Tonight’s the night of the 10th Original Bands Showcase final in Leicester. This’ll be a night of celebration, sweat, endeavour, smiles and jubilation. It’s become something of an event in the annual music calendar of this fair city and I can’t wait to get on down to the Musician tonight to see what happens.
The OBS is the brainchild of the formidable yet fair Val McCoy. Dig beneath the surface (she doesn’t suffer fools gladly) and here you have a woman who is probably even more passionate now about supporting and nurturing local talent than she was 10 years ago when this venture started. For each year, OBS provides a platform for developing and established acts to take to the stage and further hone their craft. Tonight is the culmination of a series of heats, callbacks and semi-finals.
It was seven (or perhaps eight) years ago that I first got involved. A friend of mine, Richard Haswell (the man behind the excellent and now sadly no more Summer Sundae festival) got in touch and asked if I would judge at a final. I didn’t have a clue what to expect but the promise of free beer was enough to convince. That night a band from Hinckley, ‘The Chairmen’, took the plaudits but what struck me was the air of support and friendliness amidst the sweat covered crowd. They might have been there to see one band but they were cheering all.
The OBS mightn’t be a model for everybody. Some are suspicious of the competitive elements involved. Responding to music can be a personal thing so how can individuals say that one band is better than another with any authority? And the truth is that they probably can’t. But the competition is just a part of this showcase. For me, this is much more about the networking opportunities, future gigs and new friendships formed. The best bands see winning as secondary to the experience and opportunities provided.
For the last few years, it’s all taken place in the Musician, a venue I’ve praised previously in this blog. There’s a cast of characters here who all throw themselves behind the OBS. Andy Mann, the soundman, works his bollocks off to ensure that the tight turnarounds look smooth to anybody within the crowd. The bar staff take an active interest with Chris, Chris, Holly and others never being shy on expressing their opinions (in a friendly way). And the contributions of Darren, Nicola and Wayne all contribute to the impression that this is a supportive, positive event.
There’s six bands that’ll take to the stage tonight. One thing you can always guarantee within an OBS final is that they’ll be stretching across a range of genres yet all excelling in their chosen styles. I’ve featured two previously within this blog, Tapestry and Stop That Train. But, in truth, I could have just as easily featured any of the other four and not impacted upon the quality. Ash Mammal, Beneath The Lights, The Della Grants and 8 Miles High make up the sextet on offer.
The OBS final is nothing without the crowd though. It was the friendliness and supportiveness of the crowd that first attracted me to these events. And though people have moved on, the feeling within the audience seems to have stuck. It’ll be a packed out, sweat-laden affair tonight. It’ll be one of the best gigs many in the crowd will have ever been to. We’ll dance, we’ll sing, we’ll drink and laugh. But, above all, we’ll realise that live music is the winner.
I’ve got my special costume ready for tonight… Now, I just need to go and get my hair done…
Beneath The Lights do not share any of their music for embedding upon Soundcloud.