Dorset Music Awards Semi Final 1 @ Mr Kyps

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DMA logoMr Kyps logo (Rock Regeneration)There is an eager crowd in Mr Kyps this Saturday night, lots of people milling around, catching up with each other, various nervous band members included. There is a buzz about, an air of anticipation and expection, everyone knowing they’re going to hear great music, even if only the band they are supporting.

County Hospital are first on, with a couple of extra players who have obviously been drafted in for tonight’s show; this isn’t mentioned at all, and it is barely noticeable, they are so tight together.

County Hospital DMA SF1As for the Quarter Final, the hospital scrubs are again in attendance, however this time the dustbins seem to be absent. They start with 3 punchy numbers, brash and loud, before spreading into a very laidback Grateful Dead style jam in the middle of Robot. For no reason at all apart from it’s a fun thing to do, lead Tim Smart and Bass Luke are standing on an illuminated red boxes. Tim’s also suffering from an unusual number of guitar lead failures, switching them around a lot.

This is always the way with a Smart performance – it is always at the cutting edge of what are Tim’s capabilities, and lots of work and thought goes into how the show might come off – when it works it is brilliant, when it doesn’t, it’s normally endearingly comical.  This time around it seems things aren’t working as well as they would, so while all the effort is there, the results don’t come across as I know they can do, I sincerely hope the judges see past the kit, and look for the performance excellence.

During the ballad they usually close with, Tim jumps across and falls over, gaining small applause, while Ed kicks off some tricked out drum moves. Tim’s sister Claire joins in the refrain, while Tim switches to the megaphone he’d used to open the set. They don’t finish here, instead switching to an up-tempo song. At the end they all jump off the instruments and pick up drums to close percussively, which is a moment of perfection at the last. 

Constellation DMA SF1Constellation are next, as they are announced at the end of County Hospital a shout goes up – they have clearly brought their previously noted crowd with them. They are energised, pumped and clearly putting everything they can into this. Band T-shirts are spotted so they’ve also been on the merch trail…

They open with some very mainstream rock, and this crowd of theirs are loving it, based on the massive reaction both during and at the ends of songs. The third song is leader Ali’s favourite, and small wonder, it stretches his voice to the strain point at both ends of his quite immense range, while the music breaks down into the smooth 4/4 anthem Flowers

What helps me is that by now I’m beginning to get to know their material, having seen this particular song as one their two in the heat, and in the near full set for their Quarter Final. This isn’t appreciated by some in the crowd – one comment very deliberately given to me is “their chord progressions carry all the crushing inevitability of western paternalism” – in other words this critic wasn’t being particularly complimentary about the sequences chosen, even though I think they work for the style of music Constellation have chosen.

They’ve clearly been working hard in the past few weeks, they close with a new song Don’t Stop the Music, and it is tricky and ambitious, lots of pauses and breaks, awkward rhythms. I say it must have been hard work, to my ears the performance is flawless, no hesitation or funny looks as normally happens when something misses in a new song.

The crowd clearly want more of them, and want to let the judges know that as well, calls for encores and more carry on for a long time afterwards. My only concern is that this fantastic crowd could dissipate towards the end of the night.

Fearne DMA SF1The mood continues as Fearne are announced, even more volume and screaming hysterical girls, coupled with being really active all over mr Kyps. The lads have also sorted out their wardrobe for this important gig – they previously announced earlier today they were being sad and going shopping together – its worked, they’re looking mighty fine in smart shirts and waistcoats, and Nick is still sporting his bling bass guitar strap.

The stage presence and crowd interaction is outstanding – a guitar falls over, causing a muted pause, Alex recovers it and shouts “cheer” – they do. For 2010 single Closer the crowd are shouting out the lyrics as the band give space for them, even drowning out the band at one point.

I must admit, it is a little much, all the screaming, probably just because I’m not used to hearing it at the majority of local gigs I go to. However (as pointed out to me by a discerning mind) the band are sporting big smiles, this is reflected in the faces of the crowd as well.

Bel Casino DMA SF1Bel Casino make a big entrance – as the screen is lifted up, they are positioned behind it and start immediately, positive and energetically upbeat, making the most of the boost the crowd has given. Josh has picked up a lead riff for song Somewhere New and it draws us in, then drops us as Chris walks on and the song begins, to me just like waves at Chesil beach.

