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Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Afternoon Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

I had arrived in Brighton the Tuesday prior to the Great Escape 2013 and was suffering from some kind of stomach bug that was not making me very happy. (It’s just not normal for me to be in Britain for so long and not have Indian at least once.) Add to that borderline exhaustion and admittedly too many things on my mind on what was coming up in a couple days, and nerves were fraying. So comparatively, my schedule for Friday was relatively tame, which I suppose shouldn’t be such a surprise, as I spent the previous night up too late at the Waggon and Horses pub across the street from the Dome with several of Everything Everything, Kodaline and PR mates and happily being on the receiving end of comments like, “the Irish will never leave you!” (Guess you had to have been there…)

New Desert Blues Great Escape live

I was really touched by the thank yous from Kodaline for coming out to their Dome show that I felt compelled to see them again the following afternoon at Audio. This was their second scheduled appearance in Brighton, with only one other at what I’d been told was a very small space at the Warren Friday night, so it was either see them at Audio or probably not see them again until they returned to Washington. After the previous rough night, I woke up later than I should have, and then decided I couldn’t leave the flat until Liverpool Sound City reports were all sorted for that week (you lucky people). John swanned off to meet our friends for breakfast while I was feverishly typing into my laptop and then I got a text to meet him at the Fish Bowl for a band called New Desert Blues. So I arrived just in time for the band’s last song, so I’ll let John fill you on their set.

From there, it was on to Above Audio to catch a taster of one of Martin’s faves from Sound City, Night Engine. Again, John stayed for the whole thing so I’ll let him talk about their set, but from the little I heard, I wasn’t really wowed or anything. However, I will say that Above Audio is a decently large space and it was packed, so obviously their reputation preceded them. I saw the band later that day, with their gear in the middle of a street, talking to each other, but was too shy to say hello.

Gavin James Great Escape live

Then it was downstairs to catch two of the three acts of the Music from Ireland showcase. I missed Kid Karate but had seen them at SXSW, but I was keen on catching singer/songwriter Gavin James. It may be a bit of a cliche to talk about cute Irishmen like they’re leprechauns, but James actually alluded to the fact that he probably looked like one that afternoon. He explained he’d purchased a green coat earlier that week but it wasn’t until he arrived at Audio that he realised out loud that it was very green and half-jokingly explained with his ginger hair and beard and this jacket, he probably looked like the largest leprechaun there ever was. Ha! This made everyone in the place laugh so hard.

I can take or leave the singer/songwriter genre, but in this particular case, there was something just so disarming about him that made to stop and take notice. James seems like the affable chap at the end of a bar, downing pints while making you laugh with his stories. I don’t know as many Irishmen personally as I’d like but even I’ve heard how legendary the gift of gab and craic is supposed to be among the Irish, and this is the kind of guy I think everyone wants on their side. With songs like ‘Carolina’ and ‘For You’ under his belt, he definitely has the chops to make it in this business.

Kodaline Brighton Audio Great Esccape live

There was a decent-sized crowd for Gavin James, but geez, when it came time for Kodaline‘s crew to set up their gear, I started to get the sardine-in-a-can vibes. I was reminded how in Brighton, in stark contrast to Liverpool, you’ll be jostled, bumped and shoved out of the way if someone else wants your spot. I’d earned my place fair and square, yet two women unrelated to each other thought it was perfectly okay to push me from either side so that there would be room for them down the front. I was none too happy, but I stood my ground. No-one was going to ruin this experience for me.

