Posted 14 August 2017 by Adz Carter
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Well, it’s hard to believe, but here we are again! It’s August in Newcastle, so that means it’s time for something special (and no, not just my birthday). I am of course talking about the Passport To Airlie Battle of the Bands Competition. With Newcastle being one of the hosts of this national comp since 2014, Passport To Airlie has become something of an institution for many many Novocastrian live music lovers. The comp has also given dozens of upcoming artists their time to shine by providing a platform (and a stage) for them to strut their stuff and showcase their musical talents in front of hundreds of music fans, all whilst competing for some truly fantastic prizes.

For the second year in a row in Newcastle, the oh so sensational Stag & Hunter Hotel is providing the venue for Passport To Airlie (every Sunday from 4pm-8pm), where there is, as always, a total of four Heats. For the first time in Newcastle though, this year, there is not one, but two Semi Finals taking place in between Heat Four and the Grand Final. The winners of the Grand Final not only receive a cash prize of $1000, but 4 nights accommodation at Airlie Beach, and V.I.P tickets to the Airlie Beach Festival of Music, where they will also compete in the National Finals of Passport To Airlie (with the winner of this getting to play on the main stage of the Airlie Beach Festival of Music the following year).
Yesterday five fabulous acts got things underway, once again showing just how eclectic this competition can be.

Local lad Wesley Edgerton has been delighting audiences for a number of years now, performing acoustic ballads under the moniker of Wesley’s Edge. Just as Alice In Chains did during their iconic appearance on MTV Unplugged, Wesley opened with A.I.C’s now classic ‘Nutshell’, doing the late great A.I.C lead singer Layne Staley proud. 
The original, ‘Break The Stone’, saw Wesley bust out his ol’ faithful loop pedal, adding great percussion, making him sound like a one man band, and also showcasing just how strong his vocals are. Whilst ‘For Tyler’ a heartfelt song about his son, showcased what a great songwriter he is. Wesley also did this with the poignant and powerful ‘Time To Shine’ a song self-described as being about empowerment and being true to yourself. Well, as someone who’s a supporter of anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum, how could I not get behind that? 
Closing his set with a very faithful rendition of ‘Last Goodbye’ by Jeff Buckley, Wesley Edgerton proved himself to be an extremely passionate performer, and proved that Wesley’s Edge really is an act to look out for.
Rock n’ roll four piece Arcades and Lions came on with an almighty roar, and played with the same determination as four young men running through an arcade being chased by a lion. Looking like The Ramones and spouting the same punk swagger, A&L delivered flawless drums, bass, twin guitars and perfect brooding rock vocals, complimented damn well by just the right amount of rock posturing. 
There was lots of style, but lots of substance too with this highly diverse band, who attacked the audience with hard rock originals. There were shades of modern day indie rock throughout, but ‘Just To Get Your High’ had a funky swing, reminisant of early 90s Chili Peppers. 
Meanwhile, songs like ‘Sobered Up’, ‘You Know’, and ‘Expectations’ (complete with a killer guitar solo), were all rock n’ roll, but so much more, making this band one that’s very hard to describe, and almost impossible to pigeonhole.

The eclectic Boneman boasted the usual format of a four piece (i.e., vocals, guitar, bass and drums), but with an extra added surprise in the form of violin, brandished like an axe by the lead singer right throughout this all original set. Opening with the instrumental ‘Prelude In A Minor’, Boneman set themselves apart from many other bands in the rock genre, as the violin’s presence was well and truly known immediately. The second song ‘Sally Jane’ sounded like The Angels if they had a violin player (and Tex Perkins as lead singer), while ‘Purple’ had more of a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds style about it. The fourth song highlighted some incredibly unique vocal harmonies, while ‘Walking Times’, told a relatable tale about a relationship, and drowning oneself in booze when it all goes wrong (think of a country song done by AC/DC). Every one of Boneman’s songs not only told a story, but painted a vivid picture in an unpretty but hauntingly beautiful way. The last song, ‘Mr Colourful’ moved into dank grunge territory, sounding like Stone Temple Pilots with string accompaniment, perfectly rounding out a very dark and moody set.

