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Bands Battle For Street Party Slot

First published on The Edinburgh Reporter November 15 2010

Hogmanay is one of the biggest events in Edinburgh’s calendar – after all, where better to celebrate the most popular Scottish holiday than the country’s capital?  But whilst event headliners Biffy Clyro and special guests The Charlatans were announced some time ago, local music fans are still in the dark as to who will have the task of supporting them.

This year Leith Records held an open competition called Hog The Stage, where any band in the country could upload a song to the internet to be in with the chance of gaining the elusive support slot that launched the careers of Franz Ferdinand and KT Tunstall.  Hundreds of entries had to be whittled down to just five bands who will compete in a live show at the HMV Picture House on November 21st.

We chatted to the five bands who made it through to the finale – Kitty The Lion, Come On Gang!, The Stagger Rats, Jakil and Pooch.

Here’s what they had to say.

Kitty The Lion

What would winning this competition mean to you?

“It would mean that Simon Neil [lead singer of headliners Biffy Clyro] might finally realise I am the love of his life,” laughs Anna of Kitty The Lion, adding “I think my patriotic heart would burst at being part of the best New Year party in the world.”

“If you look at the number of bands that applied and the number of people that attend the street party every year you can see how important this is to everyone in Edinburgh,” say The Stagger Rats. “To win the competition would be unreal, and to be honest it still seems like there must be a catch!  Local unsigned bands just don’t usually get this kind of exposure.”

“It would be a phenomenal privilege to open Edinburgh’s Hogmanay,” Pooch agree, “and a fantastic opportunity to stand out from the hordes of great Scottish unsigned bands out there.”

“I’ve seen some of my favourite Scottish bands play the Hogmanay party,” says Mikey of Come On Gang! “It would be an honour to follow in their footsteps and get people dancing into 2011.”

Jakil, who have recently relocated to London, said, “it would be incredible to be part of the soundtrack to the best street party in the world. And it’s at home in Edinburgh, in our old back garden. Nothing could really top that.”

Do you think the online format of this competition is a good one?

Pooch

“It’s definitely a more open way of running a competition,” think Kitty The Lion.  “Rather than competitors blindly submitting entries and waiting for a result, you get to snoop at everyone else’s entries and size them up!”

“It’s a really simple but effective way of giving everyone the vital information about the participants,” The Stagger Rats concur. “You can see the band’s live performance through their uploaded video, hear their studio sound through their uploaded song and find out about them via their biography – everyone who’s interested in the competition gets to see all the bands involved and every aspect of their work.”

Pooch added, “the site was a great tool to display bands in a visually pleasing manner. And the fact anyone could browse entrants made things a bit more interesting than with other contests, where only winners are revealed and the pool of entrants go unnoticed by the general public.”

“The web is a great way to find new music, so it seems like a good fit to me,” says Rob of Come On Gang!  Band mates Sarah and Mikey agree, not least because, “it’s instant and means that bands can easily get their fan bases involved from the very start.”

Meanwhile Jakil reemphasise that the site provided a platform for over a hundred Scottish bands to showcase their work, which is a great way to promote local music.  “There are hundreds of fantastic bands in Scotland today,” they point out, “and a lot of people don’t know about the great gigs and concerts going on right now just on their doorstep, which is a shame.”

Do you find the Battle of the Bands nature of the final stage at all off-putting?

The Stagger Rats

“It’s pretty intimidating,” says Anna of Kitty the Lion, who has never done a competitive gig.

Pooch have no such qualms.  “Surely there’s no better way to decide which band will give the best live performance on a big stage than a live show in a similar setting? We’re looking forward to a high-pressure showdown!”

The Stagger Rats are phlegmatic on the subject. “We’re ‘Battle of the Bands’ veterans, having played several in our time together,” they say.  “We won The Evening News Battle of The Bands a while back and that competition also had a massive influx of applications, so we have experience in this area.”

“If anything, it will make all the performance that little bit better since there is such a huge prize at stake,” suggest Jakil.  “You’re playing to prove your worth, every fan of every other band doesn’t want to like you. We find that motivating, a challenge, not off-putting.”

“We actually really enjoy playing competitions,” says Sarah of Come On Gang!  “Apart from anything else, we like the energy of them, as all the bands are playing their hardest. And it’s a good test to see how well you perform under pressure. Bring it on!”

Come On Gang!

If you don’t win, will you say horrible things about the other bands in the press? What will you say?!

“Of course,” jokes Anna of Kitty The Lion, “Isn’t that mandatory?  I’ll say that the winners stole the bottled talent from our dressing room before we went on and drank it themselves.”

Nobody else is this forthcoming, though.

“As much fun as it would be to bitch about the other bands if we don’t win, I think they’re all great bands – it just depends what type of sound the judges are after,” says Rob of Come On Gang!  “We’re not the bitchy types,” adds band mate Sarah. “We’re all in it together, really. Bitchiness is just for the uninformed!”  Mikey concludes that if they don’t win, “I’ll get a drink in with my mates who’ll be there to cheer us on… then I’ll try and sweet talk some free tickets from the winners!”

If they are unsuccessful, The Stagger Rats plan to be “the most gracious and gentlemanly of losers in the press and in person.  An unattended pint might get spat in, but that’s the absolute worst the situation would come to.  All the other bands are talented, they wouldn’t be in the final five if they weren’t, so we would have no harsh words for any of them.  If we didn’t win, we’d obviously be upset, but if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.”

Pooch said, “at the end of the day music is subjective, each of the other bands deserve the place as much as ourselves,” and that the band who wins will get a “massive congratulations” from them.

And Jakil agree that “at the end of the day, we will all be trying our very best but whoever I’m sure whoever wins will deserve it.”

