Cupid looked on dejected and redundant. Valentine’s Day at York University had found a new force to inject a little love into a Saturday night. Bugalee, winners of the 2004 Battle of the Bands, were playing their encore after receiving the trophy and Vanbrugh Hall was shaking as students boogied the night away.
Tickets for the final had sold out during the week and Vanbrugh was packed to the gunnels, although this didn’t stop several desperate students, most notably Will Buckley of Shitbrats fame, offering ridiculous amounts of money for a way in. The night was a complete success for the combined forces of the Ents Committee, Bandsoc, URY and YSTV, who deserve credit for coordinating a faultless and glittering show.
On the night, Skatesian claimed second place with The Getawayplan finishing third. Despite some suspicion that the student vote had not been included in the final result, most would agree that the judges got the finishing order right. For all the quality of their rivals, no band could touch Bugalee; the difference was all in the musicianship. Charismatic frontman, Neil Muir, who lead the line with some classy vocals and performed heroics on his keyboard, was flanked by the brilliant blues guitarist George Pinnock and the multi-talented Phil Jeffs on bass. The real icing on this cake, however, was the four-piece brass section which rasped out with all the zest and drive of a rampaging herd of wild horses. Although Bugalee’s set was made up of covers, the band wrote the complex arrangement entirely themselves, which demonstrated the great subtlety of their writing as they avoided overcooking the songs.
The band had had a fairly smooth ride through to the final from the heats and were widely tipped as favourites after their first performance although they had to shake off competition from a very strong field of entries. The semi-finals were contested between ten bands for only five places in the final, the first of which kicked off on Monday 9th February, with James Way first to hit the stage. The duo began their performance with a raging rendition of ‘God save the Queen’ leading into a more up-beat experimental set with a scary human guitar twang imitation and some Busted style jumps. Second up were Bugalee, with an entrance worthy of The Fonz himself, who played first-class covers of Jonny B Good and Voodoo Woman that had the kids dancing like krazies. Skatesian, following Bugalee, provided the audience with some jovial ska tunes and rounded their set off with an inspired Sugababes cover. Next up were the popular George Foreman Select, whose set featured some bizarre numbers, a chef on violin and some brave efforts at Morris dancing. Perhaps scrutinising the bands by their attire is not the most precise judging method, however if it was Stirling House would have won hands down. With the frontman wearing a ninja/Santa suit, his slight overconfidence could almost be overlooked. The performance ultimately pleased the crowd although not enough to make to finals. Instead, unsurprisingly, the suited and booted Bugalee and outsiders Skatesian made the cut, moving into Saturday’s final.
Tuesday evening delivered an equally diverse mix as Opus Pocus kicked the proceedings off, treating the Langwith crowd to some smooth jazz-funk. The band played an accomplished set, interacting well with the crowd, but did not reach the final, where a play off with Bugalee might have made for interesting viewing. Next up were self-styled “Cricketcore” group, L.B.W.. All clad in cricket whites, the band had the look of a ‘70s England team and with their heavy headache metal notched up enough votes to make it through. The Getawayplan took to the stage looking very much like a consummate emo band but their shtick was much heavier, delivering a well rehearsed set that struck a chord with the crowd and the judges, who awarded them a final berth. After non-band The Broken Tooth Project began their set by pleading with the audience not to vote them through to the final, there was a certain inevitability that they would have to cancel any plans for Saturday night. The band were probably the neutral’s choice on the evening, playing a set that demonstrated comic irreverence to both other BoB competitors and the audience. Their rendition of John Cage’s 4’33” probably created as much controversy as the original, as the band received a mixture of cheers and heckles throughout “the silent piece”, although did enough to scrape through as the most popular runners up. Soliloqui were not hanging around to give any long speeches as they launched into an energetic cover of Kula Shaker’s Hush and proceeded to play an slick and proficient set.
Saturday night’s line up for the final featured almost every genre imaginable, but the absence of a quality indie band was notable, demonstrating how the tastes of York students have shifted to generally heavier sounds. The first act to take the stage were the entertaining Broken Tooth Project, however on this night they seemed to loose momentum and incurred a repeat of the angry heckling that had been directed at them in the previous rounds. The show degenerated into a chaotic affair, although most of the band members, particularly guitarist Phil “Daggers McStab” Jeffs, had bigger fish to fry within the competition. Once again L.B.W. played a booming set, laced with irony and anti-Geoffrey Boycott jibes. The band are good at what they do and would have embarrassed many signed metal bands, but the limited popular appeal of their genre would have depleted their chances of victory. The Getawayplan, the next band on, had brought with them a large number of devoted followers and took the stage to a raptous reception. The band’s performance differed little to their semi-final outing; it was confident, professional and proficient, but lacked consistently well written songs. All the same, the band deserved their third place and could have the makings of something special. Skatesian, another Jeffs project, played a committed set with their finest moment being their nu-metal parody, Nu-Metal Attitude. After missing out on a place in the second round of Fibber’s Battle of the Bands, the group were good value for the runners up spot and had it not been for the show-stopping Bugalee, would have had no problems in taking the title.