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.
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.