SXSE 2014 – A Judges View

A musical recipe.

Take one stage, seven bands, five and a half hours of music, four judges, two sound engineers, several photographers, and countless enthusiastic observers.

Add one pre event band break up, and one last minute replacement act.

Mix all those ingredients together in The Union Bar, and you get SXSE (South by South East), supported by The Stinger magazine. Just one of the many events that took place over the weekend of Hastings Fat Tuesday 2014.

All seven bands were competing to fill the prestigious final slot on the Fat Tuesday Tour, which would see the ‘winners’ play three gigs, in three different venues, over the course of one evening.

First up were The Piercings, who various judges said reminded them of both The Housemartins, and The Lightning Seeds. Not a bad thing.

They were closely followed by Great Snakes, another of the recent surge in guitar and drums duo’s. Passion, energy and solid drumming.

To showcase the variety of the acts, next was Tom Cole, who was described as a ‘1960’s style protest singer’ by one judge. Good guitar work and a nice rapport with the audience too.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that the acts were judged on three main criteria. Musicianship and Tightness, Lyrics and Melody, Stage Presence and Charisma. All acts were given a maximum of ten marks for each category. They also had a twenty minute time slot.

Next, and upping the ante, were Wax. A tight quartet with an 80’s feel, sound effects, and even electric drum pads. Stage presence, and a sound described by one judge, and not in a bad way either, as ‘The Pet Shop Boys with guitars’.

Keeping up the quality were Irie Method, another quartet playing what they call ‘Skindie’ (Ska and Indie). Lively, fun, catchy and with audience participation, these guys got the toes tapping.

Last minute replacements Xup Sup got the house rocking. Tight, energetic pop-punk, a phenomenal drummer, and a great cover of ’99 Red Balloons’. One judge said ‘Xup Sup would not be out of place on a bill with the likes of Green Day, or Blink 182’. Praise indeed.

And so to the final act, Riddles. An air of expectation was apparent and they certainly didn’t disappoint. A trio creating a tight, intense, relentless (in a good way) sound, not unlike Hawkwind, this was a perfect way to end a musically rich afternoon. Half the judging panel said Riddles were the band they would personally choose to go and see again tomorrow.

But, there could only be one ‘winner’. There were several contenders, and no clear front runner. Advice was sought on exactly what was being voting for. Was it the best band on the day, the act with the most potential, or (as it turned out to be) the most suitable band for the Fat Tuesday Tour.

Any one of those options would probably have produced a different result. But, after much debate, Irie Method were invited to play the Fat Tuesday Tour, and by all accounts did SXSE proud.

It’s a bit of a cliche I know, but on the day local music was the winner.

The judges were very impressed with the quality of both the bands and the musicianship.

Unique among the judges, I’d seen most of the acts before, and thought I knew what to expect. But even I was pleasantly surprised by the standard of the music, and the performances on the day.

That can only be a good thing.

(All photo’s by John Powell: http://www.johnnypowell.net/)

SXSE Sunday

As part of this year’s Fat Tuesday festivities, SXSE will be making a comeback.

Some of you may remember SXSE (South by South East) taking place at The Carlisle a couple of years ago, I know I do. Well, the organisers have decided to revive the event for 2014, but with a few changes.

SXSE Sunday will take place at The Union Bar (Formerly The Tubman) on Sunday 2nd March between approx 1 and 7pm. As with the previous event, bands/acts will be showcasing their talents in front of a panel of respected judges. But this time around the ‘prize’ is a coveted slot on the official Fat Tuesday tour on the evening of Tuesday 4th March.

More details about SXSE Sunday itself and how your act can apply to play can be found here. There is an application form to be filled in online:

http://www.hastingsfattuesday.co.uk/sxse/

Bands applying will be asked to perform a 20 minute set of original material on the day. They must also be available to play three 20 minute sets, at three different venues, on Fat Tuesday itself.

Applying to play may not guarantee a place on SXSE Sunday, as acts will be pre-judged to ensure that only the best, or most suitable, get to play. Bands/acts will be informed on Friday 14th February as to whether they’ve been invited to play. So, get those entries in today. Don’t miss out.

As mentioned on the Fat Tuesday/SXSE website, this event is all tied up with the new Hastings Fat Tuesday charity, which I am a part of. The charity has been set up to help support, encourage, promote and nurture original local musical talent.

To quote the website “The Fat Tuesday team are developing mentor opportunities, which will be offered to local bands/performers that demonstrate potential and whose members are driven towards careers in the music industry. These offers, grants and opportunities will be discussed on an individual bespoke basis, depending on the specific requirements of the band/performer in question. But in principle they might include: recording and mastering of demo tracks with introductions to a choice of producers and engineers; promotional video production; song writing workshops; business advice; brand development; assistance with equipment; touring and regular performance opportunities both locally and further afield.”

Acts playing at SXSE Sunday are under no obligation to get involved with the Hastings Fat Tuesday charity, but it would be a great opportunity for you to showcase your talent and potential.

It would be good to see you there on the day, whether as a performer or as a spectator. So put that date in your diary, Sunday 2nd March, 1 to 7pm at The Union Bar, Hastings.