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Great Escape 2018: Day 3 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 7th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Before I’d even set foot in the country, I had already received loads of band recommendations from friends and industry folk alike on who to see at The Great Escape 2018. Many of them named artists I’d already seen, in Australia at BIGSOUND 2017, past SXSWs or elsewhere. I reminded them that the whole point of me coming out all the way from America was music discovery and finding new talent to spread the word on. My Saturday at The Great Escape 2018 ended up being a mix of new and old favourites, in some cases showing me that something familiar to me in a previous form could be made new, or at least different to what I had been accustomed to. In case you’ve forgotten already, the 19th of May 2018 was also the day of Prince Harry’s wedding to American actress Meghan Markle. Being in Brighton to focus on music discovery while all that faff was going on at Windsor Castle was actually a godsend. (And no, cousins, I didn’t buy you a commemorative plate when I was in London, stop asking.)

Like Friday, I began my day again on Saturday at the decent hour of noon. Having studied classical piano at a young age, I can appreciate the value of a classical music education. Michael Aston was formerly the keyboardist of C Duncan’s live band; the two of them had met when they were studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. The Brighton-based Aston has his own solo project now, Knightstown, which Aston described to me is driven by his desire to create and to write songs.

Knightstown Saturday the Great Escape 2018 3

Live, Aston is joined by Matthew Hodson on beats and electronics, who looked awfully familiar to me. How’s this for spooky: 3 years ago when I was in Brighton last, I was sat in St. George’s Church for the Erased Tapes showcase and I struck up a geeky conversation about Rival Consoles with the bloke next to me. Yup, you guessed it, the guy was Hodson. Everything happens for a reason and when it’s supposed to. While the rest of the non-music-caring country were watching the wedding, Aston and Hodson were hard at work, opening the FatCat Records showcase at One Church. With Aston’s floaty falsetto and piano representing the old garde and synths and beats for the new, Knightstown is the beautiful symbiosis between the two. The music is equal parts reverential and inventive, exemplified by singles ‘First Cry’ and ‘Charlatan’. I’m looking forward to hearing a debut album in the future.

Of the many suggestions I received from BBC Scotland’s Vic Galloway that turned into a tip of my own, I still had Vistas left to see in Brighton. The big crowd at the Hope and Ruin was proof I wasn’t the only one eager to hear the group from Edinburgh play. The guys themselves were very excited, ready to launch their newest single ‘Tigerblood’ the following Friday. For some reason, I just couldn’t get into their music, their guitars sounding tinny and lacklustre. Maybe I was standing in the wrong place? I’ll give them another chance somewhere else in the future, hopefully in a place where I can actually breathe. I’d like to see if they sound better in Scotland…

Indoor Pets Saturday the Great Escape 2018 2

A last-minute addition to the Alternative Escape line-up were indie rockers Indoor Pets (formerly Get Inuit) at a teeny, boiling upstairs room. (Starting to notice a trend here?) They were special guests on the echochamp and DICE showcase at the Western pub. This was my first chance to see them after the announcement that they’d signed to Wichita Recordings. I haven’t gotten around to tagging all my old articles here on TGTF on them with their new name, so you’re going to have to bear with me a bit longer on that. With the triumphant confidence that comes with after signing with a label (maybe I just imagined that?), the band were in fine form, blasting out ‘Barbituates’ and ‘Pro Procrastinator’ with a fury I don’t think I’ve seen from them before. Is that the triumphant confidence that comes with after signing with a label, or did I just imagine that?

I try to avoid the Prince Albert venue space like the plague because every time I’ve been there during The Great Escape, it’s been sardine city. The only real place I feel comfortable is by the entrance to the room, which turned out to be a good location. I’ve seen Slow Club a few times live and feeling like that act may have run its artistic course, I thought I’d see Rebecca Taylor as Self Esteem. Why not, right? Right before her set, she’s standing next to me by the door, moaning aloud that she’s worried about how she’s going to get back onstage. She’s a polite Northerner, after all. Bless. I told her to “get in there, honey” and push people out of the way if she has to if they don’t recognise her. Add “moral support to acts” under “guitar minder” in the festivals skills section of my CV.

