Whittled down from over eight thousand entries by a pool of the country’s top music bloggers, Saturday 6th April brought eight unsigned acts to the village of Pilton for the final of Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent competition. What was at stake? Only a mainstage slot at one of the world’s most iconic festivals.
A glance around the room is enough to tell just how much this means to the hopeful talent. Emotional hand clasps, uncontrollable smiles, anticipation and excitement. It’s a bloody big thing. I attended representing the newly launched entertainment magazine The Fix – www.thefixmagazine.com.
Here we give you a rundown of the eight acts…
Bridie Jackson & The Arbour
Hailing from Newcastle Bridie Jackson and her girls marry haunting vocals with intricate instrumentation. Their sound proves to be a somewhat oxymoron, delicate yet powerful and from the off belle-plaits create a sinister moody air. Un-reliant on stage theatrics the group’s subtle calibration and range of instruments alone is enough to grab attention. The added use of a cajon and cello worked effectively in providing those dark ethereal tones. It’s very easy to imagine such sounds looming over one of Glastonbury’s main stages.
Lillian Todd Jones
One minute, it’s upbeat Friendly Fires styled jangly guitar fills and the next it’s building grungy suspenseful hooks. This genre hopping style kept the set fresh and engaging for the crowd and judging panel. The track Butter Soul grabbed me particularly, carrying a mellow tone with bags of attitude, proving to be a breath of fresh air. Lillian’s sparkly dress and hollow stares coupled with tall gaunt guitarists makes for a very cool outfit indeed. Sound backs up style with these guys; they retained a stripped back approach throughout but there was heaps of depth to each song.
There is a real air of cool about Port Isla. Every track they play is different to the last. Upbeat catchy and confident. There’s an ‘in your face’ aggression to their delivery, this may have derived from past live experience, having appeared at The Great Escape and with a BBC Introducing Slot under their belt. I’m going to abruptly steal a quote from a youtube comment posted on one of their videos… “This proves that indie folk doesn’t need silly waistcoats or impractical clothing to make great music.” Their performance thoroughly enforced this quote. Fantastic stuff.
I like this guy, I really do. Bringing together relatable subject matter and emotive guitar progressions, Rhys holds a huge stage presence for a solitary figure. Dropping off his songs in the style of Eddie Vedder’s solo material with a chilled out stance. It’s Been Days Since I’ve Slept stands out as a clear crowd favourite, the song is about a couple who have their dreams unfulfilled, the tear jerker won a large applause. With influences in Dylan and Tom Waits, it’s certainly easy to slip Rhys into the genre of his inspiration.
Early brownie points for this band, with a Joe Strummer portrait sprayed upon the frontman’s white stratocaster… could there be a better way to evoke the Glastonbury spirit? Instantly bursting into a punchy indie rock track, they put smiles on the face of the crowd. I can easily depict a rather sweaty John Peel Stage moshing through these feel- good tracks, the catchy choruses enabling sing alongs, the complex thrashy guitar solo’s strewn across racious drums. I love Scottish bands in general but the urgency and spontinuity of Black Balloons made the set all the more memorable.
After such an impressive set, I’m getting the urge to write in capitals… THE DANCERS ARE INCREDIBLE. There we go. It’s evident how these guys got their name; fancy moves accompany tasty basslines. Tasty basslines accompany hilarious faces. Hilarious faces accompany trance like maracas; I have never seen an artist lose balance during a maraca solo! These guys are fresh, engaging, interesting and left me wanting more. As for the music we’re talking dirty melodic synths and catchy guitars with feel-good boy/girl vocals… and their confidence just slaps you in the face. I’m expecting big things.
Not even old enough to buy a beer, Isaiah Dreads has achieved astonishing amounts. His set got the crowd cheering and whistling aloud for the first time, despite being told not to (due to the live-stream). The clever approach of using lyrics as means of an introduction to himself, kicked things off with an informal attitude. He continued this way, bouncing around the stage with solid crowd interaction. This young man is definitely one to look out for, he promises to be a star.
A Band Called Wanda
This band deliver authentic Irish folk. Hilarious witty lyrics stood out, doing what all good music should, whacking a smile on my face. “I’m gonna make myself sick and then I’m walking home”, these clever lines are embolic of traditional Irish music. It’s easy to imagine these guys playing a small pub in Dublin with a crowd drunk on Guinness singing and cheering all the way through. A fantastic end to the competition.
Drumroll please… the winner is, Bridie Jackson & The Arbour, deservedly clinching the mainstage slot at this year’s festival. The four elated ladies gave a drunk speech, finding it difficult to come to terms with their evening’s success. They join the list of past winners featuring Stornoway, Scouting For Girls, We Have Band, The Golden Silvers and last years winners Treetop Flyers.