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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Finals – Pilton Working Men’s Club (April 11, 2015)

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Finals – Pilton Working Men’s Club (April 11, 2015)

Posted on 12 April 2015 by Joe

It was the closest Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Contest finals I’ve seen in three years as one of 40 music writers, who help sift through thousands of entries in the early judging stages.

Last year as soon as innovative electro pop act M+A had completed the first of their allotted two songs the audience at Pilton Working Men’s Club near the festival site, knew they had watched the winner. The same happened the year before with the beautiful folk of Bridie Jackson and the Arbour.

K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade

K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade

But this year was different. At least half of the eight acts tonight put forward a great case for being chosen as the winner by the judging panel, that included the festival’s stage bookers and organisers Michael and Emily Eavis.

In the end it was 16-year-old singer songwriter Declan McKenna who won.

Why did he win in this closely fought competition? The power of a song helped. In Brazil, the first track of his two song set, this bandana clad kid had the best song of the night, an immediately catchy track with a great melody all from him, alone on stage with his guitar, synth and box of tricks for company.

Declan McKenna

Declan McKenna

Also the focus of the contest, to uncover original emerging talent, shone through. His precocious talent was hard to ignore. If the 16-year-old McKenna can create music like Brazil now then what can he do in five, ten, 15 years time? This boy will go far and the judging panel knew it.

If second placed Shields had won there still would have been a worthy winner. Their powerful rhythm section elevating them above the usual indie pop fare. So too with third placed K.O.G. and the Zongo Brigade, who started proceedings with an energetic set combining African music, funk and rap.

Shields

Shields

But there was far more than these three. MoD was sensational with his hip-hop jazz fusion. And Princess Slayer, with their stadium friendly set were another valid contender for the top prize

While the rest of the acts may have lacked the eventual winners’ originality they all were worthy finalists, from the folk of Lucy Kitchen to the well-worked vocal arrangements of Isaac Lee-Kronick.

Declan McKenna receiving his prize from Michael Eavis

Declan McKenna receiving his prize from Michael Eavis

Shortly before presenting McKenna with his prize of £5,000 and a main stage slot Michael Eavis announced that all the acts would be appearing at the festival. It was a fitting end to a contest that continues to impress.

by Joe Lepper

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Bridie Jackson and the Arbour – New Skin

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Bridie Jackson and the Arbour – New Skin

Posted on 13 May 2014 by Joe

It’s all about the voice with Bridie Jackson and The Arbour, the North east of England folk act that scooped 2013’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent award.

bridie-jackson-and-the-arbour-new-skin

For their second album New Skin they find themselves with a whole bunch of new fans from across the UK thanks to the accolade and this month notched another high profile live performance to their gigging bed post with Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival. Those watching them and listening to this album will immediately pick up on Jackson’s gorgeous, genre busting voice. At times she sounds like Tracy Thorn, who was equally at home with indie music, soul and trip hop.

The bulk of the tracks on the first half of the album here are vehicles for her voice, lacking a catchy melody but instead focusing on mood with the string instruments of cello and violin adding drama in the right places and mood when needed. They never get in the way of her voice.

But it’s not all about mood. The second half of the album is full of some fine melodies too, including Scarecrow latest single We Talked Again We Talked Again, which is more akin to the indie pop of Stars track My Ex Girlfriend is Dead than the folk genre they inhabit.

Crying Beast is another highlight in this excellent final half to the album. If there are any criticisms to be found it is that some of these later tracks should have been moved further forward, following the Bob Mould method of always putting the key single at track two. But that is a minor grumble seeing as the first half successfully puts the listener in the mood.

They’ve come a long way since we first saw them perform at the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent finals, a competition we help judge, and on the strength of this album they have even further to go.

8/10

By Joe Lepper

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Glastonbury Festival 2014 Emerging Talent Competition Details Revealed

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Glastonbury Festival 2014 Emerging Talent Competition Details Revealed

Posted on 14 January 2014 by Joe

Glastonbury Festival organisers have announced details of their 2014 Emerging Talent Competition, offering bands and artists the chance to win a slot on one of the main stages.

In addition, we are delighted to announce that for the second year running Neonfiller.com’s co-editor Joe Lepper will be one of 40 online music writers chosen as a judge to help to whittle down the applications to a long list of 120 acts.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

The competition is open for one week only from Monday 20th January to Monday 27th January. Entry is free and full details can be found here.

The long list of 120 acts will be whittled down further to just eight by judges including Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis. The lucky eight will then take part in a live showcase final in April.

Emily Eavis said:We get very excited about new music, and the Emerging Talent Competition is just a brilliant way for us to discover fresh talent. Our stage bookers come down to the live finals, and dozens of the acts who’ve entered over the years have been given a slot at the Festival. We can’t wait to see what this year’s competition brings!”

Previous applicants who have performed at Glastonbury include Stornoway, Scouting For Girls, Treetop Flyers, the Golden Silvers, Ellen and the Escapades, the Subways and, last year, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour (who ended up playing five sets at Glastonbury 2013).

