All too quickly we’ve found ourselves in the final heat of Battle Of The Bands 2014. Similar to my experience of the event last year, Campus Bands have again delivered a series of high-calibre free gigs, boasting some stunning performances with a consistently vibrant atmosphere. Going by the acts I’ve witnessed progress (those being Saudade, Empires Of Glass, Ennor and Kaleidoscope Eyes), the semi-finals should be incredible, and at this point it’s extremely difficult to predict who will move onwards, or indeed who will win. Regardless, a semi-final place is no mean feat, and Monday saw the final four bands open fire in hopes of achieving this goal. After this barrage subsided, the acts that survived were worthy winners; they will surely contribute to what will be a fiercely contested next stage.
Before we go any further I have to make one admission: I missed the first act. I’m not proud of it, but due to a series of ‘minor logistical mix-ups’, my housemate and myself arrived just as The Empty Twist were leaving the stage. I won’t attempt to fill in the blanks from the opinions I overheard in the immediate aftermath, but I will say general consensus was positive. Still, all we can do is move on. Thankfully however, I was entrenched firmly in the middle of the large crowd by the time All Tomorrow’s Parties took the stage. Continuing the theme of well-written originals, their set was largely self-penned, with a well-selected cover of Kate Nash’s Foundations appearing mid-performance. The lead vocalist was amongst the best I’ve seen so far in the competition, displaying a well-supported tone and excellent range – she even coped admirably with the sporadic half-spoken interludes Foundations demands. At times, I felt the lead guitarist could have benefited from playing slightly louder, however there was very little wrong with their set. Overall, All Tomorrow’s Parties gave an extremely solid performance.
Third band on, Bloom, were very impressive. Alarm bells rang early in their set with a slightly messy James Blake/Alt-J-esque opener, however this gave way to angular indie-rock, paying clear homage to acts such as Bombay Bicycle Club and Bloc Party. Throughout the set, the 4-piece became progressively more confident, undoubtedly aided by the large group of supporters they’d bought with them. Their penultimate track – another strong original - was stunning, my highlight being the extremely innovative use of guitar effects, epitomised by a brief, yet swaggering guitar solo midway through that was dripping with distortion. Overall, Bloom’s performance was highly advanced and highly enjoyable; I’ll be looking forward to catching them again in the semis.
The final act, Drive In Saturday, were equally confident. Comprising of familiar faces from the University’s Jazz Orchestra and Footlights’ West Side Story, I expected a technically adept performance, and this was emphatically delivered. Playing a brand of rock that shifted seamlessly between Americana and Jazz influences, they were perhaps the tightest act I’ve seen throughout the competition – made all the more impressive considering the 3-piece vocal harmonies and cascading drum fills that were frequently on display. Indeed, it’s difficult to criticise their near-flawless set, and consequently, I was not surprised to see them ease into the semi-finals on judges’ decision.
In what proved to be a tightly contested heat, I feel Bloom and Drive In Saturday deserved to move forward – and with the number of quality bands due to lock horns in the next round, the identity of the eventual victor is still deliciously unclear.