Battle of the Bands heats 3 & 4

After missing Heat 2 of this year’s Battle of the Bands, I headed back to Tempo for the third and fourth heats last week in the hope of seeing some more good bands and hearing some more interesting sounds. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the crowd was roughly the same size as that of Heat 1, which was great for the bands and again shows that people are enjoying having more live music in the union.

Something About Nothing, the first band in Heat 3, were a nice gentle pop rock band. They were pretty tight and had a kind of Counting Crows feel about them, and were clearly one of the more experienced outfits of the evening. After them came Club Silencio, a band who I’m told have a bit of a history with BOTB, and they showed why they’ve come so close to winning before, as they were energetic, imaginative and, thankfully, interesting. The delayed and multi-layered guitar work lifted them out of what would otherwise have been a fairly standard three-piece and made them into a really enjoyable mix of genres and styles, which seemed to do a good job of getting the crowd going to boot, and earned them a place in the semi-finals.

Next up were the prog band Drongo Sealion Magic, who went on to win the evening and take a place in the final. They combined astounding musicianship with complex arrangements and an ardent determination to avoid 4/4, yet they sounded like a patchwork of ideas, running classical into metal into an almost hip-hop section, which resulted in a lack of cohesion and more than a hint of self-indulgence, although their professionalism and complexity no doubt left the judges with no choice but to put them through.

Following this was the ‘melodic hardcore’ outfit Praying To Echoes, who I felt were the worst act of the night. They were musically average but the singer’s uncomfortable and awkward-sounding screaming did them no favours whatsoever, as instead of relating to the anger of the song, most people were forced to relate to the pain in their ears.

After this came Blue Audio, who made surprisingly good use of an electric violin in their thrashy punk sound. They played hard, two-minute-long punk songs and had a nice mini-mosh pit going, yet it was weird that no-one seemed to question the fact that they had a violinist. Perhaps this was down to the fact that it seemed to meld extremely well, despite sometimes sounding like the rest of the band were relying slightly on his talents.

The last band of the evening was another hardcore outfit called North For The Winter, who did a pretty good job of showing Praying To Echoes how it should have been done, with the guitarist/singer screaming with conviction and well, skill. They had a good presence about them on stage, and, to continue the celebrity look-a-like theme from last time, the guitarist also bore more than a passing resemblance to Robbie Coltrane. Cracker.

Heat 4 saw a similar sized crowd return to Tempo to see six more bands compete for the chance to play in the final, with Calling for Huey kicking us off to a bit of a late start. Their generic pop punk did seem to get the crowd moving, however the awkward silence as the drummer had to repair his snare stand perhaps displayed a lack of experience as no-one had anything to say to keep the crowd happy, but their energy and light-up flying V did provide for some entertainment.

After a total loss of power on stage came Hairy Liquid, an extremely green band who, after a little more experience and time spent on song-writing could come back next year with a much more confident and solid sound. Next up were Awkward Silence, whose smooth, bassy vocals and use of acoustic guitar made them really stand out, with their cover of Billie Jean proving to be a highlight of the night and the crowd warmly showing their appreciation of the singer’s excellent voice.

After them came easily the most marketable band of the entire competition, Such Modern Ways. They looked exactly like a pop band should, had a lot of fun and were pretty tight as well, and with a little more time spent working on songs they may well be pushing someone important somewhere to make them lots of money. They are the kind of band you hear your little sister listening to and would never admit to liking, yet you secretly hum along and know all the words; definitely one to watch in the future.

Digital Earth, the heat winners, were next on stage to treat the audience to, surprisingly, some more prog. They were, however, very good, with a particularly good pianist and drummer driving them on, and some interesting guitar work added to the pianist’s class. As is often the case with instrumental bands though, they did lack stage presence to a certain degree.

Goldline, the night’s second-placed band finished off the evening, with a great guitarist and bassist combining with a solid drummer and charismatic, if a little vocally limited, front man to provide some very enjoyable pop rock indeed. They had an air of professionalism about them which no other band managed to achieve, although their singer’s voice just didn’t quite fulfil their otherwise excellent potential. They finished off with a great funk breakdown which could easily have been Jamiroquai, and the guitarist’s ripping solos meant that they deserved to go through to the semis.

Both heats offered up some interesting bands and some things to look forward to in the future. Hopefully next week’s semi-final will give the bands the opportunity to take it up a notch and show us their best set in order to secure a place in the final the week after, where the competition will step up one last time.


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