Dorset Music Awards Quarter Final 3

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Dirty Jerkers @ DMA QF3 24 FebWe start early tonight with Dirty Jerkers, who have been carried over from last week due to illness. They have sond good guitar sounds for their opening song that I like, and are throwing plenty of life into their set, for the most part (the bass player rarely turns to face the crowd). Even though there’s a less than normal crowd due to the early start – up to near capacity by the time they finish, the songs are squeezed in short, to get as many in in their set time. Its a shame they need to retune halfway through the set, as they lose the momentum gained from the third song, a strutty number which shows the variety these guys have, and let’s them visually entertain too. It’s a good set, I just feel I’ve wanted more verbal encouragement from the stage to the crowd to mosh, as the music and their antics require it ūüôā

Voice Of Reason @ DMA QF3 24 FebVoice of Reason¬†always pull out a lot of stops musically and visually, within the limitations of the showcase format. Singer Addie Jay encourages us to get involved, he’s also worked hard on the promotional material, good quality flyers etc. As an example of a break from their otherwise regularr hard rock, Dead And Gone has an amazing a capella start, voices in unison, while the drummer juggles his sticks in time to the beats during the song.

Veetacore @ DMA QF3 24 FebI’ve previously described Veetacore¬†as a good retro 80’s sound, doing them a bit of an injustice. They are modern while having that cool throwback with the music, aided by clever (one handed! – the other holding the mic) synth work against thumping bass riffs. Becky keeps name checking, and forward throws teasers about gigs and a new EP, which is a good thing. Tom’s guitar pedal board deserves its own photo – its huge.Veetacore - pedal board (well oversize) They also sing harmonies on occasion, and are pretty animated to the punchy music, they go down well with the crowd too.

The General Public @ DMA QF3 24 Feb I’m expecting great things from The General Public, and they don’t disappoint. Starting with a bit of a slant to Talking Heads, they next move into the funkier numbers I like the best from them, starting with Disillusioned Generation, a brilliant capture of the current mood of the nation, whether old or young. Mike’s faces are something to behold, and the dischords between bass and keys (standing up makes a big difference to the visual dynamic) work really well for me. Richie’s drumming is absolutely spot on, I just hope others have seen it this way too for them to have enough votes to push into Mr Kyps, which is what all the acts at this stage are working towards.

Pachango @ DMA QF3 24 FebOur next act is more an experiment to squeeze the ten musicians and percussionists of Pachango¬†on stage together, which works well enough on the wide Winchester stage to also give them room to jump around to the rhythms. They are on good form tonight, punching through the Latin influenced numbers, introducing a new one, including some of Selby’s beat poetry, all in all performing a good set.

Pump Action Radio @ DMA QF3 24 FebPump Action Radio¬†are all that I expected of the theatrical rockers that they are. Big chords. Big riffs. Big jumps. Big hits. Big sound. And all tight with it. There’s a good mix of the heavy rock, the lighter guitar work, the solo vocals (appropriately screamed out) and the varied use of the drum work, along with encouragement for use to participate too. A good live act, which is what this is all about.

Personally I’m pleased that all the acts in the Quarter Finals have had such good performances, it confirms to me that we have such an amazing scene here in the area and that all those chosen to reach this far have been worthy of their places. ¬†Texas Red @ Smokin Aces 24 FebA quick sortie into Smokin’ Aces finds¬†Texas Red entertaining the packed bar, though they are widely ignored by too many people in here¬†they play some good tunes and put on a good act, a good end to a great night.

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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 РTough 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 РEnjoyable.  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 РLot 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 РAwesome.  Never apologise or comment from the stage on how feel about own performance.

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

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

Day Two

Simon Lane РGood 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 РWant 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 РGood bass and violin combination.  Not my preference of musical style but well performed.

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

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

Empire Affair РGood 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 РLots 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

November Big Night Out

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Blues Machine @ O2 19 NovI start what portends to be a busy evening early, at the O2. The Blues Machine have offered me a ticket to come and catch them live, I’ve missed them in loads of places but the lure of an O2 set was far too tempting for me to stay away…ooh how cheap am I ? ūüôā¬†I like their walk on. Ash (on guitar) playing a little riff as the house lights dim, walks on from stage left, he’s then joined by Dan (bass & vox) on stage right, who does a little intro speech, calls the crowd in (nice touch), and picks up the same riff. Meanwhile Josh has reached the drums to kick the opening song off.

Ash - Blues Machine @ O2 19 NovThey make use of the full stage they’ve been given, including use of the side stacks, which unfortunately aren’t spot lit by the crew, blowing their opportunity to shine a bit. They are also meandering around the portion of the stage they’ve been given like pros, and looking like they’re really enjoying themselves.

