Leicester’s Music History series. 2010 and 2011.
Thursday 11th June 2020
In my last article, I considered the years 2008 to 2009. My narrative continues for a further two years as I look at the bands that played in Leicester and the venues in which they performed. By 2010, our city had, for more than a decade, been at the top of the national ladder as far as local rock music was concerned. The fame of Leicester’s rock scene had spread across the whole of Britain and further afield as the Internet promoted its music.
2010 was an outstanding year for rock music. It was a year that, for me, stood out for the quality of its bands, singers and performances. I will present a very small selection of the hundreds of gigs I attended in 2010 at a time when I went to shows on a more or less daily basis. In an article, I said, ‘The venues mentioned … include The Auditorium, The Barley Mow, The Donkey, DMU Level 1, The Charlotte, Firebug, The Independent Arts Centre, Lock-42, The Looking Glass, The Music Cafe, The Musician, O Bar, O2 Academy, The Old Horse, The Pavilion, The Queen of Bradgate, The Shed, The Soundhouse, Squares, The Square Bar, Sub 91, Sumo, Superfly, Walkabout, The Y. Of these, The Auditorium, O2 Academy, Lock-42, Sub91 and The Soundhouse were new venues that opened in 2010. What made this year stand out was that there were so many venues in which live music could be heard in Leicester. In those days there were more than enough bands and artists to fill them all every night of the week. In addition, mention is made (in my work) of several out-of-town venues. Some of these were venues that were used solely to provide live music; others (like The Y Theatre) were used for both concerts of live music and other types of shows. There were, I am sure, many other pubs that put on live bands at the weekend. Several festivals are also mentioned this year, some taking place in the city and others in the county. The Original Bands Showcase took place this year and outside of Leicester, the National Surface Unsigned competition was taking place. All of these provided our local bands with the opportunity to display their musical talents. 2010 was in many ways a seminal year for Leicester’s Music.
It was a good year for music venues. Many of these no longer exist. A few are still going, although the lockdown of 2020 makes their future somewhat uncertain. When I attended gigs I always wrote notes about them. Here is one example from the start of 2010: ‘Saturday 2nd January 2010. The Shed. My Kid Brother band. Leicester’s youngest band – My Kid Bother- kicked the show off to a great start with their amazing set of nu-punk songs. Rising stars of the young indie scene, Kicking Habits played a tightly constructed set of their own songs and a couple of covers. This Fallen Empire pulled out the stops for a set of their melodic rock songs. The evening was brought to a resounding finale with Drive By Disco’s set of infectious dance songs. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine, Gig notes page]. Young bands took to the stage tonight on a cold January evening. Leicester’s up and coming talent, some of them have respectable track records already.
My Kid Brother played like a professional band and put on an awesome set which included songs that sounded like the Canadian band Sum 41. They have a degree of showmanship that is often missing in older bands. All four of them had mics, the main vocals coming from the two lead guitarists. What makes these kids stand out is that they are really good at what they do. Playing with spirit and gusto they enjoyed being on stage. The band’s set included some of their own songs as well as some well-known covers.
