Review: BotB Timepiece: Heat 1

Alice Scoble-Rees inflicts her opinions of Campus Bands’ offerings on you. Whether you want them or not.

Botb campus bands dionysus every cliche the doldrums the firm favourite the new rockets timepiece

Battle of the Bands kicked off in great style this year, with a starting heat that was of a universally high quality all round. Timepiece was a more than fitting venue, being the spiritual home of Campus Bands in any case, and kept the drinks deals flowing for the attendees, who became more appreciably rowdy as the night went on.

Of the five bands playing, only two could progress to the next round – one on the word of the judges, the other on the public vote – and we guarded our all-important ballot slips jealously.

The Campus Bands Committee organised the event flawlessly. With little downtime between bands and a short wait before the results were announced there was always just enough time to go to the bar, but not enough to get bored. There was even a raffle with a grand prize of £10 to the lucky winner.

Special props should also go out to the compèring team. Christian Nicholls seemed to be there to maintain order and generally make sure that things happened the way they were supposed to, despite the best efforts of the self-described “drunk and inappropriate” Colin Stansbury. Colin seemed unable to decide if he was an evangelical preacher of rock, a stand-up comedian, or a LOLcat, but all three were really fucking happy about his Darth Vader t-shirt; I was both terrified and excited as he introduced the bands.

All in all, Campus Bands proved that they put on a pretty good night out. All that’s holding them back is their attendance figures, and if they managed to really fill Timepiece up it would turn into something pretty spectacularly banterous. With that in mind, I urge anyone reading this to consider turning up to one of the next Heats for 2012’s Battle of the Bands. At the very least, Colin might tell you that you “smell really good”.

The two bands to go through at the end of the night were Dionysus and The New Rockets. It was a fair decision, though it must be said that all the acts that participated were of a much higher standard than I had expected from a bunch of student bands, and a roundup of the acts is presented below.

First up was Every Cliché, a talented 2nd year acoustic duo who started the night on a mellow note. They have a quiet stage presence that drew one of the biggest crowds of the night.

Their set had a very personal feel and each track got a loud reaction out of us, and deservedly so. Guitarist Ryan Barrell is technically very gifted and singer Amy Coles has a beautiful smoky voice that immediately made me think of Etta James.

That said, Every Cliché lacked some gusto in comparison to the other bands, and I’d love to hear them properly belt out a bit of soul or some blues – though their cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ went down a treat, and they’re definitely a group I’d like to see play again.

The Firm Favourite were a massive contrast to Every Cliché, playing loud, scrappy punk-leaning-into-indie (or indie leaning heavily on punk?) – Perhaps a little too loud, as their lead singer’s voice was sometimes totally lost in the music.

My mental comparisons to Weezer proved well made when they busted out a great cover of ‘Say It Ain’t So’, but their best tracks proved to be their original ones. They closed their set with ‘Silence’ and ‘Cannibal’; both had great guitar riffs and were catchy songs that used the singer’s voice to its best effect.

In fact everything about The Firm Favourite improved towards the end of their twenty minutes, as it seemed like nerves got the better of them in a couple of places in their opening songs (some vocal notes were shot for and not quite hit). I was given the impression that when The Firm Favourite believe they can be great, they’re really great.

The stand out band of the night for me, The Doldrums were not only the newest formed band of the night (at less than a week old, they only finalised their name a couple of days before the gig), but also the best looking, and Campus Bands could do worse than making them poster children for other events.

Make no mistake though; an impartial assessment of their music renders them no less impressive. Opening with a cover of Paolo Nutini’s ‘Candy’ proved that The Doldrums’ singer had one of the strongest voices in the competition, and when they launched into everyone’s favourite rap rock classic – ‘Butterfly’ by Crazy Town – they showed both their versatility and ridiculous retro street cred.

All that The Doldrums really needed to do was possess the stage and grab the audience a little more – as they did when they launched straight into ‘Valerie’ without even checking if they had enough time left in their set. Rebel rebel, fight the man!

Dionysus are a regular feature of Battle of the Bands and are always hotly tipped to win. It’s not hard to see why. Dionysus were the only band to feature keys, as well as, in the middle of their set, a saxophone that seemed to appear from out of thin air.

Listening to their set I was reminded a little of Maximo Park, and very distantly of The Kooks (but a version of The Kooks that wasn’t godawful and I didn’t hate) in their tracks ‘Everything is Fine’ and ‘Sundown’, plus a gutbusting cover of Ed Sheeran.

All in all Dionysus were the band that could do no wrong, and their music got all the fit blonde girls drinking Smirnoff Ice grinding on each other – possibly the best compliment a band can get.

Though they had a tough act to follow, The New Rockets gave it their all. This energetic four piece had a very ska feel to them – though I might have got this impression because the lead singer was rocking a cargo-cut-offs-and-white-tank-top combo, as well as having a slightly sleepy expression as if he’d just been blazing up outside.

Nevertheless, The New Rockets definitely had the best audience interaction and reaction of the whole night, with a degree of on-stage energy that was really refreshing – particularly the bassist, who was really bloody going for it.
The New Rockets also get special brownie points for being the only band to play a set of entirely their own material – no covers whatsoever. My favourite was the closing track ‘In the Red’, which got the by now slightly tipsy Campus Bands committee throwing themselves all over the place, though they also played a nice rhythmic slow number, at which point we were told to grab our partners and “do what you gotta do”. Hilarity ensued.