The Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition gives unsigned artists based in the UK or Ireland the chance to win a main stage spot at the festival. This year, entrants had to submit a song and a video of a live performance, effectively ruling out untold bedroom covers of “Get Lucky” and the like. Consequence of Sound’s UK man, Tony Hardy, was one of 40 music writers and bloggers invited to whittle down the entries into a long list of 120 performers.
Given the stricter criteria of judging both the individual song and the artist’s live sound, the standard of entries was predictably high. It was a tough call to select just three acts to go through to the next stage, especially as it seemed all the male singer-songwriters were called Ryan or Sam. Some entrants had strong songs but fell down on the live performance or vice versa. The ones that made it to my final shortlist ticked both boxes but beyond that displayed sparks of true originality or the polish and verve to convince me they could work a Glastonbury stage.
It is perhaps unfair to list those who occupied the slots immediately outside my final three, but rest assured they are all in the notebook to keep tabs on. So, without further ado, here are my three acts that made it through.
Big Tent and the Gypsy Lantern
First up is Big Tent & the Gypsy Lantern, a band I first discovered through last year’s Emerging Talent contest. The band’s 2014 entry, “Brightly Coloured Wall”, is equally strong, fusing instruments that might not be natural bedfellows to create a compelling, engagingly diverse sound. Unexpected twists and turns in melody and tempo are bridged by sharp harmonies, while lyrically the band creates a believable synthesis of the mundane and the fanciful. Its live performances blend consummate energy with wit and spirit — a terrific band deserving of a major festival stage.
Next is Echo Raptors delivering a clean, positive sound that bridges that of the great guitar bands of early West Coast and classic ’90s Britpop yet with a fresh, contemporary spin. “Change My Way” smacks you between the ears on first listen and quickly worms its way into your psyche. The band presents plenty of evidence online that it can command a live audience and would work brilliantly on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury.
Eyes for Gertrude
Finally, Eyes for Gertrude immediately stood out for how well the duo’s voices complement each other; the first pure, strong Nashville, and the second offering English Rose delicacy. “Rag and Bone” takes soundings from the routines of daily life and reaches determinedly for higher ground, illuminated by delicious vocal flourishes and rousing bluegrass accompaniment. Eyes for Gertrude has a great collection of songs and sufficient quirkiness to work a festival stage fruitfully.
Check out the full playlist of 120 songs here, and watch this space for news of who makes it through to the final eight who will compete at the live finals in the village of Pilton, Glastonbury on April 5th.