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Covid-19 lockdown songs and videos to impress

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Covid-19 lockdown songs and videos to impress

Posted on 15 May 2020 by Joe

A perfect turn of phrase and video collaborations are among the innovative ways musicians are tackling Covid-19 lockdown.

No gigs, no recording studio dates. Covid-19 lockdown has pretty much killed off much of music industry.

Well, so we thought.

Nick Parker is among musicians being creative online amid lockdown

Being creative types, musicians have been busy being innovative at home and using tools like Zoom in new ways. Online gigs are now commonplace. Some you pay for to watch. Some free but with donations asked for. Others are for charity.

Among the most innovative we’ve spotted is Somerset songwriter Nick Parker’s Stranger Tunes series of online collaborations. Here he teams up with a bunch of musicians online and they perform some interesting cover versions. Mostly they are complete strangers. Nick and co’s take on Midlake’s Roscoe has been a particular highlight for us.

Meanwhile, musicians have been busy putting the whole, crazy mess of our pandemic world into song.

John Howard’s Stillbeat of A Silent Day,  is particularly poignant. The fiercely independent singer songwriter’s renaissance in recent years was recorded from his home in Spain and sums up how the world is so very, very different.

Using Howard’s multi-vocals on the tracking and backed by percussion and accordion its sound is still fundamentally what he does best – a bloke with a good voice playing the piano.

It’s lyrically though that its particularly impressive.

There’s some nice turns of phrases, with the title itself summing it all up so well. The “stillbeat of a silent day” indeed.

Other lyrics here that impress include “Smiles beneath the masks where no party plays. Joining gloved hands for the angels care. Cheers from the balconies’ grateful gaze”.

No, its ok, (dabs tissue to face), I’ve just got something in my eye.

Elsewhere, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats has also summed up the current craziness well in verse, on Exegetic Chains from his lockdown home produced album Songs for Pierre Chuvin.

“Keep the chains tight. Make it through this year….if it kills you outright.” It’s a nod to one of his most well known tracks This Year but like Howard has managed to put our feeling perfectly in song.

What other lockdown songs or virtual gigs have impressed you? Let us know in the comments below.

By Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2020 – Acts to Impress so far

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2020 – Acts to Impress so far

Posted on 14 February 2020 by Joe

Once again I’m spending February helping the Glastonbury Festival organisers unearth some new talent, as one of a number of music writer judges involved in the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition.

ETC2020Judge

Over this month I’ll be sifting through around 200 tracks and video clips to find three acts to put through to the next stage in the competition – a place on a 90-strong long list.

This will then be whittled down further to a short list of eight acts, who will compete at a live final at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April to win the top prize of a main stage slot at this year’s festival.

Last year one of my long list acts Roma Palace made it through to the final eight. I’ll be hoping this year’s selection can achieve the same feat.

The winner also receives a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize to help develop their career and two runners up will receive £2,500 from PRS.

As with the previous three years I like to focus on some of the acts that have caught my ear so far during judging.

After hitting the half way point today this seemed a good time to showcase some of the competition entries that have grabbed my attention so far.

I’m looking forward to watching and listening to the remaining tracks as well, as my judging continues.

Maphe

Looking back on my notes this is what I wrote about Maphe. “Nice production. Builds up well. Good song. Good live clip. Can’t find anything to dislike” . Looking back again I find something else to like – her delivery of tongue in cheek meanness sung with a smile. Her Facebook biography tells me little only that she is a “small mammal in a world of reptiles”. Intriguing.

Covasettes

Cut them and they bleed indie. Their track Top Drawer delivers with a punch. They look like they can handle a Glastonbury Festival crowd too. Based in Manchester they list Nirvana and The Killers among their influences.

The Bloom

A cut above most other indie rock acts thanks to a nice link up with drums and bass and strong vocals from singer Luke Kordyl. While based in London The Bloom are originally from Fremantle in Western Australia.

The Curious

I’m a sucker for a good guitar delay peddle. Step forward The Curious with If She Only Knew. This London based act list David Bowie, Johnny Marr and The Beatles among their influences which immediately warms them to me. Shouty vocals from singer Dominic Smith is another plus.

My Crooked Teeth

A song about parenthood always appeals, especially when sung well with a great Americana backing band. Oxford based My Crooked Teeth is the moniker of songwriter Jack Olchawski. His biography tells me that he’s shared a stage with Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando, which impresses us after seeing that seminal punk band many times live.

