Now in it’s eighth year, and marketed as Europe’s answer to USA’s new music festival SXSW, The Great Escape returned last week and it was bigger than ever before. With a line up boasting over 300 bands, artists and DJs, there was live music showcases in over 30 of Brighton’s music venues, attracting music professionals and fans alike.
Thursday marked the opening of the festival and resisting the urge to spend the day eating fish & chips on the sunny beach, The Edge explored the city’s venues to witness some of the artists performing.
The Balconies, Blind Tiger Club
Around me multiple people commented on how The Balconies weren’t really their thing… However most of them ended up eating their words. The Balconies played what only can be described as a ferocious indie rock beast that came at the crowd with the aggressiveness of a feral dog that refused to be tamed. Showcasing blistering guitar riffs that hit where it hurt whilst also being inherently catchy, they complemented lead-singer Jacquie’s powerful and frankly astounding vocals. Their track ‘Kill Count’ ended up being both a set and festival highlight.
Whales in Cubicles, The Prince Albert
Despite sounding quite a promising band on record, Whales in Cubicles didn’t translate as well live and ended up being my first ‘meh’ band of the festival. Problems with gaging their sound-system in the tiny venue meant the show ended up more echoey and loud than actually listenable—with the vocals all but non-existent. Similarly the band looked truly disinterested with a half-empty room and so engagement and showmanship went all but out the window.
Brothers & Bones, The Hope
The band have been going for a couple of years now but a mid-afternoon slot in the cramped and dark venue The Hope didn’t reflect this. Playing a series of tracks from their EPs it was clear that their genre is still hazy. Whilst there was general satisfaction in the room for much of their set, they were indecisive, playing folky-rock music whilst one of the guitarists moshed around the stage. It was clear to see that they are much more suited to a calmer sound and this was displayed in their most well known song ‘Gold & Silver’ which captivated the room, as lead singer Rich Thomas performed solo. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a problem when the best song in a set doesn’t include most of a band.
We Were Evergreen, Festival Hub
Billed later in the day to be playing alongside Kodaline and Everything Everything, it seemed like everyone who wasn’t intending on going to that show had turned up to enjoy We Were Evergreen in the sun with a cider. Rightly so, I hasten to add, because their bright and vibrant sound was built for enjoyment. Their male and female vocal harmonies had a certain saccharine quality which alongside the ukulele, glockenspiel and acoustic guitars (amongst others) helped to amass to a show full of colourfulness and fun—that helped make me feel like a child again. All in all it was a very nice set, without being bland or spoilt by the incessant chattering of the audience.
Tom Odell, The Warren
Quaint and cute; The Warren has its own garden complete with hay bales, a union jack Mini, and picket fencing, but inside it is more industrial with flashing lights adorning the stage for the venue housing the VEVO showcase. Swarms of people turned up to watch Tom Odell and the queues extending out of the venue were only exacerbated by Odell arriving on stage 45 minutes late. With not a word of an apology he launched into his angry set without so much of an acknowledgement of the audience, apart from a “How’s everyone doing?” The room falls silent as he performs each of his well known tracks in quick succession but it’s hard to feel like he really means any of the things he is singing. As he flies around the world doing the same set every night, the jumping up and down as he plays the piano and screwed up facial expressions all seem a little fake and meaningless. Odell is, musically, one of the best performers of the festival, but it’s hard to believe in his performances; the magic has gone since the first time hearing ‘Another Love’ on the radio.
Jeremy Loops, The Warren
Remember that Ed Sheeran kid played 2 years ago at The Great Escape with his loop peddle and everyone raved about how amazing he was at loop peddling? Well turns out he actually wasn’t all that good at loop peddling because Jeremy Loops showed TGE13 exactly what it means to really loop peddle. With his voice, guitar, harmonica and a baby toy (not kidding) he built tracks up from nothing. Watching music being put together layer by layer was impressive in itself but upon hearing the finished product it became even more impressive because tracks such as ‘My Shoes’ and ‘Mission to the Sun ‘howling’’ were simply sublime. Having an inherent danceability about them certainly went over well with the audience who lapped it up and even though the stage was running 45 minutes late, he certainly managed to put smiles back on faces.
Brooke Candy, Audio
Dressed in 5 inch creepers, a tight black mini-skirt resembling duct tape, and a little pointy black hat, Brooke Candy emerges from backstage to ask the audience, “has anyone got any weed I can have?” Slurring her words, she rambles on for 5 minutes letting the crowd touch her breasts and complaining about the “old f*ggots” on the beach in Brighton, she is soon shown a laptop with a list of backing tracks on iTunes to confirm the order of her set. It’s all a bit amateur-ish already, and this is very much how her whole performance pans out. From pretending to masturbate with the microphone as a penis, and screaming at the crowd to “TAKE MY PHOTO!” like a spoilt child, it’s not long before she falls off stage, blaming her music because “I fell off stage because it’s so good.” Despite her odd yet entertaining behaviour, her talent for music is surprising and the rowdy crowd love every second of her performance as she launches into her more well known tracks like ‘Everybody Does’ and ‘Das Me’. She’s purposely scandalous and absurd and although some of her lyrics are ridiculous (“Don’t touch my hair hoe, or my chinchilla coat”) it’s a brilliant performance.
Melody’s Echo Chamber, Corn Exchange
Playing to a busy Corn Exchange thanks to support from NME, Melody’s Echo Chamber played a 45 minute set of ambient, indie pop. Having released her debut – produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker – last year, it received critical acclaim and appeared in many lists as one of 2012’s best albums, despite performing poorly commercially. However, in this room it felt like everyone knew who Melody Prochet was, and her cute and charming persona warmed the hearts of everyone in the crowd. Together with her band they were a pleasure to watch as they were clearly enjoying themselves, but the instrumentals and guitar solos didn’t translate so well from the album to a live setting. It was one of those performances where if you’re a fan of the album you’d have loved it, but if you haven’t heard much of Melody’s Echo Chamber before, it’s likely that all of the tracks sounded similar.
You’ll be able to check out The Edge’s review of Friday at The Great Escape, tomorrow.