FESTIVAL REVIEW: Bands battle over two sizzling days in Horsham

Catfish. Picture by Lawrence Smith
Catfish. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Horsham music lovers couldn’t have hoped for better weather at this year’s Battle of the Bands grand finals (Saturday and Sunday, August 8 and 9).

As the first day begins, it’s clear from the completely blue sky that it’s going to be a scorcher with brilliant sunshine predicted for the Sunday as well.

Flying Low. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Flying Low. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Covers final (Saturday)

Kick-starting the weekend is an oddly effective duo – Jodie and the Beat. Acoustic guitarist Jodie Munday plays gently, singing with a husky and soulful voice, while her beatboxer companion ‘Mr Beats’ provides surprisingly hard-hitting garage rhythms.

Next up, the young rockers from SOS – all 14 years old – impress with covers of Blondie’s ‘One Way Or Another’ and Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’, injecting some attitude into a pleasing selection of rock anthems.

Catfish, who were recently named as finalists in the British Blues Awards 2015, blow everyone away with their groovy blues rock. The awesome 20-year-old guitarist Matt Long is determined to “bring some Mississippi heat to Horsham” and easily does so with his band’s seductive sound.

Team New Band. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Team New Band. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Catfish are a tough act to follow so it’s no surprise that The Girl Who Cried Wolf, a young, all-female rock group don’t quite have the same impact. However, they provide some strongly melodic rock covers and lead vocalist Anabel Mather has a particularly powerful delivery.

Flying Low stroll onto the stage like rock stars, performing explosive versions of Jet’s ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ and Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’ with a manic exuberance.

Dressed all in black, Valdezz look like they mean business and don’t disappoint with their muscular covers of old-school hits like Free’s ‘Wishing Well’.

Originals final (Saturday)

Fruitcake. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Fruitcake. Picture by Lawrence Smith

There’s no chance of anyone dozing off in the afternoon heat as Team New Band hit the stage. A self-described alternative to boring and pretentious music, TNB are clearly here to have fun, unleashing several unhinged songs that crackle with punk energy.

One Click Malice’s bombastic grunge-rock leaves a lasting impression too, as the band’s colossal guitar riffs fill the venue. Afterwards Fruitcake, probably the most overtly ‘punk’ band of the day, tug at the heartstrings with their earnest and emotionally raw tunes.

In contrast, Kramer give the audience something a bit mellower as the sun finally begins to set. Their stirring, yet smooth sound has a strangely eerie edge thanks to the efforts of their keyboard player.

Bedhed make it clear that the competition isn’t going to end quietly as their crashing melodies echo across the park. For a Horsham-based band they have a very American sound – brash, catchy and undeniably uplifting.

Killing Vegas

Killing Vegas

Although they’re not in this year’s contest the 2012 BotB winners Killing Vegas give it everything they’ve got for their headline gig. Their pummelling brand of metal boasts riffs as sharp as their frontman’s mohawk, but they have some fascinating prog elements in there as well. The tunes are exciting enough but their performance gets an extra dose of adrenaline thanks to a couple of fearless stuntwomen, who let some sparks fly with the help of their trusty angle grinders.

Acoustic final (Sunday)

After a long Saturday packed with dynamic rock acts, Sunday calms things down with a laid-back line-up of acoustic musicians.

There are some beautifully sincere and gentle songs about love, loss and life from guitarists Mike Whiteley, Mark Ben Wilson and Trevor Clawson followed by some harder-hitting material from Chris Lee-Delisle.

Afterwards, the female fronted and free-spirited FLOK soothe the audience with a sweet and ethereal sound that’s simply perfect for a chilled afternoon.

Stewart Cochrane livens things up a bit with his no-nonsense approach to songwriting. Then the festival gets a lot rowdier thanks to the irrepressible Danny Dangerously.

Danny Dangerously. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Danny Dangerously. Picture by Lawrence Smith

Danny makes excellent use of his loop pedal, layering beatbox rhythms over the top of his guitar riffs to help create his unique blend of UK hip hop and punk rock.

Hollie Rogers admits that her music can be a tad depressing, but her subtly engaging and expressive vocals grab hold of the listener and refuse to let go, no matter how bitter and sorrowful her subject matter might be.

Patrick Kimber takes his music into much darker territory with one song inspired by murder documentaries. Patrick’s material has the potential to be distasteful but his unconventional and mournful vocals bring a kind of intelligent tenderness to the bleak subject matter.

In complete contrast, Jodie Munday offers some wonderfully upbeat comedy songs about her friends and family, gently poking fun at their quirks and foibles in a way that utterly wins the audience over.

Finally, last year’s winner Robin Tunnel arrives onstage to regale listeners with his warm-hearted blues while the judges reach a decision.

It’s been a long, hot weekend but one that the town’s live music fans have truly appreciated.

Click here to find out who won the Horsham Battle of the Bands 2015.

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Jodie Munday

Jodie Munday