Sweat races down the sides of my body. I’ve know this beat so well. What does the crowd look like? Will the mikes be on? Shit, I dropped my guitar pick. The back stage crew are calling our names; ‘hurry the f*** up, because the set times are behind schedule’. I can see the lights; now the crowd… let’s rock.
With as little musical talent as I possess, I try to imagine what it would feel like for such raw, unadulterated talent to be projected onto the stage at this year’s Battle of the Bands festival, once again hosted by Saint Aidan’s, Corinda.
During my drive to Corinda, fond recollections, and thus high expectations broke into my mind as I began to navigate my way to this year’s battle. The 2010 line up was pretty strong, despite a bit of Big Band lost in the middle of what was claimed to be a ‘rock’ line-up. I was expecting Green Day, Nirvana, 30 Seconds to Mars, AC/DC, Van Halen, U2, falsettos, the Doors, maybe even a bit of John Farnham, all infused with that summer music festival energy. We had arrived. Fortunately the real talent arrived too.
I had the privilege, but also difficult task of being an adjudicator for this event. I must not run down my musical instincts and talents. I mean I did play the recorder. But I am an audience member of many concerts, and I think I know my ‘shit’ when it comes to good music. As a judge, and acknowledging the talent pools diversity, age, skill, and genre of rock I set out to look for originality, crowd interaction, showmanship, technical skill, and that undefinable, indescribable edge that a band needs in their performance.
The line-up was overwhelming, which proved difficult when I had to discuss my opinions, while reflecting over fifteen different bands with my fellow judges. But I gladly accepted the challenge.
The line-up looked like this:
Trilby Dogz: You grew in height, but after seeing your successes at last year’s #AmbiBOB festival, I wish your music grew. You pulled your tributes successfully, as you seduced the audience in to the concert hall. It was difficult for you guys being under the pressure of first-up, while battling with audio difficulties. I really didn’t write much at all for you guys. I think this boils down to the fact I didn’t feel like I was listening to you. You came across as a tribute band, and I’m not confident this is the road in which you want to take. Keep working on your identity boys, as this is what let you down this year.
After Opening: a fresh breeze of an Indie infused summer. I can definitely see you guys at Splendour in the Grass. Joe’s vocals complimented Two Door Cinema Club really well. The crowd became contagiously energised. Kevin’s guitar skills definitely shone through, but I’d like to hear more from Jack’s guitar. You transitioned between fast and slow tempos professionally, without losing each other. This shows great listening. I was impressed with how you constantly affirmed the crowd, which was something other bands didn’t do well at all.
Lucid Dreams: You guys definitely looked the part. As soon as I heard the MGMT hook come through I was tuned in. You lost me when you started. It was a cluttered mess. The cohesiveness of your sound, the vocal, and the bass were definitely missing. During your take on Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine the lead guitar became stronger. The total energy of your band grew late into the third song, but this was disappointingly late. Work on strengthening your sound.
Calais: These boys now how much I admire them. Such a big intro too, with a lot of local support present. You really presented yourself on stage. You guys gave the sports stadium some rock credentials. I was gutted last year when you guys didn’t take out #AmbiBOB. You have clearly grown musically, which is a testament to the musical path you fellas are carving. Drums were much tighter than last year, and Joe’s guitar illuminated the dark hall. Your interaction with the crowd, your original songs, and your visual togetherness was commendable. You definitely were a standout.
Armistice: ‘we’re about bringing synth, falsetto and ponchos’ was your mission statement. If you say you are going to deliver falsetto, confirm it with its delivery. There was very limited, if any, genuine falsetto. There were some technical glitches from the sound team during your performance which was a shame, but you seemed to be intimidated by something. I would like to see Mark taking on more vocal as I believe his vocal control is much stronger than Nic’s. Your ponchos were cool, but all-in-all I wanted more from the two-man-Peruvian-poncho-band.
Avant Bards: Not at all keen on the name, but you guys were cool. The crowd definitely enjoyed your sense of humour between songs. You were very smart in capitalising of Goyte’s recent mainstream fame, which was brave considering the strength and diversity of Goyte’s vocal; props for this. You have this Mumford and Sons appeal which I really enjoyed. I would like to see more togetherness from you as band brothers. You guys placed in my top five because you treated the gig like a concert. Thanks for this.
