Friday 30th May 2014
Semi-finals of Play@LMF
In the first of two articles on the semi-finals of Play@LMF we report on the show held at The Shed on 30th May.
On stage tonight: Strangler Figs, The Simpletones, We can be Astronauts, 8 Miles High and Violet Cities.
A capacity crowd gathered at the Shed tonight for the first of two semi-finals of the Play@LMF competition, in which bands from the Midlands vied for a place on the Leicester Music Festival. Local, unsigned bands took part to win a support slot at the festival alongside the national stars like UB40, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth, The Saturdays Professor Green and Katy B, among others. The Leicester Music festival is to take place on 25th and 26th July this year at the Tigers Stadium.
The finals of the competition takes place on Friday 13th June at Streetlife in Leicester.
Opening tonight’s show, Flying Kangaroo Alliance played their songs, led by the vocals of Meri Everitt. A popular Leicester band, FKA has often been seen on the stages of their home town and has attracting a devoted following of fans, keen to hear their music and enthusiastic admirers of their often attitudinal lyrics. Meri Everitt is a celebrated singer and songwriter with a track record of winning previous competitions. Rough Trade Records described FKA as ‘Swaggering, attitude-driven Rock n’ Roll ‘. Having formed in 2011, FKA share a passion for 90s grunge and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Their brand of energetic alternative rock has established them as a prominent band on Leicester’s music scene.
We Can Be Astronauts brought together a number of well-known Leicester and Coalville musicians including Josh Barnett, he of Third Time Lucky, New Town Image et al. Their offering of prog/alt rock music was delivered with plenty of attack and edge. In a performance that glittered with energy and good vocals, they all played with maximum commitment and passion. Their well-crafted songs had style, blending the sounds of melodic mainstream and metal, produced compelling beats with compulsive rhythms to produce music with bite and strenuous stage craft. Loud, stormy passages suddenly dropped into moody moments of melody before detonating into a scintillating coda. A joy to listen to; a joy to watch. Four accomplished musicians playing angular phrases, discordant riffs, complex rhythms and contrapuntal passages that had exhilarating impacts. Josh Barnett played at the Shed with Third Time Lucky, lead singer Zak Wisehall in 2009, the same year that Vengeance played their first gig there; good to see some of these guys still gracing the boars of this iconic venue.
A band I would definitely like to see again. Extraordinary.
When it comes to unparalleled new local bands, Strangler Figs stands out. These four talented musicians have taken the local music scene by storm, Joe Pickering on vocals, Joel Hanson on double bass, with James Lyons on drums, Freddie Pickering on keys and Rosie May Price doing vocals. Inhabiting the world of anthemic art rock, they make music of exceptional quality and inventiveness. Listening to them play I thought of Elbow and Gogol Bordello for some reason, although Radiohead, The Pixies (which they have been known to cover) Duchamp Pilot (with whom they are associated) and Peter Gabriel might have been more apt. Stylistically they are in a class of their own; their music speaks to you, it’s enchanting, alluring and engaging and quite out of the ordinary, pushing at the boundaries of musical idioms. They evoked a strongly enthusiastic response from the audience.
You can see Strangler Figs at the Western park and Simon Says festivals, here in Leicester.
When a band has three good vocalists and plays melodic indie songs that are ear-pleasingly delicious, you know that Violet Cities is on the stage. Lead by James Lewis, their set was well-sung, well-played and highly enjoyable. Tonight the room was offered a set of power-pop songs with upbeat tempos and ear-grabbing melodies. Lewis’s passionate singing was tightly backed by three musicians who clearly loved what they were doing. With a six track EP behind them, the Leicester band has made its mark and has been steadily moving forward since they started in 2012/3.
What can we say about The Simpletones that has not been said before? After countless performance and resulting reviews, I thought I knew this unique acapella singing group but they are an act that is prone to springing surprises. There is nothing else like them in our local area and they are making their mark on the national song world. The ‘tones’s version of the great Bastille song Pompeii is always a welcome treat at their shows. As always, their set is delivered with grinning good humour and it’s easy to let those mellifluous harmonisations flow over you and get caught up in the mood of the moment instead of concentrating on putting words on paper. Pitched against guitar bands, they stand out – just four wonderful singers with no instruments and not even a backing track, it’s just music that comes straight from the soul and four well-tempered vocal chords.
They saved the youngest band for last. It was late in the evening when 8Miles High came to the stage. Like many other newbie groups before them, this young Leicester band has, since their formation in 2012, taken to The shed as the Beatles took to the Cavern Club, it being their incubator and launch-pad. Blessed with the talents of lead singer Oliver Kidd-Martin – their star attraction, a fine vocalist and guitar player – he is the ‘x-factor’ of the band. Less of a team than Strangler Figs or Violet Cities, they nevertheless were good at what they did. The band’s set of indie laced with punk was enjoyable, listen-able and pleasing, achieving – for these 16/17 year olds – a high standard of music and a quality experience for the audience. They are however, in this competition, pitted against acts of more advanced musicality whose work stands out in general scheme of things. Enjoyable though they are – and their songs never fail to please – some of the other acts on tonight’s stage made them seem ordinary by comparison. That however is perhaps one of the drawbacks of competitions with somewhat random line-ups and the judges were not be envied in their task of choosing the winners from this show. 8Miles High brought a night of exquisitely good music to a resounding finale.
More about the bands
Our report on the second semi-final held on 31st May will be available soon.