After eight rounds of gruelling heats, the Battle of the Bands Final – comprising bands from Southampton, Portsmouth and everywhere in between – took place on Saturday in the Cellars at Portsmouth. Sadly, The Cellars was somewhat underwhelming for such an event, but the music was anything but.
Although one group pulled out, seven bands took to the stage over the course of three hours in a bid to win £500 and a three day recording session, which for any unsigned artist, is something of a godsend.
The proceedings were kicked off by Cherishport, a solo artist who employed some loop pedals to create some rather unexpected turns and certainly delivered a unique experience at the early point of the evening. Despite a few strange volume changes and having some difficulty remaining in sync with the layers, Cherishport caused the audience to sit up and take note with this novel experience. With a voice akin to David Gray or Newton Faulkner, this was a promising start to the evening.
He was followed by The Distance Between who were a solid blend of metal and punk and immediately energised the stage in style. The lead vocals were extremely powerful often to the point of deafening, but there was no doubt that the band knew how to make a scene. After a couple of songs, the atmosphere changed drastically, coinciding with the singer’s dramatic decision to remove his shirt. Half naked, he suddenly called for mosh pits and the band turned into a screamo collective. Although the band was no doubt technically good, and the singer’s antics were a sight to behold, there was a lot of style over substance.
Things didn’t get too much better with Earthborn Kings. Unlike the prior performers, there was no doubt this was going to be a pure metal outing. Several dedicated fans queued up at the front of the stage to engage in the ritual headbanging, yet there was very little distinction between various tracks. They then unveiled a new song called ‘Inferno’ and this sounded a lot more chaotic whereas, at least before, they stayed true to their style. It’s no place for us to look down on an entire genre, but several of us wondered who they must have beaten to get to the final. That being said, the passion for the band was evident and admirable.
One For Monday graced the stage at 9 and the four piece attempted to evoke the mod rocker spirit. A tight arrangement of songs featuring punchy riffs went down well amongst the crowd and they were a welcome change of pace for The Cellars. The band were what you might consider the most ‘stereotypical’ local band, with the tried and tested guitar format, but their skills certainly reached a higher level. Although they struggled with “the slower one”, the band showed off their influences excellently and the competent vocalist and guitarists certainly impressed.
Coburgs Widow followed and seemed destined for victory, considering they seemed to have bribed the whole audience put to wear their T-shirts and support them. A band that apparently believes we should “fuck genres”, Coburgs Widow were a genuinely funny and great experience for everyone involved. Although they turned slightly into football hooligans at the end of the set with a rendition of ‘Vindaloo’, the group possessed a crazy energy that was impossible not to be drawn in by.
After this came the first of the two Southampton bands and the winners of the first heat at The Talking Heads, Triassic. Their performance was a neat end-of-year experience, for their first ever performance was that gig at The Talking Heads back in April. It was clear that in two months the band have come on leaps and bounds. The set was extremely tight, the lyrics were the most meaningful of the night, and the crowd looked on with a great deal of interest. The pacey guitars and crafted rhythms remained central to the performance and offered up a stylish brand of moody, indie rock which was a first for the evening.
Seventh Seeker were also a unique experience as they introduced a keyboard, a bizzare piece of equipment that the audience had to that point, not had the pleasure of experiencing. The band were a sonically enchanting five-piece and the high reach of the vocalist amongst the harder riffs was reminiscent of long video game scores. There were clear comparisons to 80s synth pop and prog rock rhythms that would lead to long ten minute songs. Although limited by a 20 minute set, the band’s rolling, natural sound was a pleasure to behold.
After Seventh Seeker closed off their set, there came a nail biting wait to determine who the winner was going to be. Second place – with the reward of £100 and free CDs – was awarded to Cherishport, a native of the Isle of Wight. The first place position – rumour has it won by an extremely narrow two points – was claimed by Southampton’s Triassic. After a short stunned silence, the band took to the stage evidently lost for words. With under 10 fans supporting the band, it was clear that the four piece made a brilliant impression on the judges, audience and fellow bands alike and summed up a meteoric rise. On the whole, the talent showcased was excellent and extremely varied, and should give people faith in the Hampshire music scene.
Pictures to follow.