Despite the pushing and shoving and the obligatory Facebook snaps with the band playing in the background taken by some of these punters with low attention spans, this Kodaline experience was near perfect for me. I always say to people that the absolute best thing to happen to you as a music fan is to watch an up and coming band gig in a teeny, tiny place and completely nail it, and of course, this doesn’t always happen, as you can’t always predict which band is going to be the Next Big Thing or indeed present when they play that hole in the wall place in your town. Kodaline have already gotten a taste for DC’s 9:30 Club and its cupcakes earlier this month, and I missed it. But I can say I saw them in places like Brighton Audio, where in a small room they left new fans spellbound. ‘All I Want’ is getting the lion’s share of attention here in America, and I don’t understand why ‘High Hopes’ doesn’t get more credit. It’s a huge, huge song that proves this band from Dublin can write anthems with the best of them. When I say to people, “they’re going to be the Irish Coldplay‘, I mean it.

Pray
Perfect World
High Hopes
Love Like This
All Comes Down to You
All I Want

 

Video Interview: Itch at the Great Escape 2013

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Itch, former frontman of the King Blues, is now a solo artist in his own right. Festival liaison John managed to get a chat with the gregarious singer at this year’s Great Escape, and thanks to John’s PA for the day, Hannah Saul, we’ve got it preserved on video for all to see. Watch the interview below, in which Itch tells us about his recent solo tour in Europe, what bands he’s seen so far at this year’s festival and about this unusual performance he’s got scheduled in an art installation. BBC-style content warning: there’s quite a bit of swearing in this video, so you have been warned.

Many thanks to Itch for this chat and to Ashley, who helped sort this interview for us – cheers!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN-DxgmKYO0[/youtube]

 

Great Escape 2013: John’s Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 29th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

As I stepped foot on the platform of Brighton station, I was met with not the 65 MPH winds that I was foretold, but instead with flecks of sunshine and a bustling throng of people ahead of me. So I trundled cautiously down the street wrapped in my cardigan and carrying my rather inconspicuous suitcase, I walked past The Hope, where my first live music experience of The Great Escape 2013 would take place.

Who would be that first experience? Well, a band that I came upon, completely by chance at The Great Escape 2011, by the name of Brother and Bones. Their signature brand of acoustic-driven stompery, which struck a real accord with me then wasn’t the centre point of their set this time around.

Instead, the focal point was that of Richard Thomas’ majestic vocal talents. The all out hoe-downery of their past shows was forgotten in favour of the more sensitive and subtle touch. Whether it was the best approach ion the tight confines of the Hope, is up for debate, but regardless of that Thomas and co.’s elegant harmonies struck an accord with the partisan audience of critics, A & R’s and the rest. Fully acoustic number ‘Gold and Silver’ was a mixture of what is brilliant about Brother and Bones though, fully showcasing the vocal prowess of Richard, whilst drawing attention to the elegance of the songwriting. (7/10)

After a brief interlude for a spot of Tiffin and a change of clothes to more sun-appropriate attire, I headed to The Warren to catch hotly tipped Tom Odell. After a reasonable amount of time queuing for an act, whom I believed was overhyped but worth a listen, I ended up in the staging area of the venue. A kind of Secret Garden Party / 2000 Trees hybrid in the middle of Brighton. Quaint? Yes. But after quarter of an hour longer waiting I lost patience and decided to head to The Prince Albert for some light folk.

Now Dancing Years (pictured at top) are an entirely different kind of prospect to what I expected. Going in relatively unprepared, I was expecting some wobbly synths, dodgy time signatures and all the other indie clichés that we love and loathe in equal measure. What I was met with was a touching mix of melancholic folk, but with the focal point of David Henshaw, in a more understated fashion than Brother and Bones earlier. In fact, the show revolved around the man, with the gentle violin being drowned out by his obvious talent.

He came across as a kind of squeaky clean Jack Steadman / Will Harvey hybrid. Resolute in stance, yet face-to-face as personable as any frontman, he makes the perfect central point for Dancing Years. The band’s gentle melodies are only going to see their stock gather strength and with shades of Dry the River interspersed amongst the soaring harmonies, they make for easy listening. Add to that equation that big hitters like Seymour Stein were in the audience and you’ve got ones to watch right here people. The only disappointment was the rather sparse crowd, probably owing to the venues distance from the main swarm of events. (8/10)

The allure of something raw like Dingus Khan was too much after the sheened sounds of Dancing Years, so off to the Hope I rattled my broken body. Only to be met by a sprawling queue, which while being entertaining in the characters I met, who included a Dingus Khan fan from Warner Music, a 19-year old PA for We Were Evergreen’s manager. and two bookers from the Netherlands’ PinkPop festival, who I’d like to note had some fantastic hairstyles.

