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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 21st May 2015 at 11:00 am
While Friday at the Great Escape 2015 wasn’t a blazing scorcher by any means, we were able to put the brollies away and the hardier types were already tucking into their pints and all before the noon hour. As described in the second half of my Thursday roundup, one of the things that stuck in my craw all festival was the fact that there seemed to be queues everywhere. Coming off a less well attended than usual SXSW 2015 where I could get in most everywhere I needed to with my badge, the queue situation in Brighton was getting old and fast. After being turned away at the Komedia Studio Bar for the Dutch Impact showcase where I had hoped to see electronic duo Tears and Marble, I had to be content to go back to the Prince Albert and the Music from Ireland showcase.
In my failed attempt to get in for the Dutch show, I had sadly already missed one of my faves from SXSW 2015, Orla Gartland, and instead joined the throngs waiting for the Riptide Movement, noted by my holiday host in Dublin the week before as his favourite live act in Ireland at the moment. You couldn’t get a better vote of faith, could you? As also alluded to in my review of Tropics‘ late night appearance in the same venue Thursday, the Prince Albert is not for the faint-hearted when rammed. Still, I figured it was early enough in the afternoon and people wouldn’t be (that) pissed. That said, being Irish, they’re probably used to playing to raucous, inebriated crowds.
Frontman Mal Tuohy does an excellent job of rallying his troops for what ends up becoming a stomping singalong on songs like ‘You and I’. Do you remember what Mumford and Sons sounded like when they first brought out ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ in their early shows live and everyone was behind them? There is that same ‘I feel good, I feel alive’ element in the Riptide Movement that is very appealing and easily so to everyone, where everyone feels included, and you can also tell they’re having loads of fun like early Vaccines too, which is immediately felt by their audience. It seems to pretty much be a no-brainer that they’ll be the next big rock band out of Ireland on the basis of the strength of their energetic and unapologetically so live show.
Back outside, it was time to head over to the PRS Foundation’s showcase at the Dome Studio Bar, where Boxed In were playing third on an amazing afternoon bill starring SXSW 2015 alums Jay Prince, Spring King and PINS. I guess people were itching to see earlier shows on Friday because again, I was faced with a queue and the sinking feeling I would never get in to see any of the show, trying to hold my fist back from waving because I could hear the distant patters of ‘Mystery’ and felt annoyed I was not inside. I finally made it in halfway through their set, the place packed and I felt very lucky to have seen them perform at the much smaller Nation of Shopkeepers at Live at Leeds 2 weeks previous. I was confused though, as Boxed In mastermind Oli Bayston said this afternoon show would be an acoustic performance, and this most definitely was not one.
No matter though. The crowd whooped it up, dancing to and clearly enjoying the unique blend of keys, pop and dance Bayston had concocted for his self-titled debut album released last year on Moshi Moshi, the grooveathon known as ‘Foot of the Hill’ providing a set highlight. Due to a miscommunication, a previously arranged interview with mastermind Oli Bayston fell through; I hope to pick that back up sometime while they’re on tour, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for it. Amusedly, while I was waiting around for this interview that didn’t happen, I nearly got stepped on by one of the girls from PINS who was trying to set up onstage; she apologised profusely and I told her not to worry about it at all.
Walking back onto New Road, a band was setting up under the Metro Free Gigs Airstream awning for what would be the Bullet Stage. They hadn’t started playing but I recognised that quiff…wait a minute. That’s the Dunwells from Leeds, isn’t it? Indeed it was. I had no idea I’d run into the band just walking around Brighton like this but I hung around as a large group of people amassed to watch this open air concert. A homeless man and his dog camped out in front of the group, keen on hearing this band play, the man enthusiastically clapping for them. For a show taking place in the middle of the madness, I think it went well, with EP title tracks ‘Show Me Emotion’ and ‘Lucky Ones’ sounding grand and much more fuller and richer live than on record.
A bit later on, it was time to do some Alternative Escape gigging. First up on my agenda was Get Inuit, who were performing as part of Alcopop Records’ showcase at the Pav Tav. Like an idiot, I was looking for an actual venue with a marquee reading “Pav Tav” and it wasn’t until I put two and two together that all I was looking for was the actual Pavilion Tavern. (Yes, it was my first time trying to find the place. ::insert canned laughter here::) I’ve been quite interested to hear the Kent four-piece play their self-described “dirty-pop” to a Brighton crowd. Bless frontman Jamie Glass, he’s got this nerdy yet very adorable way of addressing the crowd in between songs, coming up with connections no-one else would ever think of, such as trying to come up with an alternative nickname for the people of Brighton without insulting them. Anyone else would get bottled but with his self-deprecation, he gets away with it.
