Photo credits throughout: Oli Green
It was a battle keenly fought with talent that collectively blew our minds – and in the end Country Calling’s panel of judges chose not one but two joint winners: Saturday Sun from Swanage and Tom James from Porthtowan in Cornwall.
More than anything what our Battle of the Bands final proved last Tuesday night was that the level of musical talent coming out of the West Country right now is truly amazing.
In a last minute venue change the final was held at the Red Lion Pub in Babcary, a pretty gastro pub (with a suitably large dining room) in the heart of Somerset. (Our thanks to the Red Lion for taking us on).
The first act to play were Roco, a guitar trio from Cornwall who set the bar incredibly high with their Suede-influenced, angular indie pop.
Next up was Gaz Brookfield, a solo artist from Bristol, just one man and his acoustic guitar but with songs and a voice so powerful you could have heard a pin drop amongst the packed audience.
His final song The Bigger Man, written about bullying from the perspective of both the parent, the child and then the fully grown man was one of the most mesmerising performances I’ve ever seen.
Watch it here, guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IndimzG9lPs
Morning Rush, a harmonising five piece from Exeter, took a break from A level exams to woo the crowd with their upbeat summery sound.
Then it was Maz Totterdell’s turn, a young singer from Devon who was recently played on Fearne Cotton’s Radio 1 show and turned up with a full band in tow. Maz has a very singular voice, Suzanne Vega meets Kate Nash and you just know you’ll be hearing her on a radio some time soon.
Tom James was next, with a performance that brought to mind Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. During one song he played the body of his guitar like drums in a style reminiscent of Newton Faulkner but also very much his own. The audience loved him. Listen to his single Careless here
Next up were Ten Zero One, an explosive rock band from Tavistock who are aged 14 and 15.
Mathew Priest, drummer from Dodgy and our compere for the night said: ‘The guitarist is incredible and he’s only 15. Just imagine what they’re going to be like in a few years.’
The last performance was from Saturday Sun, a hugely talented four piece from Dorset who combine the lead singer’s spectacular voice with a soaring sound that is truly their own. Listen here to their beautiful, evocative single Seagull
So what did the judges think? There was some conflict amongst Eden’s John Empson, Dodgy’s Mathew Priest, Sarah Mead from Yeo Valley.
Mark Cotton from the Big Lottery and James Shephard of Larmer Tree but in the end they decided to give Gaz Brookfield song of the night for The Bigger Man, Roco took third place and – thanks to Eden Sessions and Larmer Tree each offering an extra support slot – they were able to make Tom James and Saturday Sun joint winners.
Pictured above: Country Calling’s Clare Hall and Mathew Priest announce the winners
They will be play the two festivals this summer and Saturday Sun will also appear at Beautiful Days at Escott Park in Devon. All in all a night of outstanding musical talent in the West Country with a bunch of musicians who are destined to make it, we feel. Can’t wait for next year.
Country Calling gives special thanks to our five stellar judges and our sponsors for the night: Ace Acoustics, Oasis Sound & LIghting, Potent Productions, Skinners Brewery, sound engineer Casey Howell and photographer Oli Green.