14 bands started out in January as young, hopeful musicians battling it out for only one thing: eternal bragging rights as Exeter’s finest student band (oh, and a £500 cash prize). As the numbers slowly whittled down week by week through audience vote and the judge’s pick, the competition got fiercer until just four finalists remained. Tension was in the air in Cavern on Saturday night. Who would emerge victorious?
First to grace the stage was Lucius and Milo, a four-piece band of humble Classicists who admit they didn’t expect to reach the final stage of the competition. They opened the night with a mix of acoustic intricacy and guitar heavy crowd pleasers to warm up the audience of friends and fans alike. Playing “their own brand of modern alt-rock” Lucius and Milo performed some original songs that show real potential, displaying a wealth of vocal talent and an impressive guitar solo in ‘Streets of London’, along with crowd favourites ‘Muse’, ‘Harvest’ and ‘Alinon’. Their set ended with a cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Holocene’, which although enjoyable perhaps the harmonies were a strained and proved too much towards the end. Overall a solid performance from Lucius and Milo, kicking off the night with a bang.
This band are not to be forgotten about anytime soon
After a short interlude of drink refills, the next band of the evening were the energetic Trystero, who promised a loud, statement-making performance. In previous gigs, front man Jack Kerrigan had treated us to some wacky dance moves, jolting all over the stage, but there was none of this at the final. More dancing needed. Pretty, summery guitar melodies floated through verses and strong, sharp chords ripped through the choruses with ease, the band’s influences from the Midwestern Emo genre clearly shining through. At times, the vocals became a little more shouting than singing, yet the pedal used to layer the vocals to close each song worked brilliantly, and made Trystero really stand out. This band are not to be forgotten about anytime soon.
CHEBS, the third band of the evening battling with blood, sweat and tears to win, came to Cavern with their entire fan base. There were cardboard signs, chants and hand drawn t-shirts, proving CHEBS’ ever-extending popularity. In the previous heats the funk and soul band had relied on covers to push them through, and the final was no different, playing to the audience with multiple Stevie Wonder covers and a genius mash-up of ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘No Diggity’, which naturally had the crowd under the CHEBS spell. They ended their set however with a ‘medley’ of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar, which felt more like three songs played in quick succession to get as many covers in as they could, rather than a good ear merging the songs technically. Talent and confidence exudes from each of the three singers, and the entirety of the band, but for a competition where originality and creativity is key, perhaps they should have played more originals to win the judges’ vote.
National Acrobats turned their final slot on stage into a worthy headline act
The last band to battle it out was the well-established National Acrobats. With their classic indie sound and catchy original songs we all already know and love such as ‘Jericho’, ‘Figures’ and ‘Tell Me’, National Acrobats were set out from the first heat to do well in the competition as their success from last year put them in good stead. The main vocals from Tom and backing from Adam worked especially well together in ‘I Can’t Dance’, and they should think about bringing more harmonies into the songs to add another dynamic. At times, another guitar was definitely needed when the synth melodies were played as it made the band sound a little thin, but National Acrobats were on top form, and turned their final slot on stage into a worthy headline act.
As with every round of the competition, Dave Garcia announced the winners after a purposefully long nail-biting pause – hell for the anxious bands – and National Acrobats deservedly took the crown.
Find out more about all four bands here.