In another pleasant surprise of the afternoon, I was pleased to witness that Get Inuit are actually a harder-rocking band that the previous self description might lead you to believe. I suppose the pop label is more a nod to the catchy melodies of their songs, but phwoar, when they play, it’s loud, guitars and hair are flying, and everyone’s having a good time. ‘Cutie Pie, I’m Bloated’ is a prime example of this, where you can help yelling along with them, “I wanna be your stick in the mud!” while not really understanding exactly (or caring) what that means. Footstomper ‘Mean Heart’, which we gave away as a free MP3 of the Day last month, didn’t disappoint either, with James Simpson’s guitar bangings much appreciated. Huw Stephens is already a fan, so why aren’t you one yet?
Bar Rogue is on the seafront-facing side of the Royal Albion Hotel, and it’s where Earworm Events put on a 3-day onslaught of bands while the Great Escape 2015 rumbled on in other locales in Brighton. I arrived while London’s Longfellow were still soundchecking, so I guessed there were technical issues, later coming to a head when Ali Hetherington’s keyboard stopped working for a moment.
Save for the nonexistent lighting that made my photography near impossible, the setup was fantastic: just as frontman Owen Lloyd quipped, the intimacy felt like you were playing in someone’s living room. Compared to their Live at Leeds 2015 set, I had arrived early and was present for the whole thing, able to fully enjoy the grandeur of early single gem ‘Siamese Lover’ alongside newer EP tracks ‘Where I Belong’ and ‘Chokehold’.
Part 2 of my Friday coverage of the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 21st May 2015 at 10:00 am
Sydney hard rock band Service Bells are the latest one out of Oz to start making waves in the UK and further afield. Having played a secret show at the Great Escape 2015 that was so secret, even I wasn’t told where it was, they band are now gearing up for a show at Coventry Tin tonight (the 21st of May), followed by two appearances at this bank holiday weekend’s Liverpool Sound City 2015 on the Saturday (The Kraaken Stage put on by the Aussie BBQ at 4:20 PM, followed by the Record Store Stage at 6:20 PM).
Ahead of all that mayhem, the band are giving away the track ‘Undertaker’, which features on their self-titled EP out now. Listen to and grab the mp3 for your very own below. Also below is the promo video for ‘Almost / Never’, which is also on the EP. Who said Thursday were hohum? Not us!
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 20th May 2015 at 6:00 pm
POP ETC, who were formerly the Morning Benders until they left Berkeley for Brooklyn, have a new promo video out for a new single released this week. ‘Bad Break’ in promo form is given a karaoke-style treatment, and even though frontman Chris Chu is being chased around by guys in hoodies, it’s weirdly tailor made for tourists, the New York subways, Katz’s deli, Radio City Music Hall, Central Park and other places of note in the Big Apple filmed on here. Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 20th May 2015 at 4:00 pm
Tonight will be the last broadcast ever of the Late Show with David Letterman, whose show has been graced by the likes of acts we’ve covered here on TGTF including Glass Animals, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Hozier, Real Estate and Arctic Monkeys, just to name a few. To many of us, especially those of us on the overworked, neurotic East Coast of America, Letterman was who we chose to while our late night hours with, have a laugh with and check out which band he’d have as a guest.
When has Bob Dylan not been difficult and crochety? I guess even the end of a major era in American late night telly didn’t sway the ageing singer/songwriter legend from changing his usual ways, as he appeared on Letterman’s show last night, confusingly not playing any one of his many personally penned hits but instead choosing to perform ‘The Night We Called It a Day’, an old standard that appears on Dylan’s new Frank Sinatra tribute album ‘Shadows in the Night’. Anyway, just watch it below and be amused as much with the ending as I was.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 20th May 2015 at 2:00 pm
Part 1 of my Thursday (day 1) roundup of is this way.
Up front the seafront I went and back to Patterns to check in on some relatively new American friends. Philadelphia band Cold Fronts, who I met last year supporting Chicago’s Empires on their North American tour. At the time, they weren’t known outside of Philly and I had made the suggestion to frontman Craig Almquist that they had a vibe and sounded a lot like the Cribs (one of Almquist’s favourite bands) and to see if they could get in touch with the band to maybe support them one day. So Cold Fronts’ people called the Cribs’ people…and the next thing I hear, Cold Fronts are supporting the Cribs’ New York residency in March 2015 just prior to SXSW. Is that mad or what? See, kids? Dreams do come true. (A sidenote: when Mary Chang suggests you to do something to further along your career, it’s probably a good idea to do It. Because, you know, you might end up supporting the Cribs one day.)
Probably one of the biggest regrets I have from the Great Escape 2015 is leaving their set early to run up Brighton’s hill to see another band I’d heard good things about. As I was stood waiting for the Cribs the next night at Wagner Hall, a local musician and his girlfriend who were behind me were telling their other friends, “we saw these guys from America last night, they’re called Cold Fronts, they were amazing. The best part was when the singer got up top of the bar and started dancing!” And I missed that! ::grumble:: This was a sentiment that was repeated in multiple venues I stopped in for the rest of the festival, and I couldn’t help but feel proud to be an American once, knowing a band I like and support won over the Brits at a music festival across the pond.
There were two persistent themes throughout my time in Brighton during the Great Escape 2015: queues everywhere and equipment problems at venues. The latter proved problematic twice for my plans for the evening. I left Patterns early to go back up to the Brighthelm Centre in anticipation of catching CLAY, a band from Leeds that sound like a more poppier Jungle on their early track ‘Oxygen’. Unfortunately, like Patterns that afternoon, the venue were facing a major delay in getting things sorted for the evening. I waited for a while, chatting to a fellow American who happened to be visiting London from her graduate school program in music in Valencia, Spain, but then realised my time would be better spent down at the Old Ship Paganini Ballroom, where I assumed I’d be seeing up and comer North West singer/songwriter Adam French. His father befriended one of my American friends in an Irish pub the night before (I wasn’t there because I’d left her to go home and plan out my 3-day schedule – seriously, you can’t make this stuff up).
I arrived to the Paganini Ballroom to much confusion. After making my way to the front of the crowd, the music the band onstage was making didn’t match up to my idea of French, who sounded to my unsympathetic ear like another Ben Howard. No…these guys sound more like Friendly Fires, the first band I’d fallen in love with as a music blogger 6 years ago, crossed with the melodic guitars of Two Door Cinema Club and pop whiffs of The 1975. Interesting…
Lake Malawi, fronted by Albert Cerny and his Czech buddies who split their time between Prague and London, I steeled myself based on Cerny’s bouncing around on stage that the music would quickly turn bog standard boring to me the way Bastille’s does, but phew, they didn’t. Incredible vibrancy in the music from Cerny and his mates, and their punters shouted their appreciation for the band, which Cerny himself said he was surprised about – I guess he thought they wouldn’t be well received, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their debut EP ‘We Are Making Love Again’ is out on Monday, and expect that – and them – to go stratospheric.
I couldn’t wait around for Adam French after all, because I had a hot date with a man who had so far proved very elusive. astronomyy had been given a shout to SXSW 2015 but turned it down, so I assumed I’d be able to see him live finally at Live at Leeds 2015. Thanks to the HiFi Club being plagued with equipment issues, it was not meant to be, though he amused himself after the incident by checking out the bands at Nation of Shopkeepers, stood behind me while I was photographing Boxed In but was too bashful to say hi (I really don’t bite!) while I had no idea whatsoever.
Whatever happened before meant nothing now though, stood under the overly bright lights of Shooshh’s stage and prepared to be amazed. Shall we say I was not disappointed in the slightest? astronomyy seems to me a master of production and the studio, but from what I have read, he is new to the live scene, so these series of shows and festival appearances this spring are like a baptism by fire. Songs like the upbeat ‘When I’m With U’ feel like the next logical, soulful, more chill progression from my previous love Friendly Fires, maybe if the xx had convinced their former touring buddies that less is actually more. If not readily apparent from listening to his music online, he also plays a mean guitar, which is a surprising fact that makes the live experience the more awesome. It’s kind of like finding out the guy you fancy also knows how to bake cupcakes – ooh.
There is a fragile beauty to the minimalist nature of astronomyy’s music that I find intoxicating. This is not hit you over the head with production kind of r&b (you know who I am talking about), nor is it the kind that turns me off in a second with all of its swearing and awful language (though, okay, there is some occasionally), but to me the vibe is so strong and more important. If you read the lyrics, ‘Nothin On My Mind’ is about finding that perfect love that transports you to another place and time, where nothing else matters. That is a good way of explaining what good music does to a music fan: it takes you away from anything that is hurting you and puts you on a higher, better plane. I don’t know, maybe I have just bored you with my waxing philosophical on astronomyy, but yes, the man’s music does something to me very special and I am looking forward to hearing much more from him.