Self Esteem Rebecca Taylor Saturday the Great Escape 2018

Taylor finally got back onstage with her female “staff”, all resplendent in their ‘squirt not pee’ red t-shirts. Her newer, electronically and rhythmically reliant music is so different than what I consider ‘classic’ Slow Club, it’s jarring. I guess it’s been too long since I’ve seen Slow Club, I totally forgot she was a drummer. Her debut single as Self Esteem, ‘Your Wife’, has been described as a I don’t enjoy the sound as much, but I will say that regardless of how you feel about Self Esteem’s songs, you can’t deny they provide a showcase for Rebecca Taylor’s voice, which has been and will always be beautiful. I might come around on her newest project yet.

 

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.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 2 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Tuesday, 5th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Despite a disappointing end to my Thursday at the Great Escape 2018, at least I got a full night’s rest before launching into Friday in Brighton. My first stop was to the second of two afternoon lineups organised by Horizons / Gorwelion at Latest Music Bar. In the past, you could count on London industry types not making it down to the Great Escape until midday on the Friday and so Thursday and Friday afternoon showcases wouldn’t be so rammed. I think the sun helped out quite a bit both afternoons to get festivalgoers already in town up and at ‘em early, as by the time I got to the venue, a queue had already begun to form down Manchester Street. The queue would further extend all the way down the street and around the corner after I’d left.

My host in Brighton had told me his friends had gotten married in this venue, pretty cool knowledge that this place has seen both celebrations of love and music. Luckily, I made it in just before electronic and dance singer, musician and producer Rachel K. Collier started her set. Remember, she had what I thought was the unenviable task of playing before half past noon on day 2. Instead, to my delight, the crowd was massive and eager for a look-in at the performance by the triple threat from Swansea.

Rachel K Collier Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

Despite the early time, Collier and her long-time percussionist Rhii brought a party atmosphere to Latest with their big beats and tropical outfits, making it feel more like we were in Ibiza than in Brighton. Their energy was infectious, with Collier even getting the audience to sing along with her. ‘Paper Tiger’, which was chosen for an FA Wales advert earlier in the spring, went down a treat, as did catchy new single ‘Darkshade’, both of them showing off Collier’s brilliant vocals. By the end of the performance, it wasn’t even 1 yet and I was already sweaty! I got to chat with the lovely Rachel at SXSW 2018 and you can read my two-part interview feature through here.

The Swiss Music Export party was being held at Bau Wow, and while loads of foreign languages were being spoken (fun fact: Switzerland has four official languages) and there was nice spread of food and drink for delegates, I was there for the music. I had stopped into Bau Wow to see another one of my Great Escape-tipped acts, CRIMER. Sound problems my blogger friends reported the previous night had thankfully been resolved. Judging from his sound, the artist from Zurich is well informed on British New Wave, and it’s not hard to hear his influences of Depeche Mode and even ‘90s boy bands.

CRIMER Friday the Great Escape 2018 2

It was a surreal moment as CRIMER performed his biggest hit (300K streams on Spotify) ‘Brotherlove’, the entire crowd singing along and dancing. If you closed your eyes, you would have thought you’d been transported back to the ‘80s. His live bandmate had a keytar, seriously. The indefatigable artist sang jumped around the stage in a white turtleneck and smart trousers, while imploring to the audience to go wild between songs. In this small room in the early afternoon filled with perspiration and good vibes, you realised you were witnessing something special.

