I’m writing about the Battle Of The Bands semi-finals from the journalistically dubious position of being both a judge and a reporter on the evening. Questionable conduct notwithstanding, let’s talk about Battle Of The Bands. I think this must have been the single toughest heat in the entire competition. On the roster for the evening were Brace For Impact, Death Star Disco, Drive In Saturday, and Bloom. Now if that doesn’t sound like the lineup for a Battle Of The Bands final, I don’t know what does. My job, and the job of the other two judges (Harry Voge, Campus Bands President, and Tristan Gatward, Exeposé Music Editor), was to pick between these massive names in the student band scene and try to find somebody to put through. It was no mean feat.
Drive In Saturday opened up the night with a fantastic set. The charisma of the front-man, Henry, and the sheer virtuoso musicianship of lead guitarist, Jack Rennie, never cease to amaze me. That’s not to take away from the rest of the band, who are all extraordinarily tight – it’s just that these two demanded so much attention so easily and kept the crowd engaged throughout. It was a solid set from a proven band that was only marred by the lack of a little more variation of energy in their set.
Next up was a pretty extreme escalation in the evening’s proceedings: the arrival of Death Star Disco on stage. Emerging from a side door in a liturgical procession to the sound of monk-like chants, Death Star suddenly made the bizarre Church service leaflets all over the venue make sense. In line with their usual procedure (that is, being really unusual), Death Star Disco lined up their whole set upon a theme, this time that of a Church service for the cult of Death Star. It was exactly as blasphemous and hilarious as you could possibly imagine. Yet as ever, the comedic value didn’t always translate in musical quality – though the guys are certainly tightening up their set.
Bloom. These guys are serious rivals of Drive In Saturday for my favourite band in Exeter right now. Where Drive In Saturday excel in big licks and a commanding frontman, Bloom excel in the incredible quality of their songwriting, and in the atmosphere that they create with their sound. How well these guys command a crowd whilst being so meek and reserved is really a testament to how engaging their songs are and how well they deliver them. I was thoroughly impressed by their set (which I’m informed wasn’t even the best they’ve played recently) and await their recordings with baited breath. Seriously, shut up and take my money. Or rather, don’t shut up. Never shut up.
Cutting to the chase, Bloom and Drive In Saturday went through, and rightly so I think. Brace For Impact just didn’t musically leap out in the same way as Bloom and Drive In Saturday always do, and they certainly didn’t rival the stagecraft of Death Star Disco. In the toughest of heats, I’m really glad these two groups went through, if only so that I can see them perform again in the finals.