And while the conversation was stimulating, the popularity of Dingus proved too much, as I was not allowed into the venue. However, I am reliably informed by Ollie McCormack of Top Button Digital that they were brilliant, and that the album is great to shake of the cobwebs of TGE on a Monday.

Following up from the disappointment of missing Dingus, I stumbled into the Hope for the second time that day to catch Dinosaur Pile-Up. Another Leeds-based outfit that in 2011 provided me with the scenes of the most chaotic gig in my memory, with stage invasions galore, circle pits aplenty and an appropriate amount of urine in plastic cups. It’s a festival, eh?

This set was a far more restrained affair, with the audience only really getting into it properly in the final few songs. Dinosaur Pile-Up’s hectic, strangled shredding should have been perfect for this venue, with shoulders pressed firmly against the walls by band and punters alike. ‘Mona Lisa’ kept its attraction and proved the hub of the set for me musically. Nevertheless, the moment of the short set was when a circle pit broke out at the front, and the smile of the veteran moshers face next to me as he watched with glee at the chaos unfolding, albeit momentarily in front of him. (6/10)

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 1 Evening Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 28th May 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

After being thwarted – twice – at last year’s Great Escape and having never actually made it inside the Dome for a show, I decided this year at Great Escape 2013, I had to do it at some point. What better line-up to go for than Everything Everything, supported by BBC Sound of 2013 wunderkinds Kodaline, eh? But first, John said he just had to take me for fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s. He explained that years ago when he was small his father had taken him there and Harry Ramsden’s was the be all and end all when it came to chippy tea. And what better place to have fish and chips is there than by the seaside? I was all for it! (For the record, it was very good. I will say however that the waitress was less than accommodating when I asked her for a place to charge my phone…)

Besides John’s own trials and tribulations before he left Lincoln, this trip for me had been full of technological glitches and miscellaneous mistakes: my mobile charger broke into pieces literally minutes before I boarded my flight in Washington; my laptop charger bit the dust in Manchester 4 days into my trip, which meant I couldn’t do anything on my laptop for nearly 3 weeks; I left a jumper in the wardrobe of that house in Manchester (though the woman I stayed with kindly posted it to Martin’s house in Gateshead); my suitcase ripped in two places; I lost my hat in Brighton, etc. etc. So really, as we’re walking down towards the pier to the restaurant, a seagull jumping out flying from a nearby fountain and spraying us didn’t faze me as it normally would. “John, did that really happen? Did a seagull just pee on us?” We just looked at each other and laughed.

After dinner, we went our separate ways, and I decided I wanted to see Girls Names one more time. The Belfast band, if you recall, were one of my favourite ‘new’ discoveries of SXSW 2013, and I was lucky to have run into them at B.D. Riley’s, the Irish pub on 6th Street, later that week and interviewed them. They were playing Coalition, where we hosted a stage in 2011, starring headliners White Denim and a then-unknown Foster the People. However, I’d not been there previously. I then understood what John meant when he told me the place just oozed of character; the brick arches reminded me of SXSW 2012’s Hype Hotel where I’d seen Oberhofer. Coalition isn’t just a cookie cutter venue, it’s got loads of charm. I will say however that within Coalition, like other venues down by the seaside (Digital, Life, the former Horatio’s, etc.) you haven’t a prayer of getting a mobile phone signal, so if your intention is to meet someone at one of these places, your best bet is to get in contact with said person before you go into the mobile phone dead zone.

