Somerset, UK – Saturday night. The Old Pilton Working Men’s Club & Village Hall was once again hosting the finals of the annual Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition which is supported by PRS for Music and the PRS for Music Foundation. Eight acts chosen from thousands of entries, earlier narrowed to a longlist of 120, were given two songs each to prove they were worthy of the prize of a main stage spot at the June festival. Several of this year’s finalists were purveying an urban vibe although true to the eclectic spirit of Glastonbury, there was still diversity aplenty in the music being showcased.
A judging panel including Festival hosts Michael and Emily Eavis, Glastonbury stage bookers and music business professionals had the task of choosing the winner and runners-up, and not for the first time one act really stood out. So, it was no great surprise when his name was called. London singer Josh Barry, self-styled Dreadlocked Funkstar yet as outwardly modest as he is talented, was crowned the winner, collecting a £5,000 Talent Development prize from the PRS Foundation to boot. Vocally Barry has all the ingredients of a classic soul singer; a powerhouse of emotion with nuanced expression and the occasional raw edge. All those elements are here in his exceptional song, “Spirit Road” while the close connection he made with the crowd was tangible.
Josh Barry came across as having paid plenty of dues working his way up through the UK’s underground dance scene and performing with some of dance music’s global stars. He epitomises the opportunity presented by Glastonbury ETC and has grasped it with both hands. Earlier in the evening country duo, Lucas & King, opened proceedings with their entry song “Crazy Heart”, featuring nicely blended electric guitar and vocals. Jeff Bridges would have approved. London singer Lilith Ai followed with her band. The front woman looked the business but I wasn’t completely sold on her range or melodies.
Silences, a five-piece from Armagh, Northern Ireland, had a tough act following Josh Barry, carrying the flag for indie rock, usually a staple in any Glastonbury line-up. Brightly led by vocalist/songwriter Conchur White, the band measured intensity with atmospheric melodies and episodic pauses. Both songs left you wanting more and I had a feeling that White could do a decent Feargal Sharkey should Stars In Their Eyes ever come back. After Josh Barry, Silences proved to be my particular favourites of the evening. Check out the band’s ETC entry, “There’s A Wolf”, here.
Next up was London duo, WOWH, whose brand of airy funk-pop with shades of Jamiroquai about it lacked distinction for me. Sheffield’s TYNI was a pop rocket caught in the four-chord trap and while her song “Fighter” was suitably feisty in the delivery, lyrically you’d heard it all before.
The two runners-up prizes went to the last two acts on the bill – Young Yizzy and Flohio – both grime artistes but quite different in their approach to the genre; 17-year old Young Yizzy a real showman MC with machine gun delivery and supported by an energetic crew, Flohio channelling anger alongside aspiration. Each receive a £2,500 Talent Development prize from the PRS Foundation and will get to play at the festival on the Silver Hayes Stage. As is becoming customary, while announcing the winners, Michael Eavis also revealed that all eight acts will be given slots at this year’s Festival. Everyone’s a winner, babe.
Photography by Jason Bryant.
Glastonbury Festival takes place from 21 – 25 June 2017
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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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