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It’s a quintessential English experience, walking along the Brighton seafront: eating Harry Ramsden fish and chips and contemplating risking your life/limbs on the suspect fairground rides on the pier. Add to that a veritable buffet of quirky seaside music venues and masses of emerging talent, and you have the ingredients for arguably the most exciting music festival in the UK.
The Great Escape pulls together a collection of music industry big wigs, PR’s, A and R’s and a host of bloggers (myself included) to scurry around the city, in search of the bands which people want to be first in on, just to say “I saw them first, in a 50-capacity venue”.
To name but a bands, who have in their infancy played at the festival – Bombay Bicycle Club in 2008 and 2009, who’re doing stupendously well at the moment, White Lies in their doom rock filled glory in 2008, drum’ n’ bass titans Chase and Status in 2010 alongside darling of the Brits, Ellie Goulding. Add to those names Frank Turner, Friendly Fires, The Vaccines and The Temper Trap, and let’s be honest, it’s looking like the obvious hotbed for breakthrough talent in the past 8 years.
This year it’s no different, with the festival from the 8th to 10th of May showcasing some of the best talent that is breaking out worldwide. Twenty-year old Charli XCX is the next in the line of take no shit-divas breaking into the music scene, following in the footsteps of musicians like Jessie J and, to a lesser extent, Lana Del Rey. While she may not be my cup of tea much like Tom Odell last year, I expect the venue she plays at to have snailling queues reaching onto the seafront, brimming with industry bods doing their level best to get in on the act.
Fresh from the release of EP ‘Devils Rope’ – Hampshire quintet New Desert Blues will be returning to The Great Escape to tell some more of their brilliant noir-indie stories. Last year at The Fishbowl, alongside about forty other Great Escape-ers I was lucky enough to stumble onto these boys – since then, they’ve matured and really nailed down their sound – 2014 is sure to be a huge year stateside and in the UK for New Desert Blues, with The Great Escape and their shows there will be a huge moment for them.
Brisbane three-piece Dune Rats have been causing the equivalent of an internet shitstorm, with catchy tunes like ‘Fuck It’ and ‘Red Light Green Light’ – I mean, who wouldn’t want to go get drunk in Brighton and watch three sweaty Aussies play a song called ‘Fuck It’. They’ll be appearing at the weekend too, but my personal recommendation are a band I’ve been a little bit pant-wettingly excited about lately, for good reason, is Royal Blood: a two-piece with shades of The White Stripes, flecks of Band of Skulls with some less than subtle Queens of the Stone Age and early Muse vibes. Simply unmissable.
Alongside the less established bands, The Great Escape always does it’s best to revisit bands who have done well after the festival – last year we saw the rebirth of Klaxons in all their nu-rave glory. This time around, we have Pulled Apart By Horses are doing the round; since Dinosaur Pile-Up played last year, effectively it’s like an upgrade: the grown up and far more tuneful rockers from Leeds are at the festival to bring some serious carnage to the seaside.
It’s a clichéd level of rhetoric, but in honesty – if you want a taste of everything the industry will be drooling over in the next twelve months and can’t afford the plane fare to South By Southwest, then The Great Escape is, quite simply, the place to be.
To buy tickets and get more information on the Great Escape 2014, visit their official Web site.
As if to celebrate a communal emergence from a very Dry January, this week three of TGTF’s favourite city-based festivals revealed great chunks of lineup. Live at Leeds and Liverpool Sound City take place on the same May bank holiday weekend, although Leeds is really only a one-dayer, whereas Liverpool treats its weary punters to the full 3-day marathon. And southerners don’t miss out either, as a week later the entire PR population of London decamps their beards and designer handbags to Brighton’s The Great Escape. For some, it’s a holiday, for others, well, they’ll need a holiday afterwards. [Having done both Sound City and Great Escape back to back 2 years in a row, I concur with the latter. - Ed.]