Another problem with the sunshine, if you want to call it a problem, was that there were so many people out and about in Brighton, it was like playing a game of urban Frogger trying to get where you needed to go. On my way back up from the seaside, I’d intended to make it to Jubilee Square to see Jealous of the Birds. I previously saw Naomi Campbell and her self-described ‘grandma-chic’-dressed solo set when she supported The Divine Comedy last November in Birmingham. This was my opportunity to see her again with a full band since their appearance at Dublin Tengu at Hard Working Class Heroes 2016. (Carrie had seen them several times 6 months later at SXSW 2017.) It was not meant to be, as just as like Boy Azooga the day before, I arrived too late.

I wish to note here that as mentioned in my first previous of The Great Escape 2018, there were several venues by the seaside new to this edition of the event. This year, oddly or not, famed seaside rock venue Concorde 2 was not utilised, but The Beach venues were not far off from it. Many friends who ventured down to the Beach said that unless you planned a significant amount of time to see bands there to make it worth it (translation: at least two acts and/or 2 hours), it wasn’t worth the walk down, only to have to walk back up. Another band who were on my list of tipped bands for both Live at Leeds 2018 and the Great Escape were Kent’s Lady Bird, whose both appearances in Brighton clashed with other acts on my schedule. While I was disappointed to have missed them, their signing to Slaves’ own Girl Fight Records suggests they’ll be seeing American shores soon enough.

As mentioned in my Friday evening roundup, it’s often hard to find time to get a bite to eat at The Great Escape. Early morning breakfast fortification is key, but when you can stop long enough for table food service, you stop. This was the thinking behind hosting the first ever TGTF Free Clinic for Artists and Writers at the Earth and Stars, a gastropub that caters to coeliacs, vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike. London booker and former TGTF contributor Braden Fletcher and I hosted the event, giving advice to and answering questions from the artists who stopped by. We also partaked on the gluten-free fish and chips, which were delicious. Although turnout wasn’t as high as we’d hoped (we were up against both the PRS Foundation and Killing Moon mixers), I was happy to make some new contacts and friends.

Now, Now Friday the Great Escape 2018

Our bellies satiated, it was time to pick up some more music. At Braden’s recommendation, we headed back down to the seaside to the aforementioned Killing Moon and LAB Records free Alternative Escape showcase at the Hub. Plagued by PA issues, it wasn’t surprising to see when we arrived that Minneapolis synthpop band Now, Now decided to leave the venue entirely to do an acoustic set on the beach. Band and a large group of onlookers cross-legged on the pebbles of the Brighton seaside were quite a sight to behold. Despite going without amplification and keys and interruption from revelers’ peripheral noise, massive keyboard-driven hit ‘Yours’ sounded like a completely different animal than what’s on record. Isolated, the gentle voice of neon pink-haired KC Dalager sounded magical and made for an only-at-The-Great-Escape experience.

My plan to knock out both Brisbane’s Hatchie and SXSW 2017 alum Ten Tonnes off my list meant actually getting into both the Arch and Coalition for their Clash magazine and Music Week showcase-opening sets there, respectively, that night. I found that I faced the same soundboard placement at Hatchie’s show that I encountered at whenyoung Thursday night. Yeah, not getting in…


We hosted our own stage at Coalition at The Great Escape 2011, so I know it’s not that big of a place. The queue went all the way down the block. Groan. Crestfallen, I walked away from the door trying to decide my next move when I spied an all-too happy sunglassed young man in denim. Couldn’t be… No, it was indeed Henry Wade of The Orielles, who we’ve supported for many years at TGTF. I hadn’t seen their crew play since CMW 2016 and in case you’ve been living under a rock, you should know that they released their debut album ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ in February on Heavenly Recordings. Sitting on the beach, drinking beer with dear friends, was priceless.

British bands and music industry folks talk about how much fun they have at SXSW, but I seem to have much more fun at UK events like The Great Escape. I run into and catch up with old friends who live over here as if no time has passed at all. Due to clashes, I didn’t get to see The Orielles play live in Brighton, but judging from the reception they’ve been receiving everywhere following the release of their debut, my presence at their shows is no longer really needed. With Heavenly behind them, they’re well on their way.

