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Great Escape 2015: Day 3 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Friday, 22nd May 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Part 1 of my coverage from the Great Escape 2015 on Saturday is this way.

Le Galaxie @ Patterns downstairs (Jack Daniel’s)

So after getting my brains beaten in by a band from Cardiff, I was expecting for something a bit different at Patterns downstairs with Landshapes. However, when I arrived at the venue, there was a brief lull, and then an epileptic fit of strobes accompanied with throbbing beats. Uhhh, I don’t think this is Landshapes? (I was informed later that due to another band pulling out of the lineup, all the acts were going on a half-hour early. If you’re keen on Landshapes, you’re in luck, the London band was on Marc Riley’s 6 Music show Thursday night.) I realised quickly that I was now watching Le Galaxie from Dublin, which was fine by me because I was in the mood for some real electronic after a so far real dance-less Saturday at the Great Escape 2015. While Carrie covered the band at the full Irish breakfast at SXSW 2015, I am pretty sure the stars aligned on purpose so I would be at Patterns at that very moment to catch them.

Le Galaxie at the Great Escape 2015

Most dance music runs to one theme, love: how to get it, how to keep it and what to do when you lose it. With enough dB in the background to keep your heart pulsating. Having a charismatic frontman is paramount. In the case of Le Galaxie, Michael Pope knows how to shake what his momma gave him. It is not what you expect from a hulking Irishman with an epic beard; he looks more like he should be playing with Fleet Foxes, not fronting an electronic band. (I didn’t see the tattoos that are apparently also a trademark of his.) Watching him shake his arse and show off his fancy footwork in front of a Brighton crowd absolutely loving it was quite the sight to see. ‘Put the Chain On’ was a banger, the song that sticks out in my mind because the band was so on point. I think that was one of several where Pope took his microphone and went straight to the barrier to commune with the fans. Another big one was ‘Lucy is Here’, a darker, older but still goodie track. This is exactly the kind of band I expect would have an amazing – and deservedly so – draw at a festival like Ultra. It’s not just synths and buttons pushed. Pope and co. make sure everyone is included in their dance party, and it’s an unforgettable experience.

Young Kato @ Shooshh

Next on my hit parade for Saturday night was Young Kato, who I’ve been following since their early days. They’ve now released their debut album on Republic of Music this month, ‘Don’t Wait ’til Tomorrow’, which has been a long time coming, and I couldn’t be happier for the lads. Their show at Shooshh would be their crowning moment at the Great Escape 2015, where they would show off their new tunes and bring out the older ones for devoted fans. ‘Drink, Dance, Play’, which always ends up being a ridiculously fun exercise in jumping up and down, yelling and screaming the chorus, never disappoints, and it sure didn’t disappoint in Brighton. The vibrancy of the uber optimistic ‘Sunshine’, the title track of their autumn EP last year, closed their set out on a high note. Onward and upwards, lads!

Young Kato at the Great Escape 2015

Even though it was a little chilly to me, the dry weather was nice in Brighton, which means there were queues at most venues thanks to eager punters everywhere you went in the city. The Spiegelpub and Spiegeltent area around hub of transit activity The Old Steine was a new one to me, but I was very intrigued with the premise: being inside it was very much like being at an outdoor festival, which means if the weather is good, it’s fantastic, but if the weather’s crap, every man for himself.

Keston Cobblers’ Club @ Spiegeltent (Jazz Cafe Presents…)

After getting some cheesy fries with loads of mayonnaise and feeling like an idiot for eating them with a fork (hey, I still had to take photos, yo!), I entered a Moulin Rouge-themed area where Keston Cobblers’ Club would be playing. I have my favourite songs off their debut album ‘One, for Words’, and hoped I would hear them. One of the catchiest tunes off their debut, ‘Your Mother’ is a unique one, with horns and banjo joining the fray, the band’s lush harmonies sounded beautiful against the instrumentation. The group also showed off some new songs from their upcoming second album ‘Wildfire’, which will be released in June.