The Borgias

And within seconds I was transported back to the 1990s thanks to Sweet Sound from Birmingham’s The Borgias. Primal Scream and The Charlatans are among their influences and it shows. Strong vocals from KaYc Mundee help.

Jessie Dipper

Great voice and knows her way around a loop or two. This Birmingham singer songwriter describes herself as Folk Grunge and equipped with “pedal board and passion”.


By Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2020 Details Revealed

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2020 Details Revealed

Posted on 22 January 2020 by Joe

Details of the Glastonbury Festival 2020 Emerging Talent Competition, which offers acts the chance to appear on the main stage at the iconic event, have been announced.

The competition is open for entries between 9am Monday 27 January until 5pm Monday February 2020 via the official festival website.

Those entering need to supply one of their original songs on Soundcloud and a video of themselves playing live. This can be at a venue, studio or even in their front room.

As well as a main stage slot the winner is handed a £5,000 talent development prize from the PRS Foundation and two runners up will receive £2,500.

Neonfiller among the judges

This year Neonfiller.com’s Joe Lepper is once again among the longlist judges. Our job is to whittle down the entries to a longlist of 90 acts.

ETC2020Judge

A panel of judges, including Glastonbury Festival organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, will then select eight of these long listed acts to appear at a live finals in Pilton, which is near the Somerset based festival site.

For the last five competitions all eight finalists have appeared at the festival. See last year’s live finals review here.

Last year’s eight finalists included Roma Palace, one of Joe’s three longlist entries for 2019. We caught up with them in August last year to review their follow up single You.

In October, we also checked in with Saachi and Laura Goldthorp, who also made our long list selection on the back of their impressive Soundcloud and video clips.

Roma Palace

Roma Palace performinh at the Glastonbury ETC 2019 finals (pic by Matt Turner)

As with previous years Neonfiller.com will be posting regular updates of the acts that are impressing us during judging and the eventual winners.

Previous winners

Previous winners have included She Drew the Gun, who have gone from strength to strength after winning in 2016. Another notable winner is Declan McKenna, who signed for Columbia shortly after picking up the top prize in 2015.

ETC 2016 winners She Drew The Gun (pic by Joe Lepper)

ETC 2016 winners She Drew The Gun (pic by Joe Lepper)

Last year’s winner Marie White has since signed with Decca Records and Universal Music Publishing Group. As well as performing at Glastonbury she also supported Keane at the Royal Albert Hall last year.

“It’s always such a pleasure to hear the latest crop of amazing, undiscovered music that’s out there,” said Emily Eavis.

“Over the years, the Emerging Talent Competition has helped us to unearth so many incredible artists from across the genres – dozens of whom have been given slots at the Festival. I can’t wait to hear this year’s entries.”

Inspired by the Emerging Talent Competition Neonfiller.com reviews the small stages each year at the Glastonbury Festival with a focus on new and emerging acts. We are looking forward to visiting these lesser known venues at the festival again this year for its 50th anniversary.

By Joe Lepper, pictures by Joe Lepper and Matt Turner

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Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

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Indietracks Festival 2019 Review

Posted on 05 August 2019 by Dorian

Indietracks is a pretty unique event, in many ways. Most obviously in that it takes place at a heritage railway, but also in terms of what it means to the people who attend each year, and the way it is organised. The people who attend are passionate about the music and the event, and the organising team bring together a wonderful mix of music each year that manages to simultaneously follow a comfortable pattern and throw in some really delightful surprises.

Trains

You get a few industry veterans (Bis, The Catenary Wires, Tracyanne & Danny), some Indietracks mainstays (Martha and a tearful farewell to The Spook School), bands that are just starting out (Cheerbleederz) and bands that are starting to generate some industry buzz (LIINES, Porridge Radio).

There is also a lot of variety of band style considering that most people would see the indie-pop scene as being fairly straightforward in terms of musical focus. There’s black feminist punk (Big Joanie), Euro-J-Pop (Kero Kero Bonito), surf instrumentals (Surf Muscle), pop-punk (Fresh), Hong-Kong shoegaze (Thud) and hard-to-define-pop (The Orielles).

I could write hundreds of words giving my personal view on the dozens of bands I saw but what would be the benefit of that? I know from just the experience of myself and my colleagues over the weekend that everyone will find different things to like from a festival like Indietracks. Be that the different bands, or the owls, or the train sheds, or the miniature railway, or perusing the merch stalls, or surviving the falling speakers at the campsite disco.