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

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 2)

 
By on Monday, 4th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Before I headed out to blighty, I joked to my blogger friends that I didn’t think I would be eating dinner any night at The Great Escape 2018. Why? Each night, I had bands on my schedule starting as early as 6 PM. I thought, hm, maybe everyone will be too busy drinking in a pub with their mates or on the beach that the 6 PM shows won’t be busy. WRONG! London via Limerick pop trio whenyoung were playing to a massive crowd at the Haunt, one of the lesser-known venues of The Great Escape. The closest I could get to the stage for this London in Stereo showcase was standing next to the soundboard in the back. Their female-fronted guitar pop was just the thing for many punters in Brighton to start their Thursday night with, many moving and grooving in the Haunt to the band’s infectious melodies. Check out whenyoung’s newest single ‘Heaven on Earth’, released 2 Fridays ago.


There wasn’t far for me to go for my next stop. I’d advise against visiting the gender neutral bathroom stalls at the Arch (like walking into a pitch-black room, seriously) but the venue was serviceable enough for the Clash magazine showcase. Don’t be confused that there are no actual females in the all-male Sea Girls. The Londoners are a band favourite of NME and Huw Stephens of Radio 1 and judging from their merch, they refuse to take themselves seriously (‘Indie Landfill’ is not a phrase from the end of the Noughties I’ve not heard bandied around these days). Like whenyoung before them, they’re firmly in the pop camp, but Sea Girls swing back and forth between anthemic pop and muscular pop/rock. I have to admit that because my musical taste has been going towards the more weird and unusual lately, I wasn’t wowed by their performance, but I can see that with a little luck and the great songs they’ve written so far, they have the potential to gain a massive following very quickly. Watch this space.

Sea Girls Thursday The Great Escape 2018

As I’ve probably mentioned in past Great Escape reports, Brighton is a hilly place. I don’t care how well you think you’ve organised your schedule. At some point, you’re going to have to walk from the lowest point of the seaside back up to the Brighton train station at the top of the hill. (Incidentally, I did this back and forth several times Friday night because, well, sometimes, needs must.) To make things easier on myself, I took it easy up the hill to arrive at the Green Door Store for the last few songs of New York’s Bodega at the Upset magazine showcase. As one might rightly expect, American bands are big draws at a festival like The Great Escape, and there were plenty of folks in the main room at the Green Door, plus those who spilled out into the bar area before it. Knowing that Austin Brown of Parquet Courts produced their upcoming debut album to be released this summer should give you some idea of Bodega’s punky, devil-may-care kind of music. Not my thing, but they might be yours.

Black Futures Thursday The Great Escape 2018
apologies for the quality of this photo; clearly, it’s not my best work, and it didn’t help that it was nearly pitch black during Black Futures’ performance

London duo Black Futures describe themselves on their Facebook as “A no-holds-barred aural assault of Anarchic Electro Psych Punk Noise that is something like Death From Above and the Chemical Brothers’ bastard offspring”. Their recorded sound was intriguing enough for this hard rock and electronic fan to tip them in a preview of Live at Leeds 2018 and The Great Escape. Synths and guitars aplenty arrived on stage, while their mask and hazmat suit-dressed non-musical companions stood guard down front. Naturally, the spectacle caused the audience’s anticipation for the band to build. Programmed beats came in first, then the wailing guitars. Then, a ferocious scream from one of the guys on stage. You didn’t know if you should shake a tail feather or headbang. Me? I opted for the latter.

Mansionair Thursday The Great Escape 2018

The main problem with the Green Door Store, which has been true every time I’ve visited, is that the place is like being inside a pressure cooker: hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. The upstairs venue space of the nearby Prince Albert is probably the only place worse for someone with claustrophobia, while the Hope and Ruin (formerly the Hope) offers the same level of discomfort. In order to take a breath, I dove for the exit, able to take in the precious fresh air all the way on my walk to Komedia. I couldn’t help myself: I just had to pop in to see Mansionair at one of their many appearances in Britain over the last 6 months. Even though I only saw them play two songs during their set at the ATC Live showcase, it was crystal clear from their closing with single ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’ that they were a huge hit with the Great Escape crowd, their arms to-ing and fro-ing in time to frontman Jack Froggatt’s directions from the stage. The sexiness and baby-making potential of Mansionair’s sound wasn’t lost on punters, as I uncomfortably stood amongst lip-locking couples.