Kicking Habits started their set with one of their own songs, a big, brash, rocky number led by the lead vocalists with backings from the lead guitarist. Fast, brisk songs backed by massively big drumming beats from Jake. Their second song was one of their own and featured some really big guitar sounds. A well-rounded melodic sound, full of iconic, rolling guitar riffs. They performed a cover of a song from the 1980s, Love Machine, the lead singer and bassist providing the vocals and drummer Jake. This is a band with a lot of passion and energy, a well-rounded group with a good selection of songs, sung well. Jake is almost too good on the drums; he tends to drown out what the rest of the band is doing. Their slow number was one of their own songs, a new number, with classy guitar solos but it clearly needed a bit more practice. All three musicians at the front were leading the choruses. They showed a good deal of musical maturity. They brought their set to a close with a cover of Arctic Monkey’s Bet you look good on the dance floor, which they completed in about half the time of the original song. This Fallen Empire had a new bassist joining them for the first time tonight. Thee of the band members provided the singing. They set off with one of their own songs, one that had some memorable lines in it. They put a lot of effort into their performance. They are a band that has a burning ambition to get ahead. What I like about this band is the well-balanced teamwork. What you see if what you get; they do not have over-burdening egomania but are a band that is genuine and plays down-to-earth music. They write easy songs that most people can relate to. Drive By Disco. Scarves were the order of the night. Laptop at the ready, the trio launched their disco sound. This is a band that has the dancy vibrancy of Autohype and the compelling rhythms of Formal Warning. [Notebook 13]’
Much of what I wrote in my notes eventually appeared as gig reviews in Arts in Leicester magazine. There were so many great bands in those days; I fear it will be impossible to mention all of them. There were many memorable gigs in that year; one of them was particularly worth remembering: ‘Thursday 18th February 2010.
The Charlotte. The last 14+ night at the Charlotte. Let’s hope it’s not the last one in Leicester. The police closed it down before the end because of trouble in the crowd. But, hey ho, the night began with Leicester band Skinny Bones. Now, I had not seen this band before – probably because this was their first gig – but the young four-piece had three excellent front vocalists and a set of kick-ass indie songs. Their spirited performance and vibrant sense of rhythm soon won the crowd over. And, ah yes, the lead guitarist was Josh from the old Just Norris band. He and the lead vocalist were star quality. Great start to the night and this is a band that could really go far. The audience included a large posse of musicians from other bands, down to support the line-up and enjoy the sense of occasion. Wow, I remember the time when the girls used to scream at the band members. Now they just scream at each other. As the smoke machine filled the front of the room with heavy white fog and long green fingers of laser light sparked out over the crowd, the five members of Formal Warning took to the stage. They are fast becoming the Famous Five and have recently returned from a tour of Belgium where they went down so well that they have been invited back in the summer. Ash picked up the mic and a forest of hands went up in the air. The band launches into one of their block-buster dance numbers. The floor in front of the stage is packed solid and the fans are in full voice during the choruses. Some of their fans should, methinks, be on the stage with mics as a backing group. They know the songs well enough. FW gave us two of their new songs – our little secret and call and response. They ended the night with an appropriate homage to Kasabian.
The Weekend Schemers had their set cut short when the police closed down the gig, as trouble maker after trouble maker got frogged march to the front door. Well, it was snowing and bitterly cold outside and I expect the officers on duty there just wanted to get back to the station for a nice hot cuppa. The Schemers took to the stage with new vocalist Andy Cooper and got the party started with the packed throng in front of the stage. It was the right night for loud songs and fast beats. It takes a special kind of frenzy to engage a hundred or more 14+ teenagers. The Schemers had it nailed. They had their fingers on the pulse of modern songs and James Hazel, Andy and Connor Evans on backings made this band better than most. Sadly, White Fix didn’t get to play. Weekend Schemers demonstrated what a singing band is all about. Joe did some keyboard stuff but it got lost in the general mayhem of the sound. A band needs personalities and a presence to go with the performance. They know how to make good tunes. A solid performance from James Hazell. The house lights were switched on but the Schemers kept on playing. The show was stopped by “a bunch of hoodies trying to cause trouble.” [Notebook 13]’
The problem that I have, in writing this article, is that there are vast volumes of material, enough to publish a rather large book. All I can hope to do, here, is offer selected extracts from the archives in the hope of giving a flavour of those days. The vast majority of gigs reported on in Arts in Leicester magazine took place in Leicester. Occasionally, however, I did go outside of the city to attend events in other places. Here is one example from 2010: ‘Thursday 25th March 2010. Birmingham. Leicester band The Weekend Schemers won a place in the next round of the national band’s competition Surface Unsigned. This means that the young indie band will play at the Custard Factory in Birmingham in June. Other Leicester bands that have already gone through the initial heats in Birmingham include Free Control, Silent Resistance, and Formal Warning. For more coverage of the festival, see our Surface Unsigned page. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine, Gig notes page]’ I plan to write another instalment of this series which focuses on bands and singers.
