Battle of the Bands Semi-Final: The Competition Ramps Up


Niamh Kitson (she/her) gives an overview of the semi-final of the BandSoc event

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Image by Luke Snell

By Niamh Kitson

Following three talent-packed heats, it was time for Battle of the Band’s first ever semi-final. Returning to The Lounge on March 14, the stakes felt higher. Here are my thoughts on the six best acts from the heats battling it out for their place in the final.

Tom Sheldon

If Tom Sheldon had any nerves about opening up the show,he certainly did not show it. Despite navigating technical difficulties, he produced a confident performance, engaging with the audience and even playing his guitar behind his head. There was a fantastic mix of material in this set: the slower ‘Feels Like Yesterday’ from Tom’s first heat performance was great again and after slowing the pace down, the last song was a burst of energy, pace and intensity, despite the fact the band only plays with three instruments. The bassist, drummer, and, of course, Tom on guitar, were all given their chance to shine and be creative in this last song, a fantastic way to end the set and exemplify their instrumental prowess.

5 or 7

I missed the third heat of the Battle of the Bands so 5 or 7 were a new band for me. They turned up to the semi-finals in style, decked out in chef hats and aprons, as seems to be a signature of the band. Opening with a clever mock breaking news segment, informing the audience that they had tuned into “5 or 7 FM,” they immediately captured the audience's attention with their playful charm. They then went into a new song, freshly created within the last week, emphasising the desire to improve and explore new material which is facilitated by the Battle of the Bands platform. As their set progressed, the tunes got a bit heavier, finishing with a song which was introduced as “gentler”, an ironic introduction when they started to perform and some members of the audience were on the verge of headbanging.

Rusty Tim’s Missing Members

When Rusty Tim’s Missing Members take to the stage, you are never too far away from a joke, whether that be calling back to their last performance or asking where Tim is. C Despite consisting of only two members (the elusive third member, Tim, is missing, after all), their energy is palpable and they effortlessly bounce off of each other in a lively manner. Their cover of Clairo’s ‘Pretty Girl’, which they remarked that the audience might recognise from TikTok was executed fantastically: a fun cover which fitted with their sound. Rusty Tim were also a band who brought new original material to the semi-final, including their last song ‘Indie Boy’, which was a standout in its playful, self-reflexive nature.

Suspicious Liquid

What caught my attention in Suspicious Liquid’s heat two performance was their playful lyricism and subject matter, and this was reinforced when they opened with a “song for Philosophy, English Literature and History students” named ‘Socrates’ about having a Friday night drink with the Ancient Greek philosopher. I really enjoyed their next song, a slight turn of pace, which was ‘Itchycoo Park’ by Small Faces. Another original, ‘Muffin Man’, was instantly memorable and quickly became a highlight of the evening, encapsulating an unforgettable performance from Suspicious Liquid; a performance full of flair, charisma and originality.


Averno were a late call up to the Battle of the Bands semi-final, after Hayley and Tom had to withdraw due to availability issues. Their set was incredibly impressive, especially considering they had less time to prepare and the substantial responsibility of filling in for Hayley and Tom, who they paid tribute to in their absence. They started with Sam Fender’s ‘Howden Aldi Death Queue’, a great opener due to its fun and energetic nature. During another tune, ‘I Fell in Love with a Girl’, they used call and response to connect with the audience. It was a smart decision, then, with the audience engaged, to go straight into Nirvana’s instantly recognisable ‘Come As You Are’, with the crowd singing along with the opening riff. Averno cemented their status as a crowd favourite in their last song, which incited the first mosh pit of the evening.

JW Blake and the Renegades of Funk

JW Blake was a fantastic closing act, instantly immersing the audience by revealing that their captain was speaking and that they were in for a journey of funk. As was the case with their first heat performance, their set was exciting and well-paced throughout, combining a range of genres. JW Blake shared a funny story about learning to play the saxophone before going into the famous opening of ‘Baker Street’ by Gerry Rafferty, a fun way to give the sax its place to shine. Excitingly, they finished with a song which was to be released at midnight, ‘No Chilling’, which is out now on all streaming platforms.

With the conclusion of the final performance, it was time for the judges to count up their scores. I did not envy their task; there were strong performances across the board. Following an anxious wait for all of the artists involved, the acts that progressed through to the next round were announced as Tom Sheldon, Suspicious Liquid and J.W. Blake and the Renegades of Funk. After the successful acts enjoyed their celebrations, the crowd grew tense once more as it was time to announce the wildcard band. The act was revealed as Trent and the Crickets, who were impressive in the first heat and a fantastic choice in my opinion.

The final will take place on March 21 at The Fulford Arms. Tickets are on sale now.