Keston Cobblers' Club at the Great Escape 2015

Sadly, I was drowned out for the request for a slower one by the rest of the crowd, which in the end is fine because I would have preferred them to gain new fans than to make one music editor happy. The crowd was in the mood to dance or to be more accurate, to stomp. While I was stood in the front of them, it quickly became a square-dancing hoedown, punters pleased with the up tempo gaiety their songs provided them on a mild night by the sea. At one point, I was sure I was going to be stamped to death, as everyone was so boisterously stomping their feet on the wood floor of the Spiegeltent. All’s well that ends well, though: after their set was over, new fans rushed like the dickens to the front to buy their CD. A job well done, then.

Blossoms @ Green Door Store (Dr. Marten’s)

I had been thinking for a long while how I wanted to end my Great Escape 2015 experience and after a friend had disappeared from me post-Keston Cobblers, I decided my original plan was best. I rushed quickly back up Brighton’s hilly streets to the Green Door Store, the site of my most epic fail at the Great Escape to date. Two years ago, at the same crowded venue, I got nowhere near the front so I could hear Teleman but could not actually see them. This time, I wasn’t about to be denied. I was a little pushy but was never rude and by the grace of god, I finally saw a clearing and was down the front for Stockport’s Blossoms, who I’d enjoyed at the BBC Introducing stage at SXSW 2015. I think it was a pleasant surprise for the band to see me, as they didn’t even know I was at the festival.

Blossoms at the Great Escape 2015

Watching a middle-aged man in sunglasses (remember, it was nearly midnight by this time, and dark) and a leopard print shirt, grooving to Blossoms, that image from this year’s event will definitely stay with me. He was clearly feeling and breathing in their psychedelic pop vibes, as were many down the front. Kitted out with their new shoes courtesy of stage sponsor Dr. Marten’s, the five-piece were on point. I still don’t know what ‘Blow’ means, it probably has some rude explanation that would make me blush, but for some reason I really connect with its sound, and I admit I have played the video for the song a few too many times on YouTube, Tom Ogden’s vocal line in the chorus is just about perfect, and bloody hell, you must be a stone if Josh Dewhurst’s guitar solo doesn’t bring you to near tears.

Afterwards, I went to go thank the lads for a hell of a set. We all hugged and they asked me, “when will we see you again?” Ha. I couldn’t cry then. It’d be too embarrassing. But I hated knowing I was going home the next day. But hopefully that reunion with them and everyone else I met up with in Brighton will be sooner than later. Fingers crossed.

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 3 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 22nd May 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Saturday at the Great Escape 2015, and the final homestretch is in sight. If you haven’t felt broken already, you probably will have woken up the last day with a sore head and wondering why you have put your body through this again for another year. This year at both stages of the Komedia, the festival offered up something new called Great Day Out, for which you could buy tickets for the two matinee lineups outside of the actual Great Escape. I guess it was an option for those only coming into Brighton for the day and wanting a slice (a very small one) just to get a taste of what the festival had to offer.

As laudable this idea was, it was a small nightmare for the door staff to cope with. The kind bouncer I chatted with actually apologised for the situation, explaining that because tickets were being sold for the event taking place in the two performance spaces, they had to limit the count of people inside more than they might normally do. He had the unenviable task of asking everyone in the badge queue who they had intended to see inside. Unfortunately for one very hung over person in our queue, he had no idea what he was queueing for, grabbing his programme from his back pocket and frantically checking who was actually on inside. Oops. When it came my turn, I was prepared. My answer was short and sweet. “Get Inuit.” After promising I was only going to stay in there for them, I was finally let in, albeit mid-set, after stepping into the main room for a bit to see how 2011 Great Escape TGTF stage alum K. Flay was getting on. The crowd were loving her. Good.

