Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Great Escape 2016 :: Day One

Oh, to be beside the sea 
(Photo: Kenny Davies)

Live Review

The Great Escape, Brighton (Day 1)

Thursday May 19 - Saturday May 21 2016

Various venues

Reporting team: LB, Kenny Davies, Alison Mack

Another year, another three-day escape for the great, the good, and the not so good, as all and sundry make their merry way down to the South Coast resort of Brighton for the annual gathering of newly emerging music acts. Now there's not much of a beach to be had admittedly, and the weather forecast had not augured well, but who was complaining when you had a veritable feast laid before you of over 450 artists taking part in this year's Great Escape - and Alternative Escape - festival; and as far as the latter went, all for free too.

Obviously, even with our team working their little backsides off, running round from venue to venue to try and catch the best of what was on offer, there will still be a large number of artists we missed - regrettably - but in our three-part feature we share the highlights of some of what we saw, and which you may want to catch when next in your part of town.

Thursday kicks off with most punters still making their way into Brighton by road or rail from various parts of the country, settling into their luxury hotels (or probably for most, rather wanting b+b's in need of a visit from TV's The Hotel Inspector), collecting wristbands and like, sussing out the vibes, man.

Early on in the day a band called The Lodgers open up proceedings down at the East Street Tap. Mixing the best bits from early Libertines and slices of the Beatles with catchy songs, a ramshackle attitude, they prove a band with great potential for the future.

Tom Prior (Photo: LB)

Singer/songwriter Tom Prior brings his keyboard to the open-air New Road Stage, while over at Brighthelm, the Scottish four-piece Catholic Action, please the crowd with their broodingly styled pop songs; 'LUV' with its catchy chorus and sharp guitars being a highlight of the set.

Catholic Action (Photo: Kenny Davies)

Cardiff outfit Tibet are no strangers to Little Indie's pages, and judging by the rammed early afternoon room in the Latest Music Bar's basement, they were on quite a few others' list of a band to catch as well. They kick off with the effervescent 'Put You In My Pocket', the first of a fierce and proud little set by the four Welshmen, that ends with smiles all round and drummer Ethan topless.

Tibet (Photo: LB)

Punk duo Cassels at The Globe prove the adage that less is more with just the two Beck brothers ratcheting up the decibels in the miniscule space of the venue's 'stage'. Front row is a small boy on dad's shoulder with an almighty pair of headphones clamped to his ears. Wise kid.

Cassels (Photo: LB)

There are a fair few Australian artists gracing the Escape stages this year. Ella Fence, Queensland's 'cinematic pop' chanteuse, brings her bluesy vocals and dark tunes to the East Street Tap, while at Komedia, Perth's Methyl Ethel trio bring all their experimental alt-pop reverb and eccentricity to the fore, highlighting their debut album which comes out this weekend. In the in Komedia Studio Bar, multi-instrumentalist Dreller. The now UK-based Sydney musician Thomas Rawle (previously of Papa Vs Pretty), delivers his warped vocals in an electro-psych setting.

Plastic Mermaids (Photo: LB)

Moving on into the evening programme, Plastic Mermaids at the Prince Albert manage to cram six people (five band members plus guest operatic-styled vocals from singer Rhain) and a cast array of instruments on to a stage no bigger than a refectory table, so that even getting from one side to the other requires a hop down onto the floor and back up again. Their sound and delivery is evocative and masterly with new track 'Alaska' and the haunting 'Drømtorp' standing out in a set that was really one big standout altogether.

Hidden Charms (Photo: KD)

Hidden Charms at The Hope and Ruin are a band that are fast gaining notice, and bring with them a high energy set, pounding drums and blues guitar, think of The Black Keys covering The Rolling Stones and you're nearly there. 'Love You Cause You're There' closes the set with its fuzz guitars and military style drums and receives big applause; the crowd liked that.

Otherkin (Photo: KD)

Irish pop rockers Otherkin set off fast in Latest Music Bar, hints of The Vines and Hives flows through their set as vocalist Luke Reilly encourages crowd participation by walking through their midst playing the intro to 'Ay Ay'; it works, and a bit of moshing starts before he throws down his guitar and climbs onto the long table whilst singing, finishing the song in style and to a huge cheer.

Vant (Photo: LB)

With the sun now setting, so the Brighton venues now start seeing queues form. At Patterns on the seafront there's a patient, but lengthy, line in wait for two of the night's big guns. Vant lead the way with their fast, loud set that at times sees the stage invaded by more punters than band members; crowd surfing becomes the order of the night, and frontman Mattie Vant truly owns the stage - and floor, as he and guitar make one brave foray into a pumped up crowd. Followed by Spring King, Tarek Musa and his Manc outfit bring infectious pop to bear with a set and delivery that places them a league above many others.

Spring King (Photo: LB)

Meanwhile, over at Komedia Pumarosa don't disappoint at the packed venue where the London five-piece draw a strong crowd to hear their vibe heavy set with 'Priestess' Isabel leading her gang into a dancing festival spirit; and when Highasakite follow them on to the same stage later, the Norwegian indie poppers have the crowd well on side.

The Tellermen (Photo: KD)

At the end of the long sea path, Concorde 2 sees The Telermen who are an alt-rock four-piece from Glasgow, all under 20, and who sound like they could have a bright future. Heavy with catchy hooks, guitar solos and a sound not too distant to early Stone Roses had the crowd dancing around.

Blossoms (Photo: KD)

Headliners here, and bringing day one to an end, are Stockport lads Blossoms. From the hypnotic melody of 'At Most A Kiss', through 'Blown Rose', 'Charlemagne' to recent new single 'Getaway', they had the crowd singing along right through to set closer 'Blow', the band's debut single with its now standard extended outro jam. Judging by tonight's crowd reaction, sell out gigs and recent Jools Holland show appearance, this is a band destined for bigger and better things.

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