One harsh commentator feeds me with ” its not quite elevator music, but…”. Maybe I’m even being harsh by repeating that – at least that person was in, listening, rather than giving up outside. Other comments I hear: “charming”, and that the check shirts don’t do it with the sound – check shirts = lumberjack = rough & edgy, and the music is as far from rough and edgy as it can be. This one I can agree with, having had that pointed out to me I can see their point.   That Bel Casino are uniformed is good, my next question could have been “so what uniform does go with this sound” – I only think about this afterwards though.

Those crowd Bel Casino do have are vocal and are around the venue, rather than just being at the front. I love Josh’s hook in their last song, and JD is giving it his all behind the drums, they make an excellent smooth band, and I hope this is picked up by those fans who prefer their music to be more of the pure-rock variety.

Cella Creeps DMA SF1Cella Creeps also stage a grand entrance. Mark is alone on stage playing an awesome grungy riff on guitar. Ollie (drums) walks on and starts up in perfect synch. Then Ed (bass) struts on, back to crowd and bopping while he plugs in, before kicking off the song in proper style. As hopefully captured in my shot, they are pumped, Ed particularly pacing around the stage. As they close this start, they semi apologise for kicking off with such a heavy riff led track, after “the amazing acoustic-led acts before us”

Their second song Ride Beat has to be the song of the entire competition for me, Marks guitar synth led air cuts to my heart, when Ed’s lyrics are placed over them its just so awesomely lonesome, words fail me.

What is becoming clear is how much the bands are taking on board from us hacks and critics. Ed announces their third song as written specifically for Tony from bhone, since they’d been decried by him as having no hooks or leads. As per their quarter final presence, there is a mention of the other band, Mutant Vinyl, since 2 of 3 of them are also in that; they wanted a difference for their heavy sound, so found Ollie and went with Cella Creeps.

My only disappointment is the endemic Bournemouth music scene problem, some fickle members of the audience have now deserted the venue having seen their band play, not even giving Cella Creeps the benefit of the doubt regarding appreciation. Please guys, these types of multi-band showcases only work if all bands are given a fair crack at wowing you with their sounds – if you’re not wowed by one don’t give up on the whole night…

I have to interrupt my musings – Ed’s now in the crowd, crawling over the floor while still keeping the undercurrent bass going, leaping back to the mic just in time to start the next verse. At the end they cheekily include in their rap “we’ll hopefully see you at the O2” – many will probably know that the “other band” they’ve mentioned earlier are playing there on Monday night.

What I’m definitely going to take away from their performance is how much fun it is – I have a huge grin on my face thanks to their antics, particularly of Ed’s struts and screams. thus ends an awesome evening of music, and I’m anticipating some eager debate over the next week or so on opinions of the bands’ performances.


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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.

DMA Quarter Final 2

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Its always good to see a sizable crowd at these events – neither the bitter wind that’s keeping things cold outside nor any alternative musical attractions such as Hannah Robinson at Mr Kyps haven’t kept people away from The Winchester.

Lauren BannonLauren Bannon is our first act of the evening, the aforementioned sizable crowd are fortuitously quiet for her performance. Despite being early, I still miss the start of her set, in the part I hear her voice is strong, as stated she’s captured the attention of the crowd with it, she’s also wearing an outfit that had been noted on facebook as she purchased it, it looks good on her, the photo doesn’t really do justice. Even though she can belt out the numbers, tonight she seems more laid back, although it’s obvious from her body language she’s really pleased to be here and is putting nearly everything she’s got into singing and owning the crowd.

Local internet TV crew issTV are also here – I missed them last week though they were present. News reporter Sarah is trying to catch interviews with each of the artists off stage, and capture something of the live performances too, ready for a DMA special report on their Life channel.

PachangoPachango are second up. They wake us up with their kicking tunes – there’s nine of them on stage tonight, 10 including Rich as he gets up to announce them (I lose him in the fury of people and instruments in the set up!). Interesting to see Rab from Dead Lettuce has joined them on guitar tonight – this is to replace Will who’s about to embark on a Canadian tour with Douglas Firs. Pachango are really rocking it tonight – a few people are commenting they’ve never seen them perform so hard, and it shows in the audience and in everyone’s faces – we’re all really enjoying it.