Jakil

It seems that we’re not going to have any turf wars on the Edinburgh music scene over this one…

Tickets for the live showdown on November 21st are available here or from Ripping Records for £5 each.

 

 

You can also read our interview with Jim Wolff of Leith Records on how the judges did their best to make this the fairest competition possible here.

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Behind The Scenes of Hog The Stage

First published on The Edinburgh Reporter November 15 2010

Last week, organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay announced the five finalists in the competition to support Biffy Clyro and The Charlatans at this year’s New Year celebrations on Princes Street.  Come On Gang!, Kitty The Lion, Jakil, Pooch and The Stagger Rats will play in a live showdown before a live audience and panel of music industry judges at the HMV Picture House on November 21st.  We spoke to the finalists in an interview here, and also had a word with Leith Records’ Jim Wolff about the first new bands competition ever to be held by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

Whose job was it to go through over a hundred entrants to whittle down the short list of five?

Leith Records managed Hog-the-stage.com and sorted entries into a long list for other judges to make their shortlist choices from.  However, the judges could choose from any other entries on the site if they wanted.

Did they have specific criteria to help them choose?

Judges were looking for a number of factors, including whether the music was any good, what the band looked like live, general popularity, whether they were suitable for the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay audience etc.  Facebook likes and comments were used as a guide, but weren’t the only criteria.


How will the event on the 21st work?

Every audience member gets one vote, and judges – Ed Stack from Ten Tracks, The Skinny’s Music Editor Dave Kerr, BBC Radio DJ Vic Galloway and a very special guest judge – get a quite a few more. The aim is that the judges get some influence but the audience gets a say too.

Do you think there are any particular benefits or disadvantages to running this competition online?

Online competitions make entry easy, and it’s good for everyone to hear the entries. Hog-the-stage.com is now a good place to hear a lot of the new music that Scotland has to offer right now.

We’ve done a competition before where it all came down to an online vote, but we didn’t want a band with a big Facebook following to win this. It had to be about the music. The other side is that if it’s just down to ‘industry experts’, then you’re going to get accusations of bias. No competition like this is ever going to be perfect. When there are so many bands and different styles of music, it’s impossible to say for sure which is better than the other.

Do you think that some bands who could have been great for this competition may have been put off by the perception you mentioned that it’s a competition about who is best at persuading their fans to go online and vote?

Some bands we know just don’t enter competitions full stop. And that’s fair enough. You’ve got less than 1% chance of winning so why bother? But on the other hand, every band that entered got a bit of exposure, and bands that made it further get a chance to play the HMV Picture House, which is no bad thing.

We’ve hoped that bands don’t take themselves, or the competition, too seriously. Going out to your fans for a bit of support doesn’t need to be a big deal.


How popular has Hog The Stage been?

We’ve been really happy with the exposure it’s given all the bands that’ve entered. Over 30 000 people have visited the site over the past few weeks, with over 2000 comments and thousands of Facebook Likes.

So would you do it this way again?

We’d certainly improve some things, but so far it’s all gone pretty much to plan (amazingly). Ask me again in a few weeks.

Not wanting to be a stirrer, but we couldn’t help noticing that both Come On Gang! and Jakil are on the latest ‘ten tracks’ bundle available to download from the Leith Records website… have you been accused of favouritism at all?!

Lots of different factors came into short listing bands. Favouritism wasn’t one of them. Bring on the 21st November and the gig at the HMV Picture House – let the music decide.

Tickets for the Hog The Stage finale cost £5 and are available here, or from Ripping Records.

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Confessions of a Jobless Graduate 2

I am going to blog for The Skinny on this topic.  Currently messing around with a couple of different angles on it because the following is a bit too long.  It’s a piece about a typical day as an unemployed recent graduate in a new flat, as well as being one of the things that got me a meeting with the blogs editor.  You may notice I have used part of it before.

As the unemployed member of the household, it is my job to field visits from the unusual handyman.

Scene OneKitchen. Flatmate’s boyfriend makes tea, I re-lace a shoe. Enter Unusual Handyman.

Unusual Handyman: [in an accent so impenetrable even he probably doesn’t know what it is] mmmphgarnyadblah locked door flumedeygramphleyumyumyjellybibbles BURN TAE DEATH, ken?
Me: …Okay.

Exit UH.

Me: What did he say?
Flatmate’s BF: I don’t think even he knows that.

Mumbling offstage as we drink our tea in bemused silence.

Enter UH

UH: Yumblenblah – back tomorrow – mimble – light fitting – yumptyfacks – aff the wa’! [gestures offstage in the direction of my room] S’dangerous! Veryfastincomprehensiblesomethingorother I got tae be here.
Me: You’ve got to be here?
UH: [in a voice laced with mysterious hidden subtext] I’m authorised.
Scene Twomy room. The light switch, previously fine, is now hanging dangerously from the wall.
Flatmate’s BF: [calling from offstage] So, is the light fitting off?
Me: [disbelieving] …Yeah. It is.

Sadly though, visits from the pony-tailed misanthrope are too infrequent to make me completely forget how bored I am of job applications.

As I blogged in August, two months after graduating,

“My CV now available on s1, guardian jobs, denholm and reed.co.uk.  I check job listings on over twenty sites (from media-specific to job centre to individual employers) daily. On stolen internet. But I’m not getting any feedback, and it’s raining, and our shower’s trying to kill us.”

This is no exaggeration – the shower really was trying to kill us.  Sparks kept flying out of it, and for several days we had to press the ‘on’ switch with a wooden spoon for fear of electrocution.  But the unusual handyman was more concerned about the fact that we took our shoes off at the front door.  It’s a fire hazard, apparently…

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