As a music fan and a fan of music festivals in particular I get amazingly frustrated by the often repeated mantra that music is dying, that there is no good music around and that rock music has had its day.
What absolute tosh. There is a huge amount of fantastic music around, there are literally thousands of great bands around. Put simply, if you can’t find new bands to love you are looking in the wrong places. I will concede that it is perhaps harder to unearth the real gems but I would argue that this is because of the sheer number of bands around rather than a lack thereof. Streaming services like Spotify and YouTube put so much music at our fingertips that it can be really difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.
One way of finding new bands is to attend the smaller festivals on the UK circuit. It is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of these around and no matter where you live there will be some near you.
The Larmer Tree Festival celebrates it’s 25th anniversary this year. This is a small to mid sized festival that always puts on a cracking musical lineup. Many of the bands will not be familiar to you before you attend, but you can be sure that you will find bands that you will fall in love with.
Over the past few years the Larmer Tree has run a Breakthrough Music Awards competition and the prize is the opportunity for two lucky bands to play at the festival. The final of this years event was held at 60 Million postcards in Bournemouth on Saturday evening.
A total of six acts were selected by public vote from all of the competition entries and the six most popular acts were invited to play three songs each in front of a live audience and a judging panel.
It was great to see a good sized audience, that grew throughout the evening, coming along to support their favourites. All six acts had great support. The acts were able to play three songs each. The finalists in the order they appeared were:
Cate Ferris: Cate is a Brighton based singer-songwriter who uses a combination of guitar, keyboards, drums and a vast array of loop pedals to showcase an incredibly strong voice. Her dark lyrics and catchy melodies add to make an incredibly creative package. A fresh and innovative performer Cate can only be described as a one woman orchestra.
Cate put on a captivating performance, one which had me enthralled. The combination of instruments voice and loop pedals adds up to a very big sound, it is hard to believe it is all produced live on stage and that there is no use of a backing track, it really is excellent.
Papa Truck: Buckinghamshire based bluegrass quintet were next up and I must say that I thought they were fantastic. There is a thigh slapping infectiousness in bluegrass music that makes it perfect for a festival audience on a warm summer afternoon. I really liked these guys, the musicianship is brilliant and they have put together some great original songs. I hope they won’t hate me for saying this but I did feel that the songs they selected for the live final were a little down tempo. I would loved to have heard them go balls out with some real thigh slapping foot stomping stuff. I mean this as an observation, not a criticism.
Al O’Kane: Somerset based singer-songwriter Al O’Kane falls into that kind of blues influenced acoustic folk genre typified by the likes of Martyn Joseph or Seth Lakeman and he is very seriously good. Al and his band were tight as a drum, their playing was top class, the songs beautiful and Al has a great voice. This is definitely the sort of music that would have a permanent slot in the CD auto changer in my car. I think these guys would have been great at this years festival and I really didn’t envy the judges job on the night.
Dorey The Wise: Hailing from Hastings, Indie Rockers Dorey The Wise are clearly a band who are on their way and they know where they are going. With a couple of self produced EP’s already under their belt and airplay from BBC Introducing, Amazing Radio, 6 Music and Radio 2 you can’t help but feel that this is a band on the brink of something big. They have already supported the likes of Example, Scouting For Girls and The Hoosiers. The band have a great dynamic on stage and exuberance, energy and humour will surely take them a long way.
I am convinced I have seen the band live before but I can’t for the life of me remember where, possibly on the BBC introducing stage at Reading Festival last year?
As fate would have it on the night the final two acts to perform were the winning acts. I confess that I would have hated to have been a judge on the night. Any of the six acts would grace any festival stage, they were all superb and I would definitely go out to watch any of the six finalists. I will be keeping a close eye out in the coming months for the four runners up and will defiantly be checking out both winners The Drystones and The Villanova’s at the festival.
The Drystones: Somerset based folk duo The Drystones simply blew the audience away on Saturday. With Ford Collier on guitar and whistle and Alex Garden on fiddle these sickeningly talented 19-year-olds will be a smash at the festival in July. The energy they produce is frightening and it took them all of five seconds to get the whole room moving with their infectious tunes. Having been playing together since 2011 Ford and Alex clearly have an amazing future in the world of folk music. I would love to see them play the Garden stage immediately before Bellowhead at this years festival. That would certainly have the crowd on their feet!!
The Villanovas: Local boys the Villanovas were last up and the winners of the bands category on theevening. They may have had home field advantage but they really did make the most of it. Buoyed by home town support they rocked their way through their short set with all the pomp and swagger of a band who have everything it takes to achieve superstardom. Honestly they really are that good. The Villanovas have a chemistry and enthusiasm onstage that is infectious and enjoyable, they have fun and by doing so they make sure that you do too. It is easy to see that the Villanovas draw their influence from the classic rock bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This is unquestionably a band to keep a close eye on. They are going places.
On a personal note I would like to congratulate all the bands who made the final, any of the six finalists would have been very worthy winners. I also think that the Larmer Tree Festival deserve to be congratulated for this initiative that gives all those taking part the opportunity to showcase their work.
Check out the Soundcloud Playlist for the finalists.