Live Review: Eastbourne Extreme Battle of The Bands Heat Four

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As I drove my Ferrari into town for the fourth heat of the Eastbourne Extreme Battle of The Bands I was reminded of summer. With the sun beaming down and the wind in my hair I gazed out across white sandy beaches to the crystal clear sea beyond. From out of the window I could see people dressed for the tropical weather and everywhere the sound of steel drums filled the air.

Of course that wasn’t the picture of Eastbourne on Sunday night, and sadly I don’t drive a Ferrari. The sun was in fact nowhere to be seen, the beaches were just as covered in shingle as they usually are, and any steel drum players were at home, shivering. I just thought I would take a leaf out of the Lawn Tennis Association’s book and portray our town as falsely as they did in their advertising campaign for the annual AEGON Tennis tournament.

Last week’s heat was a good one. The superb Monroe went through with the crowd pleasing Acres of Life coming a close second. This week the line-up featured a couple of bands I’m already familiar with; Centre Excuse from Empingham, female fronted Our Momentum, and Eastbourne’s very own Dinosaur! Attack!

The first band up on stage were an Electro-pop-punk outfit from Empingham; Centre Excuse. So far in the competition, and especially last week, there have been bands with a great amount of energy; this band make them all look like fat, tired cats lazily pawing at butterflies on a hot summer’s day. Centre Excuse, fronted by a guy whose mannerisms were very much like that of New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik, had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the moment they started. One of the judges, Darren Monson of Audio Rokit, said; “something I always preach to bands is to have vocal hooks that are ‘sing-along-able’ in their set. Great songs are easy to sing-along with and there is no better way of engaging an unfamiliar crowd than with easy to sing hooks. What I loved about Centre Excuse was that they actually taught the crowd the chorus before playing their ‘single’ so people could sing along”. Centre Excuse brought along a laptop with which they played pre-recorded synth. Now, it was argued that this was unfair because it meant that they weren’t 100% live; a lot of bands do this on stage and as this competition expects a high standard I believe that things like that should be allowed. It was with this laptop that this young band gave their songs an edge that harked back to sounds of the late 70s and 80s. Their cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was an excellent re-invention.

Next up were a band with a very large fan base on Facebook; Our Momentum. Now, it doesn’t take very long listening to this band to realise that they are all very accomplished and talented musicians. Unfortunately they are accomplished musicians jammed together into a band within which their individual talents do not work together, fronted by a girl whose voice just doesn’t suit rock. To completely dismiss Carrie Higgs would be unfair; she is a very energetic, and she can hold a note well. Their pianist, whose music seemed wasted, is superb and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he goes far in the future.  Throughout this set and throughout the atrocious cover of Paramore’s Decode, both the crowd and judges looked very bored indeed despite Carrie’s repeated attempts to get them moving. Our Momentum has a lot of fans on Facebook; I doubt they gained any new ones in this heat.

Before I go any further it must be pointed out that during this set a speaker blew which meant it was at times difficult to hear Carrie sing. Never-the-less I think that it was still apparent that the band were no match for the other two bands. I also think that the constant comments made by those connected to the band were pathetic and made it very difficult for Sian Hutchinson, the organiser, to sort things out for them. The final band to take to the stage, Dinosaur! Attack!, were given the opportunity to call off their set and comeback at another time when they wouldn’t be hindered by technical hitches; in truly admirable style they chose to continue.

There was a short delay between the second and third band. During this time Dinosaur! Attack! played hauntingly beautiful music that I’m sure I’ve heard in nightmares and chucked around their mascot; an inflatable dinosaur. Drummer Weezey eventually signalled that it was time for things to get going by prancing around the room banging what I think was a cowbell. With a sound that constantly crossed over between being chilled out and beautifully chaotic D!A! showed the crowd a great time and played music that was made to rock out to; bassist Hayman extended his stage to include half of the room, drummer Weezey was a joy to watch, dreadlock-haired frontman Wildi was as great as usual, and guitarist Lex performed some brief, but amazing, riffs. Dinosaur! Attack! were above all a fun, dramatic band that put on a great performance and played music that was, at times, simply brilliant. They are, to put it simply, exactly what would happen if The Joker formed a band with his henchmen. Brilliant.

Last week’s bands left those competing this week with some very big shoes to fill; i think two of the bands filled them surprisingly well. I felt that Centre Excuse had the best stage presence, the most chemistry, the best crowd communication, the best single, and gave the best overall performance. I felt that Dinosaur! Attack! did well to carry on and really showed off just how great they are as musicians and as people. I felt that the antics of the “Our Momentum camp” after their performance should have gotten them disqualified. My personal ranking for this heat was; Our Momentum in last place, Dinosaur! Attack! in second place, and Centre Excuse to go through.

The judges felt that a lot of what Centre Excuse played was the same; fortunately they thought what they played was brilliant. They felt that they had superb crowd communication and they should be commended for actually teaching the crowd the chorus of their single. Centre Excuse came first with 1030 points meaning that they go through to the final and currently hold the top spot in the overall ranking.

It was thought by the judges that Our Momentum always seemed to have something missing and at times sounded a little evil. The judges commended the pianist and said that he definitely deserves more attention. It was said that they could have been sharper and that they looked better than they sounded. Our Momentum came third with 716 points and are currently second to last in the overall ranking.

The judges thought that Dinosaur! Attack! reminded them of both Pink Floyd and The Doors. They felt that the drummer should come to the front as she has awesome power and that their whole performance was “like being hit in the face with a meteor”. Dinosaur! Attack! were commended for pushing through the technical problems but criticized for talking over each other when they spoke to the crowd. They came second with 909 points and are in third place overall.

Originally published here: http://sqmagazine.co.uk/2011/06/eastbourne-extreme-battle-of-the-bands-2011-heat-four/

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