Bristol Unsigned, part of the Synthetica Events Group, bring us another night of upcoming local talent at The Thunderbolt. The line-up features a diverse group of musicians, but they have at least one thing in common: they’re all under 18. And you’ve got to hand it to them – their professionalism and punctuality is a real credit to them, and way beyond what you’d expect to find on an under-18s night. This is also a very special gig for our organisers – Synthetica is celebrating its first birthday, and this show marks their fiftieth event – a landmark achievement for such a small promotions outfit.
The night opens with indie-rock guitar duo, The Malarkey. It’s tough being the first act up, especially when you’re playing a style of music which really demands drums and bass and you have neither, but what they lack in instrumentation, these boys make up for in raw vocals, classically punk song structures, and a lo-fi sound reminiscent of The Libertines. It takes a few songs for the atmosphere in the front row to make it through the crowd, but by the end of their set, The Malarkey managed to set a great mood for the rest of the night.
We continue with Pain Split, a four-piece borrowing from styles including hardcore, alternative metal, nu-metal and screamo, and my stand-out band of the night. They put on a true performance from start to finish, packed with raw energy, confidence, and passion in spades. Their set consists mainly of songs so short you barely have time to orient yourself before you’ve been kicked in the face with bassy riffs, sick guitar solos and pounding drums which don’t drop a single beat. These guys are polished beyond their years, and surely heading for great things if they keep this up.
Pain Split’s drummer James reappears in the next act of the night, the Ollie Sharp Trio. Fronted by Bath-based singer songwriter (you guessed it) Ollie Sharp, these guys did a stellar job considering this is their first gig as a trio. The crowd is pretty happy as the set opens with a rendition of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s “Can’t Stop”. Ollie is a lot more confident on his original material than the covers, but it’s great to see him change from something of a rabbit in the headlights at the start of his set to a confident, enthusiastic performer by the end. His final song, Fallout Boy’s “Dance, Dance”, does what it says on the tin, and Ollie comes off the stage with the biggest smile I saw on any performer all night. A bit more time in rehearsal, a lot less self-deprecation when things don’t go perfectly, and (in my opinion) a stronger focus on his original material, and Ollie could be a real rising star. His newest release, “Nights on Quiet Street”, is out on 25th August.
Next up is four-piece More Than You Bargained For, with a repertoire of catchy, crowd pleasing songs that would fit right into in the set of The All-American Rejects, Bowling for Soup, or a long list of associated, early-2000s pop-punk bands. These guys have got great energy on stage, and effortlessly get the crowd clapping and singing along – some of their biggest fans even had a go at making a little moshpit happen! With a healthy dose of ‘woah-oh’s and quintessentially nasal punk vocals, these guys just make you happy. They end on the most anthemic of anthems, and the crowd are loving it – every hand is in the air.
The night’s headliners, The Belishas, make a confident start and have the audience moving straight away. Their fast-paced, energetic brand of punk is just great fun, and the crowd have a whale of a time. Their cover of Oasis’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” is an interesting choice – a little lost on an audience this young perhaps, but goes down great regardless. It’s easy to see why these guys made it to the final of Synthetica’s Underdog competition last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go just as far this year.
The Underdog 2016 starts at the end of this month, and I’m really excited to see some of tonight’s bands again in the heats. Happy birthday, Synthetica, and here’s to the next year.