Alpha Road, Little Chuck Little, Sensible Fun, The Perfect Crime,
Cambridge Band Competition, Soul Tree, 14th April 2009

As far as anticipated local events go, the excitement generated annually by the Cambridge band competition has remained unrivalled since its inception. With an accumulated history of around 20 years, the Cambridge band competition has stood the test of time, largely due to the incredible demand for local music; a mantra which has recently been revived with the success of local indie favourites Hamfatter.

With such a colourful past, it is refreshing to see that the assorted crowds remain eager to accumulate within the Soul Tree in support of their chosen band throughout this gruelling battle of musical endurance, and this year’s competition looks set to exceed the standards that the competition is renowned for.

Previous Band Competitions have showcased a diverse selection of bands from Cambridgeshire and the surrounding area, and reassuringly, this year promises no drastic change of affair.
Upon entering the venue, it was impossible to ignore the colossal gathering of N-Dubz fans bursting from the restraints of the neighbouring Corn Exchange, an event which inevitably lowered crowd size quite substantially; although anybody in attendance of that concert can remove themselves from my presence immediately, because as far as I am now concerned, each one of them remain void of any opportunity to express an opinion. After a brief introduction from Jeremy Sallis (of Audio Files fame) the evening was finally due to commence...

The first band that took to the stage went under the moniker ‘Alpha Road’ who foresaw the opportunity to make a blistering impact, introducing themselves with thundering drums and an array of catchy riffs to match. Persistent rhythm changes and vocal technique proved a successful combination, making for an unpredictable and exciting listen. Alpha Road owned arguably the strongest set list in terms of crowd response and originality, and at times were reminiscent of early Kinks. With the crowd delighting in this surprisingly modern sounding slice of retro-indie nostalgia, the band looks set to blaze a trail of success across Cambridgeshire; definitely ones to watch, even if the vocals wear thin after half a song in.

With a distinguished band name and no obvious insight to the genre of music the band resounded within in terms of aesthetics, ‘Little Chuck Little’ may have gathered more appraisals had they played higher up on the bill. With no obvious following, ‘Little Chuck Little’ were always going to be the underdogs; but pulled off the difficult task of winning over an unfamiliar crowd without so much as a grimace. The band was tight, with a dominant rhythm section and laced with vocals that ranged from snarls, shouts and bleats, to classic rock vocals reminiscent of light hardcore bands that dominated the underground punk scene during the 80’s. Crowd interaction was not high up on the list of priorities for the band, but the quality of the songs more than appealed to the audience, with the band choosing passion over quirks (see next band) to get the appreciation they truly deserve.

Not so much arriving on stage as erupting, London/Cambridge derived band ‘Sensible Fun’ brings a quirky feel to the night’s proceedings, maybe a direct reference to their name. With the boundaries thoroughly blurred between hardcore and unashamed heavy metal, the band eviscerate through a set-list that comprises of technical guitars, loud drums and even louder vocals, the band entice an entire dance floor assembly with their blend of passion fuelled music and onstage antics. Even before the band took to the stage, over two-thirds of the crowd seemed to be in support of them, which would undoubtedly fuel their consistent compulsion to entertain and a persistently cocky attitude that is notable throughout the performance. It’s hard to describe how much I dislike this band; they play within a genre that has long been stale, the vocalist is mediocre at best, yet annoying throughout, and the drums were sloppy (and cack handed). The guitars consistently shifted volume throughout the set, and overall I got a distinct impression that they were desperate to appear original in their quirky attitude, yet felt a bitter disappointment that I will have to search hard to find again. A rip-off Glassjaw, without the talent.

The final band of the evening was ‘The Perfect Crime’. With a shaky start to the set-list, the band quickly redeem themselves with a set-list comprising of heartfelt crescendo’s, shifting tempo’s, melodic introductions and an originality that filled the void created by the other bands. From the first note, the crowd captivation and passion in which the band played could not be mistaken. From the flawless double kick of the drums, to the soaring range in which the vocalist excelled, the trio were evocative of current British sensations ‘We Are The Ocean’ and ‘INME’, and look very likely to follow in the footsteps of these established artists, provided that determination is as high on the agenda for the band as passion. With screams accentuating the more intense sections of the songs and faint whispered lyrics accompanying the clean guitars perfectly, the band is not only tight, but incredibly diverse, proving fit to be placed alongside an endless array of artists, should they continue to evoke applaud such as they did after the final notes of the set rung out. Best band of the night, and was because of my contribution, I’m sure, that they deservedly won the beer cheer.

Naturally, with the event firmly scheduled in for a spot in numerous musical calendars, there is a lot of pressure for the bands to embody the hype generated by members involved in the thriving local scene, but after witnessing the showcase of talents on display tonight, people overwrought with doubt should rid themselves of the thought immediately; the bands secure on the bill are elucidated examples of how good (and bad) the local Cambridge scene can be, as long as there are people to support it...and after all, were only the first round in...

Shane Alsop