The seven groups in action gave me and my fellow judges - JC Carroll of the Members and music biz veteran/Blastbeat mainman Robert Stephenson - a really hard time in deciding the winners. In the end we went for the Pieces by a narrow head over Virtue of the Villains, the Grifters and the Dirty Blondes. There was a sense of intent and focus to their music, marshalled by David Bardon in classic lead/rhythm-guitarist fashion, and they delivered their songs to the whole audience, rather than just the first couple of rows of mates. Sound-wise its a sharp New Wave feel, with elements of Television, but especially early Who, or local boys like the Ruts, Lurkers or Members back in the day. While they were playing, JC leant over, and indicating David Bardon, said "You can tell he's just like I was at his age, bet he takes his guitar to bed with him too!" Sure enough, when Robert Stephenson gave out the 1st prize, Pieces' singer Will Barrett took the mic and dedicated the award to David for his commitment to the group and making music.
The main prize takes the form of involvement with Robert's Blastbeat programme, which is all about empowering young people who want to make music and teaching them how to be self-sufficient and deal with the business. There's also a potential gig at the O2 arena and recording contract at stake, so it's a serious deal. When I were a lad it was okay - compulsory almost - to say "I just care about the music, ma-an", but that won't get you far these days. Robert's managed, promoted and done just about everything else in between in the biz - 1st show put on? U2 in 1980 - and I hope to have a chat with him soon for Mudkiss. Meanwhile take a look at www.blastbeat.org if you want to know more.
The other element of the prize was this interview, so it seemed only natural to get talking with The Pieces.
DEN: How long have you been playing together?
THE PIECES: We've been playing together for around six months now - however in that time the line-up has changed around a bit.
DEN: So who's in the group now?
THE PIECES: Will Barrett - vocals, David Bardon - lead guitar, Kayd Kalali - rhythm guitar, Louis Gilbert - bass and Ruben Kenton-Harris - drums.
DEN: Was that your biggest gig so far?
THE PIECES: Yeah, it probably was - we'd never really played in front of that many people before. It was good to play in a theatre too.
DEN: What artists/groups/styles are your influences/inspirations?
THE PIECES: The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Oasis, the Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Eight Legs, Beady Eye... We are really into British/Pop style music. I think British people have a certain way about playing music which is very different than Americans. We love that sort of stuff.
DEN: Where do you hope to be in a few years' time?
THE PIECES: Millionaires!
DEN: Are there other groups at your school/college?
DAVID: Yeah, there are quite a few, pretty much a band in every year group. School is quite useful in encouraging bands to start up.
DEN: There's a stereotype now that young people only make music with loops and samples - Saturday showed that's not the case: is there a lot of support for guitar based music among your friends?
THE PIECES: I think there is. Because there has been a lot of loop/sample music recently I think that it might be time for a bit of a change. Guitar music never went away; it was just overshadowed by the more techno stuff. It's never not been there, it's just been less popular in recent years. A lot of our friends enjoy the music we play, so I guess they must enjoy the guitar music.
DEN: Who writes your songs?
THE PIECES: David Bardon - lead guitarist...
DEN: Any plans for recording?
THE PIECES: Hopefully we will be making an EP later this month
DEN: It had to be original material on Saturday - do you do any cover versions?
THE PIECES: We have tried cover songs before and played them a few times, but we seem to get a better reception for the original stuff we do. I think when you do a cover your version is instantly compared to the original and it puts you under pressure.
DEN: The Blastbeat scheme sounds like a great idea - will it encourage you to stick with the music?
THE PIECES: I think it will encourage us. I don't think we had any ideas about not sticking with it, but it will definitely keep us motivated as a band.
DEN: Any big interests outside music?
THE PIECES: We are all big football fans - there's a lot of friendly rivalry.
DEN: Any thoughts on music now in general, and in the future?
THE PIECES: I think the music scene is quite dominated by R'n'B and Dubstep at the moment. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy all this stuff at parties and so on, but there aren't many current bands to look up to regarding rock'n'roll. We hope that one day the spotlight will once again shine on bands and rock'n'roll.
DEN: Thanks, David ... keep in touch, we want to see what happens next for the Pieces!
It was great that night to get back to the feeling that this is where it all begins - teenagers passionate about music. Stick with it and it won't let you down. I came away with huge respect for everyone who'd been involved that night, and it was all summed up for me by meeting one of the Pieces' Dads in the car park afterwards, with a grin a mile wide and just so proud of what his boy was involved in.
Interview by Den Browne 05/03/11