LIVE REVIEW >> Centre Stage 2013 finals

Centre Stage 2013 finals
O2 Academy Leeds // Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wow! What a night! It was the culmination of four months’ of hard work by 11 bands, both in rehearsing and fundraising, and it kicked off with a bang, thanks to last year’s winners GLASSBODY and the kids from Rock School offering a wall of percussion excellence.

Glassbody are such a great band – I love how confident they are on stage, their soaring indie rock seems effortless, so natural and so damn cool.

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The first competitors were ROMAN BISON who set the standard well. Their dark Editors-like rock sounded huge, but the vocals were a little lost, I thought.

Up next, THE PUPPETEERS, who a few weeks ago became the first band ever to play at the new first direct arena in Leeds. They played the same tunes they did in that huge venue, but they still sounded massive in the Academy. Nice.

JACOBEAN RUFF‘s delicate folk delights were always going to be a challenge but they nailed it. Family (an exclusive acoustic version of which can be enjoyed in our #BTDsessions HERE) demanded the attentions of the murmuring crowd, and swelled into a wonderfully solid tune. They clearly made their mark with the judges, as they came runners-up in the competition.

To be honest, THE IMPORTS, didn’t do much for me. I’d come downstairs to get a better vibe and be in the crowd for this lot, but I just didn’t feel it. Their mod-punk tunes weren’t as tight as the previous acts, and there seemed to be bags of nerves up on that stage. They looked like they had fun, though.

Then the bar was raised. ICARUS. knocked it out of the park. There was something that clicked when I saw this lot in the heats, and after their three-song set, which ended with the fabulous For You, I was so chuffed for them. They’re a playful lot, full of dancey hooks and soaring guitars. Keep an eye on this band. I honestly had them pegged as winners after that performance.

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HEADWIRE had the coolest drummer of the night. Kristi might have been tucked away at the back of the stage behind a drum kit, but she proved herself to be a contender for frontman. Singer Sidd did a good enough job to keep (most of) the focus on him, though, leading his band through a bold set of indie rock.

QUENTIN’S BASEMENT finally made it to the O2 Academy stage after narrowly missing out on a place in the finals back in 2011. Tonight, they made the most of it, though, kicking up a right good fuss with their snappy indie tunes. Like an early Arctic Monkeys or Bromhead’s Jacket, their Yorkshire swagger is cheeky, confident, but not too cocky. Great fun bunch.

Up next was soul-pop dude YO PRESTON. His very polished set was cut a tad short – well, he’d used up his allotted time, and wasn’t allowed to play the third song he thought he could do – but we got (I think) the same two songs from the heats. Not a bad thing, as it’s always cool to hear them through a huge sound system. I like this guy – his Bruno Mars-like pop is really fresh. He was a lot less cruise ship performer at the finals, and a more accomplished artist. I’m going to keep an eye on this fella.

THE AMAZING SCUBA DIVERS are a tough one to write about. I honestly can’t really remember them. Can’t blame the beer, as I’d not hit the bar hard at £4.50 a pint. Looking at the pictures Sodium took still hasn’t jogged my memory, really. They didn’t have much of an impact at all, which is crazy coz I gave all the bands my fullest attention.

Maybe its because PONY & TRAP followed, and made me go a bit giddy. Sally and Tom are such an exciting prospect. Their art-pop is just fucking great. Snappy guitars, a pounding beat and a colourful vocal delivery. Their second tune, which has an untypable title went a bit squiffy as the samples were ever-so-slightly out of sync to the duo’s own beats. Regardless, I loved this lot. Contenders for the title, so I thought…
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York indie boys KING NO-ONE were the last band to take to the stage. Possibly taking the title from Mexanines for the tightest jeans, the four-piece cruised through a driving set of grand indie rock. On stage, the boys looked more than comfortable, and they came away with as winners of Centre Stage 2013. They’ll get to wow the crowds at Leeds and Reading Festivals next month, and I can’t wait to see them there.

THE MEXANINES chose to reveal their new six-piece line-up at the Centre Stage finals, airing three hot new songs which make the most of the doubled-up line-up. The sax breaks in Wonderland are stunning and the new vibe they have is really fresh. I’m looking forward to catching a full set from this new and improved lot very soon. A great way to end a fantastic night.

A huge well done to all the finalists – your hard work has helped to raise more than £32,000 for Martin House Children’s Hospice, which is an incredible achievement.

Click HERE to listen back to all the live sets from the Centre Stage finals, courtesy of ELFM.

I’ve written the word ‘indie’ rather a lot. Next year, I’d love to see some young bedroom producer turn up with a laptop, sample pad, and a wealth of crazy ideas, or maybe a hip-hop crew or something. Pony And Trap and Jacobean Ruff proved you don’t have to be a guitar-welding rock band of boys to make a stir. Let’s have more surprises next year!

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