Battle of the Bands competitions can have a bad reputation.
Too often, they are a cynical way to get punters through the door (and spending money) whilst the hapless bands involved end up being selected by judges who’ve spent the entire gig in the green room consuming the rider, all for the chance of winning a set of commerative plectrums.
Not so with the competition at Maggies Chamber, organised and run by Róisín Tuohy of FRESH Music Promotions. Here, integrity is the name of the game, with bands being judged on their merits rather than the number of fans they bring along; and prizes which include recording, filming, promotion and a yet-to-be-revealed ‘mystery prize’.
We went along to the first heat to check it out.
Four bands were competing for the chance to go through to the finals on Feb 5th, with two from this evening being selected. Kircaldy-based five-piece The Glitch were first up, and impressed the crowd and judge alike with their melodic slowburn and prog-coloured rhythms.
One of the good things about a BotB competition is that the bands will give it their all in a chance to impress, and The Glitch are no different – frontman Jordan complements his stage presence by battering away at a floor tom for one song; and guitarist Jack whips out a violin for another, playing it with his guitar still strapped round his neck.
Holy Bartender were up next, bringing their Beelzebub-summoning metal from deepest, darkest Penicuik to an appreciative Maggies’ audience. Too many metallers take themselves far too seriously: not so these guys, who laugh and banter their way through a hard-hitting headbanging set.
It’s also apparent by this point that judging the bands is going to be hard. Tonight’s adjudicator is Annabel Cooper from Leith FM. No blue smarties in the green room for Annabel: she spends the entire gig sitting at the side of the stage, taking copious notes (which Róisín willl then send on to all the bands later). She agrees she’s got her work cut out tonight, but is also loving the chance to see some bands she’s not come across before.
Step up Back Alley Romeo, whose blend of theatrical glam and Marilyn Manson-style shock metal offers something sleazily different on the menu.
None more so than when frontman Alii whips off his combats during their cover of Electric Six’s Gay Bar and thrusts the mic stand between his legs – the stand-out performance of the night.
Last up are Edinburgh-based grunge rockers Art of Privilege. These lads have already built up quite a following on the local circuit, and their hard-edged set is delivered with their usual tightness and energy – their sound may be grungey, but their performance is as polished as a diamond.
And so the scores are in. Annabel’s ratings are added to the soundman’s rankings as well as Róisín’s own opinions. It’s a tough one to call with only a few points separating the bands.
But someone has to win – and The Glitch and Art of Privilege emerge triumphant, their place in next month’s final secured.
With three heats still left to go (on the 15th, 22nd and 29th January), this is shaping up to be a battle well worth visiting the frontlines to witness: and if the winners of the other heats are of the same quality as tonight’s, the final on the 5th Feb is going to be one climactic – and enjoyable – fight to the finish.
Keep up to date on details of the next heats – and all the other gigs and events at Maggies Chambers – on their Facebook page.