What to watch (and miss) at HMV’s Next Big Thing festival

Claire Maguire at at The Green Man Festival 2008 by Trevor Eales
Claire Maguire at at The Green Man Festival 2008 by Trevor Eales

Daniel Lomas looks ahead to HMV's Next Big Thing 2011 by suggesting what to watch, who to miss and what to do if your favourite show is sold out.

HMV's Next Big Thing is a festival showcasing the best upcoming, unsigned and dubiously ‘new’ acts over ten days at various venues across London. The event takes place from 4-13 February at a blanket cost of £10 per gig with three acts on each bill.

Grubby London boozers chosen to host the shows include The Borderline, The Barfly, Heaven and The Garage.

With there being so many gigs, so many bands and so few tenners to spare, we've decided to offer some advice on who you might want to bank on – as well as who to avoid, along with some handy pointers.

Five To See

Dry The River5 February @ Borderline, London.
This dynamic London five-piece are led by the choir boy wordsmith Pete Liddle, who, in their gentler moments, sounds a bit like Jeff Buckley with all of his soulful passion. His voice is often accompanied by harmonies that lend them a traditional folk, gospel-hymn feel, which they then contradict by crashing in with heavier sections that see them play their instruments like a hardcore band. They're an interesting and very talented group more likely to raise the hairs on your neck than get your feet moving.
For fans of: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver
Not for fans of: Clubbing and starting fights

Clare Maguire11 February @ Borderline, London.
If the predictions of many a critic turns out to be true, this will be an intimate show to treasure. Clare Maguire is destined for huge success they say; a female solo artist, admittedly at the tail end of a steady stream of them, with a big voice that's been compared to Stevie Nicks' and a genuine rawness about her. She co-wrote her album with a host of well-established songwriters, including Jarvis Cocker; mainstream success may just be round the corner. She 'ain't nobody' yet, though, so catch her while you can.
For fans of: Adele, Florence And The Machine
Not for fans of: Rock and indie

Funeral Party February 2011 @ Camden Barfly, London.
This Los Angeles quintet are energetic, bratty and fun. They're a bit punk with dance beats and twinkly, warm synth parts over the top (they're named after a Cure song). Think Head Automatica (if you remember them? ‘Beating Heart Baby’?) but a bit more sunshine-pop (i.e. from California rather than New York). They're a good bet for a good time.
For fans of: The Rapture, Black Lips.
Not for fans of: Clare Maguire

The MummersFebruary 2011 @ The Garage, upstairs.
Baroque-popsters The Mummers are probably too quirky for their own good but it's undeniably enjoyable to watch them play their cinematic, away-with-the-fairies big band tunes. The experimental Brighton dectet (estimate) are fronted by the bewitching Raissa Khan-Penni, a Bjork-a-like but very talented singer, and are just very different to anything else around. To try to sum them up, in brief, they sound like a carnival waltz on a cloud floating through a land of horses made of sugar.
For fans of: Bats For Lashes, Camera Obscura
Not for fans of: Gritty realism

The Milk5 February 2011 @ Camden Barfly, London.
The Milk are here to quench the nation’s insatiable thirst for revivals of the 60s soul sounds. What’s unique about this Chelmsford band’s approach is their loyalty to the style: there’s no ‘modern twist’, but lots of joyous energy. There are so many obvious influences here (The Style Council’s, ‘Shout To The Top’, is a particularly audible) but they’re clearly on no mission for originality – it’s a homage to the music they love. Do you love it? You probably do. Are you sick of it? Possibly. Why should you go see The Milk? They’re a lot of fun! Go and have a dance.
For Fans of: Motown, Northern Soul
Not for fans of: Cutting edge dubstep

One To Miss

Funeral for a Friend
(Next Big Thing?! The Welsh post-hardcore group are four albums and fifteen singles into their career!) An aerial view of a FFAF show, with only an assortment of multi-coloured, side-swept fringes visible against a solid sea of blackness, created by the convergence of a thousand monochromatic hooded sweatshirts, would look like a Hubble telescope image of far-away galaxies floating in the infinite darkness of space. The kind of image that, when studied, reminds you just how insignificant, inconsequential and pointless Funeral for a Friend's appearance at Next Big Thing Festival 2011 is. They are supported by The Blackout.

Some of the more in-demand Next Big Thing shows are already sold out. Click here for availability and booking.

If you can’t get in to any of our recommended gigs, here’s a quick guide to the lesser-known acts you might enjoy and can feel smug about having discovered.

Denied at Clare Maguire?
Why not go see: Spark – 9 February @ The Garage, London.
Jess Morgan is a London teen offering a clean-cut take on trashy electro-pop.

Not on the list for Dry the River?
Why not go see: Matthew and the Atlas -12 February @ The Garage, London
It’s a pretty straight switch: MATA are a folk band, perhaps more in the mould of Mumford and Sons; they’re more polished that Dry the River, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Not invited to Funeral Party?
Why not go see: Pete And The Pirates with The Heartbreaks – February @ The Garage, London
The two bouncy, fun indie bands here will compensate for your loss.

All full up at The Mummers?
Why not go see:
Caitlin Rose – 11 February @ Camden Barfly, London
There’s no straight substitute for the off-beat, other-worldly The Mummers, but the gentle, dreamy sounds of Caitlin Rose may befit your sensibilities and quell your disappointment at once.

No room at The Milk?
Why not go see:
Rival Sons – 12 February @ Camden Barfly, London
These Californians play 60s blues, garage and psychedelic-influenced rock. If you like your music derived from that decade, then maybe this is the best alternative to The Milk.