This independent review has been written by Young Critic Thomas McClure as part of the Young Critics Programme.
On Saturday the 1st of April, 2023, the CatStrand Young Creatives presented the Battle of the Bands. With six fantastic acts (Alexander & the Greeks, Ella Campbell, Jodie Rae, The High Priestess, BN JI, and Rhelm), it was a night to remember! Two acts won this Battle of the Bands, Jodie Rae and Rhelm, and they have been selected for the Knockengorroch 2023 lineup.
Alexander and the Greeks
An energetic and kinetic opening, Alexander and the Greeks gave us an almost-experimental yet engaging performance. With only two rehersals under their belt, titual Alexander took hold of the stage and began directing the band on the spot with an infectious passion and energy, creating an informal atmosphere running almost entirely on excited and creative vibes. With continued experience and practice, in staging and focus more than in musical talent, Alexander
and the Greeks could be capable of creating an unforgettable, eccentric, and electric performance.
Ella Campbell (Singer / Songwriter)
One of the youngest acts, Ella Campbell brings a unique voice to the battle with her own original songs, exploring the life experiences of a fourteen-year-old girl and some of the interpersonal struggles therein. With lush vocals, an appropriate command of the guitar, and calm and collected stage presence, Ella draws the audience in and effortlessly holds their attention for the entirety of her performance. With some more work on her original songs, one of which was amazingly only written the night before, Campbell could master the musician's trifecta (singing, playing, and writing) before she's even old enough to vote. Certainly an up-and-comer, it wouldn't surprise me if she became the next Orla Gartland or Dodie, or, more likely, the first Ella Campbell.
Jodie Rae (Singer / Songwriter)
The first winner of the Battle of the Bands, acoustic singer-songwriter Jodie Rae earned it with her impassioned performances. Just as the previous act was of the personal experiences of a fourteen-year-old girl, this act, as if it were in the same continuity, brought to life the experiences of a twenty-three-year-old singer songwriter; back-to-back it's hard to not see the similarities between the two. Jodie Rae is very aware of her vocal range and uses that to her advantage in her original songs, creating a captivating performance and providing a raw, unfiltered look into some deeply personal experiences. Her control over her voice, her guitar, and even the audience is something to be admired. I've certainly had her song Creepin' playing in my head all day afterwards.
The High Priestess
A couple in their element, both Liv and Josh from The High Priestess bring a relaxing and engaging stage presence to this Battle of the Bands. Perfectly embodying the vibes that their title evokes, The High Priestess pairs a hauntingly beautiful voice with the strong accompaniment of a gifted guitar player. Both are at their absolute best when they lose themselves in their performance, especially when Josh the guitarist adds his voice to boost the lyrics of Liv the singer. Although the guitar can often drown out the vocals, the singer has an incredible vocal range that adds an immense gavitas to their original songs. They played one song called Dewdrops, a reimagining of the song by the same name by the singer's late fathe
r's band, which works very well with their ethereal style and unique openness with the audience. Being only two gigs into their career, I see 2023 as the year of The High Priestess.
BN JI (Singer / Songwriter)
BN JI a singer, songwriter was confident, calm, and collected as he took to the stage and delivered a beautiful vocal performance and displayed a mastery of the guitar. His first original song had me and another member of the audience humming and whistling the tune all night thereafter. This is a performer to keep an eye out for!
The youngest of the acts, with all four members being around only thirteen-years-old, and the other winner of the Battle of the Bands, Rhelm ended the night with an electric and standout performance. Despite a few technical issues that are to be expected for a band's first performance, these four talented kids went from nervous trepidation to confident rockstars over the course of their act. Although they were carried mostly by the effortless beat of their drummer and a singer that could bring the house down (in a good way), each member of the band had their moment to shine, with one performer skillfully transitioning from piano to electric guitar in an instant and the other keeping the technical side of things running while also playing their own electric guitar. With a fantastic cover of Paramore and a stellar rendition of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes that ended the night with a bang, Rhelm brought fabulousenergy to this battle, and they had most of the audience moving along with their beat.
Not only did Rhelm get the longest applause by far (spurred on by a very excited child in the audience; who was essentially our secret third judge), but they also got a second applause when they returned to the room later on, and so there was no doubt that they were going to be the winners of this Battle of the Bands, and well-won it was. If they stick with it, with some more practice, experience, and confidence, I believe Rhelm could be Dumfries and Galloway's next TORRS, even selling out stadium's in a decade's time.