Pictorial Candi Great Escape live

Prior to Girls Names, the previous act was running a bit late. Candelaria Saenz Valiente, the frontwoman of Pictorial Candi, part of the large ‘Don’t Panic! We’re from Poland!’ contingent, was wearing a flowery shirt, which made me initially think she was going to be yet another Florence and the Machine wannabe. Not so. She’s a DIY punk rocker; from what I read, she doesn’t know how to play the guitar very well, though is very dedicated to the music-making and creative process. What’s more punk than stepping on a lime with heels on, eh? When not playing her guitar, she also has this spastic dance that is not unlike the robot moves of one of my football idols, Peter Crouch. Unfortunately for her, I remembered the dance better than the actual music.

Girls Names Great Escape live

Next up at Coalition was Girls Names. There was a photographer to my left that I came to admire as the set went on; at the start, just like me, he had his camera at the ready for the start of their set. Then, in a split second it seemed, he turned from professional into a headbanging punter, his long hair and beard flying. I don’t really think of Girls Names as a headbang-eliciting band, but I was happy to see that based on this one bloke, they were obviously doing something right, causing someone to go completely mental at only half past 7 on the first night of the Great Escape. They recently released the official video for ‘Hypnotic Regression’ (previous Video of the Moment here); the bass line of the song alone sends me into ecstasy, so getting to hear it again live was a treat. From what I’ve seen online, they’re currently being paraded on BBC Introducing, which is fabulous news for them. I can’t wait for more people to hear them and be taken in by their at times jangly and other times washy guitars.

From there, it was a hike back up the hill to the Dome to sort out my press pass. I’m glad I went early, as there was some confusion as to where I was supposed to queue to get my guestlist pass, and then I learned even with my photo pass, I wasn’t allowed to shoot in the pit. That was disappointing. Still, not all was lost. When you step into the lower level of the Dome, there’s something wrong with you if your breath is not immediately taken away. It’s a grand place, much posher than probably most of the acts that would grace it that weekend were used to. (I am positive John will have some lovely gems of prose when he gets to describing the sold out Bastille show there on Saturday night.)

There was already a reasonable-sized group of kids already down the front who were just raring to go; remember that this was one of the few all ages shows at the Great Escape. I groaned inwardly as some under 18s were talking about the time they snuck hip flasks of vodka into a gig somewhere else; I’m sure by the time they reach drinking age, they’ll have forgotten this inane conversation. I also chuckled to myself as a hip hop song came on over the PA and the girls in front of me were humping air to the beat; this is where Western music has gone wrong and why Radio1 has a stranglehold on our children’s listening habits, isn’t it?

Earlier that afternoon, I interviewed Steve Garrigan, the lead singer of Kodaline, outside the Dome in the sun. We talked about how this appearance of theirs, supporting their friends Everything Everything, was their Great Escape debut and how absolutely massive this opportunity was. He and the other guys were, unfortunately, horribly jetlagged too, having just flown in from Toronto, having supported the Airborne Toxic Event on a tour of North America, their first real taste of touring our continent. Apparently I have a bad habit of scaring bands before the biggest shows of their lives (you’ll see in an interview with the Crookes I did in London last week, which is forthcoming on the site), though there was no way you would have known anything was the matter when they took the stage at the Dome Thursday night. Like the consummate professionals they are, they confidently took this opportunity and went for it.

Kodaline Great Escape Dome live

The only other large place I’d seen them was the Thursday night at the Hype Hotel at SXSW this year, having supported the Specials, so the Dome was a major step up. I’m positive thoughts of “what if we don’t go down well in a place as big as this?” crossed their minds, but if Kodaline were worried, they shouldn’t have been. The sound that admirably filled two different stages at Maggie Mae’s and the Hype Hotel in March sounded huge at the Dome, and there were definitely Kodaline devoted in attendance, judging by the frequent, young girl squeals of delight. To be honest, even I was surprised, with each single and song from their previous EPs they played getting incredible response and even forthcoming album track ‘Perfect World’ going over well too.

