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.

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