The Competition Begins: Battle of the Bands Heat One


Niamh Kitson (she/her) unpacks the first heat of BandSoc’s Battle of the Bands 2024

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Image by Luke Snell

By Niamh Kitson

Hosted by the University of York Band Society, the annual ‘Battle of the Bands’ is always a huge event for any acts that want to get the chance to play to a bigger audience, recruit new fans or just generally jam out. The talented acts that make it past the fierce competition then get the chance to play at one of York’s best independent venues, The Fulford Arms, in a final showcasing some of the University’s best musical talent. This year, however, the competition is bigger than ever. There is an additional heat as well as a semi final, due to an unprecedented number of applicants – a testament to the plethora of creativity coming out of the University. This year, the criteria for judging is based on performance, musicality and crowd engagement. In addition to this, extra points can be gained for staying from the first act to the last act and engaging in other people’s performances. It was only right that the Muse Music Team checked out the event to scope out some local talent, and I had the pleasure of attending the first heat at The Lounge on 15 February 2024. Here were some of my thoughts about each of the sets:

Mango Mango Mango
Electro-pop/ rock solo artist Mango Mango Mango opened up the evening to a huge crowd. With this performance, it was already clear that competition would be fierce: Mango Mango Mango checked lots of the boxes for a high scorer, including teaching the crowd some lyrics and asking them to sing along during their set.

The Blazers
There is something inherently cool about the overall vibe of The Blazers, so I was looking forward to their set prior to the evening. It was an undeniably soulful performance, but it was also really fun. They invited the audience to partake in a drinking game during one of the songs, and their cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ was the perfect way to close out a fantastic set.

I was impressed by the diverse range of genres showcased by the different acts and when Cavalier began their set by holding up an English flag with ‘Cavalier’ on it, I knew that we were in for some Britpop. Playing four original songs, they provided a fast-paced, thoroughly enjoyable set.

Trent and the Crickets
Trent and the Crickets took the energy up another level with their performance, encouraging  the audience to get low before bursting up as well as some impressive crowd surfing. Their sound lends itself to movement, making them a fantastic live act. You can see them headline The Fulford Arms on 15 March.

The Chorduroys
I loved the soundscape of The Chorduroys performance – the fact that they were constantly playing music, even as they were addressing the audience or introducing the band members. Their cover of Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘What You Know’ was also particularly impressive – a classic 2000s indie pop tune to get the whole crowd engaged in the performance and singing along.

Alongside a great instrumental performance, watching Catch! play was so enjoyable because you could tell how much fun they were having. This was epitomised in their cover of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, a great song to add into their set list.

JWBlake and the Renegades of Funk
With an impressive name like this, there was a lot for JWBlake and the Renegades of Funk to live up to, and they definitely did. I have to admit that as the performance started my friends and I were taking a quick loo break, but as soon as we heard the sax, we were  shot back into the packed main room. A nice touch from the band was that they gave out party poppers to the audience to be dispatched at a certain cue, making the performance highly visually satisfying.

Opening with the band’s eponymous tune, their music sounded just as beautiful as their name. The two vocalists' voices meshed beautifully together, reminding me of early Wolf Alice and The xx. A very strong performance and I am excited to see what Rosaline does next.

Tom Sheldon
Having released an EP last year, Tom Sheldon is one to put on your playlist. But, crucially, one to watch live: his stage presence is magnificent. One of the highlights of his set, and the night as a whole, was during a slower song when the crowd all shone their phone torchlights. You can catch Tom supporting Vaquelin at The Fulford Arms on 2 March.

In my opinion, there always needs to be a “Yorkshire” chant at any gig in the best county in the UK, and Uncultured provided this for us. These energetic indie-rockers were thee penultimate act, and managed to keep the audience lively even as the night drew to a close.

Zak Osmund
In some ways, the night finished as it started in that the last performance was also by a solo act. However, Zak Osmund’s hip-hop set offered a complete change of pace compared to the other performances, resulting in a fun and exciting way to close the show.

After stellar performances across the board, and with the acts staying to support each other, everyone eagerly waited for the results. The acts who immediately qualified for the semi-final were JWBlake and the Renegades of Funk and Tom Sheldon, both thoroughly deserving of this result in a tight competition. Fortunately for the other bands, this year’s competition includes a wildcard element. This means that one of the guest judges can choose a band from any point in the competition to compete in the final, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the bands from this heat were chosen.

Finally, It would be impossible to comment on the event without paying homage to BandSoc’s incredible organisation and hosting skills. The acts even finished earlier than expected, which is no small feat in competitions like this.

Make sure to look out for the rest of our coverage of Battle of the Bands 2024!