Everything Everything Great Escape live

Everything Everything are riding high at the moment, having headlined the Arts Academy the second night of Liverpool Sound City, where I’d caught them a fortnight previous. I wondered how this Dome performance would differ from the Liverpool one, and if they could match the energy. Not only did they match the intensity of that previous show, the lighting for their set at the Dome far surpassed anything I could have imagined. You know how Muse tends to go over the top with lasers? The lighting rig for Everything Everything complemented the rhythms of the songs and made for a more complete and entirely enthralling experience. ‘Kemosabe’ in this context was huge; the crowd demanded ‘Cough Cough’ at the conclusion of the encore also benefitted. I don’t even know if I want to see EE in a club again, because I’m not going to ever have the same experience again.

This night, Everything Everything played ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ and oddly, I didn’t react as manically to it the way I expected. No, it was because ‘QWERTY Finger’ made an unexpected appearance in the set list; it’s probably my favourite off ‘Man Alive’ and I didn’t think I’d ever witness it live. Earlier in the day, I had introduced John to guitarist Alex Robertshaw, when I’d learned that they were both from Guernsey. Now I was watching him rip it on his guitar, and I loved every minute of it. If Everything Everything could play venues like Brighton Dome every night, I am positive they would be the next biggest band on the planet.

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s initial impressions from Day 1 afternoon

 
By on Tuesday, 28th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

The first weekend I was in Britain on holiday in May, I spent covering Liverpool Sound City with John and Martin. Part 2 of my double music festival holiday, then, was to happen 2 weekends later, at the Great Escape in Brighton, my second time venturing to the seaside for emerging talent and burgeoning favourites. I had arrived 2 days in advance so I could get 2 good nights’ sleep in before John arrived, which was probably a good decision because we didn’t sleep much during the time of the actual 3-day event. While the day I arrived was marked by an uncomfortable driving rain and gale force winds that I was sure would blow off the roof of the flat we rented for the week, divine intervention happily allowed us to get away with no brollies or macs during the festival, which was a pleasant shocker to me after getting thoroughly soaked on the first day last year.

But our festival experience didn’t begin so well. I got a frantic text from John earlier in the day that his coat and keys had been nicked in a pub in Lincoln the night before. His train was late and he was pretty sure he was going to miss the one band he was so keen on seeing that first day, Brother and Bones, whom he’d discovered at the Great Escape 2011, and I was sad for him about that. I suspect he will describe the scene to you in his day 1 report, but I kind of envisioned in my head him running around like a crazy person in Victoria rail station, as he managed to not miss his train down to Brighton.

The next thing I knew, that afternoon I was shooting off from the Old Courtroom to meet him at the Hope on Queens Road to see Brother and Bones for the first time. This was entirely unplanned but looking back in hindsight, it was pretty appropriate for my first show at TGE 2013 to be at the Hope; I’d been walking around town that grey and miserable day on Tuesday and lost my hat somewhere during the walkabout, when I ambled down the Queens Road and suddenly it dawned on me what had been doing there a year ago previous. Seeing another band, the Crookes, for the first time.

Brother and Bones Great Escape live

However, I don’t know if it was a problem with the ventilation or what, as it certainly wasn’t hot Thursday in Brighton. But when it came time for the Brother and Bones set, it was hot, sweaty and gross inside the main room of the Hope. It compared highly unfavourably to the Crookes’ 2012 set for that reason alone; it was crowded then, but I don’t ever recalling having to wipe my sweaty forehead even before the band arrived onstage. But John has been banging on about B&B for a long time, so of course as editor I wanted to see what the fuss was about. He described frontman Richard Thomas as “a mad Jack Sparrow”. Ok. Looking at my photos now, I completely understand the description. Musically, the band is a kind of a strange mixture of Biffy Clyro and folk, and unfortunately not really my thing, so I couldn’t really gauge if this was a good set for them or not. Worse, I couldn’t breathe in the room – too many people + heat = disaster – so I had to beat a hasty retreat and leave John alone to enjoy them.

