The best young bands come to Wychwood
Friday 03 June 2011
This year, for the second time, I've judged the bands who will be performing on the BBC Introducing stage at this weekend's Wychwood Festival. To sum up, this requires listening to 70 new bands originating from the seven regions surrounding the festival and narrowing them down to 10. This is much the same process as when I extract all CDs by new acts from my daily pile of post and take them home for a weekly session that I call "spin it or bin it". The session typically involves a bottle of wine, and a music-loving friend for that important second opinion. Any act that makes it to the second song goes on one pile, any that doesn't meets its less happy fate on the second. You must understand that the pile of new music is always large.
But in curating a stage for a festival, there is a difference: also lingering in the back of my mind is the need to provide a decent mix of music. On the back of the phenomenal success of Mumford & Sons and Noah and the Whale, I find there's a glut of folk-rock acts. This also applies to singer-songwriters. But who wants to see three hours of one man or woman and their guitar, strumming their pain? With this in mind, I hoped that as close as possible to 10 of my choices would tally up with those of the other three judges – BBC 6 Music's Tom Robinson, Radio 1's Bethan Elfyn and festival director Graeme Merrifield – and be included in the final line-up of 27 bands.
It's quite an opportunity for a new or unsigned band to win a slot at Wychwood, where 6,000 music lovers attend each of the festival's three days. There's the potential to be exposed to an audience of 1,000 (the capacity of the BBC Introducing stage), and share the bill with indie and folk acts such as The Charlatans, The Bluetones, Eliza Carthy and Cornershop.
Of the acts I heard this year, there were a few that stood out instantly, and will be taking to the stage this weekend. The first and top of my list, Alice Jemima, recalls the lilting acoustic pop of Norah Jones with her sweet, melodious "Won't Take You for Granted". So taken by her song, I had a quick Google and discovered that the south Devon singer-songwriter is just 17. She supported Nerina Pallot on tour in 2009 and has been recording with Andy Chatterley, who's also produced Kylie. The other stand-out act is Alphabet Backwards, whose boy/girl harmonising in "Blink of an Eye" recalls the joyous barn-dance fun of Sheffield's Slow Club. I was gripped by the moody psych-rock of Cardiff's The Keys' Bitten by Wolves and the heartfelt folk of Lonely Tourist's "Watch for the Sharks". The laid-back beatboxing of AJ also caught my attention, alongside the invigorating, angular rock of Cardiff's Cuba Cuba, whose debut album, Where Else Is Safe But the Road, is out on Walnut Tree Records this month.
It's worth noting that a few of the acts that we selected to perform on last year's Introducing stage have made it this year. Fixers, an Oxford band I described as "a refreshingly different-sounding five-piece psychedelic-pop band", have signed to Vertigo, joining the likes of Razorlight. Their new EP, "Here Comes 2001, So Let's All Head for the Sun", has just been released and they will support Noah and the Whale at London's Roundhouse at the iTunes Festival next month. The other big success is The Travelling Band, now signed to Cooking Vinyl and rebooked to play the festival, this time on the main stage.
Download the album of BBC Introducing Bands performing at this year's Wychwood Festival for free from www.wychwoodfestival.com/bbc-introducing-bands-downloads/
tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 3 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
Christmas Day TV guide 2014: What to watch from Strictly Come Dancing to the story of Frozen
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Felicity Jones on being Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything: 'I didn't want her to be a saint'
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader