Clear winner of battle of the bands

You could call it a glorified Battle Of The Bands competition, but with £14,000 worth of equipment, studio time and promotion…

You could call it a glorified Battle Of The Bands competition, but with £14,000 worth of equipment, studio time and promotion at stake, there's no shortage of good bands willing to join the quest for glory. This year's Unplugged contest attracted entries well into three figures, but the six bands arrayed here on Friday night were the only ones who could stand the heats and move onto the final showdown.

There's always a pang of guilt when you pick a winner in these things - make the wrong choice, and you unleash a talentless lot on a hapless public, and leave some worthy runners-up in the lurch. You can also incur the disdain of an audience who may loudly disagree with the judges' choice. This year, however, both judging panel and audience were united in their approbation for the winners, a young Leixlip band called Shallow who charged up their unplugged set with 50,000 volts of attitude.

Shallow were the first band onstage, but they came on like a headline act amid cheers from their formidable posse of friends and well-wishers. The lead singer had the look of a young Pete Townshend and the style of a young Paul Weller, and performed as though he were cut from the same rock 'n' roll cloth. The songs weren't remarkable, but the energy and dynamics more than made up for the flatter musical moments.

Beach displayed the musical competence you'd expect from a former Beatles covers band, and their original material conjured up a Crowded House atmosphere, but the po-faced professionalism left little room to move. Asterix's influences were closer to Alex Chilton, and their material was strong enough to win them the Best Song. The McCluskeys strummed away with raucous abandon, but wandered a bit too far into Levellers/Pogues country.


Hooky balanced nicely between soft, ballady tunes and strident acoustic anthems, and one very impressive tune probably put them within a hair's breadth of winning. Lucidien, the youngest band on the bill, delivered a powerful, punchy set, but though they displayed talent beyond their years, and boasted a superb vocalist, their material still needs time to mature.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist