PlayatLMF semi-finals 2

Casino Empire's Tommy Cobley
Casino Empire's Tommy Cobley

12th June 2014

Semi-finals of Play@LMF

In the second of two articles on the semi-finals of Play@LMF,  we report on the show held at The Shed on 31st May.

On stage tonight: Cosmic Fevah, Furies, Abandon Her, Nishe, Tapestry and Casino Empire.

Seven musicians climbed on to the stage for the performance by African-Caribbean band Cosmic Fevah. Keyboards, percussion, a brass section and a group of vocalists brought their music to life and provided a funky, foot-tapping opening to the evening’s music. Sharp, tight musicianship and engaging rhythms caught the audience up a swirl of ear-pleasing sounds as the band opened their set with an instrumental number. Joined by three female singers, their second song featured the vibrant colours and pleasurable passions of reggae to he room. Very enjoyable.

I have long been a fan of  The Furies – now with new guitarist Joe Connor. I first encountered the Furies when they played at The Lansdown in August 2009 when

they delivered ‘a large slab of raz, laced with some lovely twangy riffs and driven along by infectious beats. The songs had a crisp, contemporary sound and they played with passion and style. Lead singer Alex Beattie was backed by vocals from ace drummer Neal Hill (brother of Skam’s lead singer) and riveting basing from Alex’s brother Dan’ …

‘Piling out volumes of sound, laced with delicious chords and pulsating beats, it was sharp, tight, occasionally darkly coloured and massively engaging. A remarkably good band full of dynamism and energy, their razor sharp delivery, sizzled with modern idioms and sparkling guitar solos, anchored down by the virtuoso drumming of Neal Hill’ [Arts in Leicestershire magazine].

would equally serve as description of what we heard tonight. Leicester has many excellent rock bands and I would say, and I know some would agree with me, that The Furies occupy the elite league for their musical craftsmanship and exhilarating stage presence.

It was a real pleasure for me to re-visit this band and to see again what it is that makes them such a thrilling musical act. Balanced, impartial, objecting reporting – sod that, I just want to heap praises on this awesomely good group. The first song’s furious intro lead into Alex’s vocals. Angry, restless, uncompromising songs were driven by gunfire drumming and crashing cymbals that made the sound bristle with incandescence. The second song followed hard on the heels of the first, one of their hit songs that featured Alex Beattie’s soaring vocals and pounding back beats broken by blistering instrumental passages which ended with razor-sharp abruptness. The third song was also an iconic hit for this band, its melody being instantly recognisable. The lyrics burned with passion and angry sentiments and the songs dynamics drove it forward with a compelling fervour.

James introduced the fourth song as “an old one, a classic of ours” and they galloped off at a fast pace weaving fine vocal phrases with supercharged guitar parts and the ubiquitous, relentless drumming of Neal Hill. Iconic riffs and flourishes from the strings and Olympic percussion seared with the characteristic Furies sound made their final song of the set a charismatic experience. The band’s razor-sharp musicianship laden with compelling rhythms and memorable melodies made them the critic’s choice as far as I am concerned. Excellent.

Three girls in one band made Abandon Her stand out in the usually all-male line-ups of most acts that we saw tonight. With their two vocalists and singing drummer, they offered a tantalising vocal layer for their set of popular tunes. Lungful and ear-pleasing they brought to the room a set of engaging music that was well-played and tastefully presented.

Winners of the OBS, Tapestry, is a band that is making waves on the local music scene. This amazing three-piece have been coming out with some astonishingly creative and original ideas, out-of-the box inventiveness when it comes to music, making them one of the most exiting new bands on the Leicester circuit. Most people think they will go a long way. When Tapestry won the Finals of the OBS on 17th May this year, we wrote

‘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. ‘ [Music in Leicester]

It was interesting to see that lead singer Elliott had two mics one with a normal sound and the other with a fair bit of reverb on it; he also had some kind of sythny thing which he played or operated to give the sounds effects, samples and an electro level.

There is not way to describe Tapestry’s music to someone who has not heard them before; or at least it would be a challenge to do so. This is a band that is doing some completely different – it defies any pigeon-hole that I can think of – cross-cutting currents from from jazz, blues, electronica, alternative, prog rock and indie into a riveting cocktail of music confections into something they called ‘trip-hop.’

Buchanan’s voice has a characterful tone and there is no doubting that the three members of this group, with their variety of instruments, have lots of talent. The audience stood motionless, listening intently and clearly captivated by what they were hearing. Whilst this is music that might not appeal to everyone’s taste, it was certainly technically brilliant, full of emotional impact and performed with steadfast commitment. Sensational.

After such a wealth of musical excellence, it was a hard job that Casino Empire faced as they took to the stage to round off the evening and give it a resounding finale – a challenge that the young band took in their stride, like seasoned professionals. Having waited around for several hours to get up there, it was finally their chance to shine and that they did. Casino Empire has already made its mark on the local scene and front-man Tommy Cobley has become a little legend for his impressive stage technique; at the age of 17 Cobley has become one of the rock stars of the contemporary scene.

The five young musicians started their set after midnight, playing to a still comfortably full house. The stage was set with a variety of large-scale guitar pedals and Cobley’s electronic gadget as the intro to the first song worked up and the guitar riffs blasted in, Cobley jumping in the air as his vocals started to a song that had much of the impact of something by Kasabian. Backed by the vocals of guitarist Matt Gore and bassist Jack Hall, they brought a good level of instrumentation and sound to the swagger and attitude being displayed by their lead singer, as the whole room clapped along like mad to the infectious rhythms. Some girls were even screaming, just like they used to do in the good old days. It was a set that tore up the stage from the word go.

The second song fizzed with youthful energy, pounding beats and infectious ear-grabbing songs keeping the crowd nodding their heads and tapping their feet. The furious pace of the third song brought a flow of fireworks into the room as Cobley and co. rocked out and Tom Marlow played g-tar like a true god of the strings whilst remaining ever cool as a cucumber. In Ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, they showed what they could do with a high-powered, passion-filled number and, even after six hours of waiting to get up there, Cobley poured out megawatts of energetic presence into performance, working the audience like a true pro and waving his arms about as he danced around the stage, stopping only to do something with his electrical box thing. An amalgamation of Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, Cobley struts and cavorts around the stage, being the music and as the main theme of the last song explodes into the room, the fans start dancing like lunatics, driven by the music and their vast enthusiasm for the band. At the end of their set there was a forest of waving arms, a crescendo of applause and screaming and the night was at an end.

A night of top-class music; all tonight’s band deserve to be on the biggest festival stages that Leicester can provide. It is in the nature of competitions, however, that only some acts can gain the prizes.

It was left to Elisabeth Barker-Carley to announce the winners of places at the grand final:

Violet Cities, Strangler Figs, Casino Empire and Furies.

More about the bands

Cosmic Fevah

The Furies

Abandon Her



Casino Empire

See also:

Our report on the first Play@LMF semi-final on 30th May


About The Editor 536 Articles
The Editor of Music in Leicester magazine is Kevin Gaughan assisted by Trevor Locke