After months of planning the day finally arrived for the III El Intercambio Battle of the Bands at Louie Louie’s Rock and Roll Bar in Estepona Port, on Saturday 4 October, 2014.
With nine bands in the contest plus last year’s second place winners due to perform all the signs were that the audience were in for a treat, and they certainly weren’t disappointed.
Up first were Syl and Ric’s Folk Jazz Band, a four-piece band fronted by French duo Sylvie Chadourne and Ric Meric who began their set with two solid original tracks “Shout it Loud” and “Brand New Day”, before finishing off with their version of the Ray Charles classic “Unbreak My Heart”.
Up next were, Minimal Soul Circus, who were returning to the contest after taking third place in the first edition back in 2012. The MSC soon enthralled the audience with their clever use of their loop machine, building up their sound with singer Carmen Libelula’s rich vocal, and Nacho Velasco’s dexterity on bass guitar, lead guitar, saxophone and saw (yes the kind you cut wood with). Using this method they ran through their set, originals “Mystery Man” and “Chasing Rainbows” before rounding off their performance with the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” during which Nacho Velasco took the floor with his Diablo, the “Circus” element of the act. I’m not sure this impressed the judges, but the audience certainly enjoyed it.
Having been a judge at the first two Battle of the Bands, the Rock on the Rock’s Allan Alman showed just why he was eligible to be on the jury by this year entering the contest with his rock band Come in Leon. Starting with their energetic cover of “Live and Let Die”, they concluded with their two originals which included the haunting and beautiful “You” Allan’s tribute to his young son and writing partner Jay Allman who sadly passed away in 2012.
The fourth band to take to the stage were Spanish reggae, rock, funk, rap six-piece from Malaga, Futu Matano, whose energetic and original working of the Bob Marley anthem “I Shot the Sheriff” soon had the crowd buzzing. With their original tracks “Mare” and “La Casa de las Nuncas Abiertas” straight from their latest album, it became evident that Futu Matano was going to be in the mix for a trophy.
Taking the midway slot local singer songwriter Gareth Owen, accompanied by Billy on the Cajon, his bluesy, gravel laden vocals were a stark contrast to the snap-rap for Futu Matano, showing the eclectic range of music available in Andalucia. Opening with his self-penned “Sexy Mother Lady” and “Forever”, before his cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” his passionate performance held the audience in his spell.
On next were the Algeciras death metal band Kathew. Knowing what to expect following their performance at last year’s event I watched with anticipation the audience’s reaction to their set. I was not to be disappointed as once again their combination of theatrics, pounding beats, and demonic performance by frontman Javier Fajardo both terrified and mesmerised the audience with equal measure. Following two thundering originals “Bucle Vital” and “Insurreccion” it was their reworking of the Prodigy’s “Breathe” that sent the audience wild. Having missed out on a trophy last year by just four points, could this prove to be Kathew’s year.
Returning to the local music scene, on stage next were Estepona alt-rockers The Tragic Company, who were keen to impress with their latest album coming out in December. Sure enough they were not going to disappoint, running through their crowd-pleasers “Burning Lung” and “Shadeless” before letting rip with a rendition of Foo Fighters hit “The Pretender”.
The penultimate slot was reserved for the youngest participants in the competition, with a lead singer having the tender age of just 14 MidRiff were the young pretenders in this battle for the crown of best band. As soon as they opened their set all notion of ‘pretenders’ was swept away though, with a performance that belied their young age. It took me back to last year’s Gibraltar Singer Songwriter competition at which I was pleased to be invited along as a judge, and reaffirmed the jury’s decision to give the band’s frontmen, vocalist Alexej Baglietto and guitarist Alex Vallejo first prize in that contest. Back to this competition though and their originals “Speed” and “Sunlight” was rounded off with the rocking “Killing in the Name Of” by Rage Against The Machine.
Last but not least were Moonshine, another band who were no strangers to the Battle of the Bands, having taken part in the very first one we held in Sotogrande. Moonshine brought all their years of experience to the show, playing and performing the hell out of their songs “Days of Summer” and “Today” which culminated in the most compositional reworked cover version of the night, Remember (Walking in the Sand) by the Shangri Las given a new arrangement with screaming guitars in the intro from Shawn and a touching vocal rendition by their lead singer Mandy Charles. Although preceded by eight bands Moonshine were a great way to end the night.
With all the bands having performed the judges slipped away to discuss their verdicts and tot up the scores, during which time last year’s second place winners Headwires showed just how far they had come since the very first Battle of the Bands, in which they received the Judges’ Merit. With an album release this year, along with a slot at the Gibraltar Music Festival alongside the likes of “Scouting for Girls” “Rita Ora” and “The Script” they are a testament to the faith that the 2012 panel of judges had in them.
As Headwires left the stage the judges returned to deliver their verdicts which were:
Winner – Corinthian Trust Trophy and El Intercambio Shield
€300, plus paid gigs at Louie Louie’s and Gibraltar’s Rock on the Rock, along with a day’s studio time.
Second Place – Northern Homes Trophy
Third Place – Debanairs Trophy
The Tragic Company
Judge’s Merit Award
People’s Choice – Tal Cual Trophy
Once again the panel of judges was composed of expert professionals from the local music industry and comprised:
Mark is an accomplished guitarist playing with a host of bands, as a teacher both private and at a number of schools – currently at Sotogrande International School, and as a producer and owner of Studio 67 based in Fuengirola. Mark also provides online guitar lessons.
James Culatto is both an accomplished musician and songwriter as well as a respected music journalist writing for a number of local newspapers and magazines.
Bryan is well known in local musical circles, chiefly for his work with local artists at his Mr Freaklips Recording Studio, and also as a rapper and recording artist in his own right.
Head of Music at Sotogrande International School.
Paul Sedkowski is the co-founder of Meer Music International, a music and radio production company in the US and has worked with and/or developed well over 200 artists and groups, and has written or co-written well over 4000 songs, of which over 1000 have been produced.