I was not the only person to write about music. In this article Kevin Gaughan (who is now the editor of Music in Leicester magazine), wrote this: ‘Monday 20th September 2010. London. Kevin Gaughan reports ‘The Lysergic Suite acoustic set ‘the Soho Sessions’ at The Endurance in Soho, London. After a three hour drive, batting through the London traffic at a snail’s pace, repeatedly losing the signal on the Sat Nav., I eventually made it to Soho, parked up in China Town and made my way past the ‘sights of Soho’ to the Endurance. Soho being Soho, the atmosphere on the streets was buzzing – trendy bars and pubs alike, heaving, with their clientele spewing out onto the streets. Before I got to the Endurance, I too was buzzing and in the mood for a great night. It didn’t take me long to start chatting to the band, the first time we’ve managed to have a proper chat and what a really nice, genuine bunch of lads they are – just in it for the love of the music and because it ‘feels right’. The Endurance was very busy and everyone was talking as loudly as was humanly possible. Liam (bass guitar) expressed his concern that the crowd may continue to chat when the band were performing. As they were about to play in a small corner at the back of the room, I had similar concerns. Bang on nine o’clock, the threesome from Leicester started their performance. This was to be their first acoustic set. I was looking forward to it, as I thought it would help show the quality of the artists. The band seemed totally at ease and Gren (vocals) was completely at one with the music, feeling every word of every lyric. A completely effortless performance by the whole band. It was a pleasure to hear the acoustic versions of some of their material as I think they converted well. The Lysergic Suite often have guest singers on their tacks, which is great, but I would like to hear more with Gren at the helm. I think his voice has so much to offer and this set enabled me to focus in on it. It seemed quite flexible and sweet-sounding, atmospheric at times. There were a reasonable amount of people listening to the band, but over half of the pub continued to shout at each other when the band were playing. I didn’t notice this when the band were on as I was absorbed by their performance, but it was noticeable at the end and between songs. All in all, a nice performance by the band. The venue wasn’t really set up for live music as they were tucked away at the back and most people had come for a beer, not the band. Certainly whetted my appetite for more acoustic or semi-acoustic performances by this band, as they clearly have the material and talent to do it well. Really looking forward to seeing them on 20th November at the Music Cafe in Braunstone Gate. Worth travelling five hours for a 30-minute acoustic set? Oh yes, without a doubt. Let down a bit by the venue, but it was really nice to meet the lads who appreciated their Leicester fans making the effort to see them in London. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine].’