Maybe I should have called it quits after having a near religious experience with astronomyy at Shooshh, but I thought I should try and shoehorn artists #10 (NYC singer/songwriter duo Jack and Eliza, who I caught just minutes of at Patterns upstairs after leaving Shooshh) and #11 into my Thursday after deciding a very late night set by Belgian electronic artist Mugwump (who would have been #12) at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar was not in the cards. Tropics, aka Chris Ward, was scheduled to perform at the Prince Albert, whose upstairs performance space I generally avoid because it’s always hot and sweaty and therefore deathly claustrophobic. I don’t have fond memories of seeing my first Great Escape band ever, Francois and the Atlas Mountains, in that room. But a music editor’s work is never done, so in I charged.
How Ward was wearing long sleeves and looking so relaxed, I have no idea. I guess he and his band were in the zone. Two women next to me were throwing shapes and not to the rhythm of the songs, so I think it’s safe to say they were very, very drunk. The atmospheric ambient music of Ward, from the sexiness of ‘House of Leaves’ to the soulful ‘Rapture’, demands a captive audience (I think anyway) and while there were plenty of appreciative punters at the Prince Albert, the overall amount of squeezing, pushing and shoving around in that relatively small space distracted me from enjoying Ward’s craft. Suffice to say, I hope I get an opportunity to listen to his music in a much more relaxed way one day when sweat is not pouring down my face and I haven’t been running around for the last 12 hours. One day. Soon. I hope.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 20th May 2015 at 11:00 am
Ah yes, Brighton. London by the sea, rainbow flags a-flyin’, the smell of skunk hanging in the air if you walk down the wrong alley (or most places if it’s sunny), a place populated by way too many aggressive seagulls. It has been 2 years since TGTF last stepped foot in the seaside town to cover the annual emerging music festival here, which of course is The Great Escape 2015. Some things have happened since John and me were last in Brighton and due to some things in 2014 transpiring to keep us away (and I think for good reason too, if you want to get all moody and astrological about it), it was time for my return.
Within 30 minutes of leaving the flat I’d booked for the duration, the Great Escape 2015 wasted no time to remind me of my first rain-drenched event here in 2012. Like a scene out of Mary Poppins, my brolly turned inside out, pieces fell off and yes, it became entirely inoperable. Somehow after getting my photo pass from the press centre in the Dome, then getting lost (a recurring theme when I’m running behind schedule) I made it to the Brighthelm Community Centre without looking like a wet cat; the place is connected to a church and it was where the Creative Scotland afternoon showcase would be kicking things off. First up were the rough and tumble Model Aeroplanes, who you readers are aware I’m a big fan of. You might think that at 12 noon on as dreary of a day as it was, they were unlikely to draw a sizable crowd.
Wrong. The lively four-piece all the way from Dundee were raring to go, and a pretty packed out room awaited them. ‘Deep in the Pool’ is their latest single, and as their past releases, it’s a fun little guitar number that I expect will go down well in front of festival crowds this summer, as will recent tropical-tinged single ‘Club Low’. However, I still have a soft spot for earlier songs such as ‘Whatever Dress Suits You Better’ and the lovely honeyed way ‘Innocent Love’ has about it, and their guitar-swinging energy was just what Brighton needed on the rainy start to the festival. The band also brought me a gift: bottle of very special Dundee marmalade down with them, which was a very sweet and nice touch – thank you lads!
From the footloose and fancy free and sunny indie pop / rock of the opening band, The Merrylees couldn’t be more different. Having already supported the likes of legends Paul Weller (in town to play a not so secret show on Saturday) and Richard Hawley, the Merrylees are clearly on to something, but what that is might be marmite for at least part of the British population, the six-member strong band finding themselves galloping away on a country/western-themed bent for most of the set.
Confusingly, lead singer Ryan Sandison of the group has a haircut and dresses all in black like Alex Turner, yet when he opens his mouth, he sounds nothing like the Sheffielder, instead alternating between a croonery vocal style (ah, so now the Hawley connection makes sense!) and the theatrical, as if he’s playing to a cabaret in the West End, not a community centre rec room this afternoon. The cautionary tale in ‘It’s Catching Up With You Now’ is dark Hawley-esque territory, as is the haunting beautiful ‘Turn for the Strange’, and their debut single produced by Bill Ryder-Jones, ‘For You’, barely skirts the psychedelic line until heralding horns kick up the dust. Definitely unique, but I wonder if they can really make a go of it. I bid my adieus to new Scottish friends made and master of ceremonies, BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway, and emerge to head down in the direction of the seafront to immerse myself with music from another part of the UK. (Hint, not England…)
What used to be known as Audio on Marine Parade was just recently refurbished, turning into another nightclub called Patterns. I’m actually disappointed that I can’t tell you the place has changed dramatically and for the better – all that really obvious to me was that the stage in the upstairs performance space was rotated 90 degrees and the actual stage was made lengthwise longer. I’m never in a club long enough nor do am I there to check out the cocktails or the clientele. The upstairs area Thursday afternoon was host to the Gorwelion Horizons showcase being put on by Music Wales. No stranger to the funding project after meeting funding recipients The People the Poet at SXSW 2015 in March, I was eager to see who else was on the Welsh music radar and also to meet BBC Radio Wales presenter Bethan Elfyn, who appreciated the work I’d done in reporting on their show in Austin.
