Something I never considered when I first agreed to judge Battle of the Bands (this being my first year as judge or punter), was that by the time of the final, it would be a hell of a night of music. Turning up at the Cavern, getting in for free, and getting to see National Acrobats, Bloom, Me & Tea, and Drive In Saturday, isn’t a half-bad prospect even before the excitement of deciding the Battle of the Bands winners for 2015.
With the start of National Acrobats’ set, it became very clear that we were dealing with a high calibre of musician. The band laid down an impressive balance of songs with an early Bloc Party, angular sound and sharp timing (which I am told is much improved from the heats; they are a brand new band after all).
With arrival of Bloom, we were past the level of a really tight student band and well into the realm of something else entirely. From start to finish, Bloom’s set was totally engrossing. The guys have nailed down not only their own repertoire of stunning songwriting but also the rhythm of a great live set, complete with moody, ambient atmospheres between songs. From the songs that I’ve already heard and can hum along to, to the songs I intend to be pestering the band to hand me an MP3 for, I was won over by the whole performance in a way that I am brought in by professional artists. I guess that makes Bloom measure by some professional artists.
It’s a shame that Drive In Saturday were up against Bloom because despite the fact that Bloom played the better show that night, Drive In Saturday deserve real celebration too. The guys have got a true rock sound flush with larger-than-life riffs delivered with gusto by Jack Rennie and his unparalleled guitar face. The frontman’s stage presence is truly commanding and really delivers every line with punch. A highlight from the set was All Right Goodnight which benefits from the context that it’s all really about a terrible fear of flying. The video has that same cheeky charm delivered with the confidence that comes with being a tight group of musicians and performers.
Now that I think about it, Me & Tea have that churlish appeal too. After all, what else but pure cheek gets you to the level on a ukulele that you can shred the riff from Stairway To Heaven? Not all credit goes to Tom, the man on crutches. Some must also go to the incredible vocalist who took each song and elevated it to somewhere entirely better than any other could have.
I have been filled with superlatives but it seems that comes with the territory of a final of this standard. Despite the fact that I think it’s a shame the other bands didn’t get to win, because they all deserved it, I don’t mind saying that I was pretty much set on a Bloom victory from the first song of their set and nobody changed my mind. I’m excited for what Bloom are going to do in the future and I’m thankful to Campus Bands for showing me the musical talent at Exeter.