Feature image by Callum Pull, Yak Media Designer
Uni Life


It’s one big lineup of local talent! UON’s Band Comp exhibited some of the most talented musicians in Newcastle. Zara Handscomb takes you through a rundown of the Finalists from last week.

There’s no denying Newcastle is a music town, with an abundance of local talent. You only need to attend UoN’s annual Band Comp to witness the absolute proof of this. And this year’s Band Comp Grand Final showcased acts of the highest quality, making the Grand Final decision too close to call.

I almost felt bad, so much music completely free over the course of a week was an absolute steal. It creates an atmosphere where everyone gathers with no ulterior motives except to experience quality music and support each other. As finalist Piper Rodrigues put it, “It doesn’t feel like a competition it just feels like you’re playing with your friends.”

The five heats running from Monday 10th – 17th May included 42 spectacular acts from across the University with a total of 140 performers. The winners of each heat went straight through to the Grand Final and, the runners up of each heat went into a wild card round to battle it out for a place in the Grand Final.

UoN’s Band Comp started in the early ’90s as part of the National Campus Band Comp and is now Australia’s largest and longest-running University band competition. Each year since 2016, UoN has had a finalist in the National Band Competition. This year we have six entrants (So make sure to go and vote)!

It was refreshing to see over 600 attendees across the week-and-a-half competition, dancing freely and supporting the local music scene, creating electric energy reminiscent of unity experienced at any music festival. This year was especially notable after last year’s restrictions constrained attendees to watch from their car.

Among the final judges was Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky who says, “We had a record number of entries this year, which reflects everyone’s eagerness to get back to performing live after last year’s restrictions. And one of the things I’m passionate about is getting the broader community to come onto campus and feel part of our university – so it was great to see such a strong crowd at the heats and the final.”

So here it is, a rundown of your finalists for UON Band Comp 2021:

The Irish Wolfhounds

Elliot Chadwick, Harry Finlay-Jones, Eamon Mcentee and Jono Behne-Smith of The Irish Wolfhounds performing at UON’s Band Comp Final. Image: _alpha_sierra_

If you have got the travel bug and restrictions are stopping you from travelling overseas. All you needed was a pint of Guinness in hand while watching the Irish Wolfhounds last Thursday, and you could have been automatically transported to the luckiest land on earth. Those of you who have not been to Ireland, no need! The Irish Wolfhounds opened the Grand Final, creating an atmosphere that reminded me of carelessly dancing to boisterous traditional Irish tunes in a small Irish pub.

Traditional Irish music is not common in the Newcastle music scene, which is why these guys stand out. A four-piece Irish Band complete with bagpipes, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and even a traditional Irish Bodhran. They bring a load of fun to the stage, it’s impossible not to be happy when they perform their mix of mongrel covers and originals.

For the last three years, the band has been on their musical journey together. But really it started a lot earlier, Jono and Harry met twenty-three years ago at four years old. And later found their bagpipe and mandolin player where you would naturally find one, the local burger joint, (Where else would you find a mandolin and bagpipe player?). Then through mutual friends and local musicians “The Button Collective”, is how they met Eamon Mcentee, who they describe as the ‘rambling rover’ and ‘catalyst for the birth of The Irish Wolfhounds’.

The group describe their music as “provocative, with exciting jigs and boot-stomping reels, roaring old sea shanties and deeply stirring sound of [the] Great Highland Bagpipes”. And their mission? “to have a special time every time we perform for folks of all ages and all walks of life.”

You can catch them at ‘Froth on – A Surfing the Spectrum Fund Raiser!’ at Earp Distilling Co on the 26th of June for a charity fundraiser! Tickets can be found online via Facebook on The Irish Wolfhounds music page, and Surfing the Spectrum website. 

Make sure to keep an eye on them, as they plan to release a new album in 2021!

Keep up to date with the latest from The Irish Wolfhounds on Instagram here.

Jesse Morrison

Darcy Long, Jesse Morrison, Duncan Brown and Aaron White performing at UON’s Band Comp Final, Image: _alpha_sierra_

Relatively new to the music scene is singer/songwriter Jesse Morrison, who opened the second act with his original ‘Reptile’. It was Jesse’s first time entering Band Comp, and the second time the band was set to play together. Jesse won the very first heat of Band Comp, making it straight through to the Grand Final.

After playing for four years and singing for two, Jesse has only been playing live shows since July last year. He has dedicated much of his time recently to developing his craft, working with Soph Berlyn to transform his voice and practice writing. His setlist for the final included all original songs.

