Photo Credit: The Allergens/ Campus Bands.
The honourable Campus Bands are once again hosting the annual Battle of the Bands! Although I sadly missed the first heat, heat two was an absolute pleasure, abounding in talented bands with exciting prospects.
Kicking the night off were Kingdoms. Having formed only three weeks before the show, this marked the band’s first ever gig. With this in mind, they did an excellent job. The lead singer’s voice was gruff and engaging and the band had a heavy rock vibe that they inhabit well. Their set was quite cover-heavy and their arrangements were at times a bit untidy, but both of these are purely symptoms of their newness. Kingdoms are definitely a band to look out for in the future.
Next up were The Allergens, featuring our very own writer, Oliver Rose. Their arrangements were tight and energetic, with a style harking back to 90s and early 2000s grunge and alt rock music (think slightly more pop Weezer). One of the band’s most unique features is their multivocalism, with a lead singer, Georgia Poplett, rhythm guitarist, Ross Rondell, and bassist, Oliver Rose, all take turns at lead vocals. This meant that their set was varied and never boring, especially as each singer brought a different sound to the mix. Highlights in this performance included the sharply melodic Fascist Love Song, sung in Oliver’s sardonic baritone, and closing number, Going Nowhere with its catchy chorus and layered harmonies.
Third to take the stage were Arrowlines, the only all-female group in the BOTB line-up. They began with a cover of Shawn Mendes’ Stitches, a song that I regrettably and notably hate. Their arrangement was cute and enjoyable. Next they played a lovely original song, which reminded me a lot of First Aid Kit in its folk sensibilities and two-part harmonies. Emily Bentley’s vocals particularly caught my attention (as did her flowing, hip-length hair) as she rang out on high notes. The band’s other covers included a mash-up of Sia’s Chandelier and Titanium, and a dark, swing-influenced cover of Billie Jean, which was fantastic.
And finally, as the evening was drawing to a close, Trystero entered on the scene. I’d never heard of this band (despite its line-up consisting almost exclusively of Exeter University Jazz Orchestra members, whom I’ve seen perform before). Immediately their energy was immense. As you might expect with four EUJO instrumentalists, they were all extremely talented musicians – with the riotous yet tightly controlled drumming from Joe Stewart and complex and unpredictable guitar work from Ben Kerrigan particularly standing out to me. On top of that, frontman Jack Kerrigan’s soulful tenor was note perfect for the entire performance as he captivated the audience with his dynamic stage presence. This band have such a fully-developed sound and such high quality material, reminiscent of indie bands like Hippo Campus and Night Riots, that they don’t even sound like a uni band.
After a very tense voting period, the results were announced: Trystero and The Allergens will be going through to the semi-finals. These are two extremely talented bands whom I can’t wait to see perform again – and I’d say they’re both contenders for the win.