So instead I’ll leave you with my personal three favourites from the weekend and a selection of pictures of the event. If you’ve never been then I urge you to give the festival a go next year. If you’ve been already you don’t need me to tell you how much fun it all is.

So, in no particular order, my top three:

Advance Base

Advance Base

This, like most of my favourite music over the weekend, was entirely new to me. I’d heard of Owen Ashworth’s previous act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone but never listened to them. I also knew that he’d recorded work by The Magnetic Fields but never listened to any of those tracks either. In some ways it sounded exactly as I would have expected, downbeat, synth driven and built around some great word-play. What I hadn’t expected was such a beautiful tone to his voice, and so much emotional weight to the songs.

Seazoo

Seazoo

Seazoo play a type of music that has defined my record collection for most of my adult life, noisey(ish)-indie-guitar-pop. They aren’t breaking much new ground but the older ground they are covering is pretty great. They’ve got good tunes, they play well and they seem thoroughly nice. They have just the right quantity of quirk to their sound to make things interesting and I’ll definitely be visiting their recorded output.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

I don’t think many people would argue with Stealing Sheep being the most polished stage performance of the weekend. Matching outfits, vocoder vocal introductions and synchronised moves sit alongside some pretty slick pop songs. It is joyous stuff and goes down a storm with the crowd. I loved every minute of it and ‘Joking Me’ could well be the song of the year as well.

Bis

Bis

 

The Orielles

The Orielles

 

Cheerbleederz

Cheerbleederz

 

Surf Muscle

Surf Muscle

 

Fresh

Fresh

 

Big Joanie

Big Joanie

 

Martha

Martha

 

The Spook School

The Spook School

 

She's Got Spies

She’s Got Spies

 

Thud

Thud

 

Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito

Words and pictures Dorian Rogers

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Tallinn Music Week 2019 Review

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Tallinn Music Week 2019 Review

Posted on 18 July 2019 by Marc Argent

We love Estonia and we love going back to it’s capital Tallinn for a dip in to the Baltic music scene. This year was our third consecutive visit to Tallinn Music Week and once again we’ve unearthed some muscial gems for your consideration.

Anna Kaneelina

Anna Kaneelina

Anna Kaneelina

Tallinn-based singer-songwriter Anna Pärnoja’s (wife of Neon Filler favourite Erki Pärnoja) unique brand of resonating pop was possibly the biggest surprise highlight of Tallin Music Week 2019, where she mesemerised crowds at the F-Hoone Muust Saal on the Saturday night. Her bewitching vocals coupled with expansive and dark soundscapes are reminiscent of the Florence Welch, PJ Harvey and Anna Calvi. We struggled to get in to the tiny venue but managed to enjoy the entire show side of stage as her spellbinding show captivated the room. We were also treated to an appearance from her husband Erki on guitars which added some wonderful new layers to her live show.

Molchat Doma

Molchat Doma

Molchat Doma

Molchat Doma frontman Yegor Shkutko has a touch of the (Future Islands) Samuel T. Herring’s about him and with his band sounding like a combination of Joy Division and Depeche Mode you can start to imagine their live show. A unique Post-soviet punk band from Belarus their music reeks of 80s punk with a darker edge that borders on industrial. Their minimalist drum machines and unsettling electronica gave the crowd in Kivi Paber Kaarid restaurant an unforgettable taste of a punk era that seems almost long forgotten.

Alex Kelman

Alex Kelman

Ever get that feeling when you first hear a piece of music and somehow it feels like you’ve been enjoying it all your life? You think it must be a cover of some old favourite and then you realise it’s brand new but somehow comfortingly familiar. Well Alex Kelman had us at ‘Rain’. Perhaps it’s the swirling, jangling ‘New Order-eque’ guitars or the beautiful female vocal lines that do it. Little known Siberian Alex Kelman performed twice at Tallinn Music Week 2019 and we were lucky enough to catch his warm up show at the Puant Bookshop where he performed Rain, alongside some of his new material comprising a wonderful blend of synths, guitar and captivating guest vocals.

Duo ruut

Duo Ruut are one of Estonia’s hottest prospects of 2019, after winning the 2018 Noorteband (Youth Band) competition last November. This win propelled the folk duo to a sea of festival bookings for 2019, the first being at this year’s Tallinn Music Week (TMW).

