Breakthrough competition night – the winners

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a strong line up on one night but who took away the prize?

Over the last few weeks acts across the country have been working hard to win a place at the Larmer Tree Festival in July.

On Friday night the final six finalists went head to head in an attempt to win the two places on offer - and what a night it was.

We rocked up early to try and blag a free drink off the lovely Lucy from Flint PR. The only fly in the ointment being that Al was driving and I wasn't drinking because that strangely affects my ability to point the camera so she got away with a cheap round!

Before long we're catching up with friends old and new, particularly Alan from Sound of Summer (check out his blog) and Paul Bevan (here) and get given the tasklist for the night. I'm surprised to see how quickly 60MPC is filling up for early on a Saturday and it looks like it's going to be a great night.

There's a few background shots to get, and I get the chance to find out that my new lens is too long for the night and it goes back in the bag. Before I know it the first act is being announced.

Cate Ferris at Larmer Tree Breakthrough awards. 60 million postcards bournemouth

It was great to see Drew Allen attending as it's been ages since we spoke. Drew and dad Paul take the time to have a chat and it sounds likethere are some exciting times on the horizon.

Confirmed already for the Larmer Tree bill I'm looking forward to catching his performance in July.

Then it's back in the pub for the start of Papa Truck

Papa Truck at The Larmer Tree breakthrough awards, 60 Million postcards bournemouth
Cate Ferris at The Larmer Tree breakthrough awards, 60 Million postcards bournemouth

Al O'Kane is up next and his mellow sounds stand as a contrast to the busy bluegrass of Papa Truck. Supported by bandmates Sam, Tess and Andy, there is real quality on show and I later find out that they are all highly trained and experienced musicians. There's even talk of supporting one Midge Ure although for some reason Andy seems reluctant to admit to working with the former Ultravox star!

Al's sound is much bigger with the band than his online catalogue and I'm struck by the fact that I really wouldn't want to be a judge. There is no way you can please everyone by choosing two out of this exceptional line up.

The photos go well and Al provides me with my favourite of the night and I'm lucky enough to catch up with the guys after for photos and a chinwag where they tell me of the burgeoning live scene down in Frome.

Once again they have some exciting things coming up that they 'aren't allowed to tell us about'. Hmmm mysterious.

One of the acts I've been looking forward to see are the Drystones and I'm pleased to say I wasn't disappointed.

This two piece high octane folk band combine guitar, fiddle and recorder in a melee of sound that transfixes the audience and gets people clapping along. They give an awesome display and have certainly raised the bar yet again.

I'm told by a colleague that he knows at this point who is going to win and names two bands who have already performed. I tell him to wait till the Villanovas have been on.

The Villanovas are a sort of local/sort of London band that have a great follwoing down here and that becomes evident as people of a similar age start to crown the stage area at 60MPC before the guys even get going.

I have a quick chat before they go on but leave them alone as one or two look a bit nervous. All of that seems to disappear immediately they get on stage though and from the very off it's clear they are the act of the night.

The guys are probably about the age when the Stones met at college and they bring forth the sort of sound that Mick and the chaps would probably produce today if we were able to get them all in Marty McFly's Maclaren.Whatever the sound they are on it and the sick tunes go down a storm. There's a moment when you realise why Manchester United get so many penalties as the home crowd erupt and it's hard to understand how the judges could look elsewhere.

Cate Ferris has just launched her solo career after being with Dizreali and the Small Gods and she set about the difficult first-slot-of-the-night with aplomb. I'd been checking out all of the acts on Soundcloud and stuff and of all those appearing on the night Cate seemed to me to be the most original and experimental. It was pleasing to hear that she'd brought her studio sound in full with synths, drums and even a natty Crayola guitar. I kid you not.

Cate gave a strong performance and her winning personality came through in spades.

Resolutely bluegrass Papa Truck kick into a storming set that took us to the Appalachian mountains via High Wycombe and the guys did themselves proud.

The thickening crowd are really enjoying their tunes and there's a real professionalism about the Trucks. The acts get only a short time to make an impression and too quickly PT have finished. I still manage to get a couple of half decent shots though.

With all of the bands there's a short break between sets so I take the chance to have a chat with Cate Ferris over a tofu burger. She's as warm and funny as her stage persona and the time slips quickly by as we talk about her plans for a solo career.

Al O' Kane at the breakthrough awards larmer tree 60 million postcards bournemouth

Time flies by and it's a quick swig of reasonably priced lime and soda, set the video (to come soon) and off to listen to and take shots of the exceptional Dorey the Wise. The Hastings guys take the pace up a notch with their indie sounds and the now filling 60 Million responds.

Frontman Aiden gives it his all and I see shaking heads and puffing out of cheeks from the judges, this is going to be a difficult one to call.

The Drystones at the larmer tree breakthrough awards 60 million postcards bournemouth

Finally it's time for the winners to be announced and It's The Drystones and Villanovas who have won the two spaces at Larmer.

To be fair I couldn't have called it save for the fact that the Villanovas had to be one of the winners. The standard this year really was that high.

If you want an indication of the sort of quality that you'll get on offer at Larmer then this night certainly was it. All of the bands were worthy of the title of finalists and I don't think any of them can be upset with their performance on the night. I'd suggest getting hold of your tickets now!

I'm keen to see all of the acts here in a longer set and hopefully in a packed festival season our paths will cross but in the meantime you can experience them on their soundcloud feeds below



The gallery

Ooh I nearly forgot. I took a load of pictures of the night. So erm.... here are the pictures of the night.







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