This gave me ample time to stroll comfortably towards a conference panel at the Komedia, or what is now being called Duke’s at Komedia. I should have known from the name alone that there was something terribly wrong. As I walked down Gardner Street, I could see a neon sign of stripey legs hanging from the side of a shopfront. What is that? As I got closer, my heart sank at what was before me. It honestly looked like a sweet shop had exploded, or maybe Nickelodeon had gotten their mitts on the place and decided everything needed to be day glo orange. Goodness. I saw some great bands in the spaces there in 2012 (Juveniles and JD MacPherson, just to name two) and I don’t know how obvious the backdrop is in this video interview, but part of the Komedia’s charm was that the front part when you walked in was a dive-y looking coffee bar, with wood trim that was well worn but loved. You could get a cup of coffee and a slice of cake and sit down with a book on one of the benches and be perfectly happy with such simplicity. The fact that it’s no longer how I remember it in my mind and they’ve turned into a cinema makes me a bit sick inside.

That said, I suppose for the coffee drinking, popcorn and cake eating public, the inside cafe upstairs is a relaxed, if oversanitised place to get a drink or a bit of food before a film. Me? I just went inside there to charge up my phone and pore over my 3-day schedule, and who should walk in but Everything Everything themselves and their entourage. I looked up from my papers and bassist Jeremy Pritchard smiled and waved at me, “Mary! Fancy seeing here. You all right?” It is moments such as these that make me think, gosh, how is this happening? This would never happen in my day job. Just too funny.

Everything Everything In Conversation panel

The band, ahead of their Thursday night headlining slot at Brighton Dome, were getting ready to be interviewed for an In Conversation panel with Xfm’s John Kennedy. I often have this conversation with other journos about why interviews go well – or terribly wrong. While sometimes it could be the fault of the interviewee, if they’re tired or entirely disinterested in the promotion, more often than not it falls on the interviewer to come up with the right kind of questions to engage and challenge the subject and maintain their attention but also to be able to tease out the information that you think your readers and listeners want. I think Kennedy did an admirable job in this case, but it also helped that Everything Everything themselves are generally funny, amiable chaps who are genuinely are glad for the position they’re in and the opportunities they’re given.

 

Update: The Great Escape 2013 reveals final band line-up

 
By on Friday, 19th April 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

It’s just under a month until Brighton’s bars, clubs and venues get invaded by a host of giddy A & R reps, jubilant journalists and the best new bands the scene can offer at the moment.

The Great Escape 2013 is promising to be the biggest event of its kind in the UK and is already known as the British version of SXSW. That’s an accolade that can’t be sniffed at in any way; they may not have Dave Grohl as a main speaker, but The Great Escape convention runs alongside the festival proper and will once again host a variety of insightful industry talks, panel debates, targeted networking sessions and keynote interviews for industry professionals and music business fans.

Two of the hottest acts pitching up on the South Coast are originally from the area and will definitely be putting on some of the best shows of the festival: Tall Ships‘ album ‘Everything Touching’ is one of my stand-outs of the last 6 months and after this 2013 BRIT Awards Critic’s Choice win, Tom Odell is tipped by everyone and their gran to be stratospheric.

New additions to the bill include one of my favourite interviewees in working at TGTF, the witty Hackney hailing wordsmith Mikill Pane, who will be playing Coalition on the Saturday. (Read the interview here.) You may have heard of his track ‘Little Lady’ with Ed Sheeran, which features on Ed’s No. 5 Collaborations Project. Nina Nesbitt will also be bringing some of her fanatic Nesbians to the Brighton shores.

Topping the bill though you’ve got Everything Everything, hot to trot boys Bastille, alongside the experience of Billy Bragg (pictured at top).

Tickets are still available for just £49.50. All those bands for less than £50? You’d be mad not to go. Get those wristbands now!

 
 
 

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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.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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