The venue was running at least an hour late, as when I arrived after getting a bite and a drink in a pub, I assumed I would enter in the midst of Cut Ribbons’ set. No, the tall, leggy blonde Casi, with her soulful vocal stylings, had yet to perform. The Bangor-born beauty and her band crafted a very pop, radio-friendly sound that I can see having massive mainstream appeal. I prefer the icy crunchiness of a track like ‘Grace’, while Radio 1’s Huw Stephens favours for his Radio 1 programme ‘Roads’, with its syncopated r&b beats.
Cut Ribbons were to close out the Gorwelion Horizons showcase, and they’re definitely more my bag. Fusing the best elements of electronic, rock and even a little pop, the London via Llanelli group also employ alternating and harmonising male/female fronting vocals, which I can always get behind. ‘Walking on Wires’ has a relentless rhythm and anthemic quality, almost as if Kodaline had gone much more electronic and added a female frontwoman to join Steve Garrigan. If you are a fan of Prides, you will want to take note of Cut Ribbons too; the Glaswegians remixed the Welsh band’s ‘Bound in Love’. I reckon they will be future touring buddies once Prides’ debut album on Island Records is out in July.
This is also the kind of music you want playing while you fall in love with someone under a mirrorball in a club. Well, I do anyway, in my dreams. (I assume John has a completely different kind of fantasy, probably involving Josh Homme and Dave Grohl beating some guitars in.) Pardon the cliché, but ‘Clouds’ lets you float satisfyingly, the synth notes and guitar notes springy, while the main vocal lines are gentle until the chorus pulls you in with “…and that’s what lovers should do.” Vigorous nod. Yes.
After a brief break for food and drink, it was down to the Arch to check out two bands at what was formerly known as Digital. Along with the new to me dance club Shooshh and our old friend Coalition where we hosted the TGTF stage in 2011 (starring a then-unknown Foster the People, I might add), The Arch is one of several true seafront clubs in Brighton. Clash Magazine’s night there began with STAL, an electronic trio from Paris. Well, at least I thought they would be straight electronic and that would be the end of it. That would have been perfectly fine with me, because I love electronic and if they kept laying down big beats and synths, I would have been a very happy panda.
STAL, however, had other plans for us. I’m still not sure exactly how to explain what I witnessed. I’ve never heard of the band and neither had another music editor friend of mine who was also at the Arch, and I was just gobsmacked by the amount of singing along – and screaming and squealing – there was by the girls down the front, who then went over the barrier and crawled onstage to get their set lists after the band finished. How on earth did we ever miss these guys? Upon further examination of STAL’s Soundcloud, you learn that STAL is actually the stage name of Pierre-Marie Maulini, who acts as lead vocalist, guitarist and synth player live.
Because they are both French, I think STAL will be inevitably compared to M83; nevertheless, I find the celebratory, positive feel good vibes of STAL’s ‘Gone’ to be a real winner eclipsing anything I’ve heard from Anthony Gonzalez (I know, them’s fighting words), while the interesting juxtaposition of otherworldy synths and banging guitars on ‘Burning Desire’ live reminds me oddly enough of the bombast you might feel at, say, a Muse concert. I have heard the complaint on occasion that electronic music is too fey, too feminine, not manly enough. Well, listen up. If a bunch of Frenchmen like this can make electronic sound muscular, have a listen and you might change your mind.
Neon Waltz were next up on the Clash showcase. Another six-member band, it seemed trying to fit them and all their gear onstage at the Arch would be a difficult feat, but they got it to work. The band from Caithness in Scotland just released their debut EP on Atlantic Records in April, ‘First Light’, so it’s still early days for them. I really liked what I heard on the EP, so I was disappointed when I heard them play ‘Sombre Fayre’ Thursday night, the gentle beauty of the lead vocal on the records lost against the harder instrumentation. I’m guessing the mix in the club wasn’t right, since an electronic band performed before them. Or maybe having so many instruments on stage was muddying up the overall sound? I’d be really curious if they are ever in for a Sofar Sounds session or something similarly acoustically just how different it would be.
Part 2 of Thursday’s coverage at the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.
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