17th May 2014
The final of the 2014 Original Bands Showcase
8 pm and the front of the Musician sees a queue of people waiting for the doors to open. A very large coach arrives and people file out and join the others in Lower Clyde Street.
Philip Vernon takes photos of the crowd. Inside, the last of the bands is sound-checking with Andy Mann. The evening is warm and sunny; it’s a scene that has been repeated in recent years, this being the tenth anniversary of the OBS.
Tonight’s final offered a strong line-up of bands, selected from the first round heats and then the semi-finals, each one markedly different in style from the rest – giving the audience a varied musical experience and the judges, an interesting job to do, to say the least.
The final of OBS is an established event in the calendar of Leicester music. It celebrates the best music from its previous showcase events. OBS might have its advocates and detractors but it is a mark of its success that it has attracted so much discussion and comment. The same is true of the TV series ‘The X-factor’, which likewise has generated a wide range of opinions. The Grand Final has a cachet, as an event; it is an occasion , a moment, in the world of local live music, a celebratory point in the annual round of band life in this city. The musicians and audiences coming away from it will bear with them that mark of having taken part, having been there and the bands might wear it as a gong in their careers.
As the compère said on the night “there can be only one winner” and one band has, over the past ten years, born the prize, the honour, the distinction of being the overall winner of the showcase. Some of them have gone on to a greater things, just as some winners have disappeared into the halls of history.
We have been to several of these grand final events
Previous winners of the Original Bands Showcase:
Leaving Party, 2013
Midnight Wire, 2012
The Jack Kenworthy Trio, 2011
The James Lewis Band, 2010
The Heroes, 2009
The Chairmen, 2007
Proud to have met you, 2006
The Dirty BackBeats, 2004
Just looking at the above list, The James Lewis band is still around, albeit in a new format. Midnight Wire is still one of the most successful unsigned bands from Leicester. M48 musicians now form part of another hugely successful local group – By The Rivers. Jonny Gavin, from The Chairmen, is now still out there with Demons of Ruby Mae. Some of the musicians from those winning bands are enjoying new careers with other acts, just as quite a few have left live music altogether.
Tonight’s grand final saw six bands take to the stage at the Musician:
8 Miles High
Beneath The Lights
The Della Grants
Stop That Train
and the band taking away the winning prize for 2014 was : Tapestry.
The first band on stage was 8 Miles High. They came on to the stage to cheering and a fanfare of music from the PA and then the two compares – Jon O’Neil and Sean Tizzard (the Ant and Dec of the OBS) introduced the first band.
After a short instrumental intro, lead singer Oliver Kidd-Martin comes in, leading an impactful song with a performance that clearly meant business. Tonight was a showcase of talent and 8 Miles High was a band that had talent to show. It was a strong number that resonated with power, mood and colour. These four young musicians all gave it some welly on stage. In between the songs it was the bassist who did the patter for the audience.
The band’s second song continued the theme, begun in the first number. It can be as difficult to open a show as it is to close one; the band was playing to a packed house, the fans of other bands having arrived by the coach load. This did not present a great challenge to this young band, whose track record has already established a reputation of being one of the iconic new-comers of the present time. 8 Miles High can stand up again their nearest rivals – Casino Empire – winning over an audience with their infectious songs and impressive performance technique, delivering a set of their own songs and entertaining a not inconsiderable audience.
The band’s stage presence is energetically committed, without being over-the-top and by their third song, they had the crush at the front clapping along with them. The band worked up the crowd and made a vibrant start to the evening with a set of high-energy tunes. Apart from the lead vocalist, only the bassist had a mic, so not a group with an augmented vocal layer. The band’s performance was well-oiled, confident and technically laudable but if there was a weakness it was, I think, that they lacked that killer song that everyone would have their heads on the way home.
The second band to take to the stage brought something decided different and a lead singer – Cassidy Rowe – who stood out. A band with a degree of theatricality that reminds me of Gogol Bordello and some would have been reminded of the recent performance of the Eurovision-winning Conchita Wurst. Ash Mammal’s set was laden with originality, delightfully idiosyncratic, slightly crazy at times, but decidedly from one of the most inventive bands in Leicester. The songs and the lead singer provided something that was alternative; you could say that Ash Mammal is a ‘niche’ band but in a scene so crowded with mainstream acts that is by no means a band thing and audiences seem to like them, if The Brandy Thieves are anything to go by. I rate Ash mammal highly. Jonno referred to them as being “enigmatic.”
The Della Grants is a four piece blues rock band that had been making a name for itself. This quartet of skilful musicians was not short on funky rhythms, ear-pleasing songs and scintillating blues chords, to share with an audience that was very vocal in its acclaim. Big on mood and atmosphere, the band’s songs had an idiom that was recognisable and a lead singer (name not available on website) with considerable vocal powers. They delivered a set of songs strong in soul and pulsating with passion.
After a slower, balladic number they burst into infectious, foot-stomping sounds that set the room alight with musical fireworks. The caught the feel of the night, drawing the audience into the music with a set of music offerings whose roots ran deep in the soil of music. Extraordinary.
If you want to hear a killer song sounds like then Stop That Train provided one with their opening number. If you didn’t know it was a song they had written themselves, you would assume they were playing a cover. The band brought the delightful beats and rhythms of ska to the house. That have a sound that marks them out and some would say they are second only to By The Rivers, on our local scene. Lead vocalist Geno Lynch has a distinctive voice that does much to give the band its own distinctive sound and a set whose vibrancy most people could relate to. Lynch is a song-writer whose talents are being recognised.
The members of this band work together well to deliver music that is enjoyable and compelling. Many complementary comments were being made during the band’s performance and the crowd was cheering them on – always a good sign.
With two strong vocalists at the front of the team, Beneath The Lights rocked out a set of songs that pumped megawatts of energy into the room. Head-bangingly good beats, powered by scorching vocal lines, they took the night to a new level. The room was heaving with people, the atmosphere pulsing, hot and sweaty. With their two front-men right and left of stage, the drummer in the middle bashing the skins and a full-on bassist they belted out beats to be reckoned with. The band’s set of mountainous rock songs crackled with electricity. They gave us a power house of scorching melodic passages, made with incendiary brilliance, the band really living the music on stage.
For the first time tonight, a laptop appeared on stage and a keyboard. We new straight away we were in for something different. Stylistically, Tapestry bought a sea change to the night. With an amazing lead vocalist – Elliott Buchanan – big, booming bass beats and a set of songs that required careful attention to detail, this was a band that provided a complete turn around. They knew exactly what they were doing. It was a sound that stood out, songs that had moment and movement unequalled by the rest as dancy tunes resonated around the room. In a night of amazingly good music, Tapestry brought the whole thing to a climax. Elliott, the lead vocalist, was singing or playing the saxophone. By their third song they were really flying, winging over the crowd with tunes that were laden with keyboard melodies, electronic samples, musicians changing instruments, a lot of cunning orchestration to the music to deliver a sophistical set of songs. They pushed out the boundaries, they broke new ground and did something that was totally unexpected. This is the future of new music.
As I have said before, OBS is full of surprises. Tonight has show-cased the wealth of talent which is found in our local community of music-makers. Tonight provided that memorable musical experience that fans crave.