Mahatma Music, the events outfit which hosted a slew of events last academic year with unique line-ups that combined acoustic acts, eclectic bands and DJs, is back under a new team taking over from founders Colin Bugler and Joe Alexander. In my interview, the new Mahatmas expressed their desire to make the nights more of a gig atmosphere than a night out, combine local talent with touring acts and shake up the format from time to time. Last year, Mahatma could sometimes be hit or miss – absolutely packed or sparsely populated, though the quality of the acts themselves rarely dipped. The new team, most of whom also play in the local powerhouse Bloom, said they had been looking into what made Mahatma nights great, and where they fell down.
Female ‘folk-electro-soul’ duo from New York Overcoats began their set first as the last date on their UK tour. Their touching, earnest set had the audience entranced, eliciting those rare, rare moments of almost total silence on the Cavern dance floor. Masterful harmonies were at the heart of a well-written set of songs that blend live guitar with pre-recorded electronic backings and the Cavern hung on their every word. The previous Mahatma team had a great eye for mixing in artists who wouldn’t fit the set on paper, but who work brilliantly on the night (Ailsa Tully from last year comes to mind), and it’s great to see the new team have inherited this trend. An endearing, if slightly confusing, mid-song synchronised dance routine along with a break to tell a story of walking into the wrong house when finding their place to stay, rounded the Overcoats as a thoroughly-likable act as well as great musicians and songwriters.
Following Overcoats were Devonian rockers Bklyn. Battling a somewhat unresponsive crowd (“Come on guys, come forward a bit! I can hardly see you!”), the trio gave it their all. While their music is unfortunately not quite to my taste – a little too much like The 1975 (who I must say I’m not a fan of), it can’t be said they didn’t try to inject some energy into the room following Overcoats’ more reserved set. However, the crowd of the night didn’t seem totally enamoured with Bklyn, though their big choruses and high energy did manage to infect a good number at the front. While they played their large repertoire of songs flawlessly and seemed to have a great time doing it, I’m sure it wasn’t the most successful set the band could have hoped for.
Closing the bands section in a cheeky turn of self-promotion were Bloom, Battle of the Bands 2015 winners and student band BNOCs. Though ever since that Battle of the Bands finals set it’s often been commented that the ‘student’ prefix to ‘band’ is becoming redundant. No longer just ‘good for a student band’, Bloom have developed into a simply awesome band in their own right, with their lead single Oceans becoming a staple of my summer Spotify listening. Their set now refined and polished, they took to the stage and immediately played two songs before speaking, drawing the full attention of everyone in the Cavern. Beginning their third song, Voices, guitarist and vocalist Rory introduced it as “our next single, whenever the hell it comes out”, so keep your ears peeled for that release as it went down a blast to a hyped crowd. Bloom masterfully played out the rest of their set, culminating in their aforementioned lead single Oceans, for which the crowd went nuts.
DJ duo Exaris brought the night to an end with a well-crafted, darker sound mixed with a variety of more upbeat influences. They offered something different to many electronic artists performing these days, and proved an extremely strong finish to Mahatma Music first event of the academic year.
A strong start overall for the new team, but not without teething issues. New avenues of publicity may need to be looked into – although the turnout was decent enough, there was definitely room for a fair few more punters. The mixture of sounds and a trend of discovering awesome new artists for myself and I’m sure many others is something to be lauded, but they must be careful not to end up with a confused or jarring line-up that could split audiences. In my interview with them, they told me they were looking to experiment with the format, and seem hungry to make each show a sell-out success. Watch out for Mahatma this year – their first event was good but had its issues, and if they fix those their second event will be something special.