Despite the openness of the 2004 York University Battle of the Bands – from the very beginning, a total of twenty-five bands competed – there seemed, following Bugalee’s triumphant, closing set of the final, a touch of inevitability about the outcome. The crowd had been dancing with boundless energy, with boundlessly strange mock-Prohibitionless-swing-era moves – mirrored by the band’s stage uniform – and the general consensus in Vanbrugh bar was that Bugalee were the people’s choice. And lo, it came to be; beating Getawayplan, in third place, and Skatesian in second, Bugalee followed the example set by InDeo and the Skassa Monakee Synth Quartet in recent years, and were awarded with the title, recording time, a small wooden shield, and, one would assume, a multi-headed hangover collectively potent enough to shatter plate glass.
Bugalee’s success, and its largely complaint-free acceptance amongst the audience, is even more impressive when one considers the background of the band. Gemma Ware, one of the horn section, explained how, although the rhythm section – who met through a shared course of Music Electronics – had been together since last term, the band as a whole only had two practices before their first heat. This was followed up by another two before the semi-final, and two more before the final. Despite this, she was happy with her performance on the night – and even more pleased with the response the band received from the audience. “We were really tired,” she said, referring to their set time of half past midnight, but the advantage of playing late in the night wasn’t lost on her – “I suppose people were probably more willing to dance to us, because they were more drunk by then.”
That’s not to say that Bugalee needed the help of stereotypical student inebriation to come through, though. On the part of the band themselves, Gemma didn’t doubt that they had at least a chance to win. “I think we always had a good chance, because we are so unusual,” she explained, “Although we didn’t know how we’d do when we got to the Final, because the other bands seemed to have a lot of audience support.” However, she cites other qualities of Bugalee as potential reasons why they were, in the end, determined as the overall winners. “Everyone in the band is a very good musician. Neil is a really good writer and organiser, but all the members are technically very good at their instruments, and can pick up the music quickly.”
The future for Bugalee looks bright, too; the GradBall, Woodstock, and weddings have all been highlighted as potential places for the band to play next. The recording time will be devoted not just to their own interpretations of other people’s songs, which featured prominently in their winning set, but to original material too. And if their performance in the Final was anything to go by – uniting the crowd in a very different, but similarly fervent, manner to last year’s winners Scassa Monakee – their gigs will continue to be events in themselves.