Get Inuit @ Komedia Studio Bar (Great Day Out)

Apparently the Pav Tav has a bad reputation among bands for their not so great soundsystem. So after seeing Get Inuit there the night before, I wanted to give them another try in a supposedly aurally better location. Interestingly, I didn’t hear much difference between the two shows, except maybe that the band felt even less inhibited by the situation than they had playing in a pub, the Komedia Studio Bar being a more intimate, lower-ceilinged place.

Get Inuit at the Great Escape 2015

Diving headfirst into a series of tunes that seem incredibly tight for a band that as only just released their first EP this year, their confidence shone through, and compared to the night before at the Pav Tav, it was the music that was front and centre and wildly, crazily enjoyable and not necessarily frontman Jamie Glass’ sometimes groan-worthy stage patter (sorry, Jamie). The punishing rock of ‘I Would’ was peerless, and despite its verbose, ominous title, ‘Coping with Death in a Nutshell’ has an awesomely melodic guitar I still have in my head to this day. Amusingly, a middle-aged American man came up to the band after, exclaiming, “you’re like the love child of Nirvana and Weezer!” I just stepped back and laughed. Huh, really? I don’t hear that at all. But if it leads to a record deal (as I assume it will) then I am all for it.

SLUG @ Dome Studio Theatre (Generator)

Our North East friends at the incredibly supportive to the UK music industry Generator were putting on an afternoon showcase at the Brighton Dome Theatre, and I for one was not going to miss it. Jagaara, whose set I’d seen the tail end of at Live at Leeds 2015, went over extremely well with the punters. But I was here for something…a bit off-kilter. I have always been amazed by the inventiveness and indeed the heart of the music coming out of Sunderland, especially anything touched by brothers David and Peter Brewis, whether it be Field Music, either of their solo projects, and anything in between. Both brothers and other local musicians Andrew Lowther and Rhys Patterson are part of the live backing band of gastropod-named SLUG, aka the project of Sunderland’s Ian Black.

SLUG at the Great Escape 2015

You know you’re in for something special when the frontman of a band appears onstage looking all formal in a suit and a white bowtie, as if he should be performing in front of a philharmonic, not in a venue at the Great Escape 2015. He’s also ginger, so the look goes a long way of softening any thoughts that you’re in for a hard rock onslaught by a real live Viking. That would be boring though. And entirely inappropriate for creative Mackems. A quick read down the tracklisting for Black’s debut album with Memphis Industries released in mid-April, ‘RIPE’, makes it clear this is music that couldn’t be further from the mainstream (‘Grimacing Mask’, ‘Kill Your Darlings’ and ‘Shake Your Loose Teeth’ are especially of note).

The percussive funk of LP standout track ‘Greasy Mind’ is inescapably catchy, while the almost down and dirty ‘Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic’, with the falsettos by Black and his onstage compadres is another earworm that won’t be denied. The live performance, with tambourine, bongos, melodica and empty beer bottles (to be hit, naturally) augmenting the more usual rock band elements, was also hugely entertaining, with Black’s backing band all dressed in black turtlenecks and jeans, like they were a bunch of bohemians flown in from France. My guess that there were either large numbers of exiled North Easters and/or massive fans of SLUG in attendance at the Generator showcase, as the applause and whoops of delight at 3 in the afternoon for the band were as enthusiastic as one might expect for a dance band at midnight at the Great Escape. In any event, the SLUG performance was stunningly brilliant.

Orla Gartland @ Brighthelm Centre (Amazon Student UK)

Having seen Slaves in a sweaty, hilarious show at Coalition Friday night, I needed not to queue up with everyone else for the NME evening showcase at the Corn Exchange for the Kent punks but was now free to do as I pleased. And what would please me more than see one of the brightest stars of young Ireland I had the pleasure of seeing twice at SXSW 2015. Orla Gartland opened the Amazon Student UK show as the Brighthelm Centre, wearing what I think must be her lucky dress, a cute black and white number I recognised from Austin. I can’t imagine this spunky young lady ever being mad or angry. All three times I’ve seen her play now, she’s been this irrepressible ball of energy, like a ginger bolt of sunshine in human form and exactly the boost I needed after what felt like a very long Saturday that was making feel like I was going to cry.