We first saw them playing in a telephone shop (yes this is the kind of venue you get at Tallin Music Week). The thing that first struck us was the beautifully symbiotic relationship between the female duo, as one carried the instrument they play (the Kannel – you might have to google this one) in to the venue and the other tuned it.

When it came to the time to perform they sat facing one another (like inuit throat singers). The large instrument across both their laps. They proceeded to both play the instrument at once, by a variety of plucking, using a drumstick, bow, and patting (Ben Howard styley). Instrumentally on its own this would be beautiful and innovative folk, but when the mesmerising vocals were added it left us enchanted.

The last song in their Tallinn Music Week set was “Tuule sõnad”, which means words of the wind perfectly encapsulated, not only them, but Estonia as a nation. A love of the past, traditions, culture, but also the innovativeness of the country, it’s people and hope for the future.

Puulup

The venue (Leila Bar) looked as if it hadn’t changed since the 1990’s, and the clientele upon our arrival, the same. As the hipsters, who normally proceeded to follow the festivals every step, were suddenly met by grandma’s enjoying a relaxing afternoon cup of tea.

When the two middle aged gentlemen (who make up Puulup) hit the stage you could be forgiven for thinking the clientele would match the music that was about to come, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

The duo, once dressed like a hasidic jew on his way home from the synagogue and the other not too dissimilar to Keith Harris, defined their style as Zombie folk. And, you can’t disagree when their songs included a love song about a wind turbine.

When you imagine that this was topped of with accompanying dance moves, you can understand why they were the first band of the weekend we saw (and on day three) that a crowd actively demanded an encore from.

Tautumeitas

Imagine the Corrs, but there are half a dozen of them, and there is no Jim in sight. And you will already have a good idea of the group. Not only visually were they as mesmerising as the Corrs in their traditional Latvian costumes, but musically too. Each playing one or more instruments (don’t worry, these included the violin).

The six women could well be likened to sirens that have attracted many sailors to their deaths over the centuries. And when singing the song Tautumeitas (yes the same as their name), which means a woman of marriageable age, it would have been very easy to have been drawn into their spell. And, we certainly were 😉

Words and pictures by Marc Argent.

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Splendour in Nottingham 2019 Preview

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Splendour in Nottingham 2019 Preview

Posted on 24 June 2019 by John Haylock

The Specials and the Manic Street Preachers are among the acts playing at this year’s Splendour in Nottingham Festival, which takes place at Wollaton Park, Nottingham.

The one-day festival also features sets from Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and the Slow Readers Club.

Splendour in Nottingham 2019

All Saints, Ash and former Fine Young Cannibal Roland Gift are among others to feature.

Meanwhile, the Comedy Stage features sets from among others Andy Robinson, Sean Haydon, Suzy Bennett and Roger Monkhouse.

Velvet Blush, Esther Van Leuven and 94 Gunships are among those to appear on the event’s Courtyard Stage.

The event takes place on 20 July with tickets available from here.

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Glastonbury Festival 2019 – Top five small stages acts to watch out for

Glastonbury Festival 2019 – Top five small stages acts to watch out for

Posted on 14 June 2019 by Joe

As we so often say, there is so much more to see at the Glastonbury Festival than those that perform on the famous Pyramid Stage, which garners the majority of the event’s TV coverage.

mud

There is often a wealth of new talent and other treats to be found on the smaller stages. Here we give a run down of the best five acts to watch out for on the festival’s less well-known stages.

Amyl and the Sniffers- Williams Green, Friday 3pm

This Melbourne punk act may have an awful name but their music has been creating a real stir among music reviewers. Signed to Rough Trade Records last year, Amyl and the Sniffers’ debut self-titled album was released in May, 2019 and gained positive reviews from the likes of NME and Pitchfork.

 

Avi Buffalo – Williams Green, Sunday 2pm

US act Avi Buffalo, aka Avigdor Benyamin Zahner-Isenberg and band, wowed critics when he entered the music scene more than a decade ago. Having seen him live twice we can confirm he is an excellent live act. With new songs from his 2018 Panegyric release in tow he is not to be missed. We also hope he finds time to play some of his earlier releases, in particular the excellent single What’s In It For?

 

Fontaines D.C – Williams Green, Saturday 4pm and Leftfield, Sunday 6pm.

