Great Escape 2015: Day 2 Roundup (Part 2)

By on Thursday, 21st May 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Part 1 of my Friday roundup at the Great Escape can be found here.

At the recommendation of my host in Brighton to check out the Old Market stage west of the city centre during the Great Escape 2015, I had hoped to see XL signing Empress Of play, as the schedule indicated two shows on the Friday. However, when I scanned her Twitter and Facebook, she made no mention of leaving the States for the Great Escape 2015 so all I can assume is that she must have cancelled at some point but the schedule was never amended. It then fell to my new SXSW 2015 buddy Rival Consoles to give me the electronic oomph I needed that night. I am proud to say I navigated the bus system in Brighton like a pro, arriving outside a hospital and finding St. George’s Church easily from there.

After arriving, I was really happy to be seeing a different kind of space than what I was used to in Brighton. The only other real church space I’d ever seen a show at in town was the Unitarian Church, and that was only briefly in 2013, where Marika Hackman held the room spellbound with her voice and guitar. St. George’s Church was a whole ‘nother matter: in addition to being a beautiful space with stained glass windows, you could sense the air filled with the power and glory that only a place of worship can offer, and that was before a single note was played.

Rival Consoles at the Great Escape 2015

Rival Consoles got to work on his consoles (no pun intended), thoughtfully turning knobs and pressing sequencer keys to craft several of his masterpieces live while a ever changing display of dots and lines pulsated on the projection screen behind him. The acoustics, as you can imagine for a cavernous, sparsely furnished space like a church, made for incredible music. It was, in an word, awesome. When he was finished, the applause was deafening.

Then it was back on the bus into town, where I snuck in for the last couple of songs by Hooton Tennis Club, who were playing the BBC Introducing stage at Shooshh. Everyone I know it seems has gone gaga over their Heavenly Records’ laid back single ‘Jasper’, but I’m still not convinced, and even less so after I saw them play. Having seen astronomyy there the night before, I know the sound system is decent, but all I could hear was loud, loud guitars and even louder drums, all muddied. Guess this music just isn’t for me.

Unfortunately for me, I arrived at Coalition minutes too late to be admitted for the press guest list. To be honest though, getting in halfway in the middle of Slaves’ set list was sufficient for me to get a flavor of what the live Slaves experience is like. They were scheduled to play at the NME showcase Saturday night at the Corn Exchange but somehow I just felt that Coalition would be the better place to see them at, and I am pretty sure I was on the mark with this one. Coalition is a dark, sweaty basement venue, just the right kind of atmosphere for the wild antics of punk rockers Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent.

In the vein of Brighton’s own Royal Blood, they’re a duo who really don’t give a monkey’s, but there is a comedic element to their music. It’s not all doom and gloom. These are guys who clearly never take things too seriously, as during the airing of recent single ‘Feed the Mantaray’, a man dressed in a manta ray suit jumped into the crowd and crowd surfed. I couldn’t help but laugh. The moshing and shouting reached a fever pitch during songs ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Cheer Up London’, and during set closer ‘Hey’, both members somehow found themselves crowd surfing, shirtless, to the crowd’s utter delight. What the hell did I just witness? I’m laughing about it now just typing this out.

Slaves' Manta Ray at the Great Escape 2015

Having not been tempted at all by any of the headliners – I’d already seen Kate Tempest at SXSW 2015 and had my fill of her in Austin and I had no interest in seeing Alabama Shakes, Skepta or JME – I thought I should probably see at least one big name I might not get a chance to see otherwise. The VEVO UK-sponsored Wagner Hall, where other friends caught young Derry singer/songwriter SOAK the night before, seemed to be just the ticket.

There is a lot of buzz about George the Poet at the moment, and how much of that comes off of Kate Tempest making social commentary through the spoken word can be quite the debate in certain circles. There is, however, no denying that the man has incredible charisma as a performer, which is crucial for any entertainer and even more so if your craft is dependent on the word. George Mpanga has an interesting take on things, having graduated from Cambridge despite being talked down to by a teacher who said he shouldn’t even have tried to apply. But his mother believed in him. And in response to support the disenfranchised and in his words “if I can embody a viable alternative, the idea that it might be OK to stay in school, to aspire to university, then people will hear what I’m saying”, he writes to educate but also to entertain.

George the Poet at the Great Escape 2015

The live experience begins unusually with hip hop performer Shelz the Dancer and Mpanga is joined onstage at times by blonde sidekick and sometimes support act Tom Prior. Generally, Mpanga’s messages lean towards the positive and when they don’t, they seek to inform those who might not know or understand circumstances because, as we all know, knowledge is power. The only moment I cringed was during his song ‘Gentleman’, where he describes how girls with low self-esteem sleep around because they’re looking for love in all the wrong places. I get the sentiment and where he’s trying to go with it but the story he tells seems to suggest he took advantage of such a girl and it’s hardly a sympathetic angle, is it?

The headliner for the night were the Cribs from Wakefield, whose mere headline appearance to an essentially hometown crowd at Live at Leeds 2015 threw everyone in town off schedule. The trio, ubiquitous live since the release of their latest album ‘For All My Sisters’ on Sony in March, hadn’t played in Brighton for several years and naturally, a good portion of Great Escape 2015 wristband holders were chomping at the bit to see them play live. I give props to the security at Wagner Hall, because they kept a close watch on how many people were allowed into the performance space, ensuring it was not dangerously crowded. Which you can imagine is a major problem when a band like the Cribs perform, a band that notoriously invites and incites wild moshing at their shows. You’re probably wondering why someone who has claustrophobia would venture into a rowdy mosh pit late on a Friday at a music festival, but I have to say, having not seen the Cribs live in 3 years, I was curious. (Although I stood my ground pretty well, I do wish to thank the photographers and their gear near me, as I basically dove for cover into their crowd when things got to be too much.)

Ryan Jarman of the Cribs at the Great Escape 2015

While songs from ‘For All My Sisters’ seemed requisite given it was the band’s most recent release, in general it was the much older material – in particular, ‘I’m a Realist’, a particularly boisterous version of ‘Mens’ Needs’ and the Johnny Marr-era ‘We Share the Same Skies’ – that really got the crowd riled up. I don’t know if it was a matter of where I was stood in the performance room, but the audio didn’t sound as crisp and good as I would have expected a VEVO-sponsored venue to have. Make no mistake, the lighting rig and other production values at Wagner Hall made for a classy experience, I was just really surprised that the sound wasn’t any better.

At the end of the day though, it wasn’t so much as how good the Cribs sounded to their fans as how physical and mental their performance was. This was evidenced by the antics by the Jarman twins at the end, with both Ryan and Gary seemingly all too eager to destroy their guitars by launching them directly into their amps. If that isn’t rock ‘n’ roll, I don’t know what is. Below you can watch VEVO UK’s recap of Friday’s performances at Wagner Hall, including interviews with the artists by Radio 1’s Phil Taggart and a fleeting glimpse of yours truly.

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