A bit of an O’Fracas @ the Forum…

Monday, May12th

The Forum played host to The Red Stripe Music Awards 2008, Personal opinions about corporate run “indie band” competitions aside, the main interest of the night was to see some new bands and how our live music scene was shaping up… needless to say I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. And I don’t think we’re talking about the beer…

Two bands stood out to me throughout the competition. But for two very different reasons.

Shortly after arriving, I managed to catch a Brighton-based “band” called Klaus Says Buy the Record. According to their introduction, this “band” started out with two members and had expanded to four. So imagine my confusion when, for the first fifteen minutes of the set, only one slightly awkward individual graced the stage. For a performance at a final of a nation-wide competition where the prize was to play some slots at some of the UK’s most influential festivals, the songs were played in a slightly lack-lustre way with a hint of self-consciousness.

The “band” finally appeared and joined in with what appeared to be a 25 minute-long song disguised as a set. after only a few minutes on stage, the band were off again following a sudden outburst by lead singer Jonathan Mills of “give it up for my fucking band” – which seemed very out of joint with the tranquillity of the music. After then proceeding to build a sound with the aid of a loop pedal he left the stage… and a rather baffled crowd.

The set was OK. But not what would be the making of a great festival act. No atmopshere. I can’t picture the masses going beserk. This could be down to whether you like your music self-indulgent and monotonous or not. Oh I am cruel.

O’Fracas were the flip-side of the bipolar atmosphere that engulfed the evening. During their set up the crowd slowly melted from moody-looking, deadpan art student types into Viking helmet wearing, horn-blowing, maraca-wielding maniacs.

Within moments of the crowd whipping themselves into a frenzy the curtain was up and 5 lads in matching dapper jackets eagerly looked at their audience and immediately jumped into a fast-paced party tune. The Yorkshire-based quintet put on a fun and lively performance. And the songs have an edgy sinister side to their upbeat melodies.

The “big hit”with the audience was the catchy “Fact Finding” which was ridiculously infectious and its quirky schizophrenic style made me smile from ear-to-ear. This is a new sound, one that can be danced to and also a great song to play along with on novelty instruments – as proven by the dedicated O’Fraca-maniacs in the crowd. The impromptu percussion jam was what made the set. Every member of the band produced a weird looking combination instruments and led the crowd in a raucous affair of what seemed like a tribal rain dance. Fantastic.

Although, despite a stomping set that certainly won over the tough crowd awaiting headliners “Dirty Pretty Things”, a panel of “experts” chose to award the tour bus and festival slots to Klaus Says Buy the Record. Maybe the 500-strong crowd were wrong. Maybe this competition has kick-started a long illustrious career for Klaus Says Buy the Record. And despite my personal opinions, good luck to them, this cut-throat music industry is tough and everyone deserves a shot at success.

But I couldn’t help but feel disappointment at the judges’ result. Confused. Festivals are all about live performance. They are all about engaging and entertaining and creating an incredible atmosphere that will stay with each and every individual forever – no matter what the reason is. To think these “music experts” chose an act that quite clearly didn’t engage with the crowd was baffling. And although their stagecraft has a long way to go until they’ve perfected it, O’Fracas are definitely one step closer to that crowd-connection than anyone else I’ve seen in a long time. Watch this space.

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