The Great Escape, Brighton (Day 1)
Thursday May 17 - Saturday May 19 2018
Reporting team: Steve Willcox, Neil Cole, Linn Branson, Ellie Ward, Leah Raymond
Pictures: As credits
The Great Escape made its annual return to Brighton, taking in a raft of venues across the town with a spot of musical somethings all genres to appeal to all ages. With the Alternative Escape partnered alongside its big brother as the freebie festival, even if you couldn't afford an official wristband ticket, there meant you could still feel a part of the whole vibe over the course of the three days.
This year, compared to the first day of last year's Escape when the heavens opened with downpours of rain, there was nothing but sun, sea, music... and plenty of festive enjoyment.
Rascalton (Steve Willcox)
Horatios at the end of the pier was one of the early starters, with its Creative Scotland showcase, kicking off with the quirky pop of Edinburgh's The Spook School just after midday. An energetic and entertaining set, with their drummer in good form taking the piss out of the crappy plastic barriers. The real highlight of the show came with the punk swagger of Rascalton. With Libertines-like guitar riffs and a singer who spits out the vocals in a way reminiscent of Joe Strummer, the Glasgow-based quartet belted out a fast and frantic 30-minute set.
Team Picture (Steve Willcox)
One of several new venues this Escape were the beach stages of the House, Club and Dr. Martens. Team Picture, with 80s electro indie vibes, produced a varied set from three vocalists at the Beach House just after lunch, which helped the 100+ strong dancing crowd work off some pounds.
Teeks (Linn Branson)
TEEKS - Te Karehana Gardiner-Toi, to give him his full name - was the opener at the New Zealand showcase at One Church. The young Maori's clear vibrato perfectly suited to the environment allows for a chilled start to the day. In contrast, he is followed by Auckland post-punks Yukon Era. Loud, fierce and far from the docile sheep of their native land. Tousled-haired vocalist Christian Dimick displays some fancy foot moves, along with songs like latest release, 'Feel'.
Yukon Era (Linn Branson)
The Alternative Escape allows venues not on the main festival bill to put on free live music, and there are always some gems tucked away on the line up. The obvious pick on Thursday was
Shanghai Blues at The Mucky Duck. This London-based band have a knack for writing soaring indie anthems, and tunes like ‘Swim’ and new single ‘Fall’ deserve a much bigger audience than the one they got in this small Brighton pub!
Shanghai Blues (Neil Cole)
If you like your blue-eyed soul with an Australian flavour, then you could not have done better than spend time with The Teskey Brothers. Their Komedia show drew a huge and appreciative crowd who got into the spirit of things, and danced and clapped along to their trombine, trumpet, guitar ane harmonica combo.
The Teskey Brothers (Linn Branson)
The most unusual set of the day was delivered by Ginger Snaps at Bau Wow. Calling themselves a “project” as opposed to a band, they interspersed their set with a DJ playing snippets of hip-hop classics and scratching records. Their own music was good, and at times you would be forgiven for thinking it was Beck singing on stage rather than Ginger Snaps frontman Jay Brook. Set closer ‘Phat Kids’ was a real highlight and shows the potential of this unique band.
The Faim (Linn Branson)
The Faim are due on at 2.50pm at Komedia, but it soon becomes apparent things aren't going according to the band, or sound tech's, plan. As they fiddle with cables and hover aimlessly around, it's more than 15 minutes before they get under way. But what a set when they do. That this Australian band are picking up a posse of fans is easily understood once you see them live. They may only have a few singles under their belt as yet, but with a frontman like Josh Raven - a Michael Hutchence for the 00's - they are on course to become mega. We liked them so much, two of the Little Indie team returned to see them on the Saturday (see Day 3 review).
In the Studio next door, quite a different kettle of Australian fish. Didirri shows that sometimes all you need is a fine voice and an acoustic guitar to produce a bewitching set, and this man did just that. Thoughtful songwriting and an easy-going, unassuming personality won the show, so much so that on completion of last song and his saying goodbye, not a single member of the audience moved. He seemed genuinely surprised that they would want to hear more - which he duly obliged with.
Didirri (Amanda Woodley)
One of the most enjoyable sets of the day came from M.I.L.K. at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. The Danish three-piece play feel-good tunes perfect for a beautiful, sunny Brighton day - although perhaps better suited to a stage in the sun as opposed to a dark basement. You could just tell that singer Emil Wilk loved every minute of the set, and his enthusiasm transferred to the crowd with one of the best atmospheres seen at The Great Escape. The only criticism that could be aimed at them is over-reliance on the laptop – even basic percussion was being controlled with the push of a button. If they add a few extra members to boost the live experience this is a band to watch.