Backed by Duncan Brown on drums, Aaron White on Bass and Darcy Long on lead guitar. Jesse’s smooth vocals soaring over gentle surfy melodies of Darcy’s lead guitar, with the atmospheric wash of Duncan’s drums locked in with the singing melodies of Aarons Bass create a sound you could close your eyes to and get completely lost in. When Jesse describes his music, he says, “When I’m solo, it’s more coastal folk, but with my band, it’s more indie-pop! It’s super fun to have that alternative sound to my tracks!”.

Keep an eye out for Jesse’s new releases on streaming services over the next month. You can also catch him playing at Lizotte’s Live and Local alongside The Appointments and Coastline on Wednesday 30th June.

Keep up to date with Jesse on Instagram here!

Abbi Yeo

Taking the stage solo, Abbi Yeo performing at UON’s Band Comp Final, Image: _alpha_sierra_

While all finalists were made up of bands with at least three members. There was one exception, Abbi Yeo. A first-time entrant into UON Band Comp, and a perfectly justified exception. When watching Abbi perform it’s hard not to fall completely in love with her. Captivating the crowd with lyrics beyond her years, and raw authenticity to her voice which is sure to “melt your heart” as host Maeve Grant said.

From heat three on Friday, Abbi came runner up, making it through to the wild card round on Tuesday, and showed up on crutches! Between shows, Abbi got into a car accident and damaged her hip, with possible musculoskeletal damage. She still powered on making it through to the Grand Final alongside SlapJack.

Equipped with her guitar and fingerpicking folk style, Abbi’s music is similar to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Jewel. Her delicate but strong vocals show a vulnerable side of human experience, with the first song she wrote at 11, dedicated to her Grandfather who passed away from MND in 2015.

Abbi sat on stage and shyly chuckled away mid-song, as the crowd screamed for her. It’s clear this is no performance, it’s her effortless state of being. “I’ve been performing since I was 11 but I could sing before I could talk! I could make melodies before I could form sentences”, says Abbi.

Go check out Abbi’s latest EP, Perfect Silence on all streaming platforms!

You can keep up to date and follow her on Instagram here!

Piper Rodrigues

Piper Rodrigues performing at UON’s Band Comp Final, Image:_ alpha_sierra_

From beginning singing at six years old and picking up a guitar at 16, Piper Rodrigues has graced the UON Band Comp for the second year in a row. This year, performing with a new band, ‘The Blind Black Hearts’ featuring Ollie Byrnes (Drums), Chris Turner (Lead guitar) and Ben Moonen (Bass). From winning the Friday night heat, Piper went through to performing at the Grand Final with a setlist of all original songs featuring her debut single, King of Cups.

If you’re a follower of Tori Forsyth or Kacey Musgraves, Piper Rodrigues is a must add to your catalogue. Her music lives in the country Americana realm describing it as, “not your granny’s type of country music”.

At times her melodies have a soft haunting dark tone, while other times Piper showcases her vocal cords of steel, belting out the chorus of her songs, and finishing on notes leaving you stunned. In between songs, her lively bubbly personality came out, thanking the crowd and showing her utmost gratitude for being able to perform in UON Band Comp. A talented performer, yet so incredibly humble.

Go check out her new single King of Cups on all Streaming services and keep up to date with her Instagram! New music is coming soon which she can’t wait to release!


Face to face, Taylan Bragg and Andrew Gray of  WELL? performing at UON’s Band Comp Final, Image: _alpha_sierra_

WELL? Served us an unforgettable performance. Playing all originals, the blue-suited trio made up of Taylan Bragg (Lead guitar & Vocals), Andrew Gray (Bass, synth & backing vocals) and Duncan Brown (Drums) entranced us with their phenomenal musician and showmanship. From winning Heat 3 on Wednesday the group made it straight through to the Grand Final, winning the title of Wild Card Winners at the Grand Final and a weekend recording package from Novatone studios.

The group started as a loose project two years ago as a swing trio, and has since developed into the band we now know as WELL?. While primarily a prog-rock sound, WELL? attribute their influences to a range of other genres, including fusion, punk and pop. With bands like Ruins, Hinder and Herbie Hancock.

The performance started with Andrew in the middle of the stage, staring at the crowd and opened his arms as to question the audience, what do you want? Taking his time strapping his Bass over his shoulder and beginning the intro to the opening song, P.M.M. As the riff repeated over and over, gradually gaining intensity, you knew you were in for an intense set.

WELL?’s set included yelling into megaphones, a little push n’ shove into call and response battles between Taylan and Andrew which built up into melodic unison. In the middle of the show, someone dressed in full gimp attire took to the stage, dancing around with a tambourine. The transitions between each song in WELL?’s set is so seamless, you would not even realise they’ve started a new song. When you talk about putting on a performance, WELL? certainly do not leave you feeling disappointed.

