The second day of The Great Escape Festival marked the beginning of the heavy hitters. Thursday was a mere warm up for the Friday of the festival in which things got into full swing. With music from 12pm right through until 2am across over 25 venues, festival goers were spoilt for choice. Despite gale force conditions and torrential rain later on in the evening, thousands turned out to pack themselves into some of Brighton’s most intimate venues. While the headline performance in the Brighton Dome came from Wild Beasts, we checked out some of the other hotly anticipated acts across the line-up.
The Darlingtons, Queen’s Hotel
The Darlingtons are a four piece from Sheffield who performed a packed set full of angst-ridden rock. It probably wasn’t the best setting to showcase The Darlingtons as space was quite limited, but the frontman still managed to get some good audience interaction going by venturing into the crowd for some of their set. With a thrashing frontman and a gritty sound, it was no wonder that a gathering of loyal fans congregated at the front to bob along and sing the words, with passion to match the band themselves.
East India Youth, Above Audio
For any electronic artist, an early afternoon slot can prove challenging in capturing the imagination of a (reasonably) sober and tired audience. In the cramped capacity of Above Audio, East India Youth AKA William Doyle, did well to get a positive reaction to his few extended tracks of heavy EDM beats but his set failed to provide anything particularly refreshing. While the length of tracks meant there was more time to build up towards climactic moments, there weren’t nearly enough to thrill a crowd of electronic music fans. Unfortunately, the intensity and emotion of his debut album Total Strife Forever, released in January, was not expressed in his performance.
Kimberly Anne, Council Chambers
A secret set at the regal Council Chambers was a treat for anyone lucky enough to find out about the show. Pulling together tracks from her recent Hard As Hello EP and a cover of the classic The Cardigans track ‘Lovefool’, the relaxed set radiated comfort and warmth. While there was nothing particularly indelible about her music – especially as an artist in one of the most crowded musical markets as a solo singer-songwriter – Kimberly Anne excelled in winning the crowd over with her glowing personality and brilliantly heartwarming conversation.
Seoul, Unitarian Church
Throughout the course of the festival The Unitarian Church seemed to be the place to go if you wanted ambience with real soul, or perhaps in Friday’s case, Seoul. Seoul hail all the way from Montreal and are masters of ambient pop. Their set contained moments of real ebb and flow that guided the audience into a dream like state. Minimalist and pure their sound was tinged with hints of nostalgia. Their name is one to watch out for in the coming months.
Alvvays, The East Wing
Clearly it has become a ‘thing’ now for bands to replace letters with ‘v’’s in their name. This Canadian band’s easy-going set of upbeat indie was slightly grungey but with clear influences from pop and electronic music. Their knack for uprooting a melancholy message into something danceable was evident in ‘Adult Diversion’ while other tracks fell flat with the audience. That said, there’s no doubt that their jangly melodies will continue to infiltrate new music blogs with force in the coming months.
Marika Hackman, The East Wing
Marika Hackman is an English singer songwriter, best described as a folk singer who explores the darker more melancholic elements of the genre. She has a rich and dark tone to her voice that perfectly reflected the sense of angst and urgency that her songs are rife with. Although perhaps a little timid on stage, once she began singing her stage presence began to take shape. Closing track ‘Cinnamon’ held a refreshing rawness which added an extra quality to her set which was full of infectious melodies. Sombre, dark and melodious Hackman was a joy to watch.
Famy, The East Wing
Recreating the sound of an American teenage rock band practising in their parents’ garage, Famy’s almost atonal vocals and adolescent lyrics (“cry into the tissue of my heart”) would have been right at home, if this was a Battle of the Bands competition. It’s no surprise that the band recently supported Cults, as their indie rock sound (minus the vocals) is rather similar. Famy aren’t going to set the world on fire, but their accurate representation of teenage expression and scuzzy instrumentation was entertaining nonetheless.
Jess Glynne, Brighthelm
Having gained widespread exposure from two number one collaborations already this year, you would think Jess Glynne holds the secret to being the perfect pop star to dominate 2014. Her performance at Brighthelm though, was irritatingly dissatisfying. Channeling the stage presence of Jessie J made her instantly abhorred, but things went from bad to worse as she threw bottles on the floor like some kind of super-diva. Not only was her attitude disenchanting, but her vocals were also second-rate, hiding behind loud backing vocalists on ‘Home’. Her performance suggests that she has a lot of work to do if she wants to pursue a career beyond ‘feat.’ slots.
Ella Eyre, The Warren
Headlining The Warren on Friday night, Ella Eyre showed that she has more to offer than just the best hair in pop. Bouncing around the stage and whipping the crowd up into an excited frenzy, her cover of Basement Jaxx’s ‘Good Luck’ added energy to the already quick-paced set featuring ‘Deeper’ and ‘Waiting All Night’. New track ‘Home’ seemed overtly predictable and formulaic, following in the footsteps of other young acts with tracks of the same name (Gabrielle Aplin, Dan Croll, Jess Glynne) but her excellent forthcoming single ‘If I Go’ exposed her huge potential for future success.