I mentioned above that Professor Green was the headline act at the opening of the O2 Academy Leicester. In fact, this was in the main arena but there was a show before this in another part of the venue. ‘Tuesday 21st September 2010. O2 Academy, The First Show. Electro-Acoustic band Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly headlined the first gig at Leicester’s new O2 Academy. Held in the old Queens Hall (a.k.a. Academy 2 or the middle-sized room) the show attracted over 400 people to its 500 capacity hall. The oak-panelled room has seen many a famous band play over the years and at least one guy I spoke said he could remember being there to see Roxy Music, years ago. Academy 3 will also be opening soon with its 250 capacity room. After 18 months of work and fifteen million pounds of expenditure, the venue still wasn’t ready. We arrived to find the impressive main entrance surrounded by building site barriers but eventually discovered the entrance for the show, round the back of the building. When it’s finished it will be an impressive building. A huge flight of steps, leading down to the main campus entrance on University Road, sweep up to a huge glass atrium. Part students union, part concert hall, the building will serve a variety of purposes. The show tonight was opened by Leicester band These Furrows with a hugely good acoustic set performed by Darryl Reid and Nile Barrow. They won the distinction of being the first local band to play at the new Academy (a title that would have gone to Surrender the Coast, had their date not been cancelled due to the venue not being ready.) A great start to a great night, the ‘Furrows presented a series of their songs with tantalisingly good vocals and the band’s usual razor-sharp instrumentation. Some would say ‘not as good as a full band set’, but certainly up to their usual high standards and nevertheless a most ear-pleasing experience. Anything that These Furrows do is good and the two musicians delivered a superb performance. They were followed by a band called David’s Lyre. They hadn’t played in Leicester before and I don’t think they are well known around here. They gave us a set of attractive indie songs, delivered with lashings of passion and the sound system was excellent. They are on tour with Get Cape and their music complements what Get Cape do. I thought some of the songs sounded a bit like early Hot Chip. Their new single has been released by East City Records. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. is a name you’re unlikely to forget and they have not played Leicester as a band before, although two of the band members did a DJ set at a local club once. The lead singer is Sam Duckworth and with him on stage were six band members including keyboardist Tim Oliver, guitarist Chris Bradshawe, drummer Andy Theakstone and Cornet player Mikey Glenister and others. More of an orchestra than a band, they pumped out some delightful songs, richly orchestrated and lead by Sam’s impressive vocals. The set of moody, lyrical ballads and storming rock numbers was lapped up by the audience, which included a sizeable contingent of followers who knew their songs and joined in with some of the hit tunes. Their set was varied in style and pace, soothing the crowd with darkly sentimental ballads and then whipping them up with fervent dance numbers. A good start to the Academy experience. The music was appealing even if the bar prices were not! [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]. The O2 is largely a building site. The first-ever gig at the new venue and it still isn’t finished. Tonight’s was held in the old Queens Hall (O2.2) the stage where Roxy Music once played, the room with the oak-panelled walls, scene of many a great band in the old days. Promoter from Magic Teapot told me that Midlake is due to play on November 6th. Jordan Birtles told me that M48 has split up and now By The Rivers has taken over. Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. By the start of their set, the room had filled up a bit more. The lead singer said that this was the band’s first time in Leicester (except when he did a DJ set at The Secret Skins Party in Streetlife, I remembered.) A pint of Carlsberg cost £3.45 – shocking. By the middle of the set, there was a reasonably full crowd in front of the stage but they were very static – mainly young people but with a smattering of the ‘gigarati’ (the good and the great of the music scene.) In the second song, the audience starts to clap along but this soon faded out. Musically, it was not what I had expected. This is a band that is reasonably well known and have played some major festivals. Having got their lighter songs out of the way they got into something more substantial. The guy who played the trumpet earlier on did some backing vocals. Quiet, moody passages led into big expansive ones. They can spin atmospheric walls of sound with delicate passages to create an almost psychedelic canopy of sound, laden with feeling and muted trumpet notes. They seem to have two people playing the drum kit. They said they have a new album coming out next week which had taken them two and a half years to write. The reverb on the vocals worked well in this high-ceilinged room. [Notebook 24]’
