iBar, Bournemouth

The ‘Rock Sound Exposure’ tour is a way for Rock Sound magazine to give us a preview of some of the best upcoming talent in the UK by selecting three bands to travel across the country. Their second stop was at Champions in Bournemouth, but sadly, due to Champions having ceiling problems, the gig was moved to iBar which I felt was a better suited venue for the grunge fueled line-up rock sound have provided for the tour.

There is a buzz in iBar as a mixed aged crowd starts to pile up (pardon the pun) with the end of an exhausting week for myself meeting the relief of knowing that I was about to witness some of the freshest upcoming bands of 2011. In all honesty, I am an avid reader and subscriber to Rock Sound magazine which only encouraged my trust in their promoters organising an amazing night of music.

With a pretty full iBar crowd and a buzzing atmosphere ever present, The Blackwater Caravan were on the case to keep the atmosphere building as they smashed into their set with a very mixed sound, which is formed through patches of indie guitar mixed with occasional grunge style basslines and very technical drumming which impressed me especially, being a drummer myself.

Front man Zac Harris showed very strong vocals and managed to control his voice to achieve different pitches perfectly. You can only criticise his ‘stage fright’ as he struggled to interact with the crowd and hid behind his long hair while mentioning their merchandise for sale. Nonetheless, this band sounds a lot like an undeveloped Muse with similar patterns through long instrumental interludes and intricate guitar solos. I doubt Zac Harris is going to be the next Matt Bellamy, but from how much effort he puts in, who knows.

After a strong set from the openers, it was up to unique grunge five piece Japanese Voyeurs, consisting of four guys and front girl, Romily to get the ball rolling for the three co headline acts. Instantly the room is lit up by the powerful twist of grunge rock being shown by the five piece, but sadly Romily’s microphone was not loud enough, so the first track was mainly instrumental. In a way, this stripped down their sound and made me appreciate how they have fused a strange synth into their grunge rock and after a poor start, the band made up for it by playing their current single ‘Milk Teeth’ which received a good response and started a sudden surge of confidence. With the levels back to how they should be, Romily had a smile on her face as the crowd started to egg her on as they rallied onwards. Romily’s voice is very high pitched and is probably what Avril Lavigne would sound like if she was on helium. This is of no offence to her, as this only helps encourage an eerie feel to their music and after researching the band, this is what they are trying to achieve.

The second half of their set was full of confidence as the crowd got more and more into their sound and the infectious head banging by the band soon spread across the crowd. Despite a poor start (most likely because of sound problems), the band pulled through eventually.

It’s halfway through the night and a few faces are looking old and tired, but on come Dinosaur Pile Up and from the off, ‘Birds & Planes’ which is also the first track from their debut album ‘Growing Pains’ kicks the iBar crowd into life. It’s clear the band have some serious talent, showing effortless harmonies, soaring vocals from front man Matt Bigland and a very heavy sound, which is a lot heavier than their recordings. After speaking to the band members, front man Matt told me that both he and the bands bassist couldn’t hear each other very well and with some typical poor lighting from the venue, they also couldn’t see what they were doing. Somehow, despite this, they managed to smash track after track including their current single ‘Mona Lisa’ as well as old crowd favourites ‘My Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Traynor’ in which their bassist lunged off the stage and played the last part of the song in the middle of the crowd, and shortly after he was joined by Matt, which raised smiles as a circle formed around them.

A few technical issues meant that occasionally microphones were switched on and off, but again, the band managed to overcome this with their instrumental strengths. I love seeing a three piece rock band flourish and I hope they manage to make it up there with the likes of Green Day and Muse and come back to Bournemouth for their upcoming tour in April.

It was now time for The Xcerts to close the night and it’s clear they have a good local following as they jokingly reminisce on the last time they played in Bournemouth and their crowd number didn’t hit double figures, so it must have been a dream come true to come back and find a healthy following singing along to their songs. My main admiration for the band has to be how they manage to explore the spectrum of their self described genre of ‘distorted pop’, showcasing a clear love of changing the tempo of their songs throughout their set.

Versatility is a key attribute to any bands arsenal, and as they played some slow melodic rock and then managed to switch into power soaked rock and roll, you can’t help but smile. There was even a hint of grunge in their set as they occasionally erupted through their innocent melodic side with aggressive vocals from front man Murray Macleod, but again being able to control this aggression to perfection. The highlight for me had to be the band’s latest single ‘Slackerpop’ from their new album ‘Scatterbrain’, which demonstrated the attributes the band possess in the form of melodic, upbeat songs with hints of controlled aggression.

The bands finished their set triumphantly and their varied styles were a great way to end the night with a theme of anthemic ballards forming during the latter of their performance, which the crowd were very fond of. The employees of Rock Sound are definitely on to something here as we can establish from tonight that there is every reason to be proud of the upcoming bright sparks of British rock.


Japanese Voyeurs Set list
You’re So Cool
Get Hole
Milk Teeth
Mother Me


Words by;
George Fullerton.

Pictures by;
Chinners & Jon.

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