The Great Escape, Brighton (Day 3)
Thursday May 17 - Saturday May 19 2018
Reporting team: Steve Willcox, Neil Cole, Linn Branson, Ellie Ward, Leah Raymond
Pictures: As credits
As the last day of The Great Escape dawns, it's a case of the spirit is willing, but the legs are complaining, as we tramp up and down Brighton's pavements and promenade to capture the best of the crop.
One of the earlybirds are Hartlepool's Plaza at Komedia. And if his audience may have been feeling rough, at least we weren't getting over a dose of mumps, as vocalist Brad Lennard explained away his enlarged neck. Regardless, he still managed to produce a searing vocal to their shoegaze-indebted melodies.
Plaza (Ellie Ward)
In the Marine Room (Harbour Hotel), four-piece Londoners Phantom Isle bring some laid back rock to Brighton as they play to a busy venue. The humorously named Amyl And The Sniffers at the Beach House are another Oz contingent and one that sees a massive queue outside lined up for. Fronted by Amy Taylor, the Melbournians kick a fierce raft of attitude-laden songs from their new self-titled album.
Amyl And The Sniffers
Another Australian, Stella Donnelly, is on the Dr Martens Stage. This outside set for this Aussie is the perfect setting for her brand of indie music that uses her lyrics to convey her life and attitude. Playing to a packed out area, it's obvious she has more than a few fans in attendance.
British-born, French-raised singer-songwriter Hero Fisher has more an attitude of cool Californian as she plays the Queens Hotel. She offers a subtle and subdued performance to the mainly floor-seated crowd. Her songs are complex compositions in the vein of PJ Harvey, geared for the ears and senses.
Hero Fisher (Ellie Ward)
The showcase from Sounds Australia is always a highlight at The Great Escape. The "Aussie BBQ" has been shunted around different venues over the last few years, but has found its ideal home in the form of the newly created venue, The Beach. With an open-air stage as well as two decent size tents, there was plenty of scope for Sounds Australia to put on a good number of bands and really make the most of the new venue.
The promoters brought some Aussie sunshine with them too, and it was glorious as Hockey Dad took to the open-air Dr Martens Stage. These blokes from Windang bring some real Oz rock to the pebbles of Brighton. Limited to a 20-minute slot, they raced through tunes from their new album including 'I Wanna Be Everybody' and 'Join The Club'.
Skeggs (Neil Cole)
They were soon followed on the same stage by Skeggs, who put on a brilliantly chaotic show featuring out of tune guitars, a seagull stage invader (the Hockey Dad drummer in a mask) and a frenetic circle pit in the crowd. The whole crowd left happy, with most of them whistling the infectious 'L.S.D.' or 'New York California'. London-based electro pop dudes Crooked Teeth at Queens do what they all do of this genre - fiddle with knobs on a board to produce sounds that always seem to recall the 80s. But it is Stereo Honey who, for their third appearance this festival, ensure there are lengthy queues for both wristband and delegates, all hoping to edge themselves into Patterns for this acoustic performance. Those who managed (many being turned away, including staff of one well-known music organ) would have been entranced. Pete Restrick, as Little Indie has said on more than one occasion, has one of the finest voices currently around, together with a songwriting skill par excellence.
While Hockey Dad and Skegss revel in the chaotic, upbeat, fun side of rock'n' roll, in the Beach House tent City Calm Down put on a very different show. They have developed into a slick, intense, professional band, and they played a short set that was heavy on tracks from second album 'Echoes In Blue'. Frontman Jack Bourke brings so much to the band, with incredible vocals on songs such as 'Joan, I'm Disappearing' and 'Blood'.
City Calm Down (Neil Cole)
A notable feature this Escape has been how popular the solo acoustic singers have been. 22-year-old Shropshire singer-songwriter Sam Johnson brings heartfelt songs like 'Perfect Circle's reflection on childhood loneliness, to fill the small downstairs Latest Bar to the extent that on a hot afternoon, people are finding it slightly uncomfortable and claustrophobic crammed in like sardines on the floor, with some standing on the stairs, for a better view as much as air.
G Flip (Mike Massaro)
Georgia Flipo may have not even played 20 gigs yet in her career, but from the G Flip's hot and steamy Beach House set, you would never have known. The Melbourne singer and multi-instrumentalist storms her way through an all-encompassing set; that those at the back of the rammed tent can't even see her, sat behind her hand-made kick drum, doesn't bother anyone as her infectious pop songs and danceable energetic vibe carry everyone along.
The Faim (Steve Willcox)
The Faim's second set over the three days comes late afternoon at Volks on the seafront. The Little Indie team return for a second look at this Australian alt-rock band after their Komedia slot on the first day - and oh, were we glad we did. Such a buzz over this band already that you can't help but visualise their ascendance has escalated on British soil while they have been over on tour. Vocalist Josh Raven is the charismatic frontman who, at one point, asks the crowd to put down any drinks they may be holding. You soon see the reason for this, as the floor bounces as one, clapping, dancing, hands in air. If festival bands were rated on the sheer enjoyment factor alone, this band with its heady mix of banging stadium atmospheric songs, are right up there at the top.
The Beat Escape
The Beat Escape are not your usual electronic group, this Montreal duo of Addy Weitzman and Patrick Boivin combine the post-apocalyptic attitude of New Order with a lighter feel of early techno. 150 people in the Sallis Benney Theatre are swaying to its psychedelic-synth hypnotic beats... either that or they are high on ketamine. It's the first time Manchester band Carnation has ventured this far south, and they pitch up at Shortt’s Bar for Modern Age Music's showcase. Displaying great riffs and getting a good response from the crowd enjoying some indie rock that’s rich on the melody. There seems to have been a bit of a comeback for the early 90s grunge sound this year. The Saturday evening session saw Gender Roles play a hometown set to a packed Sticky Mike's. Recent single 'Plastic' was the highlight of a short but frenetic, punky set.
The Go! Team
Bully took to the stage at The Arch with a set that oozed brash confidence as they played tracks from both debut album 'Feels Like' and last year's 'Losing'. While Green Door Store saw London's melodic grungegazers Honey Lung (a Little Indie One To Watch band) submerge into hazy reverb as we still acclaim how good 'Stuttering Mind' is. The Go! Team close out The Beach Club with an energetic set and a crowd of punters determined to enjoy themselves in dancing delirium. SHEAFS take to The Hope & Ruin with guns a-blaze as they stamp their Northern presence with ferocity, propulsive riffs and thumping bass line on the likes of ‘This Is Not A Protest’. In our interview with them prior to the festival, they had promised they would not disappoint - and they didn't. Solid rock with a message that translates to the 00s generation.
Following SHEAFS at the same venue as part of the This Feeling showcase, Himalayas scale peaks in a venue heaving with bodies. The Cardiff boys played a really good set and got the whole audience captivated. They also played included next single, ‘If I Tell You‘, and if it’s anything like the live version it should do well. Vocalist Joseph Williams was using the stage like a boss, using the edge to look deep into the crowd and at one point climbing onto the drum kit like a mountaineer looking at the view.
Tom Grennan (Therah)
Late into the evening there's a cross-choice between three male vocalists of different styles and appeal, all playing on stages at roughly the same time: Lewis Capaldi at Coalition, Conner Youngblood at The Prince Albert, and Tom Grennan at The Old Market. We opt for the latter. Grennan has come a lomg way since he pitched up here last year with an acoustic guitar. His gravelled voice and songs that can upbeat at one moment, vulnerable at the next, have found praise from all quarters. Fitting in somewhere between Jack Savoretti and Paulo Nutini, he performs songs, like new single 'Barbed Wire', with a soulful, lighter approach. With his debut album due in July, expect to be hearing much more of Grennan.
Ten Fé (Neil Cole)
As the festival approaches its close, Ten Fé play The Prince Albert for their third set of the weekend. This band could almost be considered a Great Escape veteran now, playing for the third year running and reeling off tracks from their brilliant debut album 'Hit The Light'. A couple of years of relentless touring has seen the band develop into such a tight outfit, with influences ranging from Fleetwood Mac (particularly evident on 'Turn') to early 90's baggy-era indie. Recent release 'Single, No Return' was an epic set closer and the lads leave Brighton triumphantly to go and work on their second album.
Vida (Steve Willcox)
Meanwhile, at approaching midnight things are still going strong at The Hope & Ruin. Scottish act Vida bring along with them the kind of swagger of Oasis but with a hint of Cast in their musical abilities. Every tune was a single in the making and you could not help but dance; even four rows back everyone was. The tour manager was like a living embodiment of Begbie, ribbing the band throughout to much amusement.
After Jack Jones and his bandmates had earlier set the Latest Bar ablaze with a fire alarm stopping that show, at approaching 1am Trampolene are preparing to end the night -and the This Feeling showcase - at The Hope & Ruin. Whilst Jones sets up, guitarist Wayne Thomas pulls one of Jack's shoes off and throws it onto the stage. When they were about to start Jack suddenly realised and shouted, “Has anyone seen my shoe anywhere?" with a wry smile.
They then launch into some real rock-n-punchy-roll that instantly grabs the crowd and they go mental. Halfway through he finds his shoe and brings on stage Wayne’s little brother Lee to join the band with his guitar for a few songs and he certainly holds his own. Playing their latest single ‘Hard Times for Dreamers’, you can actually feel the energy pulsate throughout the room. This band has helped to breathe fresh air back into the indie scene, in the same way Oasis ripped up the rule book in the 90s.
As things start to wind down and weary, but happy, punters troop outside into the early hours of Sunday morning, it signals the end of The Great Escape festival for another year.
And that, as they say, is a wrap.