Si Crockett, Cella Creeps @ Cellar Bar

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Si Crockett Cellar BarAnother Friday night, another Cellar Bar gig. I’ve heard Si Crockett play lots recently, in his Big Face or Small Face Reggae guise, so its quite rare at the moment to see him solo acoustic, as he is tonight. His playing is more of an excuse to exercise his wonderful voice, with guitar accompaniment, the whole package is good as a result. He also announces his departure to pastures new, as he’s off doing the backpacking thing at the end of the summer.

Cella Creeps Cellar BarOn to Cella Creeps, a gig that has been misbilled a few times as Cellar Creeps or Mutual (not Mutant) Vinyl – obviously caught a mood as Ed announces themselves as Fearne ūüôā . Strong bass beats, good lead riffs and solid drumming mark the music, the whole being a very atmospheric emo-like sound. For a more complete description, see my previous posts on their Dorset Music Awards 2011 appearances. Suffice to say this gig features new material, reworked old material, and original material, all fantastic to enjoy.

They get up to their usual artistic antics. After playing personal fave Ride Beat (Mark dedicates it to me) Ed announces he feels “disconnected” and sits on the floor of the bar to play the next instrumental. All very chilled and mellow – until that is they divert into a funk jam, just because they were asked to at another gig, and it kind of worked then. It works now, too.

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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 Рfor 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.

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? Рall 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 ūüėČ

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 1

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If one wants to get along to these Quarter Finals must make it early – they start at 8pm. This is good as hopefully once “the crowd” (myself included) realise music starts earlier than it has been they’ll be prepared to come out early and nights won’t start slow. The knock on effect of this will then hopefully turn the last slot into a proper headline, rather than the graveyard it has started to become…

As intimated above, I didn’t manage to make it here until 9pm, so I’ve missed Evolver and Kinnie the Explorer. What I can’t miss is the capacity crowd – the Dorset Music Awards always pull out a lot of fans and also other musos, from within the competition and without.

Rapids go on as the third act of the evening, my first. They are energetic and loud, yet not to a volume where earplugs are needed. Front man Matt is kicking around all over the place, they are very high energy rock, pacey beats, fast bass and rhythm guitar riffs with screaming lead, and a bit of synth thrown in for good measure.

A bit of flavour is added by Matt jumping into the crowd and jumping away while still shouting the lyrics. The applause is polite, with a few whoops and cheers; there isn’t a lot of other movement going on to match the high energy performance. I’m therefore a little taken aback by the noise when they’ve finished – they’ve clearly won some people over.

Cella Creeps are the penultimate act. I love the spaced out sound lead guitarist Mark creates for their opening numbers. They are also producing some solid rock stuff as well, plus a small disclaimer from bass and vocalist Ed – “no we’re not Mutant Vinyl, some of us just look a little like them!”

This time the audience seem to be behind them more – more swaying for the slower numbers; more movement for the swifter elements. Something strange, Ed seems to have his own personal roadie – even to the point of plying him with a drink while he’s playing – turns out there are 3 songs without a break for bass and he’s thirsty!

At the end as part of their last song, Ed is clearly looking for something special – he steps forward to encourage some mates to start moshing, then jumps down into it – still playing bass – to join in. Cue close of set with tons of feedback….

Saturday Sun play to a still packed house, although has thinned out a little bit due to the 11:30 start time. As ever, they are open, wide open with the guitars and the beats. All dreamy stuff, yet there is still a lot going on with bass riffs, clever drums and rhythm guitar, all doing their build to crescendo then fade away to silence

They bring a different summer evening¬†vibe – a feeling of calm and stillness. Well, to the front half of the room who are still paying attention – those round the bar appear to have lost interest. I think it’s more the nature of Saturday Sun’s music that these noisier people can be heard over the quieter tunes.

As ever with the Dorset Music Awards, a big shout goes to Trevor and Richard from Dorset Music Forum for organising and running another amazing night of live music in Bournemouth.

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 ūüėȬ†

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.

Quick Update on Dorset Music Awards

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OK, so we’re halfway through the Dorset Music Awards¬†2011 Heats¬†– this year I’ve been given the privilege of judging this stage of ¬†these¬†prestigious awards.

No spoilers here, all the acts were awesome (except the two that didn’t turn up – that is very disappointing and means they excluded two other acts who may have wanted this more than them).¬† I’m not going to comment at all at present – we debate the results at the end of today, and the results will be published some time later in the week by Dorset Music Awards.¬† Then I’ll feel able to publish my highlights.

What I am pleased to say is that I have been genuinely surprised by some performances – some acts I’ve not seen before have been amazing (how come I’ve missed them?) and others I have seen before have really pulled out all the stops to impress the judges and the audience.

We’ve already had some healthy and robust discussions as judges over what we’ve thought of some bands, so I’m half looking forward with anticipation to tonight, with another day of great music ahead of me, and half with trepidation and apprehension at the monumental task I have as one of the three judges having to decide which twenty acts of the now 38 (hoping none pull out today) we’ve seen are “better” than the other 18, and so deserve to play in front of their audiences at the public vote round.

Here’s who I saw, in order:

Sarah Griffin

Down By The Waterside

Mischa

Stop Go Sixty

Beckett

Sketches Of The Adverse

Powdered Cows

Saturday Sun

Sirpico

Lauren Bannon

Manikin Time Shark

Pachango

Blackwater Caravan

Amity Rd

Cella Creeps

Moontown

Big Face Reggae