Musicians set for Next Big Thing final

Rob GarrattUp-and-coming artists are busy rehearsing their top tunes ready to claim the spotlight at the final round of the search to find the best musicians in the region.Sula Mae on MyspaceAlloy Ark on MyspaceEpichunt on MyspaceConsole Wars on MyspaceKairos on MyspaceHair Traffic Control on MyspaceTickets for the final from the UEA box officeRob Garratt

Up-and-coming artists are busy rehearsing their top tunes ready to claim the spotlight at the final round of the search to find the best musicians in the region.

More than 130 local bands and artists entered this year's Next Big Thing competition and now the last six are getting ready to do battle on stage at the county's top live venue.

Tickets are selling fast for the final, at Norwich's University of East Anglia on Sunday, which will see the bands sweating it out in front of a panel of top judges, and with the whole gig broadcast live on the airwaves of organisers Future Radio.

The winner will leave the stage with a recording deal, time at Darkness star Dan Hawkins' studio at Leeders Farm, �1,000 in cash, �500 worth of music equipment and a professional photo shoot.

But to win the prizes they will have to impress a celebrity judging panel that includes ex-Prodigy and Pitchshifter guitarist Jim Davis.

Future Radio presenter and producer Kate Roma said: 'It will be a diverse final with six very different bands, from the quirky duo Alloy Ark to the youngest performer,

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15-year-old Paul Snow, also known as Epichunt, to singer-songwriter Sula Mae, and three very different bands. It looks to be a brilliant night.'

The EDP-backed competition is the largest of its kind in the region, and boasts sponsorship from the Think Norfolk Partnership, which aims to get road safety messages across to young adults.

The 131 bands that originally entered were whittled down to just 12 after marathon listening sessions by a group of local music industry representatives.

Then the lucky dozen took to the stage across two semi-finals at the Brickmakers B2 venue, with three bands walking away from each night with a billing at the final that will thrust them into the limelight.

Last year's winner, Ed Sheeran, went on to secure a one-single record deal with the prestigious Island Records and 2007 winners The Kabeedies celebrated the release of their debut album Rumpus last week.

Di Anderson, of the UEA's entertainments department, said: 'It's always been a popular event in the past and it's been getting more popular as it goes on. It's rare that such small bands get the opportunity to appear on a stage that is nationally and internationally recognised for bigger bands and gigs.'

The finalists are Kairos, Alloy Ark, Hair Traffic Control, Console Wars, Sula Mae and Epichunt.

The judging panel will also feature Polydor Records and One Little Indian representative Rick Lennox, NROne Record's head, Kingsley Harris, Outline magazine's Emma Roberts, Leeders Farm producer Nick Brine, freelance music PR specialist Sarah Neeve and online label Burning Shed's Pete Morgan.

Mr Harris, who has been involved with the competition for five years, added: 'The competition is a lot stiffer than last year, it's going to be very, very difficult for the judges to choose a winner.'

t For tickets, costing �5, call the UEA box office on 01603 508050 or visit www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk. Doors open at 7pm, with the first band on stage at 7.30pm.

THE FINALISTS

t Sula Mae and her keyboard have been gigging around London and Norwich for about four years. Minimal, bouncy piano tunes act as a backdrop for her searing vocal, which has drawn comparisons to Regina Specktor and Joanna Newsom. Further listening: www.myspace.com/sulamaemusic

t Alloy Ark are a guitar band who describe themselves as playing 'small songs about love, owls, adventures and tubs.' Formed for little over a year, they have gigged in Brighton, London, Nottingham as well as Norwich. Further listening: www.myspace.com/alloyark

t Epichunt is 15-year-old Paul Snow, who creates electronic music with a twist - performed using only two Nintendo Gameboys. Releasing two albums in the last year of mainly electro with occasional breakcore influences, his music contains bittersweet tales of lost lovers with rhythms crafted for the dancefloor. Snow describes his influences as ranging from Deamau5 to Daft Punk to the Tetris, Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers soundtracks. Further listening: www.myspace.com/epichunt

t Formed in early 2007, five-piece Console Wars are described as ''synth-infused dark indie dance pop' and combine influences from eighties pop and modern guitar music. Previously known as Voyagers, comparisons have been made to TV On The Radio, New Order and Midnight Juggernauts. Further listening: www.myspace.com/consolewarsband

t Hook driven indie rock five-piece Kairos are named after an ancient Greek word meaning 'the right or opportune moment'. Building up a steady live reputation, they take their cues from modern rock bands and aim to write 'trademark stadium-bound hooks and massive melodies and heartbreaking love songs.' Further listening: www.kairos-band.co.uk/band

t Boasting an endearingly-barmy name and the odd dabbles of trumpet alongside their indie guitar music, Hair Traffic Control are championing a DIY ethic to recording and promoting their music. Playing under various guises since 2006, they aim to make music 'for the heart and the mind', all layered with 'an instinctive grasp of upbeat pop'. Further listening: www.myspace.com/hairtrafficcontrol

Sula Mae on MyspaceAlloy Ark on MyspaceEpichunt on MyspaceConsole Wars on MyspaceKairos on MyspaceHair Traffic Control on MyspaceTickets for the final from the UEA box office