It’s a few weeks later than usual is tonight’s visit to Pilton to see the latest acts vying for a slot on one of the main stages at Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Finals. The venue, Pilton’s Working Man’s Club has had what looks like a new floor fitted, and there’s less chairs and tables at the back of the room, giving it a more roomy feel than previous years. There’s still a large crowd of locals, media, supporters, and Festival crew here. The atmosphere is building as we await the first act, though this may also be in part to the dying minutes of a football game being screened at the same time on the back wall.
The format has not been tinkered with in recent years. Eight bands have two songs to make their mark on the panel of judges including bookers of the stages and members of the Eavis family. Up for grabs is the prize of a slot on one of the Festival's main stages at Glastonbury 2017, the winners of the competition would also be awarded a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize, with the two runners-up also each being awarded a £2,500 Talent Development prize.
Brighton based duo Lucas & King appear totally unfazed by having the job of opening the showcase. The two girls deliver an accomplished set of well woven gentle music, making a modern folk flavoured mix of Americana-esque vocal harmonies and mellow electric guitar riffs.
Both Lilith Ai, and TYNI are females who have brought live bands with them, but very different in nature. The latter for me fails to make an impression when the fiesty redhead takes to the stage to dance about in denim hot pants. The former makes a much bigger impact. The four piece include a driving drummer who powers their sound. Military officer’s hat atop tight curls, Lilith (part of Fight Like A Girl Collective) has a voice as colourful as her clothes and patchwork acoustic guitar. She almost achieves a karaoke singalong via a giant lyrics sheet, and delivers a sleek performance that I would personally have put in the top four tonight. I feel she’s not yet reached the point of parading her full potential.
Tonight sees the runner-up prizes go to two Grime acts, that’s the moniker for British Rap – or Brap as it’s never called. I wonder if Canadians do rap? I’m possibly the wrongest person to be here as reviewer as this genre of music I find very difficult to critique. I mean I can review it from a poetry standpoint, but from a musical standpoint, but years of being far too close to the front means I have tinnitus and catch one word in every three. As for the musicianship, well, it’s just a backing track by a DJ. Tonight I think the DJ with 16 year old Flohio on stage does a more proficient job, assembling live cuts. I also think Flohio’s flow contains the more cerebral material, though it fails to stick within the groove of her decksmith. It also fails to completely engage me, by comparison Young Yizzy and his homies on stage deliver a great jump along/singalong to
close the performances with ‘LDN’. I don’t deny it will also get crowds jumping throughout the summer, but I find it impossible to judge their performance, it feels cliched already.
To me a bunch of guys doing the YouTube generation stage invasion with their cameras up is nothing new. Comedians Goldie Lookin’ Chain took it to the nth degree with their mates, 3 piece suite, and even a lampshade about 20 years ago with their Wrap (Welsh rap)! Both Grime acts can rap, of that there’s no question. I tend to agree with Emily Eavis, who a few weeks ago was quoted as saying that Grime is like punk for a new generation. It’s DIY, anti-establishment, and anyone can do it. I guess that’s the point, to me though I do not listen to the genre enough to judge if tonight’s grimers are at the top of their game. A few week’s before tonight’s competition I predicted that the grime acts would do well, possibly on the back of Emily’s statement, and sure enough they did, whether they deserve it, I have no idea.
I also predicted tonight’s winner would be Josh Barry. He first came to my attention year’s ago as fresh faced teenager with a great voice on Britain’s Got Talent (the year Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs entered), and since then has appeared on vocal duties with Friction, Gorgon City, Apexape, SG Lewis, Josh Butler, and more. The unsigned underground soul singer packs the stage with backing singers and a full band, and sleakly blows the competition out of the water with an instant connection with at least half the audience. His flashing smile and easy patter wins them over. It was game over the moment he took to the stage.
If I agree with the judges on the winner, I don’t agree with the judges on the two runners-up. For me Northern Ireland’s Silences are the find of the night. The indie five piece create a great interesting sound, think Coldplay without the twee lyrics. I particularly like the track they delivered which sounded like the noise an indie pirate may make. They were also incredibly polite, I overheard them thanking Michael Eavis, as we left the club, for the opportunity.
There was also another act I’d put in my top three and that’s WOWH, to me they brought back clubbing in the Eighties mixing the feel of Wham or Bros with funk, and I loved it to bits. They had the patter. The young children at the front looked up from their glowing tablets to watch them, and they brought a party vibe to the place. This is fast food pop and done really well, comfort pop, like a fried chicken dinner full of some addictive ingredient you can’t quite put your finger on. The band behind the singers, do a great job of providing a full groove whilst letting the frontmen shine. An all good singalog for the whole family, with hooks big enough to hang a coat on. If tonight’s prizes were awarded on exuberance then both Wowh and Yizzy would win it.
As it was every act kind of won it, with Michael Eavis announcing that they’d all get slots on stages at the Festival, where if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket I’d recommend going to see any of them. Me I’ll be watching Silences and WOWH again, I suspect I’ll get many chances to hear Josh Barry’s vocals in the future. (He’s already sung on a Glastonbury stage in the past). Yet another fantastic night of music. What will we do this time next year, when there’s no competition, as it will be Glastonbury Festival’s fallow year?
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