Battle of the Bands: Heat Two

Kris Lavin reviews the second heat of the UCL Battle of the Bands

bands Batthe of the mully's basement uclu live music

Upon entering Mully's Basement, the second heat of the UCL Battle of the Bands felt more like a political rally than a clash of UCL's musical titans. Turns out that the night before the UCLU elections voting closes is a pretty busy one for the student politicians, and I was bombarded with fliers as soon as I sat down. Nobody seemed all that interested though – maybe if they bought us all drinks they would've been more successful.

The majority of the punters were there for the music, and there was a typically eclectic line-up in store for them. Zak Kell was first on, with his massive hair and his gorgeous semi-acoustic guitar. His set was fairly average – his very strong lyrical ability let down by his voice, which tried too hard to be bluesy. At one point, one of his guitar strings went out of tune. Really, really out of tune. He could have fixed it between songs, but decided not to, and the rest of the set suffered because of it.

The four-piece Plugpoint were up next. They were a tight, guitar-based band who were a little on the boring side. The dual singers were way too quiet, and they were drowned out by the noise around them for most of the three songs that they played. On the plus side, the bass sounded so fuzzy that you could almost reach out and stroke it.

Square Bones were the third band, and were only now playing their first gig. But what a first gig it was! Hearing Square Bones after the relative middle-of-the-roadness of the other bands was like having a bucket of cold water chucked over you. Picked guitars blended together to create a web of well-crafted noise, while a violin added a subtle element of sadness. Then the lead singer kicked in, and everything got brilliantly weird. He sounds like he'd be just as suited to singing the Monster Mash, but it just worked. Square Bones would take some beating.

Then Molasses happened. Contrary to their name, these guys are energetic. The duo exploded on to the stage, full of attitude, and blasted out three solid punk-influenced songs. Considering the sparse set up – a drummer and a guitarist – they sounded huge, mainly due to the excellent drumming and clever use of a whole bunch of heavy, powerful guitar riffs. The shouty female vocals were venomous and strong. They were like Sleigh Bells for metal-heads. Molasses rocked.

The next half-hour was an instrumental, synth-based affair. The Rats were a trio which consisted of guitar, synth and drums. Their use of effects pedals and complicated, math-rock style drumming made for an interesting sound, but their lengthy jam sessions lasted a little too long, and by the time the synth player started banging on the drums too, it felt a bit like the audience was beginning to switch off.

Rainbowdweeb was the final act. A man with a tiny synth, he layered a ton of melodies on top of each other to create some original atmospheric dance tracks. The audience was up and dancing in no time, and Rainbowdweeb joined in. The second heat of the Battle of the Bands ended with a communal synth-driven dance-off.

After the votes had been counted, the top 3 bands to go through to the final were announced:
1) Molasses
2) Rainbowdweeb
3) Square Bones

The final will take place on March 22.