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:: The Official Secrets Act :: Gekko :: Backseat Angel :: Native State :: Gary Walker :: Daniel Ray :: Any Ruddy :: The Strays :: Stop Drop And Roll :: Red Star Rebels :: Harrison Drive :: Sarah Griffin :: Sevilla :: Darnell ::
20 October 2007 / Bridgewater Hall / Manchester

Still within the confines of The Bridgewater Hall, John Robb turns up in the biggest white leather beetle crushers in town. He’s the compère for an early afternoon open mic event – the formula ? : names in a box and Mr Robb pulls them out – if the act are here, they play – if not they’ve “pissed on their chance” as Mr R so directly put it.

I can tell you now that the best band in this session are actually the first folks on on. OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT ( ) look good and sound great – they’ve plugged into the practice amp backline and they rattle out a speeded up mix of brash, slightly dark but jolly pop – they sound ten times better than their demos too. Very highly recommended.

GEKKO are next and their soaring stadium rock doesn’t quite transfer to a naked acoustic outing – the vocals do shine through well enough on their track “Cardigan Boys” which has the benefit of some smart harmonica parts.

BACKSEAT ANGEL come out with their boy band acoustica and they’re dressed like they’ve just been sacked from either The Towers Of London or Razorlight. The guitar playing is poor but the singer is pretty compelling. From Newcastle and not a completely wasted journey.

NATIVE STATE has struck lucky and got her demo played and now has a chance to display her deep, dynamic range- it’s genuinely emotive and quite captivating.

GARY WALKER is from Sheffield act SUBNOVA and he has a really interesting Chris Cornell kind of voice – it’s strong confident and expressive as the definite Seattle flavouring takes hold.

DANIEL RAY plays “Here Comes The Light” which runs a parallel to Springstein but with a muted energy – it’d sound good with a full band, but his song doesn’t half go on a bit.

ANDY RUDDY is from BRADFORD and plays in STRAYS – he’s got the best individual voice of the day and despite borrowing a pink guitar that has a loose strap he overcomes any obstacles easily. Watch out for him and Strays.

STOP DROP AND ROLL struggled in the demo sessions but still persist in hammering out an acoustic number. It’s too soon and they’re not ready, as proved by a rusty, rough arsed performance. The vocals thankfully are decent but much more rehearsal and practice please.

Time is running ( as Matt from Muse once said ) – this time it’s the Robbster calling the shots and with just a handful of slots left and about 30 names left in the box he picks the next act because one of them is wearing a pair of particularly aggressive white winkle pickers. It’s those REDSTAR REBELS who look like Motley Crue after a night out on the piss. They collared me last night and gave me a flyer and made sure I knew when they were playing over the weekend – good luck to them. Musically it IS L.A. Boulevard rock and roll. They struggle with just two acoustics, their little spindly drainpipe treasured legs sticking out the bottom and their big hair (or hat in this case) jammed over the top. Rawk & Roll, but with of course a “shush” factor.

Another act to watch out for are HARRISON DRIVE. Their stuff is a little bit BoyBand/McFly and of course it’s stripped down. But with two guitars they pull off the best dynamics and come armed with a fantastic singer. It’s very impressive and these young stars certainly have some very sign-able qualities - and neatly avoid anything that’s too cheesy.

SARAH GRIFFIN ( is from Bournemouth and has a song called “Alley Cat” – it’s interesting with a cosmopolitan slant and her voice is as flighty as it is accurate. I’m not too sure about the slightly jazzy shuffles and whether her songs are as robust as they should be.

SEVILLA is some crazy woman from Newcastle who gets up and sings A Cappella - but whilst having a decent voice perhaps struggles with the kind of thing that only Sharon Osborne or Simon Cowell should put up with.

DARNELL is next and to be fair he’s also struggling to impressive even on what seems home territory as he ably strums his acoustic guitar. His brand of soul and funk blues are ok but there’s nothing in there to make you really want to listen.

Judging panels – never believe a word…

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