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 2012 Quarter Final 1

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DMA logoJack Grace has already played by the time I arrive (8pm start, hard to make if you’re as disorganised as I am and don’t get home ’til late to go out again). Asking around I missed a good one – Jack and the gang did a pretty faultless show, good guitar work, and roped in a female vocalist too to enhance their sound.

Krista Green @ DMA QF1 10 FebKrista Green is performing when I do arrive; having seen her on stage quite a bit recently with various other artists I’m slightly surprised to see her solo on the stage tonight. Not a problem for her, for the most part the near-capacity crowd are enthralled with her act.

Paint It Blue @ DMA QF1 10 FebPaint It Blue are faultless as ever, the songs are amazing, Hannah takes a bit of time out in between solid numbers to introduce the band members, a good important touch in my eyes.

Tom Clements @ DMA QF1 10 FebThe first noticeable element to Tom Clements is the large crowd he’s brought with him, who he enthuses and encourages throughout his performance. He’s playing brilliantly too, though lots of crowd noise is now prevalent, which fortunately doesn’t appear to put him off

Constellation @ DMA QF1 10 FebConstellation again have a large following here, T-shirts and dancing noted. The music has a new edge, honed and appealling, and the performance is visually entertaining too – I slighted them for this in the heat, but they had been partying hard the night before. No signs of fatigue tonight, just another awesome show like the other four acts tonight.

Disco's Out (Murder's In) @ Cellar Bar 10 FebOn to the Cellar Bar where Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) are making a welcome return, and ripping up the place which is as usual full for a Friday night. They inflict a couple of new songs on us which go down well, and Martin is taking more part now with witticisms in some of the gaps between, and within songs. Good end to a good night.

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 – 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

Show & Bournemouth Unplugged Final

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Ali (and later, Martin) from Constellation join me in the studio this evening.  Despite being together and gigging for over a year, Constellation only hit my radar through entering the 2011 Dorset Music Awards, where they reached the Semi Final stage. I’ve written much about them as a result on this blog. 

Having the chat in the studio is enlightening about how they formed from friendships formed at classes in music technology, and how Ali was subsequently recruited as a vocalist.  We also talk a little bit about now old song The Flower Song, and about their supported charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers

The songs played are special exclusives, prepared yet unfinished cuts from their latest recording sessions, a CD to be produced real soon now.  As ever, really enjoyable, made more so by fan interaction via received texts, calls and emails from fans.

I’m then (in slow time) off to the Bournemouth Unplugged Final in O’Neill’s.  Its been a long journey from that first Heat in February, perhaps made more so by the mad rush to get from the studio to the bar in time to hear the first act.  Of the 32 acts entered, many have been amazing, I’ve picked up many new guests for the show. 

Of course there have been some that have been good, but just uninspiring – there are too many people that are picking up a guitar, strumming some chords and putting over lyrics – it’s not as easy as that, but even so need to be something a little bit different to stand out from the crowd. 

Overall, it has made for some nights of amazing music, even if it means continuous cajon playing (the unplugged bit effectively means no drum kits) for percussive accompaniment.  I’ve also been surprised to see my preconceptions blown away on some occasions, when having to structurally break down music into objective categories to define what’s best.

So, four acts in the final, Si Crockett, Chris Woodford, Phil King and Krista Green.  Every one of them plays what many say is their best set ever. The pub is absolutely packed – other artists from the competition, loads of fans of local live music, meaning the atmosphere is electric, and gives one a chance to catch up with nearlyeveryone who’s anyone on the circuit.  Enough of my ramblings, on to the prizes.

ITG song writer award.

This is for the best overall songwriter in the competition.  Martin from ITG productions wants to reward people with good original content and amazing tunes.  Goes to Ant Henson.

TL sound.

This is for PA hire, studio recording time and other related goodies.  Goes to Si Crockett.

Dreadlock photography.

This is for a free photo shoot by one of the upcoming portrait photo stars of the music scene, Old Bloke. Goes to Si Crockett, “for playing the best I’ve ever seen him play”

Purbeck Folk Festival.

Here Cath Burke is looking for an act that will fit particularly well into the vibe of this specific festival.  Goes to Krista Green.

Endorset in Dorset.

Gee starts by saying he isn’t used to and dislikes this judging lark (thanks for the support Gee, we’ve had to do this for 3 months!) and gets involved this time as the festival organiser available.  Goes to Chris Woodford.

New guitar (vouchers).

This was delayed with the main prize as they’re both awarded by Fiona, O’Neill’s manager. Its £350 worth of vouchers for a new guitar, since she wants the receipient to choose one for their style, rather than force something unwanted on them. Goes to Phil King.

Overall winner Bournemouth Unplugged 2011.

Finally we get to the end of the night – it’s been delayed (along with the previous prize) for 10 minutes beyond the others by Ant in the interests of suspense.  Fiona announces the winner as Krista Green, who wins a nice silverware trophy, a string of pub gigs at O’Neill’s bars in London, and rapturous applause.

Well done to all who entered and got through to any stage in the competition, particular shouts to Ant Lewis from Fairplay for organising everything, to Steve from TL Sound who’s been there each week driving the PA system, and to Fiona for setting aside most Wednesdays to allow musos to invade the bar mainly on their terms!  Also fellow regular judges Harry from Chaplins, Tone from bhone for the heats, Cath from Purbeck Folk Festival for sitting in occasionally, and Martin from ITG for taking some heat with me for unpopular decisions.

Constellation @ The Inferno

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I’ve come out on a Saturday night to catch up with Constellation, who’ve just missed out on a Dorset Music Awards final place at the O2 next week. Turns out there are three acts on before them; I’m nicely surprised to see Kimari Raven (Becki) playing as I walk in, showing off her voice with a cover and a new song amongst her normal material.  Ali & Martin from Constellation are full of praise for Becki’s voice, I also think she’s grown in confidence a lot since last seeing her play a few weeks back at Bournemouth Unplugged.

