This piece was first written a couple of years ago, but having been a stand in judge this year, I realise that makes more sense than ever... [RR, March 04)

The Cambridge bland Competition

Well what can you say, really? Firstly, the quality of acts that made it as far as the heats was pretty laughable, but as recent years have proved, anyone entering this pathetic, half-arsed lottery for anything other than the prize money is a fucking idiot. The Junction's sound men managed to make all but the dullest bands sound like shit, nobody went, the judges were the same, tired array of nobody's picked seemingly for their links to sponsorship or local press than any real musical knowledge, and the judging categories were as ill thought out and ridiculously biasing toward blandness as ever. This event used to be at the fucking Corn Exchange, for gods sake, with John Peel judging. Now it's Tarba from Red TV (who admittedly worked at Our Price t time about 10 years ago...) and the Junction - the venue in Cambridge that has put on fewer decent gigs in the past few years than any other.
Last year's winners Calling Orson were shit, this year Alice Band were worse. Boring, radio friendly pap straight from the textbook, they were competent to the point of tedium. They will go nowhere, excite nobody, and will follow in Calling Orson's footsteps down the road of the failed. Why give these people awards? And in a competition with a quarter of the mark going to being innovative, how the hell does this crap get to the heats, let alone the final? Music, in its purest form, is meant to entertain, stimulate and arouse emotion. Music on daytime radio is meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator, to pass over, not through, the heads of the listeners. The past two years have given the award to radio friendly bands, making a mockery of the name and the history of this competition.
If it is to continue in this vein, the organizers should be forced to change the name and not sully the one many remember as a vibrant and exciting month in the Cambridge musical calendar. I would urge bands in the same vein as Miss Black America, Jackson Family Values, Paperman and Narcosis Punk AMF - innovative and exciting - to avoid it at all costs next year. Maybe we should organise an alternative? The prize might not be a £1000 etc. etc. but if we could attract the right people to come and judge it, it would probably do the winners a lot more good than bumbling off back to Soham with a posh demo tape and fuck all else. Why enter a competition so obviously aimed at a different audience (an audience, it has to be said, who do not support the competition itself by attending - i.e. radio 1/Q103 daytime listeners)?

Chris Marling