Like the artists themselves, for instance. There’s only so many buzz bands to go round of course, but at the time of writing already five hardy acts are lined up to play at all three events. Here we take a quick look at each and try to determine exactly why they’ve been picked to play three big shows in a week.
Liverpool’s Circa Waves (pictured at top) may well have heard the odd Libertines album in their time (and there were one or two odd ones!): the frantically strummed guitars and the big, melodic choruses have just the right amount of familiarity for them to sound like old friends already; the addition of a pronounced Liverpudlian twang in the vocal delivery of ‘Get Away’ adds a welcome point of differentiation from the seminal Londoners. Similarly, ‘Good For Me’ carries more than a hint of The Strokes’ ‘Last Nite’, although forsaking the latter’s bone-dry retro production for a wider, more modern sound. The big question is, are they more than the sum of their parts, or simply destined to follow paths that others first trod over a decade ago? No doubt their live show will provide the answer.
The we come to Melburnian slacker chick Courtney Barnett, famed for her Dylan-esquely-meandering autobiographical ditties. ‘Avant Gardener’, in its baggy groove and surreal, stream-of-consciousness take on a medical emergency, sounds nothing less than if Shaun Ryder had happened to be an Australian woman and was produced by Beck. Stranger things have happened. But there’s more than just a swaying rhythm and a clever turn of phrase to this antipodean artisan: her debut collection ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ displays an enviable depth and maturity: being no stranger to a 5-minute epic, something like ‘Anonymous Club’ showcases Barnett’s ability to turn down the tempo and bring out a more circumspect, even sombre, mood, all led by her gently vulnerable voice. Truly a talent deserving of a wider audience – and these three gigs will provide that.
If you spend your nights lying awake trying to decide which flavour of rock you like better – the big, heavy, riffy version with screamed vocals, or the more jangly, melodic stuff with at least vaguely recognisable lyrics, then I’m pleased to say you can sleep easier from now on – Darlia from Blackpool have locked both styles in a negotiating room, not letting them emerge until they agreed on some sort of uneasy musical truce. Despite its portentous title, ‘Napalm’ even goes a bit garage-rock in the middle eight, before the Metal Zone pedal is stamped on again and the riffage re-emerges. It’s doubtful that this is a tribute to Napalm Death, who in comparison make this lot sound like a nursery singalong, but it powers along nicely in its own punk-pop-metal way. There are hints of Green Day here, although Darlia come nowhere close to knocking out the sort of world-class melodies that Billie Joe and Co lose down the back of the sofa. Indeed, on occasion, such as on recent single ‘Queen Of Hearts’ from the Knock Knock EP, the light/heavy contrasts don’t sit easily together at all. Much as there’s no demand for a lemon meringue pork pie, I wonder whether metalheads might dismiss Darlia as too lightweight to admit to liking, whilst the riffs might scare off the mainstream audience that bought so many copies of ‘American Idiot’. Time will tell.
Dolomite Minor also do heavy, but theirs is the weight of a fuzzbox, lashings of spring reverb, a repetitive, loping groove, and handfuls of late-60s/early-70s proto-hard rock attitude. There’s a touch of psychedelia too, but they don’t venture far enough away from their riffs to really earn the epithet. And what they carry in musical weight they absolutely drop down the toilet in terms of lyrical sophistication. From ‘Let Me Go’: “The sun goes up / the sun comes down / everyone goes out on the town”, and ‘Microphone’: “Go get her a microphone / all she needs is a gramophone”. There’s a lot of “Spoon on the Moon in June” going on here. With a tune. To be fair to them, fancy-pants lyrics are not the point here: a fey singer-songwriter might have a bunch of clever words, but do they have an industrial revolution guitar riff and drums than could kill a pigeon? No. They’re from Southampton, and so are Band Of Skulls, and they play a Gretsch guitar, and so do Band Of Skulls, which are of course just a couple of big coincidences and in no way has one influenced the other. No sirree. Nevertheless, as the latest in a long line of two-piece teenage riffmeisters, nobody could accuse Dolomite Minor of poor timing. There must be a lot of unemployed bassists out there.
