Glastonbury's 'X-Factor' offers slots to new acts

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The Independent Culture

Those who annually don wellingtons and pack tents might be shocked at the thought, but Glastonbury is taking The X Factor route. For the UK's biggest music festival is hijacking the format of the Saturday night television show in an attempt to find the brightest unsigned rock talent.

A regular club night called The Holy Cow is touring the country in search of potential stars. The judges' favourites will then compete against each other before the winners are offered slots on stage at the legendary festival, held at the end of June.

The night is the brainchild of Emily Eavis, daughter of the festival founder Michael Eavis, and her co-organiser Nick Dewey. At the launch in London's The Social club last night, the indie outfit The Courteeners and New York hipsters Vampire Weekend wowed a crowd of 150 rock fans in an attempt to win the favour of watching judges.

The Courteeners, whose performances over the past year in their home city of Manchester have led to favourable comparisons with bands such as Oasis and The Libertines, were drafted in at the last minute after The Envy Corps pulled out because they could not fly over from the United States in time.

"As a festival we would really like to lead the way in new music", said Ms Eavis, whose father launched the precursor to Glastonbury, called the Pilton Festival, as a small-scale event attended by 1,500 people at Worthy Farm in 1970. "The aim is to collect as many new bands as possible throughout the year and build up a strong roster of new acts. We're really after unsigned acts and finding the best newcomers from all corners of the country and beyond. We've had some brilliant debut sets throughout the years, where bands start at Glastonbury on a very small stage and end up playing the Pyramid in a few years."

Precisely that path has been trodden by many acts that have gone on to sell millions of albums worldwide, including Coldplay and Oasis. "We are inundated with new music all year round and I want us to tap into some of the incredible talent that we have around the country," said Ms Eavis. "There are hundreds of acts across the country who feel frustrated at not being heard, and it seems a shame just to let them go."

Ms Eavis and Mr Dewey are promising to put on Holy Cow nights wherever there is sufficient interest in them. They have set up a page on the social networking site MySpace, where they are encouraging new acts to post music and win the chance to perform at one of their nights, which will initially be held every six to eight weeks.

"This is as much about us finding good music as good music finding us," said Ms Eavis. "That's the value of the internet. We want to go wherever we know there's a chance of unearthing great music. If we find it in the Shetlands, we'll head there. It's not about sticking to London or the big cities."

The next Glastonbury festival is from 27-29 June next year.

Festival finds

* Coldplay: Chris Martin's band made their debut in the New Bands Tent in 1999. A year later they return to perform on the Other Stage, and a year after that they headlined on the Pyramid Stage.

* David Bowie: His performance on the Pyramid Stage in 1971 boosted his reputation, and in the following year he would unleash his androgynous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, on an unsuspecting nation.

* Oasis: The Gallagher brothers performed on the NME stage in 1994, and made a memorable return in 1997, on the Main Stage.

* Radiohead: Their performance on the NME stage in 1994 was followed, in 1997, by a remarkable headline show on the Pyramid Stage.

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