Ten bands battled it out at the Jazz Cafè, Madejski Stadium, on Thursday, April 12, performing their own compositions in front of a packed crowd in the hope of securing a place in the finals of Reading Rock Academy's Battle of the School Bands.
Five Thirty One, with members from Reading Blue Coat School and Henley College, Sundara Karma, from The Oratory School, Ioneye, from Marlborough School, My Everest, from Farnborough Hill College and Chasing Waves from Little Heath School made it through to the finals, at Rivermead on Saturday, August 4.
The 10 bands' performances were judged by Reading Rock Academy Founder Pete Doyle, Alisha Di Bartolomeo from the Academy, and Mark Swinbank. Pete told The Guide: "It was very hard decision to make, we were literally going down to decimal places on the scores! It was very close. And we have decided this year we are going to give each of the bands a free two hour session in White House Studios. No one really loses and that's the difference between this competition and the ones on the telly."
Ioneye, made up of guitarist and singer Dave Allen, 17, bassist Will Finnerty, 17, guitarist and singer Jack Belmont, 16, and drummer Dan Sweet, 16, told The Guide they were in the competition for the experience rather than the prizes: "We came quite far for two songs but it was really good. We don't mind if we don't win as long as people hear us - you've got to be in it to win it, haven't you?!"
Five Thirty One feature guitarist and vocalist Alex Green, 17, Ed Peters, 16, who plays bass, drummer Harry Walker, 16, and guitarist James Berger, 17, and have been together for two-and-a-half years. They said they were pleased with their melodic hard-rock performance: "It went really well, we gave it all we had!"
All-girl band My Everest, featuring 16-year-old vocalist and guitarist Laura McReynolds, 19-year-old lead guitarist Jen Barnegren and 16-year-old drummer Lizzie Cooper, had Jen's brother as a stand-in on bass for their rock'n'indie pop-infused performance. The girls said that they had quite eclectic tastes in music - and that being an all-girl band had up and dowsides. Jen explained: "Whenever we go to gigs, people see us carrying our amps in and go, 'really?' But it is always really easy to get gigs because we are something a bit different. The final at Rivermead will be our biggest gig ever - but hopefully not forever!"
Sundara Karma, featuring Oscar Pollock, 16, on guitar, Dom Cordell, 16, on bass, Ally Baty, 16, on guitar and Haydn Evans, 16, on drums, were returning to the semi-finals for the second time, performing their fresh-sounding indie with a retro twist. They said: "It was amazing, really wicked. I think I prefer it more this time. It's a great competition, a really high standard."
Chasing Waves, who had written two new songs especially for the competition and were playing their second ever live gig, featured Josh Roberts, 18, on bass, Liam Collins, 17, and Martin Buckley, 16, on guitar, Alex Turnball, 16, on drums and Daniela D'Onofrio, 16, on vocals. Martin said: "Regardless of the result we are just happy to be here!"
For updates on the final and info on getting involved in Reading Rock Academy, visit www.readingrockacademy.com