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Graham Robinson: Kudos to GBOB România

Graham Robinson: Kudos to GBOB România

Last week, Anca and I were invited to a Global Battle Of the Bands (Romania) semi-final at Artmania Festival in Sibiu. I explained in advance that we couldn't go as judges because we already like and admire two of the bands entered into the contest: E-an-na and False Reality - and, more to the point, we already work with these bands through our booking agency, Anglo-Saxon Booking Agency. Frankly, we would not have wanted to have to choose between them either as we are friends with both bands too!


So, we went as "observers" only, for which we were not paid and neither would we expect to be. We were in fact offered accommodation the night of the contest (as was offered to all the invited jurors, observers and the headlining act), which kind offer we declined as we already had accommodation booked for the whole three days of the festival.


There were thirteen bands playing, of which eleven were participating in the contest and two (the first to play and the last) were winners of previous semi-finals the year before, invited as "warm-up" and "headliner" respectively.


The jury was made up of invited music industry professionals who were asked to score each band out of twenty considering such factors as composition, originality, performance, presentation, charisma and costume. As we were seated amongst them, I can say that everyone approached the task with due diligence, watching the full performance of every artist and making copious notes.


The audience also had a vote, for which they had to have bought a ticket and been given a voting form at the entrance before any of the eleven bands entered into the competition had performed so that they could (in theory) watch all eleven bands before picking three bands to vote for and listing them as first, second and third choices.


There was quite a range of styles and ages amongst the bands and the audience, from indie pop and alternative rock, to hard rock and blues, progressive rock, folk metal and more modern styles such as grunge, nu-metal and metalcore - there was even a hardcore punk band from Hungary! Such diversity and inclusiveness was clearly an important part of the whole spirit of the contest and certainly kept everything fresher and more interesting than it might have been if it was just an unending succession of extreme metal bands.


No band played longer than eight minutes and thus no one had a chance to get bored and everyone had a chance to get heard (no mean feat with eleven bands participating!) I felt a little sorry for False Reality as they only have one song shorter than eight minutes, so there was no discussion about which track to play. They actually wrote and rehearsed an extended intro for this song just for the contest and in the end they performed for exactly eight minutes!


Inevitably, some bands were less original than others and there were some that I would describe as mediocre. However, on the whole the standard throughout was surprisingly high and the jury's deliberations rightly lasted some time.


The audience vote was won by B.E.A.R., a young metalcore band from Simeria who seemed to have brought all their families and friends with them to ensure their victory. Local sons (and daughter), E-an-na, who we expected to win, came a close second in the audience vote. Well, we still think they are winners anyway because all their hard work with songwriting, rehearsal and recording is paying off with ever-increasing popularity and ubiquity on the summer festival scene. E-an-na seem almost guaranteed to go from success to success and to be around for years to come, so they will hopefully win GBOB Romania next year.


Whilst volunteers from Artmania and GBOB were counting up the audience's votes, the jury deliberated and made their votes (which Anca and I tallied to get each band's final score). The clear winners were the surprise hit of the whole evening, Riot Monk from Satu Mare, whose raging grunge explosion was delivered like a band who already have twenty years' experience and are headlining a huge festival, rather than a new band which has existed for only two years and was playing in a small club. Ones to watch for the future!


Each invited juror was then asked to pick one or two acts to award prizes to, which decisions could be as subjective as the judges liked - fair enough, given the nature of the prizes. This is one of the crucial aspects of the whole contest: the prizes are not cash or saleable goods such as musical equipment, they are strictly non-transferable and each one is practical help on the road to success for a new and developing artist, comprising of studio time, photo sessions, gigs and festival slots.


Anca and I had no vote either as jurors or as audience members but we were asked if there were any bands that we would be interested to work with as booking agents and we both picked Ka Gaia An, an impressively talented and energetic young folk metal band from Bucharest that we feel will make a valuable addition to our roster of artists. As second and third choices, we both agreed upon Riot Monk and a new progressive metal band from Bucharest, Mindcage Escape. We hope to have the chance to see both these bands playing for longer than eight minutes in the future and we will be watching their development closely.


The single most important aspect of the whole GBOB experience for everybody is the opportunity to gain experience of live performance and to network with industry and media professionals, who were in the audience too, not just on the jury or acting as observers. Very few of the bands seemed to realize this or to capitalize upon the opportunities that they had. I think this aspect of the whole process from local heat to global final should be emphasized whenever and wherever possible.


Certainly, for Anca and I it was a great pleasure to meet and interact with fellow media and music industry professionals who shared our same passion for good music and desire to discover, nurture, share and enjoy new and emerging talent. This aspect of the competition was perhaps the single greatest motivation for us to attend and to participate after, of course, the quest for the new and wonderful.


So, we are now hard at work with Ka Gaia An to help them achieve more and better gigs and to reach a wider audience with their rather lovely folk metal music (they also won a slot at the prestigious Gugulan Rock Festival in Caransebes next year and will undoubtedly be special guests at future GBOB events too).


Anglo-Saxon Booking Agency were delighted to be invited to help with this semi-final of Global Battle Of the Bands (Romania). We can assure anyone that might care to ask that the entire contest was arranged and conducted in a spirit of impartiality and with dedication and professionalism throughout. We would be honoured to be asked to participate in future events, whether as observers or jurors, as circumstances might dictate.


- Graham Robinson

Anglo-Saxon Booking Agency

"Diverse and daring performance booking services 

for diverse and daring artists"


Booking agents for E-an-na, False Reality 

and now also for Ka Gaia An

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