Orla Gartland at the Great Escape 2015

Several punters down the front had trained their cameras on the young Gartland. For the entire show. Then they grabbed her set lists off the stage before I could even blink. Your time has come, Orla. Fanboys are a sure sign of success. Me, I was content snapping a couple of photos but I really just wanted to enjoy the show. Beginning with ‘Souvenirs’, Gartland breezed through an all too short set of her pop gems and as in Austin, she peppered the time with her audience with short stories that made her laugh and indeed, reminded us that she’s a normal young woman…except she leaves her friends’ house parties early when she’s come up with an idea for a new song. Needs must, eh? To close our her set, she played ‘Lonely People’, which has gone massive on Hype Machine, having over 300K plays on Spotify since it was released earlier this year. Positivity begets positivity. And Orla Gartland has nowhere to go but up.

Houdini Dax @ Mesmerist (Alternative Escape / This is Now Agency)

Houdini Dax are a Welsh band I have seen on many a festival list we’ve attended but somehow I never managed to fit them into a schedule (I recall one Liverpool Sound City where I had them written down, but I ended up missing them, not able to arrive in time at the venue). Saturday night in Brighton, I finally got my chance at the This is Now Agency showcase at the Mesmerist, familiar to me as being the locale for past Blog Up get-togethers. I don’t know if the place has been gentrified or what, but I don’t remember people being in line to get bespoke cocktails. The mojito doesn’t sound like something that should be native to Brighton.

After I had settled in at the bar with a Kiwi cider, Houdini Dax started up with their assault on our ears. I totally get now why I was never able to see this band before. I wasn’t ready. Until now. I don’t think I would have appreciated them 2, 3 years ago. You can tell the Cardiff trio’s roots are based in classic guitar bands like the Beatles, which is always a good start, because a good handle on the basics and being able to write a song that is catchy and being memorable are important keys to being successful in this business. But when you listen to them, as the guitar squeals and the bass and drums thump on a track like ‘Good Old Fashioned Maniac’, there it is, the heart and soul of a band who are in it for the right reasons. It is bands like Houdini Dax that make me want to keep going with what I’m doing. Older song ‘Our Boy Billy’ shows the group’s darker, bluesier side and their adeptness for playing in spades.

Houdini Dax at the Great Escape 2015

I’ve read that they’ve been playing together since they were in school, and that tightness as a unit shows when they play live. Even though I didn’t know the songs before I came into the room, I left with the definite feeling that I want to keep an eye on these lads because they’re entertaining live and they’re good songwriters. The band suffered a major setback back in March when their parked van was broken into in Manchester and all their gear was stolen. (Thanks to a grant by the Arts Council of Wales and Horizons / Gorwelion, they were given money to buy a new van. Yay, art councils!) But you’d never have even known anything had happened by the way they attacked their instruments Saturday night. If you have a heart and want to support a band worth supporting, donate what you can to their stolen gear fund here on GoFundMe.

Hold your horses, part 2 of my Saturday coverage of the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.

 

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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Great Escape 2015: Day 2 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By 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.

The Riptide Movement at Great Escape 2015

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.

Boxed In at Great Escape 2015

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.

boxed In at Great Escape 2015

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.

The Dunwells at Great Escape 2015

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.

Get Inuit at Great Escape 2015

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.

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By 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.)

Cold Fronts at Great Escape 2015

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.

Cold Fronts at Great Escape 2015

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 at Great Escape 2015

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.

astronomyy at Great Escape 2015

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.

astronomyy at Great Escape 2015

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.

Tropics at Great Escape 2015

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.

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By 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.

Model Aeroplanes at Great Escape 2015

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.

The Merrylees at Great Escape 2015

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.

Casi at Great Escape 2015

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.

Cut Ribbons at Great Escape 2015

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.

Cut Ribbons at Great Escape 2015

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 at Great Escape 2015

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 at Great Escape 2015

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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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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