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After an impressive opening in Pendle, Battle of the Bands continued last night (Thursday, Week 5) as the second heat took place in Cartmel bar. There was an almost festival like atmosphere in The Winning Post, the long picnic tables and colourful stage lights creating a laid back feeling that flowed throughout all the acts. Whilst the organisers may have been a little overzealous in their attempts to get the audience to stand at the front of the stage, patrons instead choosing to remain seated, they undoubtedly had worked hard to make sure the show went as smooth as possible.
Merely performing in front of a crowd can be a thankless task but taking the opening slot is a burden that requires real stomach, it doesn’t help much that the crowd was at its most sober and critical at this point. However Jonathan Parks stepped up to the plate admirably. Parks’ set was simple in nature, consisting of acoustic covers, but nevertheless was a perfect mellow opening for a crowd that was more laid back than rowdy. There were a few rough notes that Parks didn’t quite manage to hit but he was able to keep the crowd on side throughout, bringing his set to a close with a cover of ‘Under the Bridge’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers that went down incredibly well.
After a short interlude, that featured some very half-hearted jokes from one of the JCR, the second artist of the evening Matt Baker took to the stage. From the very first chord of his cover of ‘Let’s Get it On’ it was clear Baker knew exactly what he was doing. Taking full advantage of a loop pedal, a piece of equipment that is far harder to use effectively than it appears, Baker’s performance was well layered and you’d be forgiven for thinking he was using some kind of backtracking such was the quality of his performance. Speeding through covers of ‘Fast Car’ and ‘No Diggity’ Baker was obviously the fan favourite and the judges’ unanimous choice to advance to the final.
Cartmel bar is infamous for its poor acoustics and whilst this plagued all the performers it had a particularly ill effect on the third act, trio The Velveteers. The two singers didn’t have the strongest voices in the world but they nevertheless brought something unique to the evening. Their take on Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ was wonderfully stripped down, and definitely the most interesting performance of the night. It’s a cliché choice but ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol always goes down well and it played to this groups strengths. After similar performances in terms of sound it was nice to get a little bit of diversity which if nothing else The Velveteers brought.
Closing out the night was a four piece blues/swing group, Three Strikes. Who are clearly inspired by the likes of Michael Bublé and maybe even a little bit of Frank Sinatra. The crowd seemed to be enjoying the performance with large sections clapping along, though I suspect alcohol may have had its part in this impromptu audience participation. Playing a setlist of well wore favourites including ‘Hotel California’, ‘Feeling Good’ and ending with a sobering cover of ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ originally by Randy Newman. Three Strikes weren’t always perfectly on pitch (no pun intended), some of the keyboard playing was also a little wonky but there wasn’t a single person in the venue that seemed to mind. Three Strikes ultimately took second place by a whisker, with both The Velveteers and Jonathan Parks in hot contention.
After the announcement of Matt Baker’s victory a small section of the audience crowded the front demanding an encore, a request Baker was only too happy to oblige. As I left the venue he was still going strong launching into what must have been the third song of his extended stint on stage, the gaggle of fans still enthusiastically cheering would surely have been happy to watch him perform all night.