There is much more I could say about music in 2010. But, in the interests of brevity, I want to move on. 2011 saw the momentum of Leicester’s music scene continue. Right from the start of the year, as this memorandum reveals: ‘Wednesday 19th January 2011. Little Night Terrors. Trevor Locke reports. The show was opened by Mark Elliott. Not only is he one of Leicester’s finest singers and songwriters but he has an amazing knack of collaborating with some of the top artists in our local area and sometimes beyond. His voice was highly listenable and he uses it to great effect. A finely tuned instrument. Well articulated vocals, agreeable songs, a singer of distinction, he presented a thoroughly good set tonight. The Tee Leaves are not a band I know well and I cannot recollect seeing them before. A quartet of musicians, lead by vocalist Scott Howard, they delivered a well-played set of breezy tunes. I would like to have heard more backing vocals, not being keen on bands with only one singer. Scott’s vocals were well articulated and their set of folksy, bluesy rock tunes was delivered with vitality. The vocals of Andy Stone are full of character and he imbues this band with their colour and unmistakable intonations, just as he did with The Displacements. It was a sell-out show, so the room had filled up by the time the three ‘Terrors took to the stage. Little Night Terrors is now a trio but one of the best you will find for miles around. This is a group in which all three musicians sing: Dan and James Stone also contributing to the vocal layer. The new LTN line-up is working well; the three musicians clearly have got into each other’s groove (musically.) Now with the added ingredient of Dan Holyoak’s bass playing, they have sustained their quality through the recent changes in line-up and have proven what a solidly great band they are. It was a set of exhilarating songs, played with gusto by a top-notch trio of musical artists. Completely enjoyable. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]’
I thought I might put something in here about one of the bands of which I was particularly fond in 2011. ‘Friday 11th February. The Firebug. I went to the Firebug for the I Am In Love band launch. Ritchie Amson. Solo singer with a guitar. Vibrant and punchy with a strong voice. MYC. Two guys, from Leicester and Nottingham, playing electro. From two keyboards. Chilled electro. Sounds mixed with beat-filled tracks. They both sang live. A bit like Basement Jaxx. Not something that people got up and danced to but it was listenable. The room began to fill up with fans and the ‘gigarati’ of Leicester. Dark, Dark Horse. Jamie Ward on drums, James (Kids in Cars) on lead vocals and bass. Characteristic sounds with instantly recognisable signature riffs. Backdrop projection of a girl. Sumptuous sounds that drew appreciation from the audience. Full of mood, colour and lilting melodic vocals. The well-blended sound of four good musicians. James’s sultry vocals. They played in a wash of red light. Soft, listenable and full of atmosphere. Smooth and stylish. A band that commands respect, if not adulation. It was a good night at The Firebug with a crowd full of the ‘rockerati’ of Leicester.
I Am In Love. The same faces that we knew from Autohype days. A new set of songs and ambitions, now getting interest from Germany and North America. This is a group that has always burned with ambition and determination. They have evolved from their early days when they were just another student indie band (Squid Ate Lucy.) Seb has now progressed from the days when he bashed the hell out of an old drum to his new, swanky electro. thing. The only thing that has not evolved is their dress sense. Except for Nikki, whose new hair-style rendered her unrecognisable. Seb is still shopping at Primark. Ed wears as little as possible. Martin has ditched his glam rock sequins. Armed with a totally new sound, they enthused the crowd but they have not forgotten their dance roots, it’s updated, very now, chasing that elusive international market. Volcano slowly emerged into the room with Seb’s characteristic vocals. You could feel the song building up, cranking up the tension as it grew, adding more and more layers until it erupted into their characteristic rhythms. Mason is now playing bass. The song trailed off into a slow, atmospheric ending. The next song broke with an immediate passion. Infectious signature beat. [Notebook 32] ‘
Arts in Leicester magazine also had a news function. Take for example this snippet from 2011: ‘Tuesday 19th April 2011. Ed Milliband was in Leicester so I went to question him about Labour’s policy for the arts. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]’ There were also news items about what our local bands were doing. For example: ‘Wednesday 20th April 2011. New Leicester Band debuts on Radio 1. Newly launched Leicester band ‘I Am In Love’ are on the Radio 1 Playlist. They are scheduled to be played on BBC Introducing. Their debut single, ‘I want you’, will be out on April 25th and has been play-listed for day time radio one. “It will be played on all primetime shows including Scott Mills, Greg James, Edith Bowman, Nick Grimshaw etc.”, the band told us. Drummer Ed Grunill said, “We are extremely excited. it is an incredible thing for a band only five months old.”