Back down closer to the seaside, I stopped in to the basement venue of the Walrus for another act I tipped ahead of Live at Leeds 2018. Who Zapatilla is remains a mystery, his identity cloaked both literally and figuratively. While listening to his music on Spotify made his music seem dancier, the few songs I witnessed live Thursday evening were more subdued and less engaging than I’d hoped.

Feeling less than energised from Zapatilla’s set, I thought I might change gears completely and end my night with a bit of singer/songwriter Blanco White. As Carrie wrote previously, Englishman Josh Edwards’ project is infused with Latin-American influences. By the time I figured out where the Unitarian Church was behind all the construction work, I sadly learned the intimate, all-seated venue where I’d previously seen a magical set by Marika Hackman was one in, one out. So much for planning. Feeling slightly defeated, I decided to call it a night.

All my photos from Thursday at the Great Escape 2018 are here.

 

Great Escape 2018: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It can’t be emphasised enough that the festival gods really smiled down on The Great Escape 2018 earlier this month. While in Washington, DC, my friends back home were suffering under torrential rains, I was by the sea in picture-perfect Brighton and never once did I have to break out the brolly. (Wasn’t so lucky the following Friday in Newcastle.) For anyone who has been soaked to the bone during The Great Escape in past years, you understand how this year’s impossibly good weather was incredible luck.

While the sunny skies did wonders for everyone’s mood and probably helped the sales of off-licence, takeaway liquor, friend and former writer Braden and I mused if the good weather could have adversely affected foot traffic and turnout to the both the official Great Escape and its sister event The Alternative Escape. As the weekend wore on, it seemed that with the long queues and huge crowds everywhere I went, there were plenty of music lovers in town to make this concern feel nonexistent. You’d have thought performances priot to the noon hour would be sparsely attended, but you would be wrong. Must be that early May sunrise in England!

Model Society Thursday The Great Escape The Alternative Escape 2018

London’s Model Society were already in full swing by the time I arrived at East Street Tap, host of the End of the Trail Records / Amazing Radio showcase. John and I knew this place in its previous incarnation as The Fishbowl. Their energy so early in the day was admirable, but I didn’t hear anything particularly exciting that would set their music apart from their indie peers. I was waiting for the act who would follow, Dan Lyons, who performed with a full band Saturday night at SXSW 2018.

Dan Lyons Thursday The Great Escape The Alternative Escape 2018

Lyons advertised it as a stripped back set, to be accompanied only by his guitar and his backing singer, bandmate and partner Freya. While his set in Austin came across as full-bodied blues, this barer version of Dan Lyons live was an entirely different experience. ‘Special People’ delivered in a deadpan makes you wonder how serious Lyons is being about people watching, or if he’s simply being cheeky. We were also treated to his upcoming single ‘Gargoyle’, which is currently only listenable if you happen to tune into a radio programme playing it. Everyone else, you’ll have to wait until it drops on the 22nd of June.

I thought I had gotten a good jumpstart on the acts following my in-person coverage of BIGSOUND 2017 in Australia last September and SXSW 2018 in March. But I can say now that I feel like there’s so much that I missed on at The Great Escape this year. There was the ever-present issue of clashes, of course, but the lack of separate lines for wristband and badge holders at many venues meant press could show up at a venue, only to be disappointed. Like at BIGSOUND 2017, I was thwarted again from seeing Hatchie properly on Thursday afternoon, but my personal setback could be viewed in a positive way: Sounds Australia’s Sound Gallery, taking up both the main Komedia venue space and its Studio Bar, were rammed all afternoon.

