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On Monday we will be running the INmusic Competition Final in partnership with Pirate Studios and association with MAH and EuFest. A year ago, Rachel, Emma (co-founder of MAH) and myself met up with Dermot from EuFest in a rather charming pub in the heart of Kings Cross, London, to discuss the possibility of taking over the competition for bands across the UK to enter. Both Rachel and Emma had previously been judges for the competition that would see one band play the main stage at INmusic Festival in Croatia’s capital city Zagreb by Lake Jarun. We were already aware that INmusic Festival had a family-friendly atmosphere and was one of Europe’s most unique music festivals and we were not at all surprised when a couple of girls sat a table nearby jumped up and told us it was one of their favourite festivals and would be attending it in 2018.

We were shown the ropes, and always willing to rise to the challenge, Rachel and I travelled back up to Sheffield with a bottle of fizzy and non-stop chatter as we discussed how we would tackle this new project.
After lots of research, planning and excited phone calls with Emma and Dermot, we started inviting bands to enter.
You won’t be surprised to hear that over the next few months we were inundated with entries from a huge number of very talented bands which made the job of choosing just twenty to go through to the second heat incredibly difficult. However, a collection of in-the-know music industry professionals managed over the next few weeks to come up with the definitive list of twenty bands. They were:

The Frankly
Hands Off Gretel
Jordan Allen
Deep City Diver
Himalayas
The Assist
BERRIES
The Velvet Hands
Hightown Pirates
Tarot Rats
The Receivers
FALSE HEADS
Suncharmer
The Valium
Mint
The K’s
Rosko – Band
MADDOX
SONS
The Americas

From this amazing shortlist, our judges then really had their work cut out. Only six lucky bands could be chosen to compete for paid flights, entry in to the festival, camping and a 6pm slot on the main stage of the INMusic Festival #13 2018 where Queens of the Stone Age headline. A series of independent judges again were asked to play these bands’ entry tracks over and over until it became clear which six would get through. This had to be the most difficult heat to decide on. The competition was fierce.
The final bands who truly surpassed all expectations were:

False Heads

A band who seem intent on bringing post-millennial grunge kicking and screaming into the modern day and letting their accents shine through in their vivid shows, the London-based trio are establishing themselves as one of the country’s premier live acts, their performances oozing with debauchery and decadence. With musical acquaintances ranging from The Libertines to Iggy Pop, to say that the band are destined for big things would be an understatement. 

Hands Off Gretel

Energy, chaos, nihilism and debauchery abound, a trip with Hands Off Gretel will leave you spent. Their grunge/punk sound may at first appear to be thrown together yet you only need to watch to see they are performing a beautifully polished ballet of chaos, costume and drama presenting lyrics that echo the angst and vulnerability of growing up in 21st century Britain.

The Receivers

York based four-piece, these guys have burst on the scene with their own take on indie-rock-psych-pop and present their sets with huge personality, flair and energy. With their infectious guitar riffs and persistent in-your-face percussion, their catchy tunes stay will with you for days after!

Deep City Diver

This hybrid of Sydney and Stoke-on-Trent, Deep City Diver have taken English New Wave and mixed it with the energy of indie-pop to create their own interminable sound. With intimate synth ballads on love, loss and everything in between,  experimental synth and guitar rock n roll, their stadium worthy singalongs will have you hooked.

Himalayas

Welsh indie rock four-piece, Himalayas hail from Cardiff. They cite influences from The Beatles to Green Day via Cher. The guys always deliver a set that’s melodic, fresh, cheeky and full of hooks and their recent release ‘Thank God I’m Not You’ has amazingly been streamed over three million times!

The Americas

Abundantly enthusiastic West Midlands based trio, The Americas (who let’s just clarify, are making very British music)  are a little more than great, they are a sensational hard rock and blues get up with a blow the house down set that could immediately translate into a debut album perfectly. Ripping it up with great playing, stick in your head songs, the minute they start their set it’s immediately clear that the rebirth of rock n roll is upon us. 

These six bands will compete in the live final on Monday 12th of February at the amazing Pirate Studios, Salford, Manchester for their place in the INmusic Festival in Jarun Zagreb, Croatia 25-27th June 2018.

All is in motion for an amazing night at Pirate Studios. They boast unrivaled sound quality in revolutionary studios and offer rehearsal time,  mixing, recording and live streaming opportunities for bands and DJs  in any of their nine studios across the UK. They are open 24/7 and provide equipment, instruments and technical support and advice every step of the way. With almost constant communication between us at Northern Exposure, the fab team of Hayley, Chris and David at Pirate Studios, London and our genius sound engineer Aaron Procter, there’s been little time for much else these past few weeks but it is all so exciting as we eat, sleep and breathe music every day. Guests have been invited from all corners of the UK to attend this event where four judges will watch the bands play a live set to compete for the coveted prize. They are:

Stella Grundy: Stella is a leading actress and playwright and lead vocalist in Intastella, a fantastic band from Manchester whose music pushes boundaries and has encompassed many genres and guest artists over the years.

Aaron Keith Stewart: Aaron is a former singer with the three-time Grammy Award winning group ‘The Sounds Of Blackness.’ A recent settler to the UK, Aaron moved from America to set up Paradise Hill Productions, a philanthropic music management business.

George Holmes: George is a well-respected festival stage manager, promoter and manager from This Feeling, the UK’s biggest promoters of new unsigned bands and music.

Tim Scott: Tim is a musician and TV journalist whoworks as an on-screen reporter for ITV Granada in Salford. When he’s not covering murder trials and interviewing the likes of Shaun Ryder and Peter Hook, he still plays guitar in his band. Over the years Tim’s played alongside members of 808 State, The Happy Mondays, The Inspiral Carpets and the Fall.

The bands have each submitted three tracks to play for the judges, one of which will be recorded for each band to use. They’ll play before a live studio audience of music industry professionals, friends, family and a few lucky fans who won tickets from a recent invitation we put on social media. The judges will be asked to judge the bands on musicality, originality, audience response and stage presence as these four areas will be essential to be worthy of this great prize. However, Rachel and I will be on hand to mediate.
For those of you who were lucky enough to gain a place either performing or watching on Monday 12th February, we have it on good authority that the place will be packed and the night will be pretty huge. Last few tickets at contact@northern-exposure.co. I wish we could send all of our finalists to the INmusic Festival as each band would be a worthy winner.

The winner will be revealed next week and we’ll report back on what is sure to be an incredible evening.

KATE O’BRIEN/ CONNOR FAULKNER/ RACHEL BROWN

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