A review of the final of the Battle of the Bands, featuring 76 Knots, Thousand Stars and Lionel, at The Eagle, Inverness on the 10th of October. Having missed out on the heats, I was looking forward to the final of The Eagle’s Battle of the Bands. The recently renovated upstairs bar was looking good and is a great size for this type of event, ensuring that the gig had a crowded feel and boosting the atmosphere of the night. Taking on the role of house band and compères for the evening were Searching for Donkeys. They did a good job warming up the crowd, adding some unexpected drama and pyrotechnics to the proceedings. The first of the finalists to take the stage were Lionel. The three piece presented a good first impression, getting off to a confident start. The band are clearly well rehearsed and have put a lot of thought into their sound. The aggressive guitar tone and vocals work well and remind me of the indie bands to come out of the Liverpool scene in the last few years. The band are comfortable while playing, with a couple of bum notes in the fourth song causing nothing more than some wry looks. Between songs they could work on their banter a bit, not quite managing to engage the crowd. The penultimate song in the set was noticeably heavier than the earlier songs, though still showed the same attention to detail in the guitar and bass sound. By the time they launched into their seventh song I was wondering if their tactic was to filibuster their way to the prize, but I’m sure it was excitement at the occasion and the response from the crowd rather than a deliberate ploy. Lionel turned out a strong performance and set the bar high for the rest of the acts. As the newest band to playing at the final they are clearly off to a promising start. Second up was 76 Knots, another three piece with a definite post-hardcore flavour. They are clearly a popular band, and there was a noticeable shift in the crowd towards the stage. Unfortunately the sound wasn’t right at the start of the set, which put the band off their timing for most of the first song. As soon as this was sorted they settled into their rhythm and delivered another polished performance. They’re easy going in between tracks and get a good few laughs from the crowd. As with Lionel, 76 Knots are clearly well rehearsed and their sound suits the genre well. The guitar tone and distortion on both vocals are consistent throughout the full set. While this does work for most of the songs, by the end of a seven song set it’s pretty full on. It would have been good to see things being mixed up a little. The backing vocals in the fourth song work well, and give me a nostalgic urge to dig out my old Small Brown Bike CDs. The final band to step into the ring are Thousand Stars. As with 76 Knots, the band seem comfortable on stage. Of the three finalists they have the most variation in instrumentation and dynamics throughout their set. Unfortunately the harmonies and backing vocals simply don’t work. There are tuning issues with all the vocals throughout the whole set, which detracts from some interesting guitar playing. They’re working hard at getting the crowd involved, though for such a short set there’s a bit too much talking in between every song and the band could achieve a better balance. With a prize of three days recording at Strathsound on the cards there is an air of excitement from the bands at the end of the night. Departing from the usual ‘clap-ometer’ system common to this type of competition, score cards were handed out to chosen members of the audience and to the bands themselves. This is a nice choice, as battle of the band nights can commonly degenerate into a glorified popularity contest. After the scores are calculated it was 76 Knots that claimed first place. They were clearly the most well rounded band of the night, though in my opinion Lionel were a very close second. I’m looking forward to seeing how the energy and intensity of 76 Knots’ live performance translates to the recordings they produce. On a final note, all three bands could learn something from their competition. While 76 Knots were the most comfortable on stage and provided the most competent performance, Lionel had clearly put the most thought into a varied and interesting guitar tone, and Thousand Stars were the only band out of the three who had some real variation in dynamics throughout their set. Congratulations to 76 Knots for claiming the prize, and to The Eagle on their official reopening! Photos by Frank Finlayson See further pictures of the Battle of the Band.