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Glastonbury Festival 2013 Preview – The Best Acts To Watch Out For

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Glastonbury Festival 2013 Preview – The Best Acts To Watch Out For

Posted on 04 June 2013 by Joe

The choice of music at the Glastonbury Festival can be bewildering: from the well known Pyramid Stage, which forms the bulk of the BBC TV coverage, to the smaller stages and bar venues.  To help out we’ve compiled our list of the key bands to watch out for, many of which have already impressed us live. It’s worth noting that the BBC Introducing tent line up had not yet been announced at the time of publishing and we urge you to check out that stage as well to find your new favourite band. It was one of our favourite locations when the festival was last held in 2011.

Dinosaur Jr

The Park Stage is shaping up to be one of our favourite line ups this year especially with indie rock veterans Dinosaur Jr making the Friday line up. Don’t expect witty stage banter from the maudlin J Mascis and the band but do expect some of the best guitar soloing and all round fret noodling you will ever hear.

Django Django

Django Django will have fond memories of Glastonbury having played the BBC Introducing Stage long before the release of their critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album in 2012. Back with a Friday evening Park Stage slot they are now highly experienced at delivering a stunning festival set with their idiosyncratic take on the notion of indie pop.

Tame Impala

They played twice at Glastonbury 2011 but mud and life conspired to ensure we missed them both times. Not this time as we will ensure we see this Australian act’s very modern take on psychedelic rock. Their Friday, Other Stage slot shows the wide appeal for their two stunning albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism.

Portishead

We champion local acts in our key areas of Brighton and the south west of England and they don’t come bigger for us than Bristol’s Portishead. Back from a hiatus in 2008 with the stunning album Third they are one of the most innovative acts in the UK and not to be missed live when they grace The Other Stage on Friday night.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg at Glastonbury Festival 2011

Billy Bragg at Glastonbury Festival 2011

At the last Glastonbury festival in 2011 Bragg was headlining and organising the Leftfield stage. He proved once again what a consummate festival act he is. Armed with just his guitar, voice and wise words he provided this reviewer with shelter from the rain and one of the highlights from the festival. He’s back again at the same venue on the Friday night, this time with a full band. As an indication of how high his star is once again rising he has also bagged a Saturday afternoon Pyramid Stage slot, where he will bring his songs about love and a politics  to a wider TV audience.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour at the Glastonbury ETC finals

This year we were among the judges of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition (ETC) which was won by this north east of England  folk act. They quite simply stole the show at the finals of the competition with their haunting, stunning interpretation of English folk. Their prize is to open proceedings on Saturday at the Acoustic Stage, one of the most warm spirited venues at the festival.

Calexico


Another of our favourite acts is Arizona band Calexico, who put in a superb festival set at Pavement’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2010. Expect to be dazzled by their excellent blending of indie rock and mariachi music as they play tracks from the past and last year’s excellent album Algiers  at the Park Stage on the Saturday night.

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit at Bristol O2 Academy, 2012.

First Aid Kit at Bristol O2 Academy, 2012.

If you want stunning vocals from tiny Swedish women then look no further than sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aka First Aid Kit. We caught their set at Bristol’s 02  Academy last year and were struck with the power of their vocal talents. Their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s America is not to be missed should it make their set. It is an indication of how far they’ve come since we first saw them in a pub in Brighton many years ago that they now have a Sunday afternoon Pyramid Stage slot.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep at The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

Stealing Sheep at The Fleece, Bristol, 2012

The best support band we have ever seen. A packed Fleece in Bristol was left in awe last year when they supported Field Music. Now they headline in their own right and are firm favourites on the UK festival scene with their wholly original merging of indie folk bizarrely reimagined as a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. Their Sunday afternoon slot at the Park Stage is well deserved after a busy year for this Liverpool band.

Matthew E White

Matthew E White at Thekla, Bristol, 2013

Matthew E White at Thekla, Bristol, 2013

Matthew E White skips across genres effortlessly, from gospel to funk to soul to country to rock. The eclectic West Holts is therefore the perfect venue for him to showcase tracks from his debut album Big Inner. We caught his set at Bristol’s Thekla this year and were left impressed not only with the quality of the music but his witty and engaging stage banter. Not to be missed when he takes to the stage on Sunday afternoon.

Phoenix

One of the best pop acts around. Following the success of 2009’s superb album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix they are back in 2013 with the release of Bankrupt! With a Sunday headline slot on the John Peel stage this French band will be primed to show Glastonbury how guitar pop should be played.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Pyramid Stage line up is arguably the most impressive it has been in years, offering a great mix of old and new artists. Last time we attended in 2011 we managed to avoid the stage entirely. This time we’ll be regulars at the venue with Sunday’s set by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds among those not to be missed. They and Cave in particular have still got it as a recording and live act all these years on. A true legend. Just watch the clip above and brace yourselves for amazement.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

 

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