Now in its seventh year, the Future Sound of Nottingham is the competition that finds a lucky Nottingham music maker to open the Splendour festival, where a musician's popularity on social media is as important as musical ability. Past recipients of the prize include The Afterdark Movement and Joy Mumford and this year the final was one of the strongest and most difficult to predict the outcome of. Orchestrated by local music blog NUSIC which has been around in some form or another for eight years, the night was hosted by the founder Mark Del, who showed the same capabilities as master of ceremonies that he shows as a television presenter.
Rock City had filled up fairly quickly when I arrived just before seven o'clock and the room was in good spirits when the first band of the evening took to the stage. The rules to this competition are a bit long-winded so I assume there's a reason that a band who have been together a long time can enter a contest that focuses on the new, but the first band on was Cheshire and the Cat, a great band but not one that I feel needs to be involved in this sort of thing. The audience took to them straight away and the night got of to a flying start. NUSIC make a point of not publishing a running order in advance which works well as it eliminates the problem of audience members leaving as soon as their friends have finished their spot. Next up was a relativity new band although with a fine local music pedigree, As December Falls. Although I don't feel that opening the Splendour festival at lunchtime would suit them, they are maybe the only act on the line-up that will one day be given the chance to play Rock City under their own steam in the future. Josh Wheatley appeared for the second year running with his band and went down well with the crowd as expected, and his big following was an advantage when it came to one of the scoring methods.
Throughout the show an audience 'vote' was taken using a decibel counter so the louder the audience the higher the vote, reminiscent of Hughie Green's clap-ometer. This was added to the judges votes and to gain a final score for the evening, slightly convoluted but effective. Suspect Alibi took to the stage with confidence, in fact nobody seemed at all daunted by the fact they were playing Rock City. Ellie Keegan was probably the only performer suited to the prize, and the only one who genuinely would have benefited from the boost that first place would have given her. For me the weak link on the bill was The Chase despite the biggest audience reaction, which basically meant they brought the most people along.
Suspect Alibi were the eventual and deserving winners so the Splendour stage is theirs. While the votes were being counted a special guest always plays, and this year was a bit of a blast from the past in the shape of Liam Bailey. Hailed as the next big thing in 2011, he acted as a poignant cautionary tale to this year's acts that early plaudits don't necessarily mean the big time is imminent.