Blues Machine Doubled up @ O2 19 NovAs to the music, its well executed, confident, even if the first few are covers. During a Wishbone Ash song they do a move I’d first seen done at DMA 2011 by Evolver – switching their guitars to their backs, then lean over each other in a sort of hug to play each other’s instrument. They switch to a slow blues number, Dan’s vocal soars slightly too sweetly over the bass thumps, with the barest twiddles from the guitar. For their last number they name check each other out as each showboat solos, a nice touch. Good stuff & worth catching if one fancies a blues gig, even if tonight it seems only the young fans they’ve brought with them are appreciative.

Voodoo Vegas frontline @ O2 19 NovVoodoo Vegas are next in the line up here; they choose an all on stage entrance, backs to the crowd as the lights rise. Ash (bass) breaks into a fat riff as Lawrence (vocals) welcomes the crowd, then something happens and they reset and start again. Mishaps happen sometimes, tonight they just take it in their stride.
Voodoo Vegas action @ O2 19 NovThe music is great hard rock; there are a few new songs present to my ears before they break into King Without A Crown. This song is where they really let rip, all on the risers and posturing. Its really cool to see such a great local band on the best stage in town. They go on a harmonica led blues journey, through some rolling rock, then into So Unkind where they really hit it hard for the audience reaction.

Lawrence - Voodoo Vegas @ O2 19 NovThere is no question they are both bigging up themselves, while pumping and primping the crowd for Doors Alive, who they’ve got the gig through. Awesome sound, good stage use (they warrant the crew providing spotlights on the side stacks), and I think they’ve found themselves a new spiritual home ūüôā

We’re kept waiting 30 minutes for the headline act. I don’t just want to walk out before they start – that’s what I commonly don’t like about some fans of some acts, however I have another set of gigs to get to, and really need to dash so only stay for their first song as a result of what I see as an unwarranted delay.

Doors Alive @ O2 19 NovDoors Alive start with a drum solo before keys are blended in, then joined by guitar as singer joins the stage. There seem to be vocal mic troubles so we wait further until that’s sorted out, however those sets of vintage key synths are really making some amazing noises.

Doors Alive key synths @ O2 19 Nov

Compared with¬†Lawrence’s antics, they seem pretty pedestrian in this first song, I appreciate I’m not seeing a full representation of a set, as I split to the next gig. I later find out that this was pretty much the order of their performance; recognisable music, well reproduced, without any stage antics.

Pump Action Radio @ Inferno 19 NovDue to waiting around for Doors Alive, I arrive at the Inferno to find I’ve missed Escapefrom98. I hear they were good, punk style, and went down well with good crowd feedback. Pump Action Radio¬†are getting set up as I arrive. ¬†They are pumped up, with steaming tunes and massive distortion – too much for the sound system –¬†they come across as just loud and unfortunately unintelligible, even through my decent ear plugs.¬†Shame, as it means I make an early departure for the next gig.

Monkey Puzzle @ Glow In The JungleThere’s a massive party going on at the Winchester, facilitated by the excellent Monkey Puzzle. The event has been called Glow In The Jungle – UV lighting is in abundance, meaning face painted individuals really shine, and the crapberry doesn’t do justice. Glow sticks are also available making a cool scene.

Dan - Monkey Puzzle @ Glow In The Jungle

The music is amazing, their versions of staples such as Summertime are done as Jazz in a Turquoise mood Рthis is also true for e.g. Rock Steady, everything is pumped up to the max in a funk / jazz vibe. The mauve references continue as everybody is a translucent purple thanks to the lighting.

Where's Billy? @ Inferno 19 NovBack to the Inferno, where Where’s Billy? are playing a rock ballad. By all accounts in the crowd, they’ve been amazing, however vocals are suffering from the blown out speakers of the PA too. Their next song is jumped up rock, musical with good lead guitar riff and a strutting bass line. Shame these lads are from Kent (as their photographer Jenna informs me) – would like to see them again. Apparently they play the inferno semi-regularly, so keep an eye out for them.

Brothers Grimmer @ Inferno 19 Nov

Brothers Grimmer are finishing the night at the Inferno. I like their intro “we’re Brothers Grimmer and we’re gonna rock you” then get straight on with the heavy music (again affected by abysmal vocals thanks to the PA). Music is good though, decent chord sequences and progressions leading to a tuneful performance. Visual entertainments are again provided by their break dancer – at one point he holds himself on a single hand for what seems like a whole chorus – excellent balance control.

Brothers Grimmer @ Inferno 19 NovAfter they’ve performed a pretty brilliant rendition of Jethro Tull’s Living In The Past, I depart to hopefully catch the Deltorers at the Cellar Bar. I return soon after as the Deltorers have finished their set already (they only had a short set of material), and Brothers Grimmer are still rocking out big style, with some serious moshing action by the drunks in the corner. Makes for a great end for a good music evening albeit I’ve only seen 7 of the 10 bands I’d hoped for; I head back to the Cellar Bar for an after night-out hang out with some mates.