Battle Of The Bands: The Final

by Matt Hacke

Monday saw the finale to Campus Bands’ Battle Of The Bands competition, a series of high-quality showcases that have sprawled over this term. Correspondently, this will be the last PearShaped review of the competition, and therefore the last time I’ll attempt to be clever by using ‘battle’ associated lexicon, before forgetting completely about these metaphors after the introduction. Still, I digress. Monday then, saw four diverse acts that had successfully ran the gauntlet of the semi-finals, lock horns for the last time. The winners would be Saudade, yet the competition was close, and before the results were announced, I couldn’t hazard a guess at who would come out victors. It was a fitting end to an emphatically successful series of gigs, and one can only hope next year’s succession of skirmishes can live up to this high standard.

Academic Audio had the potentially daunting task of opening the night, however this didn’t seem to detract from their confidence. Their previous two sets were tinged with jazz and mo-town, and epitomised by adept implementation of complex instrumentation. This was carried into their final performance in the competition. I appreciated their opener, a lengthy number that morphed multiple times, switching through tempos and rhythmic structures effortlessly whilst the lead singer’s scat interlude halfway through the performance was extremely impressive. Overall a well-oiled set from an extremely talented band.

Drive In Saturday are perhaps the closest of all the finalists to the sort of music I’d listen to normally, and correspondently they were one of the major highlights of my night. Their success lies in the strength of their self-penned tracks, a strong selection, and I was unsurprised that Empty Triumph would go on to win Best Song in the Competition. Apart from this one, the catchy Electric Candlelight was well received, and a Jarvis Cocker–esque turn in Video was a welcome deviation from the band’s normal territory. With the 5-piece recording this week, I recommend keeping an eye out for any releases online over the next month or so. They’re an exciting prospect.

Saudade’s performance in the Finals was the third time I’d seen them in this year’s competition. I was lucky enough to witness their storming set in the semis, and with substantial blogosphere excitement over their new release, Blue Gardens, the band seem to be gathering momentum which no doubt will have been helped by their overall success in Battle Of The Bands. As for their set in the final itself, whilst I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as their semi-final performance, it was still undeniably tight, charismatic, and went some way to getting the crowd engaged with the action onstage. Overall, I feel their brand of rock, operating somewhere between U2 and Smashing Pumpkins, was a worthy winner of this year’s tussle.

Whilst I was rather familiar with Saudade prior to their performance, I’ve somehow gone through my career at Exeter without witnessing Deathstar Disco. Described by a fellow crowd-member as “a glam-rock band on a University budget”, I was really intrigued to see how their set, the fourth of the final, would pan out. The band arrived on stage dressed as Storm Troopers before launching into heavy guitar-led rock, supported by cutting Axl Rose reminiscent vocals. ‘The Disco’ were undoubtedly the showmen of the competition. Their stage presence was unparalleled, and whilst their antics verged on ridiculous, they were undisputedly entertaining. Musically, they sometimes weren’t as tight as the other finalists - however I suggest you put catching a performance of theirs on your Exeter Bucket List. It really is something.

The Battle Of The Bands final was a fitting end to an incredible sequence of gigs, with Saudade proving to be deserving victors. All that’s left to say is congratulations to Campus Bands for implementing this series, and of course the bands involved for delivering a consistently high standard of performances.