The Final Countdown

The Red Stripe Music Awards 08

After an exhausting fifty-two gigs around these fair isles, April 10th saw the second Red Stripe Music Awards blaze to a close with a homecoming gig at Bedford Esquires featuring performances from local acts The Measure, Shapes, 91 Pieces and Brigante. Four names among the two hundred plus acts selected to perform in this year’s live shows in venues the length and breadth of the UK.

Crowning over thirty years’ involvement with grass roots music in the UK, the Red Stripe Music Awards 2008, which began way back in January, saw gigs take place from Aberdeen all the way to Cornwall, easily making the Red Stripe Music Awards the most comprehensive gig series around.

Crowning over thirty years’ involvement with grass roots music in the UK

Set up to reach out to almost every local UK live music scene, this year’s showcase saw the Red Stripe Music Award go from strength to strength with a tenfold increase from the inaugural 2007 initiative, with over 1000 acts entering and over 50 venues hosting regional heats giving even more bands a chance to do their thing on stage and gain vital exposure.

Despite the geographic separation of the venues and variety of bands it was clear that all of those who played were tuned into the Red Stripe Music Award modus operandi of getting out there, gigging and building a solid live reputation. Aberdeen’s Kashmir Red at the end of their gig pretty much summed up what it means for an emergent band to make that breakthrough, confessing, “It would mean the world to us if we get to the finals. It would be a great experience. But at the moment we are enjoying having fun, that’s what it is all about.”

To top off this ongoing mission to promote and support local music and music venues, every band who played the various gigs were considered in an extensive A&R process by a panel of industry experts for the short list to reach the Red Stripe Music Awards Grand Final, happening on the 12th May at London’s Kentish Town Forum. The lucky four winners to deservedly reach this grander than grand finale have been selected as Scottish rockers Kiddo from Edinburgh, The Down And Outs who rocked Glasgow’s The Box, O Fracas from the musical hotbed of Leeds and the eloquently named Klaus Says Buy The Record from Brighton.

The final will give these four talented bands the chance to play in front of an audience of industry professionals and tastemakers, a unique opportunity offering great exposure for new acts. The night will also see an established band headline the gig, none other than former Libertine Carl Barat and his cohorts that make up Dirty Pretty Things. If anyone could pass on wisdom to avoid the pitfalls inherent in a career in entertainment to the young bands it is Pete Doherty’s former songwriting partner.

The winning band chosen on the night will be awarded a hugely useful prize: their very own tour van which, as any new band knows, is an essential asset in getting their amps and that ever growing drum kit to and from gigs. They’ll soon need that tour van too, as they will also be playing at both The Great Escape Festival, on the same stage as bands like Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong, and also the Lovebox festival this summer. Integral to Red Stripe’s commitment to new music is the continued nurturing of new band’s talents and what better way to do that than enable the band to get to gigs and give them the leg-up of two festival appearances where they’ll play to an audience of thousands.

Thanks to the spotlight that last year’s Red Stripe Music Awards threw on them

Last year’s winners, who will also play live at the final, Hertford’s The Runners, performed at The Great Escape, In The City and Shoreditch festivals, went on to record a session for Steve Lamacq, played their hearts out across Europe and are now signed to Weekender Records where they have so far released two singles to much acclaim. To be sure, they possessed the necessary songs and chutzpah to go the distance but it was thanks to the spotlight that last year’s Red Stripe Music Awards threw on them that saw the band progress those few extra rungs up the ladder.

By the time this year’s Awards comes to a halt, countless solo acts, bands and performers will have been given the chance to play their local venues with full promotion and (the eagerly accepted) free beer. This commitment to fostering new talent, not just in the trendier parts of the capital, but in the outer reaches of the UK’s musical galaxy is surely what live music is all about. All those grey windswept towns far from London’s fashionable enclaves that have traditionally fuelled young men’s rock ‘n’ roll dreams are the real places to witness music emerging from its very roots.

For the chance to attend this climactic finale to a tumultuous series of gigs for free – yes for free – you can apply for tickets through the website with tickets being allocated on a first come first serve basis.

Red Stripe would like to thank all bands, venues and local promoters who took part in this year’s award and who have so far taken proceedings to a whole new level.

For further info log onto now and claim your tickets for the final.

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