Hollow Coves Thursday The Great Escape 2018

When I made it back up to the Laines from East Street, I was only able to get into the Studio Bar. But with some luck, I managed to get reasonably close up to Hollow Coves. They’re a folk duo whose members are from Brisbane and The Gold Coast. This is a case where looks can be deceiving: they kind of look like smiley, yet unassuming builders. One of them is actually a carpenter, so I wasn’t that far off. At their simplest, I’d describe them as ethereal folk but interestingly, they also use synths on some tracks, taking folk songcraft and pairing it with electronic beats for a more 21st century flavour. I can get behind that! Their gorgeous music, including songs ‘Coastline’ and ‘Home’, took me back to my visit to Brisbane last year, when I took in the city’s very California-like climate and beauty.

On the other side of the Old Steine Gardens and back down closer to the sea is the Latest Music Bar, which hosted the Horizons / Gorwelion showcases Thursday and Friday afternoon. Even with rushing after an interview with Hollow Coves, I couldn’t make it in time before hyped Welsh act Boy Azooga finished. Drat. Cutting any further losses, I headed down to Patterns, Fender UK’s venue for the entire Great Escape, for a unique afternoon.

Declan McKenna Thursday The Great Escape 2018

Young but politically astute singer/songwriter Declan McKenna had been announced as the stage’s opening special guest shortly before the start of the festival, and his fans filling the Marine Parade venue were super excited as he and a female guitarist live bandmate began with single ‘Humongous’. Despite McKenna’s relative live inexperience, he seemed entirely at ease, his stage patter between songs hilarious. “I can’t play ‘Brazil’ now!” he hissed to the punters shouting for his World Cup-themed hit. “Everyone would leave!” Collective laughter. He ran through several other songs from his debut ‘What Do You Think About the Car?’, including ‘Paracetamol’, ‘The Kids Don’t Want to Come Home’ and ‘Make Me Your Queen’, before launching into the inevitable set closer.

Some of the crowd dispersed after McKenna finished, their spots to replaced to, shall we say, a much older crowd for BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveny’s interview with legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. I knew this would be an opportunity for Marr to peddle the Fender Jaguar he helped design with the guitar company: at one point, Marr insisted to the crowd that you don’t need so many guitars, his guitar is so great, you only need the one. Hmm, right…I’ll get back to you on that.

Johnny Marr and Shaun Keaveny Thursday The Great Escape 2018

I was happily surprised that the conversation didn’t de-evolve into a boring, gear head kind of talk only accessible to real guitarists. Instead, Keaveny’s humour coupled with Marr’s down to earth nature made for a comfortable interview for both, Marr entertaining us with unexpected guitar interludes that any Smiths fan worth his salt would recognise, including the intro to ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ and the dreamy, yet mournful passes in ‘Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me’, the latter that he revealed was his favourite Smiths riff of all, written alone on a tour bus, missing his girlfriend.

He described writing melodies on a guitar as “It’s like chasing an angel”. What a beautiful, beautiful image to give us. I’d describe Johnny Marr as having a quiet peace around him: he’s obviously one of the 20th century’s greatest musical heroes, but he’s not throwing his weight around or feels the need to be showy. He’s content with where he is in life and he’s happy making music with “the best electronic machine” to write pop music on. Being that contented and happy: something we can all aspire to.

 

The Great Escape 2018 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Tuesday, 8th May 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: as we always recommend in all of TGTF’s festival previews, the information we post here on The Great Escape 2018 taking place next week is current at the time of posting. We strongly encourage you to check in at the festival’s official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Three-day wristbands for the event in Brighton 17-19 May are still available at the price of £70 plus handling if purchased online; delegate passes that include both access to the daytime industry convention and all music showcases are available at the price of £275 plus handling. More information on where you can purchase your tickets in person or online is available from The Great Escape official Web site. If you’d like to read my previous, more general preview of The Great Escape, it’s through here.

