Showcase 05

Funk Ya Mum + Mista Mushroom + Davros + Amethyst + The Strange Death of Liberal England

by Tommy L

God gave rock ‘n’ roll to you”. Or so said Kiss in their unique glam-metal style. But there was no looking to the heavens for divine intervention in tonight’s quest for musical excellence. Instead five bands, playing in five very differing genres had finally reached the doorsteps of their Mecca. Caked in metaphorical sand, all that stood between each of them and the coveted prize of “Portsmouth Showcase ’05 winners” was a capacity Wedgewood Rooms, and each other. Oh, and nine judges. Ready? First up were playoff winners Funk Ya Mum. The jazz ensemble’s blues licks and general sax-led brilliance show that a band doesn’t have to have a singer to be captivating, but in the context of the showcase it would be foolish to say they didn’t suffer for their lack of vocals. Their evident nerves were understandable given their youth and position in opening the night, but still must have hampered their prospects. Despite their obvious anxiety though, they put together a thoroughly entertaining set which mixed rock dynamics with all the jazz coolness of a Gucci-clad cucumber. Following these were another group of fifteen year olds: Goth/Classic metalers Amethyst. Their opening was plagued by technical problems which led to a bassless introduction and the surreal sight of a frantically tapping guitarist wondering where his wailing solo had got to between axe and speaker. Fast forward a few songs and once in their stride they showed there’s a little potential in their overblown rock histrionics and calling to the moon/Satan/whoever. Good musicianship and fun to watch, but the contrast with Funk Ya Mum’s maturity could not have been more marked. Third up were quirky The Strange Death Of Liberal England. Entering while requesting we all repent - for what I’m not sure - they quickly settled into an experimental, post-rock groove. All about pretension, they played guitars with bows, constantly swapped instruments and had a huge stage presence. What they didn’t do though, was play any songs. They made some (vaguely) interesting noises and looked a bit arty, but lacked any of the sonic dynamism that give Mogwai their live edge. Still very much in their infancy though, given time who knows what the future holds for these six. Playing the penultimate set, pop-rockers Davros offered up a somewhat standard indie fare, the likes of which the Wedge has witnessed countless times. Although pleasant enough and nicely performed it was almost remarkable in how utterly unremarkable it was. This was further reinforced when the wacky Mista Mushroom entered the arena. The Isle of Wight nine-piece blew me away during their semi-final and somehow outdid that performance when it mattered most. With their frenzied rapping, funky basslines and blaring trumpets it’s impossible not to get involved in their “Doom-Calypso” party. With every move so beautifully choreographed and polished, right down to the cheeky use of lyrics from Pied Piper’s “do ya really like it?” to the Countdown music which ended their set, they were frighteningly good. As such it was a huge shock to find that they were not crowned victors. Still, the judges obviously saw something I missed in, eventual winners, The Strange Death of Liberal England's show that marked them out. So congratulations are due to the Showcase ’05 winners for that. So, after a topsy-turvy few weeks that’s me signing off for now, hope to see you all next year for more Showcase-related drama…