Horsham Battle of the Bands
Published on 1st September 2015
VIDEO FROM 2015 BOTB WINNERS 'NEW TEAM BAND' ABOVE!
Horsham's Battle of the Bands is enjoying a resurgence, headed by a new team of rock fans...
Mandy Ansell, QM Studios Manager
My husband, Graham became involved in Battle of the Bands in the late 1990s. Our son Steven is a musician (with alternative rock duo Blood Red Shoes) so we went along to watch. The competition had been running for several years, but Graham wanted to get involved. Graham passed away in 2007, but I think he felt he could contribute to the production as a sound engineer. He was passionate about live music and wanted to establish a scene here in Horsham.
Mark Daly, Chairman, HDLMA
The Horsham District Live Music Alliance (HDLMA) was set up by Graham and Trevor Beadle of Horsham District Council, which has always been very supportive. The HDLMA received a lottery grant which they used to buy a PA system and created QM Studios, which was previously Quarter Master Stores. They wanted to create a rehearsal space, which bands could use at a reasonable cost. They bought some more equipment so musicians could go along and plug in their instruments. I came along in 2003, helped paint the studios and gradually I became more involved.
As part of the HDLMA, they wanted to run the Battle of the Bands competition.
Our big event was Rock on the Bandstand in the summer, with Battle of the Bands (BOTB) in the autumn. It started off with just a couple of heats and a final but then really took off. In 2004, we had six heats in the Drill Hall as well as the final, a covers competition and an acoustic night. When we first started BOTB, we used to make enough money to subsidise QM Studios. Now, it is the other way around.
At its peak, we had 500 people queueing up Denne Road just to see the heats. We even had to have a height limit and you couldn't go into the mosh pit unless you were under it!
We saw a good crop of bands with a big following. The first winners were Decadent Dance back in 1993, but the first winners of Graham's era were Oom. Other popular bands included Fisticuffs, and Wobbly Squadron who were a terrific band. One of my favourite bands has been Everafta, who eventually won in 2010. There have always been a lot of metal bands although it wasn't until 2008 that a metal band won, with Agents of the Enemy.
From having six heats, each with six bands, the popularity of BOTB dipped and we've seen a decline in young bands. In 2013, we had just one night at the Drill Hall with only six bands. That was when we decided to come together and ask 'What can we do?' We discussed doing something different or perhaps giving BOTB a rest for a couple of years.
It was then that a couple of musicians, who we know well, came to us and said that they didn't want it to stop. We asked them to form a subcommittee, and said that they could take it on and do it their way. Because of the Internet and social networking, there are different audience demands these days. In that respect, they are more switched on than us old hats.
Bex Thompson, BOTB Organiser
The competition was something that we didn't want to see disappear. We could see there was dwindling interest but it just needed an injection of life to add something new. We asked for the chance to try and the HDLMA gave us that opportunity in 2014. None of us had organised anything on that scale before, although Sam Albrow of High Gain Event Services has staged local events before and Jamie 'Stan' Stanley runs music nights. But it has been a learning curve for us.
The new team really have put their heart and soul into the event and it is pleasing for us to see other people taking BOTB on.
People still say to me, 'I didn't know Horsham had a Battle of the Bands.' That is strange to me as it seems to have been around forever! So we are hoping to attract a new audience, as perhaps for a few years the event has been passing people by. For a time, it seemed to be all of the local musos in a room and everybody knew everybody. Perhaps we lost that aspect of the community coming together to support different bands, regardless of who plays.
It is difficult when bands are generally not as popular as they were. What happens locally mirrors what happens across the country, and if people aren't turning up to watch live bands then it means they are not interested. In the Noughties, there were a lot of young bands and they would have with hordes of supporters. They made the event, because those supporters created an atmosphere.
There is something special about BOTB. Most of the musicians haven't studied music, and are instead bringing their personal creativity and personality to the music. Of course, the 90s was very much a band era but bands are still prevalent in today's music. Look how many teenagers walk around in Nirvana tops! What is nice here is that the bands are just grateful for the opportunity to play, and are not here necessarily to win. They were here to have a good time. Really, that is what BOTB is about - meeting people and creating a music scene.
Fraser Latimer, Singer, Fruitcake
We are a Horsham band, and formed shortly after we left Forest School. We have played in BOTB three times but they've improved it in the last couple of years. We love playing in the Human Nature Garden as there's a good stage and a place for families to sit down. Also, we know that everybody who comes in wants to actually listen to the music.
The garden is a lovely venue. Last year, it felt very big and to be honest, we needed more people to fill it up! But this year, we are happy because more people are here and it's definitely a new audience. .
It shows there are still people who want to listen to live music, even though a few old venues have closed down. When I was young, Horsham Youth Centre held band nights regularly. Press to Meco played there and they've gone on to good things, playing Download. That gave young bands a chance to play, so it was a shame when it ended. It's great that we still have BOTB. There's not a competitive atmosphere, so it's not really a battle - just good fun.
The three BOTB judges are anonymous and none of the committee members are on the panel. The bands can ask for feedback too, as they may learn something from it. I think most people agreed that Team New Band were
deserving winners this year.
Mark Docherty (Guitarist, BOTB Winners Team New Band)
We are primarily a Brighton band, and we've been together for just over a year. We didn't give much thought to the name. There was a 'hands in the middle' moment and we shouted 'Go Team New Band!' We have a ridiculous name but we take the music seriously. Coming to Horsham has been very good fun, and it's great to play on a big stage with good sound quality.
Maddy Jones (Vocalist, Team New Band)
We have a range of influences in the band, although we class ourselves as 'party rock.' Some members of the band like The Hives and Jack White, so you'll hear a bit of rhythm and blues. A couple of the boys love the grunge era bands like The Pixies. I'm a fan of Grace Potter, Beth Hart and Joan Jett, so we have quite a mix of influences. Somehow it all works well together!
Adam Passingham (Bass, Team New Band)
It's been quite a mission to get us all here in Horsham too as I was on holiday this morning in Normandy and arrived here only a few minutes before our opening slot. It's been worth it though!
We have had bands or musicians who have gone on to big things. Slinky Minky, who won in 1996, included a couple of members of The Feeling. Dyscarnate are doing well and have toured all over the world. Their music is not to my taste, but the point is that every band needs somewhere where they can play.
Some of these bands have never played a proper gig before and this is a platform for then to get a taste of what it's like. If you're under 16, where else can you really play in Horsham other than gigs at school? We give bands of all ages that opportunity. At the other end of the scale, some experienced bands just want to play and have fun. Catfish are winning rave reviews and accolades but came to play (and win) the Covers contest.
Times change and the singer-songwriter has come to the forefront. We were quick to recognise this and set up a covers and an acoustic competition too. The acoustic final used to be a sideshow but in recent years it has become a big deal. If you go to any of the acoustic showcases around here you'll see that the standard is very high, with people like Jodie Munday. She came along a couple of years ago with these brilliant songs and has never looked back, winning the acoustic competition this year. Her songs hit a chord with younger people.
There were 11 acts in the acoustic competition this year, so it was as popular as the originals competition. That has given us something to think about. Last year, we had no covers band competition at all, so there has been progress from last year there too too.
The event has cost the HDLMA a little bit more money this year, but they've done a good job. This year, they were able to hold two heats and it was great to see a couple of younger bands. That made me think 'Yes, Battle of the Bands is back!'
For more about the HDLMA and QM Studios visit www.hdlma.co.uk
Listen to winners Team New Band at http://www.musicglue.com/tnb/