Neither was our coverage limited to rock music. Take this piece, for example, about a night featuring rap artists: ‘Wednesday 4th May 2011. The Shed. Ricky C and Jonezy performed at The Shed. These Roads Aren’t Safe. This was their first gig. As a previous band, they had played around Leicester. Members of the band came from Quorn, Sileby, Loughborough and Mount Sorrell. Lead singer Billy (15), Rhythm guitarist Aaron (15) Josh drummer (15), Callum on Bass and backing vocals (15). They had been writing songs for a couple of years. They all go to Jonezy’s youth club in Loughborough. Their music was described as ‘core on the cob’, hardcore, heavy stuff, Jonezy. A rapper from Loughborough, his set included Dance and Party, and a new song that had compelling beats. His performance was confident. He rapped his way through a half-hour set. (This was one of the first times I had been to a Jonezy gig and, although I took notes, I did not publish a review. In 2013, I became Jonezy’s manager and by then he had developed into a serious artist with an impressive list of live credits to his name.) Ricky C. Another rapper from Loughborough, Ricky C was an artist I had seen a few times before. He was especially noted for his free-style raps and would ask members of the audience to suggest subjects, to which he would then extemporise lyrics, a skill for which he was particularly noted. The Dambusters. A three-piece band from Leicester. They are quite fun when they get going. The main singer also played bass. Some covers and some original songs. Some impressively fast songs. Not lacking in vitality. They put maximum energy into their set. [Notebook 37]
Let me point out now, having failed to do so earlier, that the extracts from the archives in this article include not only material published on our magazine but also notes taken directly from my reporter’s notebook – which has never before been published.
Another trip outside of London offers another memorable music experience: ‘Saturday 7th May 2011. Us Wolves play at The Monto Water Rats in London. Arts in Leicestershire magazine featured Us Wolves as Band Of The Month in November 2010. The band previously played at The Monto Water Rats venue on 6th November 2010. Leicester band Us Wolves played at the legendary London Venue, The Monto Water Rats. Following their hugely successful trip to the venue in 2010. The band were on stage there again this year, accompanied by a huge contingent of their fans. Two things stand out about Us Wolves as a band: The rich, full voice of lead singer James Ferraby and the band’s ability to spin memorable songs that are delivered with razor-sharp tightness. Whilst the Monto is not a huge venue, on a Saturday night, it attracts an audience that knows it as a great venue for live music. Getting a Saturday night slot at The Monto is by no means easy for an out-of-town band. It is a venue that most Leicester band would like to play in. It has a class more than our local venues. Its location near Camden makes it a popular resort for musicians and people in the music industry. Us Wolves put on a first-class performance, well up to the usual standards enjoyed by this venue. They went on stage at 9:30 pm, after a succession of previous bands. It was a long night out but I particularly enjoyed going to London, which is not something that I do very often. [Notebook 37]’
One annual event we always covered was the finals show of the Original Bands Showcase (OBS). ‘The Shed. Original Bands Showcase Final. The 2011 OBS was won by the Jack Kenworthy Trio. The finals were held at The Shed live music venue in Yeoman Street, on Saturday 21st May, the grand final saw five bands take to the stage. All of them had played in the first round heats and the semi-finals. The overall winner was The Jack Kenworthy Trio with Rassoodocks coming second. The two winning bands will perform at the Summer Sundae festival. Our review of the finals held at The Shed. Throughout the OBS this year, gigs were held either at the Musician or the Shed. The grand final has always proven to be popular and this year was no exception. It was good to see The Shed brimming with people of all ages tonight. The five bands played 25-minute sets each and then at the end of the show, while the judges retired to deliberate, last years OBS winners played: The James Lewis Band. It was at 1 am. that the results were announced. The winner of the 2011 OBS was The Jack Kenworthy Trio with Rassoodocks coming second. The full line-up, in order of play, was, Silent Resistance, Formal Warning, Limelight, The Jack Kenworthy Trio, Rassoodocks and then the James Lewis band playing the guest slot. The Shed was packed. The Yeoman Street venue was packed to capacity with people of all ages, there to support their favourite band or to be in on a night of top quality live music. Queues formed outside the entrance as fans waited for the doors to open. All five bands were sound checked and the room made ready before the fans could be let in. By 8.30 pm. the room was full. It was an all-ages crowd, some of whom had travelled quite some distance to get to the Leicester venue. All the band members I talked to were excited to be taking part in tonight’s event. All five groups were buzzing about being here tonight. Several people asked me which band I thought would win. I wasn’t prepared to hazard a guess; I just said that I thought all the bands were good and any one of them deserved to win. But, there can only be one winner. By 8.40 the first band was on stage.
Silent Resistance got the show off to a resounding start and as they were introduced to the crowd a huge cheer went up. Lead vocalist Ryan Tailor said: “For the next twenty-five minutes we are going to melt your faces off.” In the heat of the room, the hardcore, metal band launched the night with their set of high powered songs. Bear in mind that each of tonight’s five bands was stylistically very different. They represented the broad swathe of rock music and so the audience was a crowd with their own specific tastes. Some might not have seen a band this heavy before. This was a band you could hear, only too well and one young boy was standing with his fingers in his ears whilst close by three white-haired grandmas stood with expressions of incredulity on their faces. It was also a band you could feel, as the vibrations from the speakers rattled every bone in your body. The songs were not just loud, they were delivered with considerable skill by the four musicians and with Ryan Tailor singing into the mic when not doing full-throated screams and yells into it. Their first song finished to sustained cheering. The work of S|R brings together massively compulsive rhythms with electrifying colours and massively moody melodies. They conjure up images and ideas in their lyrics that are perfectly completed with the razor-sharp guitar work and pounding drum beats. To find out more about the music of Silent Resistance, read our review of their album. The music of S|R is dramatic, exhilarating, throbbing and produced by a band totally in command of their idiom. It was good to see musicians from similar bands standing in the crowd to support them. As always their loyal fans were there, all clapping in time in the right places, nodding their heads with the beats. This band doesn’t just play music; they theatricalise it. You have to watch them as well as listen to them to get the full flavour of their show. The crowd gets drawn into the action, arms waving and joining in with the choruses.
This is also true of the next band to take to the stage: Formal Warning. The crowd at the front changed with each band; the most ardent fans elbowed their way to the front of the stage with each new band. As soon as lead singer Ash Wright lead the band the whole mood of the room veered off in a different direction. FW has written its own songs, leaving behind the days when they played covers. They have developed a distinct sound of their own and a stage show that stands out. Their brand of pop-rock is delivered by a strong team: Ash with his striking poses, Leon dancing around and jumping in the air with his bass, Kyle putting in the backing vocals, the rock steady Alun on guitar and Zoe at the back driving the rhythm from the drums. This is a band that excels at showmanship; Ash works the crowd but there is a cool look in his eye, he’s watching the crowd, looking around the room, taking in the reaction of the audience, keeping the fans fully engaged with the show. What did I say about him once? “Somewhere between Freddie Mercury and Robbie Williams.” Did I really say that? Well, I know what I meant. FW’s five very different individuals work together as a well-oiled machine but it is their frontman that is the icing on the cake, the jam in the sandwich. It’s OK to add in strobe lighting, lasers and smoke machines but only if the songs and the stagecraft justify this. FW has brought it all together, masters of ‘let’s ‘ave it’ magic. They ended with their resounding signature tune: “Let’s all dance as one”. Yes, they did. The organisers of OBS are keen to bring on young talent. One of the things that both OBS and The Window of Opportunity for young bands and indeed the OBS Unplugged for acoustic acts, has done well is to spot and nurture new acts. This is especially true of Limelight, the group of young teenagers from Wolverhampton. They got on the stage and amazed the audience with their highly professional performance. I have seen many bands twice their age do half as well. Their set of dancy pop-rock songs had an infectious quality that appealed to nearly everyone. Even the hardened metalheads were nodding their heads to them. A big posse of family members and friends had come over from the West Midlands to support them. One of them told me that most of the band members had dads who had been in bands. Some of the kids had been playing the guitars since they were seven and one started when he was four! They put on a performance that oozed confidence. When I first saw them, some months ago, they looked like startled rabbits caught in the headlights of the Shed’s stage lighting. Not any more. That they enjoyed every minute of this occasion came across very clearly. They pumped out a set of pop-rock songs with lashings of energy and cool determination. It was an amazing performance by these young musicians but afterwards, the plaudits flowed, with even some of the most experienced rockerati saying how impressed they were with what they had done. By this time of the evening, the crowd had relaxed, the beer glasses were going down to the washing machine by the cartload and a real party atmosphere had taken hold on the Shed.
Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, The Jack Kenworthy Trio took to the stage and everything changed again. Jack Kenworthy emerged at the early heats of the OBS and wowed everybody with his deliciously listenable music and startling degree of talent. A singer with a fine voice, a skilled piano player and impressive guitarist, after his solo appearances, he gathered around him two very able musicians: Dom Potts on bass and Lee Masters on drums. Their set of electro, jazz, soul songs has clearly made a big impression on the music scene: not only have they won the OBS but they are through to the national Finals of Live and Unsigned, at the O2 Arena … and they started playing only a few months ago! At the start of their set the audience stood, hushed, gazing up at the stage with looks of awe on their faces. As the set progressed, this changed. Unusually, the audience began to cheer in the middle of songs whilst at the end of the whole set the cries from the room were ear-bleedingly loud. Other musicians were complimentary about them, even those who were in competing bands. They acknowledged the precision tightness of the band, the vocals, the highly listenable songs … it’s not often that rock musicians gush with appreciation at another band, especially one that this is as young and this new. Even though they contrasted sharply with the previous three bands, the Trio pulled off something triumphant. Bear in mind this event was judged, not voted on by the audience. The judges could watch Kenworthy’s obvious enjoyment at playing, his star quality, his considerable passion for his music .. you could, of course, say such things about all the other bands on the stage tonight. But judges work with exquisitely fine distinctions; they have to be able to choose between bands that are at the top of their league. They cannot indulge themselves in their own musical proclivities; their job is to contrast and compare the objective merits of groups playing widely differing styles of music. Val McCoy comments: ‘ Great performances last night at the OBS Final congratulations to Kenworthy who not only won but achieved the first-ever unanimous verdict.
Runners up on a closely competed evening were The Rassoodocks. Both will play the Musician Stage at this year’s SSW Festival. The 3rd slot, The Musician’s choice will be announced shortly.’ Kenworthy’s performance was excellent by most people’s standards. Judging from the level of screaming at the end of their set, they clearly got the audience ‘vote’. You can see the Jack Kenworthy Trio at the Glastonbudget festival. After having waited all night to go on, you would think that a band would have lost its nerve but the last band got up there and rocked the room. Rassoodocks has that headliner’s knack of being able to hang around a venue for hours on end and still stand up and sparkle. The audience by now had stood through over three hours of live music and even though a few had been obliged to head off for the last buses, the rest were certainly up for a half-hour of partying. The five members of Rassoodocks fully gave them what they wanted. Their stylish songs dripping with funky rhythms and bouncy, compelling tunes were delivered with undiminished vitality and lashings of verve. The room was dancing. Feet were stomping. Frontman Greg put on a performance that reminded me of Carl Barat, Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher. With their roots sucking up the sap of sixties rock, they blended a cocktail of musical idioms into a flavour-bursting earful of sounds, laced with post-punk, which went down like a tequila slam. These party animals come alive late at night. The crowd were up for it and the band let ’em ‘ave it. A fitting climax to a night of top-class musical entertainment. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine, OBS feature page]’
In my next instalment, I will be looking at some of the bands and singers that were active during this period.
See the photo gallery associated with this series of articles. [consider putting photos into this article to break up the text]