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ARTS FEST : A haven of talent at a seminar on local sounds; Simon Harper listens to the next generation of stars from the city.

Byline: Simon Harper

Like a seminar on local sounds, ArtsFest provides proof for anyone not convinced that the Birmingham music scene is a haven of talent.

On the stage, competition winners perform to the throngs gathered - a mixture of music fans and sodden shoppers seeking refuge from the rain.

Birmingham-based trio the Mexicolas keep spirits up with their earnest rock, a combination of U2, Bends-era Radiohead and the driving rock ballast of Queens of the Stone Age. An enthralling rock act, their radio-friendly riffs are best showcased on hit single-in-waiting All the World, which suggests that the Mexicolas are a modern, human-sounding rock band with a bright future.

Less convincing are Redditch's Hey Pablo!, aband mixing rock, hip-hop and funk, being more than a little reminiscent of early Red Hot Chili Peppers. A swing-style cover of Outkast's Hey Ya proves that tongues are firmly placed inside cheeks, and although their lack of seriousness is quite welcome given the conditions, it soon begins to grate. You can't help but feel their bouncy impact is dulled by the inclement weather.

When the Gammatones walk onstage, dressed in sharp suits, you half-expect them to ply their trade in jerky, angular post-punk. Instead, the Moseley trio deal in Bowie-esque glam, rockabilly and the exuberant punk of the Ramones. Their scuzzy garage stomp and pared down rock'n'roll is delightfully raucous and packed with hooks. Citing Bo Diddley, Radiohead and the Velvet Underground as influences, they're loud enough to scare an array of passing septuagenarians as they make their way towards the Central Library - the Gammatones are hugely enjoyable if slightly lacking in focus at times.

Melding Smiths-like melodicism with crunching riffola, 35 Seconds are a slightly confusing prospect. Guitars, bass, drums and overwrought vocals feature in a mix that is far too murky to be palatable, and what promises to be a powerful set of rock songs ends with its effect nullified by the undiscerning volume. The bone-rattling intensity of 35 Seconds' searing rock is probably much better suited to an indoor venue, but here they are a disappointment.

With choppy guitars, chunky bass and big choruses, the Motive recall Buzzcocks-style melodic punk. Maintaining a frenetic pace throughout, the quartet perform serrated tunes with thrashy ebullience. Resolutely energetic, theirs is an effective blast of punk-pop and new wave. The Motive have the unfortunate distinction of bringing the rain back out, but that doesn't detract from their crowd-pleasing set.

On a day almost completely dominated by guitars, seven-piece 360 provide a polyrhythmic riposte, with a charged set taking in ska, punk, funkand reggae. Riotous fun from the outset, their precise horn section lends a summery feel to an otherwise drizzly afternoon.

A dizzying mash-up of styles, their songs are propelled by throbbing bass, drums and pulsating horns, with massed harmonies adding a touch of sweetness to 360's potent groove. An invaluable lesson, they show that even in such a downpour, it's impossible to listen to ska without a demented grin and involuntarily flailing limbs
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 12, 2005
Previous Article:Letter: Ken's fine in the pub, but in Europe.
Next Article:ARTS FEST : Singing and dancing in the Secret Garden rain; Sid Langley and family brave the weather to sample the children's attractions.

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