Martin Rossiter and the lads head all-star line-up at charity evening to find the UK's best student band...

GENE are to headline the UK NATIONAL STUDENT MUSIC AWARDS on February 18 at the London Brixton Academy.

The event, compered by Radio One’s Emma B, sees Gene and support Toploader play after three bands have battled it out to win the best student band of the year award.

Following last week’s semi-finals in Portsmouth, Warwick and Edinburgh, the three finalists out of the dozens who entered the heats are Fierce Black (from Chichester), Higher Ground (from Ebbwvale, Wales) and Cinefilm (from Glasgow).

Judges include Radio One DJ Steve Lamacq, Zane from MTV, Stephen Jones from industry mag Music Week, Paul ‘Carpet Monster’ Sadler from Channel Four’s Big Breakfast and Maggie Crowe from the BPI.

There will also be DJ sets from Clint Boon, The Orb’s Alex Paterson and NME’s own Jody Thompson.

Gene lead singer Martin Rossiter told “For 40 years and more, universities have acted as a training ground for the great and the good of British music. This event can only further encourage that. Without people wasting taxpayers money, drinking too much and writing songs, Britain would have lost a great deal of it’s musical heritage and would be a much poorer place for it.”

The event, the first of its kind, started in October last year with more than 200 student bands sending in tapes. A panel of industry experts then chose 48 bands to compete in the heats at student unions across the UK.

NSMA organiser Alison Hussey said: “The country’s two million strong student population has a long history of creating some of the best new music – bands such as Blur, Chemical Brothers, Travis and Gomez met and developed their music whilst at college. It’s about time this was recognised and celebrated.”

Prizes for the overall winners include free studio time at the BBC Resources studio with mastering at Abbey Road, including hire gear and all materials for 100 copies of a 3 track CD. In addition they will get a photoshoot, independent legal advice, Diamond Rio MP3 players and Kangol clothes. There will also be prizes for the runners up.

All profits from the event will go to the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre.

For tickets, go to the Ticketshop – click here

Or call the 24-Hour NME Virgin Cola Ticketline on 0870 1 663 663 – calls are charged at national standard rate – or the London Brixton Academy direct on 0171 771 2000.