Champions, Bournemouth

The night started off with the news that the second band on the bill, Remember Paris, had pulled out. Conjuring up images of Spinal tap, the American pop-punk outfit had broken down nowhere other than Stonehenge!

A sparse Sunday evening crowd stayed mainly sat down for opening act The Neon Mile, possibly more out of embarrassment at where to stand than any lack of enthusiasm. It was a spirited performance in what was their third ever gig after being holed up writing and recording. Their second song ‘Last Horizon’ was a punchy upbeat number delivered in ramshackle fashion, after which the lead vocals switched from the one guitarist to the man in the middle occupying guitars and synth. His voice was infused with melodrama in a bittersweet song about a man named David with more than a nod and wink to the vocal stylings of Cocker, and Bowie.

The Neon Mile

The gaps between songs left just enough time for you to notice the creaking of the stage under foot and to begin wondering why the bassist, clearly enjoying himself, was wearing a waistcoat while the others were casually dressed. Their self-deprecating between-song chatter probably just displayed an unsure attitude natural for a band in their infancy, while their grungy bittersweet pop and intriguingly clever lyrics endearingly demand further listening.


Jackhatch then came on to play a high-octane set of tightly packed and tightly played rock nuggets. Immediately the opener ‘Not Much Closer struck with it’s strong melody and three part harmonies and before you know it frontman Chris leant in to jokingly blurt ‘Phil Collins’ before drummer Mike took to the literal mic for a middle-eight. They continued to display a fondness and panache for inventive backing vocals and harmonies on ‘The Last Time’ with its acapella breakdown.

As the set wore on heavier influences were worn increasingly on their chests when finishing in a blur of halftime, and doubletime sections. Barely a moment is wasted in their songcraft, creating tunes that will stay in your head, and they’ve clearly gleaned from other three-pieces like Reuben and Biffy Clyro. Penultimate track ‘Jonny Runner’ was for me the set highlight and you could hear traces of cartoonesque lyrical humour once again reminiscent of of Reuben in their lighter moments. This band
from Bath, who two weeks ago played a special acoustic set for friends and fans at a mate’s house in Bournemouth, brilliantly displayed their rock credentials and why they could make it to many rooms sweaty, packed and singing their songs back at them.


Headline act Wildfire stepped onto the stage with a slow-burning opener of indie/alternative proportions. The somewhat indecipherable lyrics of the first song were followed by the announcement that the second song doesnít have a name yet. While this didn’t initially suggest promise, it soon became evident that here was another three-piece that can create a big sound. With melancholic cleanly picked guitar, doom-laden bass-lines and vocals expressive as much as lyrical, they are a band that could be described as ’emo’ if that dirty word could be reclaimed from any kind of ‘scene’ and accompanying hairstyle.

‘Silhouette’ started with another epic drum roll, and while the drum patterns were in danger of sounding repetitive, the drummer was very good and at only 15, it was impressive to watch him at work. ‘Super Scratch’ conveyed a punkier edge to their repertoire and with the frontman Angus alluding to an exam tomorrow, it was great to see a young band imbued with a defined sound. The singer Angus, fresh-faced, wearing skinny jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt looked quite the part and proved a very natural and effervescent frontman to boot.

They saved the best till last, building their final offering to a crescendo of screeching guitars and post-rock atmospheres; visceral, aggressive and at the same time quite sublime and epic. They didn’t hold back, frontman Angus stating quite literally that ‘blood went into that performance’, and they concluded a bill that certainly deserved a far bigger crowd at Champions.

Guest Reviewer Tom Whitman.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to MySpace