And the bands did battle
The system worked thus: at the start of the night a band was picked at random from a hat, at the end of their set the next band would be selected the same way. Fifteen minutes break and then it would be back in for a party with the next band. Votes were only accepted once every group had hit the stage with a points system based on how high you put the bands on your voting card: five points to the top band, one point to the bottom band (the in-between is self-explanatory).
So theres the set up. Now for the juice.
Pic : Facebook
First up, Cheating Lights. Rooms packed, the air thick with summer heat and this is before people started grooving. Not knowing what to expect, I stood eager to find out what they were all about. They start, and its a hard driven sound but with your light boy next door indie style vocals - sweet! A gritty indie flavour that I know I like. They begin their second song and they totally blow the lid off my expectations. We get hit with this wall of solid sound, heavy yelled vocals, a flair of the metal growly riffs. They went hard. The generally tame looking crowd suddenly turned into a gang of pit fiends, it looked fun so I joined in. Blam I hit the floor instantly. Not my usual indie pits; they were viscous. I had to give props though, anyone who can elicit that sort of reaction in the course of just a couple songs seriously know how to conduct a crowd. Their set closes with a shiny bright toy, a heavily distorted guitar that sounds like its jacked into a space ship. A soaring digital scream that slices through every other sound on the palette ending their set on an explosion of noise. Closing on an interesting sound, the next names were already being drawn from the hat - and so the battle begins anew.
The next band was to be Inscape. I asked around, what do people know about them? There was a buzz in the air and I wanted to know why. The dominating force of the scene just before I entered it, now based in Bristol, re-entering home territory amidst a whole plethora of new bands. What was their sound like? I heard all sorts of things. Otherworldly, alt-rock through a techie filter, unmatched. Id heard the buzz before but now I felt like I was part of the perpetuating force, regurgitating what Id heard to my mates who too hadn't experienced Inscape. The 15 minutes wait were soon up and it was time to see if they lived up to the hype.
Introduced with the nickname Indie-Shikari, I can say the title fits perfectly. A sound thats a blend of indie and early 2010s hardcore, it brings the best of both worlds landing appeal in both courts of fans. Were beckoned in by a gradually rising synth that spreads throughout the crowd and scoops everyone in as tightly packed as possible - no space between stage and crowd. As the music rises so does the energy in the room, like with any good intro to a set it floods the room with electricity. Its like seeing a fuse burn slowly to the bottom. The music soars, rises, the fuse getting shorter. And then BAM, it explodes and shit gets wild. A blast of hard digital energy and a blow of guttural vocals; the room is a hurricane. Youve got mosh pit en mass. I tried joining for a second time. Fastest Ive ever hit the deck in a pit, people hurl to the floor like its tenpin. An assault of sound all over, two guitars pumped out different melodies on a fat foundation of effects, it felt like there was so much happening at once. Combine that with the frontmans synth and theyre maximising the sense of scale to its peaks. The sound feels towering, forceful, its got persona, were not listening to a band were listening to a thing - a whole creature of noise. Performance wise it felt pretty wholesome for the sound. It looked like they were having so much fun up on stage that you felt good watching them feel good. They bounced, jumped, gleamed ear to ear. I always like it when I see a band just being themselves on stage. It breaks a boundary that can sometimes hinder how well you can connect to the music being played. Cheers, howls and whistles, their set had come to a close. They would be fierce competition for the remaining bands.
Two Til Twelve were on next. A set packed with light surfy vibes it was a nice change of pace from the intensity. Vocally things were done in a sort of teenage wail. It felt quite intimate. Like we were all just hanging out at someones house and our mates started jamming out in the kitchen. Although it perhaps lacked a lot of the interesting features that made Inscapes set so blow you off your feet it was nice. A summery band for a summer evening that felt comfortable and easy to like. Nice!
To close the night, we have metal band Exit To Main Menu, their fans, loyal and plentiful. ETMM shirts walled the front rows with compliments of beards and snapbacks - I thought I was about to be eaten alive. The energy of the room was intense. The frontman made the audience zone his second stage delving in and getting involved with the stomp offs and head banging that was taking place. Their fanbase, something of the older sort of metal head; - it was cool to see fresh young talent making tunes that still satisfied veteran fans of the genre.
And so it was time to vote. Votes were cast, votes were counted but most importantly a winner was declared. Everyone piled into the main room. 1000 pounds, a single and a music video were about to be given to one lucky winner. It was close. The Winner of Battle of The Bands 2019 is ... Inscape. The room erupted into applause. Inscape had won just by a slim four points over String Theory. just two voters out of the jam packed show couldve changed the fate of the contest.
The winners were well deserved. All bands worked hard and it showed. A true music community event- the prominent members of the audience changed with each show. if you were to only look at the main body of people it was like walking into a different show with each band. Although Inscape took home first place, every single band on that bill is well deserving of your time. Whatever genre is your thing, there was a band there for you. Keep an eye out for those five bands, theres talent on your doorstep.
Words - Dom Waters
Thanks to Swansea Music Hub and The Bunkhouse for all their hard work.