As mentioned in part 1 of my Live at Leeds best bets preview, and alluded to in part 2 as well, there are quite a few acts that appeared this past weekend at Live at Leeds and/or Liverpool Sound City that will also be appearing next week at the Great Escape in Brighton.

Bad Sounds (Friday 11:15 PM, Horatio’s)
Black Futures (Thursday, 9:15 PM, Green Door Store)
Boy Azooga (Thursday, 12:00 PM, Latest Music Bar; 2:00 PM, Dr. Martens stage; 9:15 PM, Patterns upstairs)
Cassia (Friday, 12:45 AM, The Hope and Ruin)
Hollow Coves (Thursday, 12:45 PM, Komedia Studio Bar and 10:15 PM, The Old Courtroom)
Knightstown (Saturday, 12:15 PM, One Church)
Lady Bird (Friday, 2:15 PM, Dr. Martens stage and 10:15 PM, The Walrus)
Rascalton (Thursday, 1:00 PM, Horatio’s [Showcasing Scotland stage]; Friday, 10:15 PM, Green Door Store)
SHEAFS (Saturday, 8:45 PM, The Hope and Ruin)
The Ninth Wave (Thursday, 3:30 PM, Horatio’s [Showcasing Scotland stage]; Friday, 9:30 PM, The Haunt; Saturday, 10:15 PM, Marine Room [Harbour Hotel])
The Orielles (Thursday, 2:30 PM, Beach House and 9:00 PM, Horatio’s)
Tors (Friday, 6:45 PM, St. Mary’s Church)
Vistas (Saturday, 2:30 PM, The Hope and Ruin)
whenyoung (Thursday, 6:30 PM, The Haunt)
Zapatilla (Thursday, 10:15 PM, The Walrus)

SXSW 2018 (or earlier) alums: Here’s a list of artists we either saw in March in Austin (or even in previous years) who we enjoyed AND/OR we previewed ahead of the festival -AND- will also be appearing at the Great Escape. They’re sorted by alphabetical order, as some of the acts who are bigger draws are appearing more than once, so organising the list by first appearance may not necessarily be useful to you.

All Our Exes Live in Texas (Thursday, 12:10 PM, Komedia [Aussie BBQ stage]; Thursday, 10:15 PM, Latest Music Bar)
Dermot Kennedy (Thursday, 9:00 PM, Wagner Hall; Friday, 4:00 PM, Beach Club; Friday, 10:00 PM, Sallis Benney Theatre)
Dream Wife (Thursday, 8:45 PM, Beach Club)
Her’s (Friday, 1:00 PM, Beach House; Friday, 10:15 PM, Horatio’s)
IDLES (Thursday 10:00 PM, Beach Club)
Jealous of the Birds (Thursday, 9:15 PM, Bau Wow; Friday, 2:00 PM, Jubilee Square)
Jerry Williams (Thursday, 7:45 PM, Hope and Ruin; Saturday, 12:30 PM, Komedia Studio Bar)
Joshua Burnside (Friday, 1:30 PM, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar [Output Belfast stage]; Saturday, 12:15 PM, Latest Music Bar)
Let’s Eat Grandma (Friday, 9:15 PM, The Old Market)
Lo Moon (Friday, 8:30 PM, Coalition)
Mansionair (Thursday, 9:15 PM, Komedia)
ONR (Friday, 8:30 PM, Paganini Ballroom at the Old Ship Hotel [BBC Introducing stage])
Pale Waves (Thursday, 7:00 PM, Wagner Hall; Thursday, 11:00 PM, Horatio’s)
Rachel K Collier (Friday, 12:20 PM, Latest Music Bar [Horizons / Gorwelion showcase)
Sam Fender (Friday, 2:30 PM, Patterns upstairs; Friday, 8:00 PM, Sallis Benney Theatre; Saturday, 1:30 PM, Komedia Studio Bar)
Stella Donnelly (Thursday, 8:15 PM, Komedia; Friday, 7:45 PM, Unitarian Church; Saturday, 1:20 PM, Dr. Martens stage)
Superorganism (Friday, 10:15 PM, The Old Market)
Ten Tonnes (Friday, 6:30 PM, Coalition; Friday, 10:45 PM, Paginini Ballroom at the Old Ship Hotel [BBC Introducing stage])
The Homesick (Friday, 2:30 PM, Komedia Studio Bar; Saturday, 10:15 PM, Green Door Store)
The Spook School (Thursday, 12:15 PM, Horatio’s [Showcasing Scotland stage]; Saturday, 8:30 PM Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar)
TOUTS (Thursday, 8:15 PM, Patterns upstairs; Friday, 3:30 PM, Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar)