Irish band Fontaines DC are another act to impress music critics, in particular for the release of their debut album Dogrel this year, which reached the top ten in the UK and Ireland album charts. They also play at the Williams Green tent and if you miss them you can see them the next day at the Leftfield venue.

 

Low – John Peel, Saturday 6pm

Don’t let the tag ‘slowcore’ put you off this Minnesota three piece. They are fantastic and fun live. At one festival we saw them at, the lead singer successfully arranged a fun run around the site the day after their performance. At the John Peel stage this Sub Pop act are likely to showcase tracks from last year’s album Double Negative and we hope from previous releases such as The Invisible Way.

Shame – Williams Green, Saturday 8pm

South London act Shame have been impressing many since the release of their debut album Songs of Praise. As well as gaining critical acclaim they look like a fun live act too. In addition, they are yet another strong pick for the Glastonbury Festival Williams Green venue.

by Joe Lepper

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Interview: Indietracks 2019

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Interview: Indietracks 2019

Posted on 29 May 2019 by Dorian

Indietracks is back this July for another weekend of pop music at a steam railway; and we’ll be there to enjoy one of the most enjoyable events in the music calendar. We caught up with one of the organisers, Beck Conway, to find out a bit more about the festival and what makes it so special.

So many small festivals come and go. How do you think you manage to stay successful?

B: We’re lucky to have an amazing community around Indietracks and people come back each year and also spread the word about us. We try not to stand still and the musical scope of the festival has evolved festival over the years to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in DIY indie/pop music.

The first time I ever heard of The Spook School was seeing them at Indietracks. This year they play one of their final shows. How does it feel to see a band go through their whole lifespan with the festival?

B: I feel like the Spook School are the beating heart of Indietracks – they’re so loved by everybody and it’s been fantastic to see them develop and become this incredibly important band since I first saw them opening up the main stage at Indietracks in 2012. I really don’t want them to leave us but I’m glad the festival and the Spooks get the chance to say goodbye to each other.

Out of the lesser-known acts playing this year, who is the one you’d pick to be a big name in 5 years?

B: I’d like to see so many of the bands playing this year have the chance to become big enough to make music full-time and get their songs out there. If I have to pick, I think Foundlings and L I P S are both new bands who make incredibly catchy, polished pop which is really radio friendly – Alvvays-esque. If a band was going to get huge on the back of their live shows – Kermes would take some beating. I saw them recently and Emily, the singer, hopped off the stage and wandered around the venue mid-set! I’ve seen Fresh quite a few times over the years and they’re really evolving into an incredible band that you can imagine following the same trajectory as Martha.

Indietracks 2019

It you were invited to run a version of the festival in another country what would the dream country and venue be? Or wouldn’t work anywhere else?

B: The randomness of Indietracks taking place on a heritage railway is a huge part of its charm and we couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) organise it without the Midland Railway. However, it would be amazing to have an Indietracks with guaranteed good weather! If we could find a heritage railway in Spain that can hold a music festival, perhaps we could collaborate with some of our Spanish pals to create Indietracks en Espana!

If you could only see bands on one stage (outdoor, shed, church or train) then which would you pick?

B: This is hard! On the indoor stage, it has to be the Spook School’s final Indietracks show. I don’t think there’s going to be a dry eye in the house! I’m really excited about seeing Child’s Pose and Current Affairs in the church – both are quite new bands with amazing releases under their belts already and are incredibly poppy but loud (my favourite combination!). I’m obsessed with Kero Kero Bonito at the moment and can’t wait to see them close the outdoor stage.

What is your favourite non-music related thing that everyone who visits the festival should make a point of seeing?

B: I really just love the way that the festival site looks when the sun goes down – the big sky, the lights illuminating the trains. It’s really magical to wander around at night. Riding on the steam train is also pretty cool and free for festival-goers!

If money was no obstacle who would you book?

B: Bikini Kill!

You said you had 500 applicants this year. You therefore can’t put everyone on. Have you ever rejected someone that you really wish you’d put on the bill?

B: All the time! Although we’re looking for bands that make music we love when we curate the festival, we also try to create a balanced line-up with different types of artists – louder bands, quieter bands, solo performers etc. We do make a mental note of bands that we like but don’t pick for one reason or another so we can come back to them in future. There are quite a few bands on the bill this year who have applied before but weren’t previously selected.

You don’t have to name names, but have you ever booked anyone that you’ve regretted putting on the bill?

B: No, I don’t think so. I can’t remember a time when I regretted booking a particular band – we do really agonise over who we want to book so it’d be unlikely we’d get it that wrong, I think.

A few years ago myself and some friends rode the miniature railway on the site. It appeared to be driven by J Mascis. Are you able to confirm or deny if he works for the railway?

B: I’m not able to confirm or deny this – you’ll have to conduct some further investigations this year.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.indietracks.co.uk.

Beck Conway was interviewed by Dorian Rogers

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Dot to Dot festival preview

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Dot to Dot festival preview

Posted on 15 May 2019 by Dorian

The annual three day mega feast of new music that is Dot to Dot returns over three dates in three cities. May 25th Manchester, May 26th Bristol and Nottingham May 27th .

For the price of a couple of London pints you can spend the day in the company of The Slow Show, Crystal Fighters and up and coming King No One.

There’s Brooklyn based Miss Grit to savour, also our favourites Crow and The Viagra boys who you simply must see live. In fact you’ll be spoilt rotten for choice, check out the website and top up the car, get on it.

www.dottodotfestival.co.uk

Dot to Dot

By John Haylock

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2019 Finals

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2019 Finals

Posted on 29 April 2019 by Dorian

After a two-year gap to let the fields and staff re-energise, Glastonbury Festival is stretching its legs and travelling its unhurried route towards the end of June. The Pyramid stage is clad; resale tickets have sold out (in the customary few minutes);  and the live finals of  the Emerging Talent Competition has awarded its £5,000 PRS Foundation grant and its coveted main stage slot at arguably the world’s most famous music festival.

Roma Palace

Roma Palace

The Emerging Talent line-up is always diverse and rarely puts a foot wrong providing great performances.  The variety makes getting into the judges heads tricky, but if there is a trend in recent years we have seen more MCs in the final, without any yet breaking through to win top spot.

Like the last event, in 2017, when Josh Barry’s vocal performance enticed the judges’ ears, this year they went for another stand-out singer. However the judges: Michael and Emily Eavis, representatives from the PRS, Glastonbury’s seasoned bookers, plus BBC Radio’s Huw Stephens – favoured a more melodic voice this time around, with Marie White clinching enough votes to take top spot with her two bitter-sweet compositions.

Aided by songs that suited the slightly subdued crowd that comes with an early start, Marie coped well with being first up. Tracey Chapman comparisons were made as part of her introduction, and her performance was authentic and moving. The tone and delivery of the second song ‘Out of time’ bears comparison with one of Adele’s tales of heartache and longing.

My personal on-the-night favourites were LIINES and Che Lingo. LIINES are in the middle of supporting Sleaford Mods, and are surely making fans with their challenging post-punk bursts. Extra points to them for rocking the “double-black Gene Vincent for the new millennium” look.  Che LIngo didn’t disappoint, he was charismatic and confidently owned that stage. At times he picked up the baton that Dizzy Rascal dropped a while back, and “Same Energy” had attitude to spare and unexpected layers that touched on A Tribe Called Quest.

The two representatives from the West Country are both well equipped to fill bigger venues. Iiola followed Marie White with another powerful vocal performance. The song ‘Sickly Sweet’ has a chorus to stick in the head and got the crowd bobbing; whilst Bristol’s Swimming Girls – the first band to fill the stage – added some polish and indie pop/rock to the night. They have some Simple Minds pomp and singer / bassist Vanessa has a distinctive delivery, a healthy sneer, and a hint of Ciccone. Clearly experienced and gig-ready, their sound is waiting for an anthem to take hold.

Whilst remaining totally unbiased, the first Neon Filler pick to make it through the final – Roma Palace – did themselves enormous credit. Their infectious guitar-led indie had echoes of Blossoms early outings, and entwined influences from beyond the shores of their current Brighton home.

Everyone is a winner on a night like this so Yamaya and Shunaji – get honourable mentions for their respective afrobeat fusion and jazz-influenced hip-hop outings. Both these acts chose to showcase just one song in their sets which left me, and possibly the judges, wanting to hear more to get a more rounded view of their repertoire.

Another good night to see some of the musical talent from across the nation and I for one will look up at least four of the acts at the main festival in June. Still no Hip Hop / MC winner though, but Flohio from the 2017 final is proving that just getting to the final can be enough to herald a growing career.

Words and pictures by Matt Turner

For more information about the competition and live final click here.

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