London – The annual Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition offers unsigned artistes based in the UK or Ireland a more even playing field in the quest to reach a wider audience. Only a handful of the several thousand acts who are competing to play on one of the main stages at the illustrious festival in June will make it to the final but the judging process is about as fairly structured as you can get. Once again, the contest is generously supported by PRS for Music and the PRS for Music Foundation who provide cash prizes for the winner and two runners-up.
Best New Bands’ London correspondent, Tony Hardy, was one of 40 music writers charged with whittling the entrants down into a long list of 120 acts. Each act submits an original song via a SoundCloud link, together with a video of a live performance. The entries are divided between the 40 judges and each judge picks three to go through from our individual quotas. My own list had its highlights and lowlights; the latter being a preponderance of entrants choosing to send in a decent original recording and a bad video of them playing the same song. Far better were those who chose to illustrate a different dynamic through a live performance on video.
Drilling down to a final three is never easy but here are a trio of great songs by artistes that equally showed they can cut it on the live stage with the potential to enthral a Glastonbury audience.
The BeauBowBelles – “Blue Tree”
A gloriously whimsical string-driven song with some lovely instrumental punctuation from plucked strings to mournful trumpet woven around a memorable chorus progression. The BeauBowBelles also greatly impressed me on video as a live act with a quite different dynamic, embracing swing, gypsy and folk elements in one crowd-pleasing tour-de-force.
Tara – “Cigarettes and Gin”
A jilted torch song with all the hallmarks of a classic that could have been written any time over the past 80 odd years. Tara delivers it beautifully with just the right amount of honeyed rasp in her voice. She is a really accomplished live solo performer with a repertoire deserving of a far bigger stage. And what better one than Glastonbury.
S.O.S – “Bittersweet”
A consummate and well-polished song that takes an unusual look at paid-for infatuation from the male rather than female perspective. The song glistens with its forbidden fruits, overlaying sparky production with a true pop veneer. Its electronic overlays nicely counterbalance the naturally sweet tones of S.O.S aka Sophie Debattista while her live videos show she can really cut it too with just her voice and guitar, away from the studio.
You can listen to all 120 entrants to have made it through Round 1 on the Glastonbury site now. I was pleased to see Paradisia – caught live by Best New Bands last year – among them. Another name I recognised from a past gig was Lazy Day who supported Lady Lamb on her last London show. Now our three choices, The BeauBowBelles, Tara and S.O.S, join them to await a further announcement next week as a judging panel including Glastonbury organisers Michael and Emily Eavis will pick just eight acts from the 120 to battle it out at the live finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club, near to the Worthy Farm festival site, on Saturday 22 April. We will be there to bring you the results.
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Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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