London – The annual Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition, supported by PRS for Music and the PRS for Music Foundation, reached its climax on Saturday evening in the Somerset village of Pilton, close to the actual festival site. As a first round judge, Best New Bands has followed the action keenly and was especially pleased that one of our three Round One choices, Marcus McCoan, was among the eight acts who lined up to battle it out in the live final.
On paper, the final Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition judging panel, which embraced Glastonbury Festival hosts Michael and Emily Eavis together with Glastonbury stage bookers and music business professionals, had a daunting task to decide the winners. While you could hardly wish for a more welcoming environment than that of Pilton’s village hall, there were still many who preferred the sound of their own voices to those of the performers in an audience made up of band friends and families, plus locals. The stage crew were exemplary and the PA formidable, but what was that deep bass hum that seemed to accompany the early performers all about? Then there were nerves…
With each act limited to two songs, Marcus McCoan (above) drew the short straw of opening proceedings as people were still arriving. Accompanied by band mates Will Eason on keys and Brinley Hall (drums and samples), singer-guitarist McCoan began a little hesitantly with “Under My Skin” and followed with the outstanding song that got him to the final, “Call Out.” The tempo might have been brisker but the quality of this song allied to McCoan’s appealing vocal shone; a respectable start in not the easiest circumstances.
Next up was singer-songwriter Hattie Whitehead, accompanied by her band. The descending melody of opener “Old Soul” brought to mind the style of Laura Marling, but Whitehead equally revealed much individuality in the rises and falls of her crystalline vocal; at once delicate, though just as capable of strong crescendos. The flowing melody of her second song, “More Than That,” was crowned by a particularly effective build. Interestingly the artist chose to showcase newer songs rather than her Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition entry culled from the 2015 EP Home, which can be heard below.
Minor keys seemed to rule the day with the next two acts, Early Ghost and Henry Green. Both bands highlighted distinctive and quite differently pitched lead vocals, but perhaps the material in both cases was a wee bit too earnest and inaccessible for an evening like this. It fell to Liverpool band, She Drew The Gun, to ratchet up expectations, and the psych-pop outfit, fronted by personable singer-guitarist-songwriter Louisa Roach, duly fired. Again the band’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition entry song was eschewed in favour of the bluesy, delayed guitar driven ballad “If You Could See,” and the even more impressive social commentary opus, “Poem.” You sensed that the evening had reached a highpoint.
Indie-rockers Gillbanks, led by Falmouth’s Sam Gillbank, were on next. There was a sense that the band’s musical ideas were thrown in and trying to find a structure, which again made the material less accessible in tonight’s context. The final two acts did their very best to rouse the audience into a more vocal response. Amandah Wilkinson, of Glasgow-based duo Bossy Love, oozed R&B sass, but for me her overtly nasal vocal took the edge off things. Finally Birmingham’s Lady Sanity brought her Midlands blend of hip hop to the West Country, spinning some intelligent rhymes and connecting well with the crowd. Her Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition entry song “Kinda Funny” especially hit the spot.
As we waited to find out who would be called out as winners, there were plenty of debates going on around me. It was a case of “blink and you might miss it,” as the venerable Michael Eavis (shown with the winners above) announced the results in his trademark low-key stage manner. She Drew The Gun was proclaimed the winner, picking up a £5,000 Talent Development prize from the PRS Foundation, along with a slot on one of the Festival’s main stages, while the two runners-up – Bossy Love and Hattie Whitehead – each bagged a £2,500 PRS prize. There was added relief in the house when Eavis revealed that all eight acts will in fact be given slots at this summer’s Glastonbury Festival. Fair play indeed!
Photo of Glastonbury ETC winners by Jason Bryant for Best New Bands.
The 2016 Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition may be over, but Glastonbury Festival is just around the corner, taking place from 22 – 26 June 2016.
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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