Mischa is on after Kimari Raven, I miss his short solo set as I’m outside with Martin and Ali being introduced to the rest of their band. I still can’t understand why they didn’t reach the final of Dorset Music Awards, so we spend a bit of time chewing that fat before talking other things.

Walking in again, Blue Stone Walls are on stage. They’re providing rhythmic rock with a pretty good stage presence; lead singer Adam tries to engage the crowd that are here in some of their energy. He’s also wailing to the music which means I can’t make out the lyrics, and it isn’t particularly to my tastes (strikes me as a little out of tune) but never mind, its pretty good music despite that.

Having come down to The Inferno to meet the chaps, would be rude not to stick around and listen when they finally come on stage about 11:30! Its strangely familiar hearing them in a more ordinary context, as I’ve only previously seen them perform to their utmost in the Dorset Music Awards.

They don’t disappoint in this non-competitive context. The bass hooks are there, the clashing guitars are brilliant, and Ali is still keeping up his performance as a great front man. I’m specifically looking for things to pick them up on since they’ve asked me to; I’m struggling to objectively look beyond my enjoying and liking what they do, and find some room for improvement.

They finally give me an opportunity – they cover Sex On Fire, yet don’t add anything to it to make it theirs. Even so it is well executed, Ali’s voice nearly perfectly suited to the melody (he struggles balancing volume and projection at the top end of the range). Buck Rogers is also given the Constellation treatment, again they are not adding anything to obviously make it their own to my ears. Another missing element from this gig is the look – they are just in regular dress (like most other bands to be fair) so there isn’t anything visual that makes them stand out from the crowd.

Having said that, it is still a great show, they are giving name checks, passing on how to find them online and song name checks throughout. Their songs are catchy; they pass the whistle test and are also easy to sing along to (as I catch myself doing in a couple of songs). A good night out thanks chaps.

On the way back home I drop into the Cellar Bar, where I’ve missed Paint It Blue‘s set due to the lateness of the hour. They’re outside talking when I rock up; talking around they’ve played a good entertaining set. Oh well, another time…

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.



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.

Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 3

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DMA logoAs with the other heats, tonight I’ve seen and heard 5 high quality acts, and would not be in a position to pick any clear winners were I to be asked.

Seems the voters can’t either – no specific spoilers, but I’ve heard the voting is very close across many of the 20 acts, and this year looks to be record voting. When Trev was on HopeFM’s LiveWire Live show with me this week, he let it be known that at this halfway stage of the public voting round, around 5000 votes have been cast, compared with about 6000 in total for the whole competition last year.

Therefore the message to acts is clear – please please please if you want to have a clear win to go through to the next round, rather than have to go through another tiebreak judging process, shout your “vote-for-us” plugs about everywhere.

Hessian DMA QF3On to describing this Quarter Final: Hessian start – I’ve been looking forward to hear them again since they gave me such a wake up call at the Heats. This time they’ve not brought the huge crowd with them, this also means the room is half empty as they start.

Guitar led synth based rock, hooks and melodies, tight silences, lots of motion and communication between each other; also plenty of plugs for themselves. One of the last songs features some cutting harmonies from the two singers, lots of pauses in the music also feature demonstrating just how tight this band are together. All good stuff.

NMIC DMA QF3Not Made In China are as ever a lot of fun, while still being unable to box or label genre-wise. Really happy upbeat chords from JJ, Gav’s smile and ska-like bass riffs, Tiff’s clear lyrics above everything, with Matt’s personality able to shine through the drums. The Winchester has now filled up, though still not at capacity, and there’s a modicum of movement on the dance floor.

Sirpico DMA QF3Its the middle of the evening, and Sirpico‘s turn to wow me, which they easily achieve. Even before being announced by Trev, Al is on the mic welcoming people and encouraging them to step forwards. This sets up the scene for a rocked up set of 4 lads dressed in cool black, playing their guts out to a crowd that the majority of don’t start out as theirs, but are slowly being won over. Their fans have some quality heckles too, e.g.:
     Al: here’s the only slow one we do
     Heckle: and I bet that’s at f*^*in’ 1200 BPM too

Powdered Cows DMA QF3Powdered Cows take my artistic award for the night (no real surprise there) something that I haven’t appreciated before is how, while the songs sound like they’re in similar keys, there are subtle differences between them, making it well nigh on impossible to just jump in and accompany them, as Ed Pope does on sax for a couple of numbers. Tonight the first few tracks are very heavily guitar oriented, with strong drum beats. Soon Martin switches from guitar so the synth plays a big part, drums turn into tambourine & whistling before there’s a total instrument switch around between Amy (drums now guitar) & Deena (vice-versa). Meanwhile Angus stays solid playing bass throughout.

Constellation DMA QF3Constellation have had a crowd here since the beginning of the night, so understandably there’s a lot of noise when they finally take to the stage. This also means that The Winchester is still absolutely packed as they play – if there was an extra award for crowd commitment and dedication, these guys would be strong contenders! Once announced they kick straight into a big drum solo to start the set. These guys are a great party band, positive major keys, upbeat/ reggae style guitar beats, and everyone here seems to be here for good time, judging by the noise and heckles.

A specific shout out to Josh from Conversion Studios, he’s offering part of the prize package, and we had a brief chat once introduced by Trev to each other.  Also to two particular members (who will remain nameless – they know who they are) of one of the acts in the Quarter Finals – placing bets on whether they get a mention by name or not in this blog – nice try chaps, I’d say OP wins for that!

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