And so we come to Marika Hackman, who has featured in TGTF a number of times before; the Brighton-based singer-songwriter and sometime model knocks out pieces of delicate fragility and open-hearted honesty, sometimes bordering on gruesome realmusik (see ‘Cannibal’ from 2013’s ‘That Iron Taste’ mini-album). Mary caught the end of her very popular show at The Great Escape last year, a very sparse affair with Hackman accompanied by just her acoustic guitar. Let’s hope she’s expanded her live palette somewhat this year: a good part of the joy held within her recorded material are the entirely self-played arrangements – ramshackle at times – that add depth and groove to the idiosyncratic song structures.
There we have it – five artists “doing the triple” of urban festivals this May. There will be more lineup announcements between now and then, and if any more acts end up playing all three festivals, we’ll feature those too – but what more incentive could you need?
Singer Douglas Dare may be an odd duck in the crowded field of solo artists. He’s not your run of the mill singer/songwriter. He is first a wordsmith, crafting poetry and short prose that he later uses to develop into lyrics. Based in London, this musician from South West England could make a splash with his uncommon and sophisticated style.
When casting about for comparisons, the prevalence of the ’piano man’ seems to be oddly lacking at the moment. We have Tom Odell of course, and a passing similarity to James Blake since the instrument he plays has a keyboard. But both those comparisons ring hollow to me. Dare’s maturity seems to vastly surpass both of these peers. At times he says he has sat at the piano to write and “only when my wrists start to ache that I think to stop”. Not content to dwell within a genre, it’s neither pop, nor electronic, or even indie, Dare’s music is both simple and developed and surely not your standard musical fare.
Dare is currently at work on his first album but shows great promise in the four-track EP ‘Seven Hours’ from Erased Tapes. His work focuses on a simple piano line and a rich, haunting voice. This is not so say the composition is simple though. Electronic percussion gives it an off-kilter sound that unbalances the potentially modest sound. He owes this magic to his friend and producer Fabian Prynn. Thoughtful and intently hewn, it is not bright, happy music but it does walk a fine line between too melancholy and just right.
Despite the fact that he is on our radar because of SXSW in March, Dare has also been announced for the Great Escape in Brighton, a favourite festival here at TGTF taking place in May. Check him out, he may have songs from his forthcoming debut out for a listen.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
Saturday afternoon at the Great Escape 2013 I was at a loss of who to see next and I basically just scoured the programme for a band I’d never heard of and took a chance with it.
The band I ended up seeing at the Canada House showcase (yes, I saw bands other than British ones!) at the Blind Tiger was Winnipeg, Canada’s Boats, who turned out to be the quirkiest band at the Great Escape this year I would have never had the chance of knowing about if I hadn’t taken that risk. I suppose all bands from Canada who aren’t from the major cities of Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal have the cross to bear that they’ll always be deemed outsiders, but in this song called ‘Advice on Bears’, Boats seems to take this all in stride. You can read the full report of my day 3 afternoon here.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 13th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
CMJ (yes, those crazy people that put on the New York City-based music festival of the same name every October) sponsored a really fab showcase the Saturday night of this year’s Great Escape 2013 starring some great bands, including Young Kato and the 1975. Enjoy videos on us from both of these bands – Young Kato’s ‘Something Real’ and the 1975′s ‘Milk’ – below.
My full coverage of the night can be read here.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 12th June 2013 at 4:00 pm
I reported in on To Kill a King‘s rousing set at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar on the Friday night of the Great Escape 2013 here, ahead of their appearance the following night at Brighton Dome with headliner and personal matesBastille. If you missed either performance, you’re in luck. First, watch Ralph Pelleymounter play the title track of their debut album ‘Cannibals with Cutlery’. Then, enjoy the full band performing ‘Choices’. Enjoy!
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