Short Notice: one of the best band names, and visual appearances. You guys looked like you were on stage together, ready to perform together. The trumpet was extremely effective in your first song, but I think Danny’s vocal transformed into Michael Buble after a while. Let me tell you, that’s not cool. Do not try and be note perfect on such vocally gravelled songs. At times it was like a bandaoke (rather than karaoke) tribute to Muse’s Uprising. Maybe add backing vocals to support you, as this was a lot missing in your performance.
The Rosewood Connection: Finally some female presence in this competition. Bridget you have some great vocals, you really do. Try and limit head voice, and work on the use of your diaphragm to lift the energy. You’ve clearly got it in you. Emergency by Paramore is my favourite Paramore track. You guys owned this. Laura, I loved your little flick of the drum sticks. You’re a professional, and definitely confident in what you know. I loved the original song you guys penned. They were honest and captivating. There is a lot of potential here, and I hope to see you about the local music scene, please?
Grape Soda: once again a name I strongly disliked. But that didn’t mean I didn’t like you as a band. I thought your on stage collaboration was tight. Your performance was definitely strong. You knew the music scene, your crowd, and combined this knowledge to deliver what they wanted: a funky, refreshing beat. There was a bit of pitch problems in the middle which nearly turned disastrous. Fortunately Ryan’s vocals, along with Rob’s guitar brought the band back.
Dronechild (alias Stolen by Stones): The guitar solo in your first song was second to none. I really struggled to understand your vocals this year. Work on your vocal annunciation while not losing that vocal imperfection that works for your sound. You all looked the part, and your sound definitely belonged to the stage. Jimi Hendrix was a brave choice, which scared me initially. You took such an iconic sound to another genre and level. If I hadn’t known Jimi, I wouldn’t have known the song. But your rendition acknowledged the rock icon that is Mr Hendrix, but also showcased your musical strengths. The drums, and guitars took control of this, and I was really impressed.
Serenading Sarah: It is imperative to have a strong intro to sustain the energy of the crowd in between seemingly short sets. You delivered a punchy intro which had the senses exhilarated. I would like to see more commitment from Will and definitely more energy from Boyd as you need to become the epicentre of ‘oomph’ in your band. I must acknowledge Jack for his attitude which brought life to the band. Your lyrics were dark, but unfortunately this did not reflect in your performance.
Archive: Definitely an iconic Australian sound and I’m glad your sound has commenced its travels around the globe. Your sound was your own, despite delivering renditions. Your lead guitarist Will is your mascot, and I would like to see you all embrace him more in your performance. This guy gives mean to the term ‘iller’. While other bands copied sounds, you complimented. Green Day was such a strong ending. Jason maintained total control of the song, and the band never got lost between the changes of tempo and styles of your set. You delivered a solid performance, which left the crowd thirsty for more, not hungry from the start.
Cold Vengeance: tight vocals from Lachlan in this set. Your range, grunge is what this competition deserved. It was awesome to see harmonies combined with aggressive beats, and ripened guitar riffs. You all shared each other’s talents. The sound effects were effective, but I think be careful with this as it can become misleading to think you are playing them. Your inspirations were transparent in your performance.
Dakota Calling: Your on stage presence was felt, which was a lot stronger than last year’s gig at #AmbiBOB. It is important to balance the sound of the band. Josh, as the lead singer, you mustn’t compete with the sounds of your band, particularly in the solos. This let you guys down a lot. Watch harmonies, and give James some more vocal opportunity. Good showmanship, and well done on delivering such strong energy to the crowd.
Sleepwalker: These boys gave it a fair go. Yes you all maybe in grade nine, but you don’t need sympathy to win the competition. You need confidence, in your sound, self, and each other. You could have been 24, or even 24 months for all I cared. Never talk yourself or your fellow band members down. You never know who may be watching you, a talent scout for Sony maybe? Your Led Zeppelin track picked your energy up, but unfortunately this wasn’t sustained. Tuning problems seemed to impact the cohesion of your band.
After deliberating for some time, the winners were announced as follows:
1. Archive: Your confidence and showmanship did it for me.
2. Calais: pure talent, growth, and originality was exhibited.
3. Dronechild: Your interpretation of Jimi and the first guitar solo stood out.
Special mention: After Opening, for bringing a different flavour to the competition, with style and funk.
I really wish more people would support an event like this! Keep checking all of these bands out as they continue to grow and become more present within the often under supported Australian music industry.