techniques, picking some of the notes, good twiddling with upbeat chords keeping it happy in nature. He’s using a variety of capo settings to provide an interest to the music, while keeping his vocals in what is probably a comfortable range for him.

Bad Magic wake usBad Magic @ DMA QF2 17 Feb all up by playing some awesome rock, a stunning contrast to the previous acoustic music. Tuneful, loud, brash, with enough attitude to take the building by storm, its hard to believe they’re not out of their teens yet. All the posturing is here, backed up by good music; they also throw in a couple of ballads as if to show they can do those too. Lead singer and guitarist Chris shows good vocal control, able to wail them out long and loud, holding notes on choruses like a pro.

Know One finish off the night in style. SKnow One @ DMA QF2 17 Febinger / MC Dean and the sax player take time out to jump off stage and join the inevitable mosh pit. They finish with Potential, which has a big rock riff in the middle , totally broken time with the rest of the track, a 1-2-3 from Dean and they all break back into the fast ska-reggae beats they’ve been playing, totally tight. Kudos also for giving shouts to the rest of the artists tonight.

I finish in the Cellar Bar Jouis @ Cellar Bar 17 Febwhere the auditory delights of Jouis are entertaining the massed crowd. Hearing them do their funk / soul / psychedelic groove as a full band, on a full PA, with a very active and vocal audience, is another treat for my now well-over indulged ears.

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.

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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 – Tough 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 – Enjoyable.  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 – Lot 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 – Awesome.  Never apologise or comment from the stage on how feel about own performance.

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

Sean Hatton (Solo) – Well 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 – Good commercial sound, brought a huge crowd (though unsure what they were shouting).  Personally not a fan of the shouted lyric.

Day Two

Simon Lane – Good 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 – Want 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 – Good bass and violin combination.  Not my preference of musical style but well performed.

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

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

Empire Affair – Good 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 – Lots 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