The Surface Festival is held throughout Europe, helping to discover and promote new talent with its regional and International showcases. Throughout 2012, events have been held in cities throughout the UK and Europe, and for bands that reach the final stages of the competition, they can be awarded with some incredible opportunities to showcase their talents in front of Industry figures.
I was dispatched to the semi-final heat held in Glasgow's Stairway nightclub to see how some of the bands performed live and to see if any future rock superstars were waiting to be discovered.
Motherwell based All She Knows were first up, although with any lack of introduction from the band, it did take a while to work out who they actually were. Having said that, Seb Lim Seet makes a good effort with his tuneful vocals whilst Adam MacEachran pounds away solidly on the drums at the back.
The second song performed in their set tonight, 'Be That Way', is one of their better efforts and affords bass player Ross McAndrew the time to pull some Metal poses while still making sure he's musically right on track. Guitarist George Cowie shows his worth in 'Sold My Soul' which features a great guitar solo before the band launch into 'Titanium' which features a very Marillion sounding keyboard solo. All in all, a good performance and one the band can be very proud of.
All She Knows
Estrella who are up next had their debut album, 'Come Out To Play', recently released, and have also been nominated for two Scottish New Music Awards. Their star is certainly on the rise, and this is one good time party band with a guitar case full of top notch tunes to back them up.
They kick off with 'Shout', as vocalist Paul Gunn grasps the crowds' attention straight away with his stage presence and powerful vocals, whilst his brother Nathan on bass and drummer Leo McPherson keep the Estrella engine room running on full power.
'She's Got It' has a bluesy feel to it, which turns into a great track with final Gunn brother, Luke's guitar solo a tour-de-force taking him (quite rightly) centre stage. Their debut album's titular track bursts into life with McPherson really punishing his drum kit as the audience are beckoned to get involved.
The highlight of the band's short set tonight is 'Whatever It Is' - the chorus just screams for a bit of audience participation before Luke takes an impromptu wander into the assembled crowd to perform a truly blistering guitar solo much to the audience's delight and bringing the curtain down on a highly polished display from the quartet.
All She Knows
Dunfermline based The Defenistrators are a good entertaining band that surely gave a bright future ahead of them. Tonight's set begins with 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind', which is a fast and furious introduction to the band's talents. Neale Mathieson on vocals and guitar shouts his way through the song that is very much in the vein of Green Day.
Next up is 'Duct Tape' which is a good solid number whilst their song 'Detox To Retox' starts a mini mosh pit down the front, but before you know it this song is over – very short but very heavy and very good it should be said.
'Pussy Whipped And Paper Clipped' has drummer Mathew Meiklejohn working away solidly at the back whilst Mathieson produces a good guitar solo as well as encouraging the crowd to join in. Their final number, 'Inside Her' has a solid bass line from Doug Barr and some good guitar work which turns this into a quality rock song. All in all, it was a good solid set from a band who can more than hold their own in the live arena.
Glasgow based band Black Velvet start solidly with 'Tainted Wings', in which vocalist Scott Taylor sounds not too far away from a Myles Kennedy/Chris Cornell sound, as bass player Adam Ronald headbangs his way through this song like his life depended on it. Following up with 'Scream', which features a good guitar solo from James Bird, it's followed by 'Out Of Reach', which is an archetypal slow, extended number with Taylor showing exceptional vocal skills in between the power chords from Bird, which eventually turn into a great guitar solo.
The band bow out with 'I Am Alive' which brings things back up to speed with this mid-paced number which completes this competent, though short set.
Although they didn't get through to the next round of the competition, special mention must be made to Troon based Our Time Now. Lead singer Grant McCaw wasn't able to fully perform vocal duties due to a bout of laryngitis, so his place was taken by Megan McFadzean, who not only had to learn the lyrics the night before but also had to travel three hours overnight to get to the gig.
Bass player Connor Hudspith has good stagecraft as does lead guitarist Ben Farrant – certainly two names to keep an eye on in the future. The band should be very proud of getting this far in the competition, and who knows, they may even do better next year.