Surface Festival Round 2, Maggie Mays, 14/5/11
Review by Tom McConnell
A quick introduction to this competition I feel is needed to get the full effect for the potential it holds to the acts involved. After 4 rounds of regional competition, the final showcase featuring unsigned acts from all over the UK and Barcelona (with new territories being drafted in for next year) will take place as a glamorous showcase at London’s Indigo2 with the prizes at stake nothing short of a gift from the Heaven’s themselves. Full backline, lighting rigs, top end recording process with a full on digital and physical promotional campaign with a professional marketing company directing, promotional video, merchandise, a tour of the UK (with the bus/driver included), and a slot at Budapest’s Sziget Festival; and that’s just first place. There is a real hunger for the acts to break through and fight for this mammoth haul. However, what I credit Surface Festival for the most is its innovative voting system. Each round works much on the “battle of the bands” concept, but instead of just being down to audience votes, or a couple of judges- everyone has their say. Text votes, audience votes, fellow band votes and industry professionals all have a say (1 point, 5 points, 20 points and 30 points respectively). This is quite refreshing as it does not leave the decision of which progresses to one factor alone- haven’t brought fans? Rely on other bands enjoying your set. The industry professionals hated you? Let your fans push you through. Anyway, with you all now hopefully clued in, let’s get down to business.
My own band (PLUG!) What’s The Damage?! were fortunate enough to make it through to the Scottish 2nd round, which took place on the 14th May. We were joined with the acts successful from our first round heat, Lets Play God, ForeverVoid and Final Silence as well as The Rare Breed, Core and Momentus. Now you would think, with 7 bands on the bill, this is going to be a long night; however each band is limited to a 20minute set list. Bring your strongest songs; make it count, because you haven’t got long. On the other hand, I’ve found this will stop acts from becoming stale and dragging on into background noise (not to say any of these bands are guilty of that, but we’ve all seen it happen).
We kicked the night off with ForeverVoid, having seen these guys before I know they deserve a fired up crowd to play to, that will react and they will perhaps not be happy going on first, but it’s a job someone has to do and their confidence and tightness will provide a solid and electrifying start to the night. With people still coming through the door, ForeverVoid are providing a schooling performance and setting the bar for the rest of the night. A wireless guitarist seems to always come in useful as he leaves the stage (there is a blue velvet robe instead of a barricade- more on that later) to mingle with the crowd mid-song, really firing everyone up. A wonderfully talented vocalist that gives David Draiman a serious run for his money is charismatic with a low stance and it pays off by closer “Vision” which has the audience interacting with the chorus.
The Rare Breed
Next up we have The Rare Breed. A band I know personally very well. Now, to make it through to this round, every band has had to show some form of pedigree from a very competitive first round. The Rare Breed, I have watched developed from their very early gigs and while the confidence has always been there, I feel there is a little bit more development yet needed. Sean McKay on drums undoubtedly puts in a good shift, but I notice a couple of moments where timing is perhaps a little out. Jason Harris, the vocalist, shows he has the confidence of a front man, but there are times when an awkward stance with legs together shows perhaps he can use the stage a bit better. There are however moments where he does show this required skill, throwing himself around in amongst the bassist and new guitarist. This is another thing I wish to touch on, the new guitarist has without a doubt helped The Rare Breed’s sound and I note a couple of solos that show real potential- but instead of being attached to an amp at the back of the stage, his talent needs to be shown off. This may still be because the latest addition is still fitting into the band and finding his feet amongst an established line-up- in which case, prove to the audience why you’re there.
Lets Play God
After The Rare Breed, we have Lets Play God. Most of the collective audience know what to expect here and the boys do not let us down. As a 4 piece, they show amazing understanding of each other and if ForeverVoid raised the bar, Lets Play God have stolen the bar and put it on a shelf out of reach. DTA, SMHP and Spineless all have the crowd enthralled and completely at vocalist Rob’s mercy. This is well deserved too, their lively and confident performance comes with a real feeling that Lets Play God are here to make sure the audience above all have a good time. To the point, that robe acting as a barrier pointed out earlier- long gone. Audience and band interact with each other, vocalist Rob and bassist Chris making frequent trips into the midst of the front row. Surface Fest Round 2 is now officially on.
Final Silence has one hell of an act to follow, but if there was ever a band on this bill to match their energy and love for a rampant crowd, it will be this act. Unfortunately due to my own commitments of playing I only manage to fully intake the last 2 songs, but as I take my place by the side of the stage mid way through their 3rd last song, I notice the severe lack of a vocalist on stage, but I can hear him. Suddenly, the phantom vocalist strolls past me back into his rightful position. Turns out he’s just made full use of his wireless microphone and went for a quick lap around the venue. The crowd’s going nuts, one more step forward and the stage is invaded. They blast into crowd favourite “Jon Kandi” and the place has erupted. A new song closes their set and it’s a good while before the presenter can introduce the next band due to a “one more song” chant that does not help your humble author calm any nerves before going on stage.
What’s The Damage?!
As to not blow my own trumpet or shoot myself down, I shall leave the valuations of What’s The Damage?! to anyone who wishes to post their opinion and move straight onto Core.