Orchards (Steve Willcox)
The Hope & Ruin saw local alt-pop quartet Orchards bring light melodramatics and sweet melodies, and played to a crowd mad for it. A band to keep a future eye out for. While in the Jubliee Square sunshine, Noble Jacks put on a barn dance hoe-down. Not your usual bumpkins, but young, energetic and bringing a packed area to its dancing knees. Hertfordshire indie funksters Club Drive make Patterns move like a disco inferno. With Youth Club-like vibes, they played new single ‘2009’ live and the whole set was well-received.Glass Peaks at The Mucky Duck as part of the Alternative Escape are a trio with a loud and scorching amount of feedback nestled around a bed of alt-pop. A Track Of The Day earlier this year, and a Little Indie 'One To Watch', it would have been nice to see the Kent outfit in a venue with better acoustics and a little more room. Next year, maybe.
Glass Peaks (Linn Branson)
Pale Waves (Phoebe Fox)
As was to be expected, Pale Waves' show at Wagner Hall draws in the punters in an endless queue. For those who make it inside, Helen Baron-Gracie & co. deliver their repertoire of treats from older numbers like 'Television Romance' and 'There's A Honey' to the likes of more recent 'Kiss'.
Sea Girls (Neil Cole)
The Arch sees Sea Girls bring their accessible set packed with tunes in the mould of The 1975. They are undoubtedly one of a crop of newer bands (Stereo Honey being another) who are showing they don't just write tunesome songs, but have an engaging stage presence that can pull in a crowd. At Horatios, Essex wild child FREAK is doing likewise, filling his set with good sounds - and added crowd mayhem. With a mere hint of encouragement from Connar Ridd, things escalate into a frenzy of flying beer and mosh pit exuberance. New track ‘Push’ went down well, but ‘Money’ was the catalyst tonight.
FREAK (Steve Willcox)
Derry three-piece Touts play a mid-evening set at Patterns Downstairs, and they are yet another whose reputation and keeness to see, outnumbers the venue capacity, with many being turned away. Punchy punk with new single 'Asleep' getting as much approbation as earlier material, the teens ensure sweat is dripping from the walls by the end. Further along the sea front at The Haunt, emerging act FEET are stomping their tootsies. The Coventry five-piece are still at early days in their career, but with latest single 'Backseat Driver' going down well, and the as promised new number ‘Ringroad City’, these look a promising one to lay a bet on.
FEET (Joe Lee)
Local brother two-piece SONS hold sway at The Black Lion, and not surprisingly they brought a gaggle of fans It was on course for an riot and they didn’t disappoint. Everyone got involved and the whole place was shaking and the mosh pit was mental.
SONS (Steve Willcox)
Gaffa Tape Sandy always seem to attract a good crowd that always deliver in regards of friendly moshing and their Sticky Mike's show is no exception. The band produce a cracking show and indicates how far they’ve come. A band with future potential.
Boy Azooga (Neil Cole)
Possibly the band with the biggest buzz around Brighton over the weekend was Boy Azooga. This Cardiff-based band packed three sets into day one of the festival, and each saw festival goers queuing round the block to try and catch them in action. At Patterns in the late evening they were impeccable. This band sit in the rare position of being almost impossible to pigeonhole, with tracks like 'Loner Boogie' and its bluesy guitar riff, to latest single 'Jerry' which sounds more like 60s dreamy-pop. The enthusiasm and obvious natural ability of this band made them the standout of the festival.
Queen Zee (Steve Willcox)
One of a few indie bands with a good chance of breaking into the mainstream are Marsicans who play The Arch. An upbeat style reminiscent of the Maccabees, they have just the right kind of songs and style that one tends to remember the next time around. As do Queen Zee who can always be relied upon to produce a wild ride of a live show. In a packed Hope & Ruin all eyes are at the front, watching them slither, jump and just be damn right anarchic. Favourite moment of the night had to be the cover of Dizzee Rascal's ‘Bonkers’ where the band pulled out all the stops and the crowd went ballistic.
In complete contrast, over the road at Komedia, Japanese Breakfast - aka Michelle Zauner - is serving a late supper of fragile ambience in the vein of 'In Heaven', 'The Woman That Loves You' and 'The Body Is A Blade'. Simple, yet attention-grabbing.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (Neil Cole)
Another first day highlight was the incredible late night set by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Paganini Ballroom (The Old Ship). With three frontmen alternating vocals, and each hugely proficient guitarists, they are a very engaging live act. Highlights of the set were recent single 'Mainland' and last year's 'French Press'.
Ecca Vandal (Victor Frankowski)
One of a veritable wealth of outstanding Australian acts to grace - and dominate - the festival, Melbourne-based Sri Lankan Ecca Vandal plays a late night/1am Friday morning set at the Green Door Store. For those still in the party mood, the rising Antipodean artist ramps up the atmosphere with a set comprised of genre-blending powerpop-punk material from last year's debut album.
And so ends the first day of The Great Escape 2018.