At 7pm tomorrow, Tuesday 5th March, four bands will compete for the chance of a lifetime. Teaming up with the Hot Vox agency, the Isle of Wight Festival is on the hunt for the best new local group for a slot at this year’s event. The winner will also receive four free days in the studio with music producer Benny D. The quarter finals of the New Blood competition are taking place across the country, in Brighton, Southampton, Manchester, Leeds, London, the Isle of Wight—and at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth. Phoebe Hedges reports.
Most excitingly, you have the power to decide who gets that coveted slot on the festival stage. Through an online fan poll and voting at the gig itself, the public gets to decide which of these bands—plucked from a sea of thousands—get to ride the wave to the Isle of Wight.
Tuesday’s line-up consists of four upcoming punk and rock bands. Let’s whet your appetite about them.
In 2018, Southampton alt-rock/post-punk band Ekowe took their self-declared ‘baby steps’— but if these were baby steps, I look forward to seeing them hit their stride. The boys released their self-titled EP in September and then jumped from gig to gig in the months that followed. While Ekowe are no strangers to the Wedgewood Rooms, this will be the first time they have headlined there.
Which hasn’t come a moment too soon—Ekowe’s eponymous EP mixes clever and original lyrics with foot-stomping, head-banging melodies. At four songs and twelve minutes long, the EP has been carefully curated by the boys to take the listener on a journey. ‘Social Surgery’ and ‘Stuck on a Fairground Ride’ grab you by the collar, sit you down and make you pay attention, whereas third track on the EP, ‘Vulnerable’, reveals a softer side. By the time you reach ‘The Cage’, you’ll be curious about where these boys will go next; the Isle of Wight Festival, perhaps?
The New Shoes
The New Shoes are a four-piece garage rock band hailing from Gosport. After releasing their first eponymous EP in 2018, the lads have toured Hampshire—with no evidence of slowing down in 2019. So far this year they’ve played the famous Joiners in Southampton, supporting the Bristol band Heavy Lungs. More locally, they were at the Loft during the Ice Breaker Festival back in January.
They also released a new single, ‘Little Racket’, on the 11th of January. The track has gained a lot of popularity and was featured on several prominent music blogs, and it’s understandable why. It’s an ode to the eighties rock’n’roll lifestyle, but for a twenty-first century mentality. It combines a catchy mantra with guitar riffs, inspiring us to leave our own mark on the world—no matter how small.
Influenced by artists such as Jamie T, Slaves, The Smiths and Spring King, Hallan’s music reflects and comments on what it’s like to grow up in Portsmouth and the social and political issues affecting the city. Their music covers topics from bad breakups to the ‘toxicity of middle-class youth’—and reverberates with the strength it takes to endure both.
They’ve been on tour already this year, playing six shows across the country that culminated in their headlining Portsmouth’s Icebreaker Festival (you might have caught them in the Honest Politician too). In between charity gigs at the University’s Student Union and playing their first gig in London, the boys are now working on a new single—am I the only one with fingers crossed that it debuts at the Wedge?
There’s no way to describe Blithe’s musical journey so far other than to say that they burst onto the Pompey music scene. Local indie-rock and punk fans might have caught them playing in the Wave Maiden, The Lord John Russell and even headlining at the Wedge last November. On-stage, Blithe really show off their ‘chaos and parties’ ideology.
Their debut single ‘Did You Get the Message’ hit Spotify after the band had been playing together for five months, but the thumping bass is shot through with the rock’n’roll attitude that we hope will take them far. In an interview for the Portsmouth University student newspaper The Galleon, the Blithe boys revealed that playing Glastonbury would be a dream for them, and whilst it might not be the Pyramid Stage, they’ve definitely got the Isle of Wight in their sights.
A second round of quarter finals for the New Blood competition will begin on the 14th March, featuring artists working in the psychedelic and country genres. Tickets for that round and tomorrow’s are available through the Wedgewood Rooms here. Doors open at 7pm and the first act is due to go on stage shortly after. Head on down to Wedge to have your say on which one of these bands deserves to move forward to the semi-finals!