Now I know these guys were playing Glasgow the night before too, I don’t know if they went out partying afterwards, but if they did, you most definitely won’t be able to tell. The crowd has started to dwindle, but Core is still going to grab you by the balls. As a 3 piece, I am in awe as to how full they sound. It has that stripped back, gritty feel to it- but damn does it work for them! I love Brian Murphy’s vocals; you can nearly see the venom being spat onto the microphone through truly pissed off lyrics and it is this factor that makes Core an act to be seen as it will not let up throughout the full set. “Hollow Inside” I think is the song of the night for me; it is that chorus I still have etched in my mind.
Momentus take to the stage in the dreaded last slot of the evening. This is the only band I’ve not seen before, but despite their apparent younger age to the majority of the rest of the bands, they are not fazed. I am reminded of Bullet For My Valentine from their sound and they work their way through their set with an undying defiance of the ever smaller crowd. Those that have stayed are being served well here as the band has clearly put time into their song-writing for well structured songs with variation. I am most definitely going to be looking out for future gigs with a longer set time to really form an informed opinion of this act as this allocated 20minutes has either just given me a preview of what can be accomplished with a longer set, if not what they will go onto achieve with a few more years development.
As mentioned previously, all acts have proven themselves by getting through the 1st round, and overall, the 2nd round has proved harder to judge as I know in my mind, I wasn’t sure if What’s The Damage?! would make it through. I think I would have made the call and put money on ForeverVoid, Lets Play God and Final Silence, but as for the other 2 available slots, they were anyone’s. As it turns out, we and Momentus grabbed them. It’s this moment in such a night that while I’m happy to have progressed, bands that haven’t that fully deserved to taint such news. We knew entering such a competition, this is part and parcel- yet it does not make it any sweeter. Surface Festival Round 2 put on a phenomenal bill, an all metal bill- and I’ll put money on it was one of the most intense nights of all 2nd round heats. Bring on round 3.
Ivory Blacks 16/02/2011
Last night, I had the chance to go along and review 4 of Glasgow’s unsigned metal bands in Ivory Blacks. It was to say the least interesting, and definitely worth the trip.
I found out a little later on that this band were playing without a singer, their singer couldn’t make it so I understand why they were the way they were now a lot more than I did at the time.
The band seemed uncomfortable, the set wasn’t very tight at-all, they didn’t seem to have any kind of awareness of one another, it was incredibly messy sounding, it also didn’t help that the stand-in singer wasn’t confident in his abilities and was singing so quietly that I missed almost all of the lyrics. The bassist seemed to have an arrogant air about him and the crowd seemed generally quite uninterested.
However, their harmonies are brilliant, they clearly have the ability and I think the absence of a vocalist affected their confidence and therefore their performance, I would go see them again because they hold a lot of promise, it’d just be nice to see a full band, and to see the overly arrogant bassist knocked down a peg or two.
Despite their poor performance and lack of interest from the crowd, they finished their set on a very high note, they did a cover of System of a Down’s Chop Suey which seemed to excite the audience a little, and they did do a fairly good cover as well.
I hope to see them again as a full band and hope that last night was just an off night for them, they really do have potential.
For fans of
- Bullet For My Valentine
- A Day to Remember
This band were fantastic, they were relaxed, confident, opened the set with a killer riff accompanied by Tim Mcllrath-esque vocals, the crowd instantly came to life and Lost Persona gave us some much needed hope in the night ahead.
They had brilliant stage presence; there were no inflated ego’s in sight, they were having fun, they are a brilliant balls out metal band and they know it, they quite obviously have a serious passion for music, they’re experimental, they’re watertight and they should be in a much bigger venue than Ivory Blacks, much more suited to Barrowlands.
They went out with an absolute bang, gave their all, Lost Persona don’t have one weak member and deserve every bit of recognition they get, they’ve worked hard and are definitely one to watch for the future.
For fans of
- Rise Against
- Machine Head
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Rare Breed
“There’s a reason this breed is rare” quipped a member of the audience and sadly, I have to completely agree.
As the extensive amount of merchandise and equally extensive amount of young fans started pouring into the venue, I held high hopes for this band, they seemed to have a lot of support from quite a few people!
However, The Rare Breed did not live up to expectations at-all. Their sound was completely off, it was just noise, there was no indication that they knew what they were doing really, the vocalist Jason Harris kept going out of his range, Harris’s unwarranted cockiness did the band absolutely no favours, “try hard” was mumbled once or twice.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, The Rare Breed actually brought somebody on stage to advertise their already in plain view merchandise. Considering each band got a 20 minute time slot, I thought this was unprofessional, desperate and time wasting, completely unimpressed.
Despite their pretentious air, The Rare Breed are nothing to write home about and have a long way to go before they can live up to their own hype.
For fans of
- Cancer Bats
- Machine Head
A Ship Going Under
This was A Ship Going Under’s first gig in around 6 months so while they were obviously a little rough around the edges, they were generally quite brilliant, they are very modern, very now, they were obviously what the crowd had been waiting for all night and they were absolutely worth the wait.
The only people sitting down are myself and two others, they are definitely crowd friendly and know exactly what they’re doing on stage. They have fantastic energy, gutsy vocals and great variations between songs.
A Ship Going Under seem to make a statement that they know they’re good, they like what they do and they’re here to stay. I have to say, they do have the right balances when it comes to skill, attitude and confidence, they are doing everything right on the road to success.
Looking forward to seeing these guys again, definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled for.
For fans of
- Lamb of God
- Winds of Plague
- Man Must Die