::gasps:: Okay, so now that we’ve gotten all those shining stars with loads of potential out of the way, I’m going to focus on five additional acts in this post. I’ve chosen those from the pool of acts appearing at The Great Escape but who did not appear at Live at Leeds last Saturday.

Basement Revolver (indie rock / lo-fi; Hamilton, Canada; 2:15 PM, Green Door Store; 6:15 PM, Patterns upstairs)
One of the upshots of attending The Great Escape is that it has arguably the most international line-up of any emerging music festival in the UK. Female-fronted Basement Revolver is one of a handful of acts having travelled thousands of miles to Brighton, besides the Aussies, of course. Bringing their reverb-heavy guitar chords and the sweet voice of Chrisy Hurn, they’ll have two chances on Thursday to wow Brighton crowds.

CRIMER (synthpop / dance; Switzerland; Thursday, 10:15 PM, Bau Wow; Friday, 1:30 PM, Bau Wow)
You a fan of Depeche Mode’s beats and Dave Gahan’s sultry drawl? I’m gonna put it out there and say you’re gonna love CRIMER from the Continent. The Great Escape blurb presumably supplied by him describes his look as pure boyband, but don’t let his hair parting put you off. Seems a bit strange that they have him on early Friday afternoon (I’d suggest you see him on the Thursday night instead) but hey, maybe he can turn Bau Wow into a sweaty disco before the 2 o’clock hour. Wait and see!

Declan Welsh and the Decadent West (punk; Glasgow; Friday, 12:30 PM, One Church and 7:15 PM, Green Door Store; 9:15 PM, Marine Room [Harbour Hotel])
I think it’s come time in this list to bring in something more subversive. I guess I don’t think of Glasgow as being very punk: perhaps it’s because both times I’ve visited, everyone’s been super nice to me, including the very large man with a very large ginger beard who shared a table with me at Nice and Sleazys. But I digress. Quoting their TGE bio directly, “Donald Trump and Theresa May watch out! The Revolution will be well dressed and speaking in Glaswegian.” RAWR.

Franc Moody (funk / dance; London; Friday, 2:40 PM, Beach House)
Not a guy from France, phew! No, Franc Moody is a London collective bringing da funk and da dance to Brighton’s seaside. Apparently they have been doing this for a while, in so-called ‘infamous’ (::giggles thinking of Three Amigos:: ) warehouse parties in Tottenham. Friday afternoon at TGE is oddly full of dance acts, so I can only hope that no matter what the weather, Franc Moody (and everyone else for that matter) can manage to get bodies bumpin’ before official wine o’clock.

Saint Raymond (pop; Nottingham; Thursday, 3:30 PM, Marine Room [Harbour Hotel])
This singer/songwriter has already been out on the road with the likes of Gabrielle Aplin, Ed Sheeran and HAIM, so it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Callum Burrows’ style of music is firmly in the pop genre. Burrows blends a synth-driven ‘80s sound with feel good pop lyrics. Apparently in the early days back home in Notts, lazy journos compared him to local acts Jake Bugg and Dog is Dead. No more.

 
 
 

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

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TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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