Live: Young Guns and Francesqa – The Copper Rooms, 7/10/10

It’s a Thursday. Of all days, it’s a Thursday. We’re late. Kitteh takes forever getting ready and there isn’t another bus for half an hour. We can’t miss Francesqa, she says, I need to see them. I didn’t understand why the commotion, but okay, I’ll go with it. So she calls a taxi and while we wait, this freaky as hell old man comes out of the Well and stares at us. Literally stares. And gets closer. And closer. And closer. He’s terrifying, so we walk away, wait for the taxi, taxi arrives, we get to the union and people are still queuing anyway. Punk gigs are always so much simpler; I know where the venue is, I know who’s on, I know when to go, how much and it’s always more relaxed and less full of freshers. Or annoying exec members of other societies.

But here we were, and as part of my duties to my own society (scored secretary of Punksoc this year, I don’t even know how/what I’m supposed to do), we decided to go down to the union for Crash, the alternative night that happens every other week. But as it happens, this week, there were a couple of bands on beforehand. Francesqa seem to be a certain favourite of Kitteh’s right now and to be honest, I’d never heard of them. But they started playing as we got in, so we ran into the middle, stared up at the stage and witnessed magic unfold.

Francesqa are, quite frankly, the most exciting ‘alternative’ (and by that, I mean potentially mainstream) act to come out right now. I had no idea what to expect, but their music is ridiculously melodic, full of energy and beauty as well as being completely grandiose. Every song is a massive anthem, filling the room entirely. They already had a band of dedicated fans repping at the front, Kitteh included, and I couldn’t help but get swept into it all. The majority of their set came from their latest EP, We Lived, which Kitteh reviewed a few weeks ago and we highly recommend you purchase it. It’s an absolute blinder of a record. The same passion that comes through on the record definitely comes through live, and singer Ashley struggled on through, despite an oncoming illness without sacrificing the quality of the set. There were a few rarer B-sides thrown in to make up the rest though, and these songs were just as enthralling and polished as their lead material. As a band, they’re extremely well rehearsed and slick, and it’s clear that Francesqa know how to put on a good show. If you can catch them on their headline tour next month (which I sadly can’t), then do go and see them – you’re in for a right treat.

Young Guns were the night’s headliners, and possibly the biggest act that’s played in the Copper Rooms since it was built. Francesqa called the place a ‘cracking venue’, the rest of us are a little bit more unconvinced. Nevertheless, there were enough people for it not to feel as empty as it usually does at these affairs. I still felt a bit lost though. We’d recruited a couple of freshers (and some not freshers) who were more lost than I and attempted to see what all the fuss was about. All I know about Young Guns are that they’ve been in Kerrang, they’ve played Reading this year and fifteen year old girls seem to go mental for them. Most of those usually convince me to stay away from a band, but I’d paid my ticket price – no point in backing out. And to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. On the whole, it’s not my kind of music. Standard ‘scene’ fare, like You Me At Six, but a little more rock and roll. I was too busy staring at the frontman – Gustav has some impressive guns himself, I can tell you that! It’s easy to see how they’ve become so big in such a short amount of time though – they’re highly polished, but not so much that they’re too inaccessible; there’s still that raw energy to make them just exciting enough. And they’re a lot of fun. It’s still danceable, and the crowd did. There was even a vaguely impressive moshpit. Most material came from new album All Our Kings Are Dead, which Kitteh quite likes. Despite my general disdain for most stuff that appears in Kerrang these days, I can’t help but respect a band who puts out stuff on their own label, tours hard and plays hard. And that’s exactly what Young Guns did. They were psyched to be there, they put on a good show. That’s all I can ask.

No Talent, No Camaraderie, No Hope

Originally posted on 10/2/10
I stepped into the room gingerly. A bunch of Rocksoc kids are gathered around the stage making noise. Four boys stand nervously on a stage. A row of judges are being announced; none of them really matter. I pick a spot at the back behind the sound guy and wait. Battle of the Bands fucking sucks.

It’s been a very long time since I attended one of these affairs. Back in the day when a few friends had bands together, I’d go along and support them, but these were bigger scale events, meant for people who were actually serious about music. Bandsoc’s humble affair is a bit of a shambles in comparison. Six bands, each with a fifteen minute set – winner gets through to the final, a runner up goes through to a semi final where they pick one more band to go to the final. And it’s most likely rigged to hell. Unfortunately, for a competition so small, that’s how it works. Best friends, members of the society’s committee, the band that won last year… it’s all a bit incestuous, really. And almost all the bands are absolutely fucking terrible.

I just don’t know what it is about Battle of the Bands that draws such bad acts out. The fact that they can’t get shows anywhere else? Or because it’s the only place where they can get away with their generic, under rehearsed bullshit? This is synonymous with pretty much all BOTB competitions that aren’t being sponsored by some industry bigwig that require a comprehensive demo before they’ll let you anywhere near a stage. Also, it’s always the same type of band. Through the two heats I have seen thus far, there have been about seven out of twelve ‘generic rock bands’, a couple of prog bands, a bad excuse for pop-punk, a weird Yellowcard-esque post-hardcore band and a shit indie band. The overwhelming amount of ‘insert generic rock here’ involved in this competition is ridiculous. It’s easy, but it sure as hell isn’t any good. And I think this is generally why I don’t go to these kind of things – there’s no real variation. Any band that steps away from the formula doesn’t really get taken into account because the judges go batshit insane for… well… shit. It’s as if nobody’s learnt to diversify and are still digging their dad’s Def Leppard cds he keeps in the glove compartment because he can’t play them in the house.

But ultimately, what I hate about Battle of the Bands is the way that each band bitches about the other. Okay, I’ll admit, that in some cases (like last night), it’s a totally valid practise, especially when your band does happen to be much better than everyone else on the set list. However, in general, there’s no camaraderie. I realise that ultimately, BOTB is a competition. The term ‘battle’ is in the name, so of course people are going to begrudge their fellow bands a win. However, there’s no need to take it out on the rest of the guys when you lose. I always think back to the Cobra Skulls song “Anybody Scene My Cobra” (look it up, it’s a damn good song) and the chorus in it –

No scene, no scene, no scene
No camaraderie, this might as well be battle of the bands
No scene, no scene, no scene
No common enemy, we might as well be playing in a talent show

The fact that BOTB and talent shows are being used as a negative example of how music should be conducted… well, I think that says it all.

So, why do I subject myself to it? The hope of scoping out pretty boys? Vaguely. The fact I have nothing better to do on a Tuesday night? A contributing factor. Because it gave me inspiration to start my own band based on how awful the majority of bands have been so far? Most definitely. The truth is, there is this part of me that wants to support live music as much as I can, especially in the student union where there is hardly anything to cater to somebody with my specific musical interests. So I go, grit my teeth and think of how scathing an article I can write about it the next day.