Great Escape 2018: Day 2 Roundup (Part 2)

By on Wednesday, 6th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It was good to take a breather with my friends the Orielles because I was about to embark on the hardest walking period lined up in my Great Escape 2018 schedule. Thanks to Google Maps, the walks I took were more picturesque and slightly less bad than I had expected. Discovering a leafy, pedestrian-only lane on the way to the Green Door Store made walking up and back down down to the sea a total of four times made me forgot how much my feet were burning. Almost.

I was eager to see Declan Welsh and the Decadent West in action. While there’s been a proliferation of politically-minded punk bands in England, if the same thing is happening in Scotland, I’ve clearly missed it. Like my good friend Matt Abbott, East Kilbride’s Welsh is a poet at heart, having taken up the causes of socialism and supporting Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Just as one might expect, he began their set alone with a poem dripping with emotion and vitriol. Welsh later made the audience laugh with his best attempts in Spanish language delivered with a Scottish accent before he and his band launched into ‘No Pasaran’. Introducing the LGBT and sexual liberation anthem ‘Do What You Want’ as “a sex-positive song”, Welsh sent the audience into a bit of an amusing tizzy, the tune beginning slowly before becoming a wailing guitar number.

Declan Welsh and the Decadent West Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Coincidentally, the next act I would see was also Scottish. I noticed this year’s Great Escape Festival was largely devoid of electronic acts. If this trend continues, it makes me less likely to attend in the future. ONR. (pronounced “honour”), Robert Shields with this band, was on the top of my list of acts to see at SXSW 2018 (see preview here), so when he cancelled his band’s appearances last minute, disappointment doesn’t even begin to cover it. When I saw ONR. added to the BBC Introducing bill Friday night, it felt like a reprieve. Back down at the Old Ship Hotel, a mass exodus from its upstairs Paginini Ballroom followed the set by the showcase opener Leicestershire soul singer Mahalia, spilling out onto Ship Street. Yes, I arrived too early. No way was I going to miss this.

The disappointment of ONR.’s absence in Austin was wiped away, evaporated by the powerful spectacle of this very performance Friday night. Having seen The 1975 here in 2013, right before they hit it big, it’s an important venue to me, a place where British acts play before they become musical giants. You’re inside the Old Ship Hotel, a Grade II-listed building built in 1559, watching a band perform on what is probably a centuries-old stage but with 21st century equipment and lighting. For the bands, it must be like performing in an old church, history speaking from its walls and feeling history being made while onstage. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but it does feel extraordinarily different to see a band here than any other place in Brighton.

ONR Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Under a dizzying light display, Shields followed his bandmates out on stage to deliver a commanding performance worthy of the bombastic pop hits he’s written under the ONR. name. The power of the beats and synth-driven instrumentation matched Shields’ booming vocals. 2017 debut single ‘Jericho’ is a masterclass in how to write a pop song: slow burn them with a verse, then knock ‘em up over with the muscle of the chorus. The ONR. set closed out with ‘Five Years Time’, with its anthemic, thunderous choruses. BBC Introducing describes them playing their newest single ‘American Gods’ at the recent Biggest Weekend as “stadium-ready rock”: whatever you want to call it, this is massive stuff. ONR. are currently in America, due to play shows supporting Mondo Cozmo and their own headline shows on both of our coasts over the next fortnight: all the details are through here.

Sticking with the Scottish theme and buoyed by the energy of the ONR. set, your intrepid music editor went back up the hill and back to the Green Door Store for Rascalton, another one of my festival tips. Their style of high-octane, melodic guitar punk was just the ticket, ‘Lust’ being an example of a less than 3-minute long tour de force. Seeing three Scottish acts calling Glasgow (or close) home back to back, it’s heartening to see that there’s no Glasgow ‘scene’ or specific sound, but rather musicians who are committed to writing music their way and aren’t bound by what the often clueless pundits back down in London think is hip now. I’m going to guess one of the band member’s mams was down front, wailing, dancing and waving her arms about and, well, if you can’t get excited about your son’s band doing well, you’re clearly doing it wrong.

Rascalton Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

I didn’t have the luxury of pogoing on my sore feet like her, so it was time to go back down again to the Old Ship, finally getting to see Ten Tonnes. I’d run into him earlier and he’d remembered me earlier from when I interviewed him at the Twix showcase at SXSW 2017. His recent songwriting collaboration with ex-Kaiser Chiefs Nick J. Hodgson on single ‘Lay It On Me’ left me less than enthused on what looks like a more poppy direction.

However, after seeing it live, I think I’m having a change of heart. I watched his fans go absolutely mental, dancing to this very song at the Paginini Ballroom. What do I know, eh? As he and his band performed ‘Silver Heat’ at a frenetic pace, I was transported back to that outdoor stage at Lustre Pearl on the day before the single was released when he performed it alone. The set ended up with the winsome ‘Lucy’ and its “Luc-EE! Oh oh oh oh!”s ringing in my ears. I think I’ll always prefer the more bluesy, rockabilly version of Ethan Barnett, but I will take him and his music however it comes packaged to me,

Ten Tonnes Friday the Great Escape 2018 1

At this point, I’ve been reduced to crawling up the hills of Brighton, this time to make my way to the Hope and Ruin, previously known to me as the Hope. Following queueing outside and watching a belligerent smoker almost get into a fight with one of the bouncers, I’m finally let in. The downstairs area has been turned into a tropical-looking DJ room for the Great Escape, a partly dismantled piano greeting you presumably supposed to pass for high art. Upstairs, I arrived for the last few songs by South Wales post-hardcore (what does that even mean?) band Dream State.

This would be a time when having the knowledge of by either former TGTF rock writers John Fernandez (now at the BBC) or Luke Morton (now at Metal Hammer) would have come in handy. I was reminded reading one time on TWLOHA about how despite the aggro look of the bands and their fans, the hard rock community is, surprisingly, one of inclusion and support. Packed in the room like sardines, you could feel the crowd shift, everyone craning their necks to watch female lead singer CJ roam across the long stage, engaging with fans. While I sincerely wondered how CJ wasn’t ripping her vocal cords as she screamed, her emotion, backed by her bandmantes’ blistering rock was palpable, fans shouting for more. I fully admit screamo and emo et al. aren’t specialties of mine, but any good music critic worth his/her salt knows when they’ve witnessed heart and passion.

Braden and I were reunited when he joined up with me to watch Cassia (see my tip on them prior to Live at Leeds 2018 through here). As mentioned previously, there were PA issues at the Killing Moon and LAB Records showcase at the Hub that day. The Macclesfield band with huge hype already behind them were due to open that showcase. As you might expect, this show at the Hope and Ruin, their only other appearance they had scheduled in Brighton during the Great Escape, was rammed with their fans disappointed in the earlier set.

Cassia Friday the Great Escape 2018

I’m going to guess that if you’ve heard of Macclesfield, it’s probably because of Joy Division or Peter Crouch. Cassia seem poised to change that. I don’t think anyone would associate the North of England with tropical music, so their brand of trop-pop sets them apart from virtually everyone else, save perhaps London’s Kawala, who were also in town for the Great Escape. With no windows to prove we were actually in Brighton, Cassia’s sunny, guitar-driven tunes brought us to an island paradise we didn’t know we needed. Easy to consume light fare ‘Out of Her Mind’ was perfect to end a long day of walking and bands.

For more of my photos from Friday at the Great Escape 2018, go here.

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