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…

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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

DO(MI) at DMA – One Band Two Stages

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Having hosted a full day of the most excellent music, the end of the first day of the Dorset Music Award heats is closed by last years festival winners Disco’s Out (Murder’s In) .

They’re playing over two stages, with (as DMA’s Trevor points out) two PA systems, two sets of speakers and all the foldback speakers linked together somehow
        And it is awesome.

Opener Blow My Mind has them all in full effect. Being on the different stages enthuses them to compete for the crowd (the small band are on one stage, the brass and keys etc on the other). What I find more amusing is that they can’t do the normal talking to each other, resulting in a lot of fun play between them:
Steve: “I’ll start it and you join in when you know what it is”; he even goes over there for Clown, since the start relies on brass and guitar doing big chords together

Possibly as a result of this, they think the two stage idea sucks (and say so); they are still incredibly tight despite the split difference; I think it all adds to the novelty mystique around Disco’s Out (Murder’s In). Inspired by a plea from Big Face Reggae earlier in the heats, lead Steve encourages lunging, the results are mixed, and inspires yet more competiton between the stages as the brass also want their share of lunge-ers, ably provided by Alfie (Animal Talent Show) being an obliging nutter.
Its also the first time I think a band have been asked to do an encore, and them almost collapse and their face drop – they are exhausted having been partying all day at the award heats.

Moving on to Champions Brothers Grimmer, The Hops and The Neon Tigers are billing. I miss the former; The Hops are full of energy, well dressed in suit uniform really rocking out. Its a good crowd as well, which is really good to see at Champions. Possibly all down to the hard work Tone is putting in as booking mananger, as well as promoting for bhone.

As well as energy, the Hops again have some good solid tunes – Back To The Beach again is a favourite; I have to ask myself for a London band three of which are ex-Bournemouth to be singing a rock song about beaches seems a little odd, especially when it doesn’t have anything of the “Bournmouth Sound” beach surf vibe about it.  Good all the same.

And so on to the headline for the night, The Neon Tigers. They have really upped their game since the last time I saw them perform, with a big intro on a darkened stage. When they were on LiveWire Live they made a big thing about bringing a sense of theatre back to live music, here I see this being worked out.
This time, Richard’s transition from keys to the gorgeous double necked strat is simpler than before – gone is the poncho, he stays in the dark tight fitting clothes, and even retains the hat while he rocks out.
One thing that accompanies gigs from The Neon Tigers are offerings of delicacies and sweets; tonight is no exception – Spacedust (exploding candy) this time!

OK this is new – during The Boy Needs Help intro, Richard leaves the stage while the rest of the band rock it out, drawing out and playing fugues with the riffs. When he returns its a transformation from stage cool black into illuminating red. So, The Neon Tigers the best rock band currently in Dorset? 100+ people in Champions would definitely agree tonight, find out tomorrow at the 2nd day of the Dorset music awards heats (they’re on at about 5pm Sunday)

The Neon Tigers on HopeFM

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The Neon Tigers promo shotThree quarters of The Neon Tigers join me in the studio tonight. The music played focusses on their EP, a copy of which I was kindly offered before the show.
The packaging presentation alone is impressive, here’s what Dorset Rock Online had to say about it…

 The Neon Tigers Friends EPI think a quick word on the packaging is needed! … Friends is presented in a silver tin case. It’s a bit of a ^%$ to get in to, but once you do you’re greeted with a card insert featuring the above track listing on one side and the above band portrait by Tim Churchill on the other. The disc itself is cradled in moulded plastic and the whole package comes across like a collectors edition release. With it being a limited run, I guess it sorta is. You can grab yourselves one of these packages from the band themselves at a gig or at Square Records in Wimborne.

 In the studio, I must admit I spend much time talking about the band and their stage act, rather than the music. I’m pleased we seem to be of similar mind – they feel that being in a band, they owe it to fans, promoters and venues to put on an impressive show.

It also helps them stick in the mind, whether because of
the visual presentation (band look);
the makeup (they glam themselves up a bit for their take on Rock Theatre);
the food (Gary makes giveaway titbits for gigs)
or even the music!

Talking to them they are humourously immodest yet humblingly realistic. They seem genuinely pleased as punch to be in the position they are in right now, while taking a short break from a pretty packed gig schedule to threefold:
give themselves a rest,
give Bournemouth a rest from them, and
produce / polish some new material for a second EP.

Again, a thoroughly enjoyable time for me, thanks to these excellent guests, once more I’m humbled that they want to take time out to talk to me and my listener about their art and talent.

After the show I drop in on Chaplins for the open mic, its been a while since I was here on a Wednesday. There’s a posse enjoying a Christmas meal party in half the room, looks like they’ve reached the end of eating, yet they’re sticking around (mainly) for music and drinks.

Andy Stock opens as usual with a long (for him) set of songs.  He includes my favourite cover Shoot The Breeze from Alex Roberts.

Susanah Lea is also present (having seen her last night in O’Neills); she regularly comes down here from her home up-country. I heard her with a more Country twist last night, tonight she’s doing some more of her own material, and a couple of covers for the benefit of the Christmas partygoers.

Del Bishop is up next. Good grunt on his vocals, steady chord work on the guitar. He has an intriging mix of songs, some ballads, some up-tempo. He plays a goodly number of good songs, all of them originally penned by him

Graham Jones is last up. This time he’ s a lot more laid back possibly due to the emptier venue (the party crowd left at 11-ish), so there’s only a handful of us left to enjoy this different side to what he normally does.

Another busy Wednesday night…

Oxjam Bournemouth Takeover, 2010

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

Friday Night, Champions

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

Saturday afternoon, Sherbet Lounge & The Inferno

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

Sherbet lounge:

The Inferno

Saturday Evening, Winchester, 60 Million Postcards, The Inferno

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

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

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

Sunday night, The Old Firestation

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

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

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

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