The annual locking of devil-horns is once again underway in West Devon as swathes of angst-clad metal bands from all over the county puff out their pentagram-inked chests and rampantly rotate their plentiful locks in the general direction of one or two terrified indie bands who are already irrevocably consumed by the dual issues of finding the meaning of life and a spare plectrum. After all, it’s a big world out there. Plectrums get lost proper easily.
Yes, by the time these words float their way down your optic nerve to the snug retreat of your brain, Okehampton Battle Of The Bands will once again be underway. And it’s one of the finest damn musical battles in all of Devon. Do not presume to think you can disrespect it by insinuating there’s a disproportionate amount of metal bands that clog up the plughole of the heats with their doom-laden musing and cochlea-scything vocal deliveries. Devon loves its early-noughties metal, and so it shall be!
I jest in my hackneyed stance, of course. The distortion-rich, thunderclap bands I watched and met in last year’s heats were populated by some of the most talented and gracious guitarists I’ve ever seen in young underground bands.
Okehampton’s Battle Of The Bands is a well-oiled, supremely organised thing too. And it gives 21 bands, who battle it out across three heats, the chance to perform in the final in front of a crowd of thousands at Okehampton’s Party In The Park. Prizes for the well-supported competition include trophies, booze, vocal tuition, recording time, a professional video shoot, a professional photo shoot and instruments. Winners are also handed slots at local festivals TavisRock 2011 and Chagstock 2012. The prizes are worth thousands of pounds.
But perhaps the most important, encouraging and stimulating thing about Okehmapton’s BOTB is that bands are so well respected. They are kept informed, given great onstage sound and just generally treated well. The fans that turn out for the heats are all hugely supportive too, whether or not they’re into your music. They get behind any band that take to the stage. And if you impress them, you’re in for a treat. The organisers are doing a consistently brilliant job, year on year.
Heat 2 takes place tomorrow night (29th) at Okehampton’s Charter Hall and sees North Devon bands Flee Mt Fuji and Conflict Against take to the stage. Fingers crossed for both of them. You can follow their progress with live updates on Twitter @BOTBOke. Better still, head down there. It’s free. I think. Visit www.okehamptonbattleofthebands.co.uk for more.
In other news, Barnstaple has a new open mic night. Or at least an old one that’s been taken over by Black Hole Promotions, who are determined to make it work. It’s getting busier week by week, so if you fancy jamming out a bit of song you have, meeting like minded musicians, or simply having a pint against the ever-creative backdrop of furtive musical dalliance then redirect your Thursday evenings to the A Level absentee’s favourite hangout, The Wrey Arms. Instruments are provided.
In any village, and any town, and any city, bands and band commentators have a mutually beneficial relationship.
It’s easy to think that music journalists and band bloggers are parasitic; unashamedly leeching off every note, riff and song written by the bands they stalk – before flogging the results for all the world to see. They need something to write about to survive, after all.
But it’s not true.
As I said, the relationship is mutually beneficial. Sure, bloggers get something to blog. Journalists get something to journalise. But, more importantly, bands get their voice heard. From fanzines to blogs, gig reviews to previews of the latest downloads, healthy local music scenes have a healthy commentary.
That’s not a gratuitous big-up to those who write about music. It’s a fact. And the ultimate plaudits go to the bands anyway – for getting on stage, committing to recordings and practising week in, week out in whatever foul-smelling, parentally-parented or prohibitively extortionate rehearsal space they can squeeze their amps into.
And lo! It’s happening here.
Recently, the salvation of the North Devon music scene has been that which is boiling to the surface in Bideford – largely due to the industry of Black Hole Promotions, who are organising more gigs in North Devon at the moment than anyone else. And sure as sure is sure, as anything musically worth comment occurs, commentary springs up. So it is now, in the form of a blog on the increasingly industrious Arts and Entertainment North Devon website.
Arts and Entertainment North Devon’s modus operandi is to ‘promote the visual and performing arts in Devon’, which sounds all well and generic. But there’s a blog on there titled “Talli’s Music Blog” which is scooping up all the bits of what’s happening musically in North Devon and broadcasting it quite insightfully and with no lack of enthusiasm to an ever-broadening audience.
This is how scenes grow.
So go there. It’s a worthy resource if you want to stay on top of the ever-sedulous, ever-raucous activities of the likes of The Dead Betas and Jackdaws, who are two of a few bands doing it good-ways for North Devon at present.
The address is thus: www.artsandentertainment.org.uk/tallis-music-blog.html.
Finally, a reminder that if you ever were a fan of dirty, hot, sweaty, underground live music action then heading to The Palladium this Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings is an absolute must. The bi-annual Beta Fest, organised by Black Hole (naturally) is happening in a big way. Tickets are available on the door from 6pm on Friday and 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. With 30 bands playing, it’s going to be a bandalistic, beautiful beast of youthful brilliance and booze and bravado.
I recommend you go, if you like that sort of thing.