As three quarters of Jackson were on the stage busting out an instrumental intro, my first thought was “Move over Kyuss!” (Okay, so Kyuss split up a long time ago now, so they don’t have to move anywhere, but anyway...) This was though, before the guitarist started playing some Steve Vai style shredding guitar riffs that would impress even the snobbiest of guitar critics. The singer then made his grand entrance to the stage to shake things up and make a cocktail of Iron Maiden meets late 70s Van Halen, and late 80s Alice Cooper. The second song ‘Hold On’ saw the guitarist make great use of the talk box (extending in many ways on anything Peter Frampton ever did with one), while the singer wailed with a great rock n’ roll voice, and the great heavy pounding bass and drums provided a very strong backbone, showcasing the entire band’s talents. By the time Jackson got to the Whitesnake/Survivor-esque ‘How Long’, they’d really exhibited their rare style, which was a great celebration of 80s hard rock. This was well and truly proven with the set’s closer, which hailed back to early Bon Jovi, when the entire band had big hair, a big sound, and still knew how to rock. Jackson rocked great rhythms and beats throughout, but even if they didn’t, their appearance would’ve been worth it just to see a band with leather pants and bandanas, as there’s not enough of either in the rock world anymore (in my humble opinion).

If Jackson’s way of thinking outside the box had them living on the edge, Bravo Victor’s way saw them jump off the edge. Heat One’s only duo were not your standard two piece, as, instead of having a vocalist backed by an acoustic guitarist, Bravo Victor’s vocals were accompanied by a five string bass (hence the name, using the words from the NATO phonetic alphabet for B and V, i.e., bass and vocals). During ‘The Duel’, Bravo Victor upped the wow factor even in the opening number, as, while some guitarists can make their guitar sound like a bass, this bass player made his bass sound like a guitar. Not only that, but it was an electric bass that sounded like an acoustic guitar. Oh my god! Not enough can be said about the singer though, who could even give Kate Miller-Heidke a run for her money. This combination of the incredible bass and oh so passionate vocals perfectly complimented the extremely emotive songs. One distinct highlight was the heartbreaking ‘For All His Flaws’, sung beautifully and uniquely played with a loop box connected to the bass. There were also great bass parts during a quite different take on Leonard Cohen’s classic ‘Hallelujah’, and the standout bass continued to the last song of the set, which was introduced as being their attempt at a James Bond theme song. Oh, and what a successful attempt it was, because, as something of a Bond nerd, I thought it stacked up well against recent Bond themes (and I hope Sam Mendes, director of the next Bond film is reading... Forget about Adele!) There were great rhythms and infectious melodies from start to finish. With elements of both opera and lounge music, Bravo Victor’s super sexy swingin’ sounds could be summed up as being absolutely mesmerising.

As I have said in a number of rounds in more than one of the competitions, it’s never an enviable task to be the last act on. But, as has also been the case in a number of rounds in more than one of the competitions, it has sometimes turned out fruitful for the last act on, and last night, Bravo Victor were victorious! So now Bravo Victor advance to the Semi Finals next month. With August being the month of Leos, and Leo being the sign of the lion, it was very fitting that Arcades and Lions should also make their way to next month’s Semi Finals. Big congrats to both acts!
Also, in case you weren’t aware, you too can also be a winner during this competition... Any drink purchase sees you go into the draw to win a $50 bar tab to use in the bar or bistro. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, by simply spending $5 or more at the bar or bistro, you’ll go into the draw to win a brand new Fender Stratocaster (pictured below) drawn at the Grand Final! But regardless of if you receive a prize or not, you’ll still be winning, as you’ll get to hear some of the finest fresh talent anywhere around, all for free!
So see you this Sunday at The Stag!

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