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Riviera rock Half Moon Battle of the Bands to win grand final spot

By Tom Ryder

Riviera Pic: Emma Bowdidge
Riviera Pic: Emma Bowdidge

Young Bishop’s Stortford band Riviera were victorious in the first semi final of a hotly-contested Battle of the Bands hosted by Juicebox Live at The Horn at the Half Moon Inn.

The four-piece – comprising Bishop’s Stortford High School sixth-formers Lewis Mandel (drums), Max Hunt (backing vocals and guitar) and Tom Woods (BVs and bass) and lead vocalist/guitarist Conor Andrews from Herts & Essex High School – will progress to the final on Saturday March 9 fter winning an overwhelming majority of the audience vote last Thursday.

Riviera were first on stage and wasted no time in warming up the crowd with infectious singalong anthem Alice.

They are a tight musical unit; all four are good individual players and each of them adds something integral to the overall sound. They have a strong sense of melody too, and don’t succumb to the oft-encountered ‘make as much noise as possible’ young band mentality. Their sound is Libertines-esque at times, veers into Fratellis territory and makes for a great listen.

Maxx Palmer Pic: Emma Bowdidge
Maxx Palmer Pic: Emma Bowdidge

Next up was Maxx Palmer, a power trio from Welwyn and Hertford made up of Max Palmer on lead guitar and lead vocals, Brad Palmer on drums and backing vocals and Will Crane on bass.

They eased the audience in with Max’s Jeff Buckley-like falsetto packed with plenty of reverb, before shifting gears entirely and launching into a very in-your-face first track. What followed was a ferocious half-hour of music that proved impossible to remove your eyes from.

Being a three-piece, each band member has an opportunity to showcase his skills. Max is a fine player, utilising driving rock tones, bunches of stage presence and charisma, his mannerisms and movements somewhere between Rory Gallagher and Angus Young.

Everything about Maxx Palmer is decidedly old school, ‘music as it was’. They intertwine bluesy influences with straight indie rock songs that reminded me a little of Primal Scream and Led Zeppelin. Complete with Max’s Harley Davidson T-shirt and bandana, this was sonically and visually about as close as you can get to being at a 70s gig, really impressive stuff.

Max demonstrated his ability to sing the softer moments very well on a couple more occasions, but he was in his element when rocking, and rocking hard. There was fantastic work from Brad on drums, too, as well as Will’s distorted bass.

A Maxx Palmer record is on the way and is being mixed as we speak. Look out for them at the Bish Bash in May.

A Few Too Many Pic: Emma Bowdidge
A Few Too Many Pic: Emma Bowdidge

The last band tasked with winning over the Half Moon crowd was A Few Too Many, hailing from Saffron Walden and Cambridge.

They describe themselves as anthemic pop punk, and are fans of Green Day, Sum 41, Blink-182 and The Ramones, which really comes through in their songs. Their track Stay the Night has amassed more than 50,000 streams on Spotify and was well received by the crowd.

For me, Crashed the Wedding by Busted was a good reference point, with more of an American influence. Mike Achilles, Danny Freeman, Jez Giles, Luke D’Alton and Mitch Holleyman have an enthusiastic fanbase, but unfortunately there was not enough of them here on the night to defeat the hordes of Riviera admirers.

Semi final two takes place tomorrow night (Thursday 17) at The Horn at the Half Moon, and will feature Camisayo, Pocket Dust and The Hanging Bandits. Tickets are £5 in advance or £7 on the night. Visit www.thehornbs.co.uk for more information.

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