Check out their latest single, Issue and Command on all streaming platforms! And keep an eye out for another glorious single dropping on July 16! The songs are building to an EP release early next year, which I shall be impatiently waiting for.

You can keep up to date with the latest from WELL? on their Instagram here!

The Appointments

Rhys and Eli Love of The Appointments performing at UON’s Band Comp Final, Image: _alpha_sierra_

These mulleted moustached musicians are absolute rhythm masters. The Appointments sure know how to make a crowd groove. Making it through from Tuesday’s Heat to the Grand Final, The Appointments came runners up in this years 2021 Band Comp.

Featuring Rhys Love (Lead Guitar & Vocals), Kurt Speirs (Bass), Eli Love (Drums) and Duncan Brown (Percussion). The Appointments have been together for two years now but due to COVID, they have only started playing their first live shows from February this year. And this was their first time entering UON Band Comp.

When you watch these boys live it’s hard to comprehend how loose, yet locked in one band could be. Each member completely understanding what they add, when to go for it and when to drawback. It doesn’t feel like anyone is competing, each member contributes to the overall unity and balance of a bluesy/reggae/rock experience.

The band kicked off the night with their new upcoming single ‘Sweet Life’ and performed tracks they have been writing in the last twelve months. Lead singer Rhys says, the “most common way we develop a song is just through getting together and jamming on a groove, then once we’re happy with the feel and sound of the groove we start adding the melody and lyrics on top. A mix collaboration and some small solo efforts along the way!”.

Keep an eye out for their upcoming single ‘Sweet Life’ which is being released in the next month on all streaming platforms! You can also catch them at their upcoming shows: On the 3rd June at the Cambridge supporting Andy Clockwise and, on the 11-12th June at Surf life Festival in Wollongong.

Keep up to date with everything from The Appointments on Instagram here!


Chris Turner, Chris Bass, Nick Crameri, Izzy Rendina, Chris Holburn, Fernando Carvajal and Ben Moonen of Slapjack after taking out the title of UON’s 2021 Band Comp, Image: _alpha_sierra_

And here we have it! The winners of UON Band Comp 2021, is funk supergroup Slapjack! These guys, emit fun and enthusiasm when performing, you can’t help but get out of your seat and have a boogie. The seven-piece group have been playing for two and a half years now and performed all originals at the Grand Final. It was the first time the group entered UON Band Comp.

Lead vocalist Izzy Rendina serves up sass and energy while dancing around the stage with her powerhouse voice. Having the ability, to captivate the audience not just with her incredible performance but also engaging the crowd in song. Asking the crowd during the final song Watson to sing back the impromptu lyrics ‘Let me get it now’. The horns in Slapjack are nearly like a vocal section of their own. Even when not calling back to Izzy’s vocals, or giving us punchy melodies, Chris (Trumpet) and Fernando (Trombone) are both seen to be dancing around on stage to their own funky tunes.

Slapjack takes influence from groups coming out of the New York/Boston Indie scene creating funk/dance/pop tracks. Bands like Ripe and Lawrence were the first main influences, and from here they’ve discovered so much more to help craft and create their own unique sound. “At the core of it it’s pretty much party music, we like to have a lot of fun on stage and that translates through the dancey/high energy stuff we play”, says Nick Crameri (Drummer). “When Slapjack first stared out, the Newcastle scene was somewhat filled with a very specific sound and genre so it is great to see so much diversity in the music being created and the people performing in Newcastle”.

Keep an eye on them as they’re currently in the middle of making some more funk bangers for your ears! Do not miss them at their next show on June 5th at The Rogue Scholar supporting the Huneez alongside Hey Jan.

Check them out on Instagram here!


And of course, a show like this doesn’t come together by itself. A big honourable mention to Hugh Gordon, who was the backbone behind the whole event. Darcy Long, Robb Ryan and Jake Smith are the audio masters, perfecting the sweet sounds of all the performers over the competition. Alyssa from Alpha Sierra Creative immortalizing Band Comp in photo form. And Hosted by the energetic ball of enthusiasm, which is Maeve Grant. Special mention to the event sponsors, Bar on the Hill, Newcastle Live, The University of Newcastle, Novatone Studios and Baraya Records.

It’s important to remember we are in a time, where it is incredibly fortunate we can view and support live music in the capacity that we are. So don’t just take my word for it, grab your mates, have a study break and pick a show to see these incredible musicians with your own eyes and ears! Music is a glue that unifies humans from all different aspects of life, keep continuing to support it!

Feature Art by Callum Pull, Yak Designer

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