I don’t often venture out to gigs as much as I would have done back in the day, so it takes something special to get me over the door and out into the country.
Having heard rather a lot over recent months about a Battle of the Bands competition in a local town, with the prize at stake being a stage slot at the Glastonbury festival, I thought it would be prime opportunity to catch up on a lot of the best local and regional talent around, the creme de la creme, if you will, of the upcoming new wave of talent, especially in light of the paddywhackery of a recent Guardian article, and the great user comments that proceeded it about the current state of Irish music.
So I tripped along to sunny Shercock in Cavan and the Ship Inn, the venue for the contest, and saw some truly fine acts fight it out for the prestigious place at Pilton Farm in the summer.
The Myth, The Making, Turbulent Eddy, Serial Twin, Humbuzzer and Shouting At Planes all rocked well and gave hugely impressive accounts of themselves. The eventual outcome was a bit of a hometown decision, but the one true winner on the night, though, was the Navan-based Whatmans, whose set, supported by a fine turnout of fans and new converts on the night alike, was one of those goosebump moments that comes along very seldom in this pop life.
Opening their short set with the slow-burning and epic Soldier, and closing with upcoming single, Devil Shoes, they showed themselves to be possibly the best unsigned act in the country.
Soldier was an unlikely opener, but it came across as U2’s Moment Of Surrender without the pretension, filled with equal bombast and driving energy.
Tracks like Follow Me, Guns of Dublin and This One’s For The Music have an immediate and solid connection with their audience, and if their debut album, slated for November release, can capture their powerful live act, they are destined for a major label deal and all that comes thereafter.
The Whatmans’ uncanny knack with the anthemic twist, echoes of the Verve at their best and a canny pop sensibility, they showed potential beyond their environment and I would not be concerned at their loss on the night. They will one day grace Glastonbury, and at a headier slot than this win might have brought them.
They are one to watch, and if they continue to gig and develop their already confident and accomplished presence, the sky is the limit.
Watch them take off…