Battle Of The Bands: Semi-Final 2

by Matt Hacke

Having been to the vast majority of Battle Of The Bands last year, I left the competition with (what I thought was) a pretty good grasp of the student bands circuit. Yet time is fickle, and come the second semi-final of this year’s competition, I was presented with four unfamiliar names. My ‘know-how’ bravado had been disheveled – with only the inkling of “Oh, I hear Bloom played in the first semi… I’ve heard of them before” remaining. My local knowledge stood like Shelley’s Ozymandias. Throughout the rest of this review, I will work on the assumption that you probably want to read about what I thought of the bands, rather than whether I can sustain a tenuous literary allusion for the length of an article.

I arrived at the Lemmy a colossal wreck, but I left having seen a diverse representation of the incredibly broad spectrum that the University’s music scene offers. In the end, my two preferred acts progressed. However, it was an incredibly close final, and anyone who was present will be able to testify as to how narrow the margin of votes between Hyperion and Me & Tea was. Post-punk three-piece, Splitsville, opened the night; unsurprisingly, considering their style, their sound wasn’t particularly subtle. Indeed, they were relentless; they delivered a barrage of chords and crashing drums, with Jordan White’s vocals piercing this wall of sound. White’s lines shifted well between a snarling lower register and full-on howl, and whilst I’ve never been that much of a post-punk fan myself, they were definitely solid in the execution of their genre. I reckon that they’d surely compliment Late Nights & Long Drives at more rocky gigs in the future. Though still a relatively inexperienced act, Splitsville have a strong base to work from, and in the future I hope that they’ll be able to flesh out and modulate their sound even more, without losing too much of their raw intensity.

The intricate polyphony of National Acrobats’ guitar lines signaled a paradigm shift from Splitsville. The four-piece’s sound is a diverting mélange of Bloc Party, The Maccabees, and Bombay Bicycle Club – a timbre very much in vogue at the moment, which unsurprisingly went down well with the crowd. They were already extremely tight, and with the majority of the band being second and first years, it’s safe to say they have bags of potential. Whilst they are dark horses in the final against the more refined Drive In Saturday and Bloom, you can’t help but feel that National Acrobats will go from strength to strength, providing they continue to carve out a niche within an extremely popular and malleable genre.

Like National Acrobats, Hyperion were tight. Yet unlike them, they didn’t seem to be entirely certain of which sound they were going for. Their self-penned tracks flitted between Flyte-esque vibes, as exemplified in Auckland, and 60s reminiscent rock ‘n’ roll that reminded me of The Kinks. Still, the bassist and drummer were among the best instrumentalists on the night, and all the songs, though perhaps too diverse in genre, were well performed. Hopefully, if they continue to gig in Exeter, they may choose to streamline their sound into one particular avenue.

Me & Tea closed the night. These guys are an acoustic duo that provided a welcome antithesis to the fire and thud of the previous three acts. To say I was pleasantly surprised with this act was an understatement, as they delivered a charming set, consisting of an engaging onstage chemistry and several well-penned, albeit sometimes catty, originals. I wasn’t at all surprised in light of these assets to see them progress on audience vote, and they’ll surely be extremely entertaining at the final on Monday.

Now that all is said and done, we have our four finalists for Battle Of The Bands 2015, a competition in which all the heats have been of an incredibly high standard. I highly recommend getting down to the Final, which will showcase the best the University have to offer in live music at the much beloved Cavern, with Campus Bands generously offering free entry! It promises to be a high-octane, high calibre night – the conclusion of which, I believe, is by no means certain.

The Battle Of The Bands Final takes place on Monday 16th March at Cavern. Doors 8pm. Free entry.