Rock the House

Each year in Parliament Keith Vaz organises a curry competition, the Tiffin Cup. MPs nominate a restaurant from their constituency, and there’s a grand finale at the House of Commons with lots of curry being sampled. Somehow I’ve never made it along, but I’m assured a good time is had by all.

All well and good. Can’t go too far wrong with curry. But now Conservative MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley – who, I’m told is a big metal fan – is promoting a parliamentary Battle of the Bands type competition, “Rock the House” (see to promote live music.

We – MPs – have till April 30th to nominate a band and venue. It’s suggested that MPs might want to hold a local Battle of the Bands to find a worthy nominee. (Dangerous territory for a politician… there’ll be more losers than winners, and they won’t EVER vote for you again. Not quite as dangerous as Beautiful Babies or dog shows, but in the same ballpark).

Here are some rules. The band must contain at least one member based in the MP’s constituency. They must be able to perform their composition live. Backing tracks can be used provided they’re not the main performance and samples are allowed ‘within the context of a composition’. The guidelines go on to say “Originality should be taken into consideration, but scoring on passion, musical ability and dedication to live performance are just as important”. The competition is open to young and old musicians, “the competition will have done a good service if a band in their 50s or 60s is discovered…” And “commerciality is not a defining factor. The competition is not about trying to find the next Christmas No. 1 – it’s about finding talent/ passion.” Well, that should set Simon Cowell’s mind at rest….

What’s wrong with this? And it is wrong, trust me. (And if alarm bells didn’t start ringing for you the moment I introduced this topic, screaming no, no, BAD idea! then you’re probably reading the wrong blog.)

Firstly, as I’ve blogged before, MPs don’t have very good taste in music. Perhaps no worse than the average person… Though given the age profile and demographic, yes actually, quite probably worse than the average person. Especially the Tories. (I have no empirical evidence to support this last assertion. It’s pure prejudice).

Secondly, as I’ve touched on already, we can’t be trusted to choose. Desperately keen puppy-eyed, floppy-haired teenagers present themselves at your door with their dubious sub-Razorlight ditties, begging to be loved? How can you say no?

More importantly, has a decent band – OK, let’s be generous and amend that to a decent and/ or commercially successful band – ever emerged from such a competition? Before anyone argues that no half-way decent band would ever enter such a competition, I think I’m right in saying that Ian Curtis first accosted Tony Wilson at a Battle of the Bands contest, asking him why he hadn’t put Joy Division (or were they still Warsaw at that point?) on his TV show. They didn’t win the heat, but he did put them on TV and the rest is history.

Of course one way to make this more fun would be for some MPs to come up with some ‘unusual’ choices…. Anyone know any Einsturzende Neubaten influenced metal bashers from east Bristol?

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  • Ms Humphrey Cushion  On February 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I think you should make it an MP Karaoke competition instead.. ; )

  • Aidan  On February 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    While no, it has never lead to the birth of a stadium band, you frequently hear of bands on local scenes getting a lot more attention.

    I should think that playing at Westminster would give these bands a level of publicity which would bring a few more punters along for a while. Every little helps?

    And hey, maybe it might just switch one or two onto politics. The positive implications might not be huge, but they are there, let’s just hope no MP slates an act.

    • kerrymccarthy  On February 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

      I don’t think of stadium bands as being great bands, with one or two notable exceptions. Did REM end up as a stadium band? Sort of. I was talking more about discovering hidden talent than the next big money spinner.


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