County HospitalCounty Hospital make a bit of an entrance – they walk out from the back room in scrub-gowns, masks and caps, with a wheelie bin, incinerator and megaphone. They are also really giving it some tonight – high energy, showmanship its all there. Even at one point where lead Tim has a lapse in concentration and seems to forget the words, its still as if its part of the act, just the hesitation showing in his face giving it away.

Incinerator!We find out the reason for the incinerator halfway through – drummer Ed takes a baseball bat to it in time with the silences in one song; Tim uses it in another. For their finale they climb into the bins and, beckoning people onstage, exchange instruments with these audience members. They end up all lying in a heap as if they’ve died onstage while their music continues without them. Very artistic, and I can hear people all around commenting how they loved it and wanted to see more. Good stuff to hear when this is a fan based part of the competition.

Bel CasinoBel Casino are the penultimate act – they’ve kept the acoustic based tunes, yet really cranked things up this year – they are pacier and rockier than before; really putting in the effort. They make an excellent foil to what’s gone before, just good solid music which does what Bel Casino do best – evocative of the summer and life living by the sea and on the beaches. This is South Coast rock and I’m loving it! They’ve somehow cut and carved a new edge to their sound – its a well worn cliche, but that’s the only way I can describe what I’m hearing. What could have been a tired Seventeen is bouyant and full of life, renewed with energy. The same is true for closing number Castaway.

The Neon TigersAfter the usual short changover The Neon Tigers take to the stage to close the evening off. Again this is a headline not a graveyard slot – while the crowd have thinned its only slightly and the remaing audience have pushed forward to still keep the capacity vibe. I’ve already described The Neon Tigers’ sound elsewhere, suffice to say they are still performing their theatrical rock, with no gimmicks this time around, just amazingly solid look and sound. Jon is still the amazing guitarist, Gary still looks good in the military uniform and playing those good bass hooks, Rich is ever present with vocals and performance to match the other two, John is as solid as is desired on drums in this kind of rock band. I just really hope they do what’s needed for the audience and the judges in the next rounds to make it as far as the final, where I still think they belong.

Having seen all five acts tonight, I can’t make a judgement call who will and won’t be in the semi finals of this competition – all of those I’ve seen tonight have given performances of a lifetime as far as I can tell, and deserve the very best from the fan vote…

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

Oxjam Bournemouth Takeover, 2010

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Overall an amazing weekend, lots of bands playing lots of venues, all to raise money for Oxfam.

Friday Night, Champions

Only managed to see the last two of the four acts on the bill – Sola Infrared  and My Broken 101.  Both amazingly chilled yet big rock vibes, have provisionally booked MB101 for a show appearance.

Saturday afternoon, Sherbet Lounge & The Inferno

was limited in my options here – was at a Samaritans Purse fundraising quiz night from 7pm, so was only able to catch a few of the afternoon bands:

Sherbet lounge:

The Inferno

Saturday Evening, Winchester, 60 Million Postcards, The Inferno

After the Samaritans Purse fundraiser was compete, managed to dash to the Winchester to catch the last chord of New Volunteer, before seeing one of the Retro Bombshell burlesque troop while waiting for The New Governors.

Then to see Mutant Vinyl  in 60 Million Postcards (he’s by far the hottest property of the moment in town), before finishing the evening with Dusty Cuts in The Inferno.

Something of note – bumped into many ex-Betikans in 60MPC; things might be looking up on that horizon. Dave Purse was out telling me about this new project he’s currently got on, Zaardvark (it could almost be Jazz, he furtively whispered)

Sunday night, The Old Firestation

This was a first for me, not been here before (even though many gigs take place here, I perceive it as mainly a student venue and caters for the DJ crowd rather than live music audiences.)

However, amazingly strong line up, all ably held together by Chris Brown, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Town Crier:

No particular major reviews here, just a fantastic weekend of live music through out the town.  Big shout to Tone Foster (bhone) for pulling to gether a great team, including Chloe (The Longest Day), Geoff (DJ Mr Lively) and Rob (who I’d seen around but not had a chance to talk to before).

Thank you Bournemouth muso’s for your generosity and prowess in equal measure.