Two down, one more day to go. So with the ringing tinnitus killing my poor little ears, a hangover that only two long days of boozing can bring on, a sever lack of sleep impossible to hide from showing in my eyes and a voice that is fading to a kind Jack Palance husk, we head out for one last sunny day in Brighton. Another stack of excellent shows awaits and by the end of the day we will be worn, but high on the knowledge that this weekend will forever hang long in the memory.
EXPERIENCE – If you sign up to the festival’s text services you get informed about the (immediately not-) secret shows that crop up. The festival itself is mainly an indoor evening affair, but the officially established Alternative Escape throws up plenty before and after the main performances. We awoke, having partied the previous night at the Moshi Moshi Records party at the New Hero venue, to the text service informing us that Fenech Soler were going to be playing outdoors at 13:00 next to the train station. We headed down to a large, backstreet area, which is normally just a, well, backstreet area, to find a crowd starting to form. Amul, Fenech’s manager was there, (we had spent some time together at the Moshi Moshi party the previous night), so I said hello to him and the band as they waited to go on. This was the band’s fourth set of the weekend, with at least one other to do this evening, so not only did they seem the hardest working group of the weekend, but the buzz around town was that they were totally ace awesome live. They duly blasted through a fantastic set, to a packed courtyard, looking as fresh as their first performance. The only distraction from a memorable, engaging show was the arrival of a flash mob. A large group of people had gathered within the crowd and started dancing in a rehearsed routine. We’d never experienced a flash mob first hand and we have to say it was totally fucking awesome! All gigs should hire one! They even froze to the chorus for Stop And Stare. As if that wasn’t enough, they then let off an explosion of confetti. Are you able to imagine how totally brilliant this looked?! And we hadn’t even had lunch yet. We love the Great Escape.
BEST TRACK – STOP AND STARE
EXPERIENCE – This brother/sister duo was the first of two artists that we would see today that are due to play the Recommender’s next party. Another afternoon show, this time down at the beach-front club, Life. Walking around the club’s warren of tunnels to find them seemed somewhat appropriate, as their music is one long attempt to transport you to some sort of cute nether-world of magic and coy mystery. We found them to be as sweet and tidy as their videos and songs had always suggested, converting the productions well into a live set. George hit the keys and lined up the samples, whilst Milky sang as if not a care in the world. Were the room not busy she would surely have produced exactly the same dream-like performance. It was mesmerising, a little fantastical and ended with Milky throwing a handful of glitter into the air towards the audience as the last song hit it’s final note, (played on a triangle of course!). Once it was over we waited for them to pack up so we could go and say hello and introduce ourselves. It’s worth noting just how young they became once we engaged them in conversation off stage. It was like talking to two little children. OK, so their tiny reserved voices, reticent natures and modest confidence will never win over Wembley stadium, but it gave a context to their sound that we never had before. They’d never been to Brighton, but already Milky said she wanted to live here. Thinking about it, this place is perfect for her.
BEST TRACK – SOMEBODY TELL ME
OU EST LE SWIMMING POOL
EXPERIENCE – We enjoyed lunch on the beach and a few beers at the Oh So Social beach-fronted bar, prior to the second of today’s enjoyable street gigs. This time the temporary stage was knocked up on a groynes that jutted down the beach, giving the band the backdrop of both the sea and our famous pier. From a photography perspective it really couldn’t get more Brighton. As we sipped our pints we heard the first few bars of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s set kick off, so we raced straight over. The Groynes filled rapidly, being set in such a busy area and with these street gigs not requiring a Great Escape wristband, it was free and open to all. It’s a great way to show those people who didn’t obtain a ticket the type and quality of acts that are on show all weekend. Two fellas jammed on their synths and twiddled their knobs at the back of the stage and two fellas prance enthusiastically up front. It worked well and we should point out how hard it must be to generate energy during a daytime gig, with no lights, no smoke, broad daylight and a sea breeze on this occasion. However they had the crowd singing along, particularly to their strongest single to date, Dance The Way I Feel, and a broad smile was found on the vocalists face as he spotted a lively bunch of young teens bouncing like mad at the front of the audience. The smiles was contagious and set us up well for the oncoming evening.
BEST TRACK – DANCE THE WAY I FEEL
THE GOOD NATURED
EXPERIENCE – This was the second of today’s artists that are booked for the next Recommender show, which they headline, so we were obviously keen to see them. We went straight backstage at Audio to say hello to frontwoman and main songwriter, Sarah McIntosh. She sat there alone and looked nervous. “Look at me…” she suggested as she held up her hand, which was shaking like a tambourine. With her young face, her asymmetric haircut and designed eyeliner, this was an artist that had put some effort in, but it reminded us of a student about to sit her exams. Perhaps the promise of label bosses and A&R in a lot of the crowds at The Great Escape can do this to the performers? Perhaps Sarah’s like this every time? Either way, this was going to be interesting. The set began as most of her songs do, with a piano refrain and her Kate Nash-sounding vocals, but the microphone stand was too far away, causing her to stretch over the keyboards. Poor thing. If she was nervous before, then now she had a real battle on. She adjusted the stand for the second song, explaining it all rather engagingly to the audience. Sadly the stand kept slipping down as she sang, so she gave up on it and snatched the mic from it’s holder. At this point the show shifted. It forced her to leave the comfort of the piano’s position and come centre stage, dancing, twisting and posing as she sang. It became a dramatic performance, where you couldn’t take your eyes off her. During one heartfelt moment, she put her hand on the chest of a boy stood at the front, as if hypnotising him, accepting the crowd’s existence. It reminded us of Marina Diamondis and proved we have booked ourselves someone who not only has the tune-bag packed full, but someone who also has an enchanting charm when performing. This is definitely a chart-bound star of the future. Look out.
BEST TRACK – YOUR BODY IS A MACHINE
THE PHENOMENAL HANDCLAP BAND
EXPERIENCE – This was always going to be a set cut short as Theophilus London was due onstage within the next half hour, so we had to leave with enough time to catch him. No matter as half of this band’s set is enough to make you smile and besides we had caught them live back in March of this year, so we were well aware of how incredible they are. We’d shared a few laughs with their lead guitarist Luke on that previous occasion, so it was nice that he recognised us as we waited stage right. As they set up we also took the chance to chat with Tinashe, another exciting act that had been playing various shows at the Great Escape this year. We confirmed our interest in booking him for a future Recommender show and he agreed that it would be a great idea, so we will let you know in due course with that one. As we looked backstage it was nice to watch all seven members of The Phenomenal Handclap Band get in a little pre-game huddle. It says something for their closeness and focus, which translates directly into their engaging performance. They did their usual magic of starting the show by jamming for several minutes before hitting their stride with You’ll Disappear, a song we didn’t want to miss, so we were pleased they played so early in their set. The packed, sweaty crowd in this dark basement suited this hardworking band perfectly. They have a fantastic bond with each other and that infects the crowd. We left the room noticing that every single person within it was smiling broadly.
BEST TRACK – YOU’LL DISAPPEAR
EXPERIENCE – This was possibly the one artist that we were most excited about seeing out of the dozens on show this weekend. Why? Well, firstly, his blend of crossover hiphop is totally fucking ace, and secondly his performances comes with a warning sticker that says ‘look out’, in bright neon pink! Additionally, his fashion is so fly and so fresh that he was always going to shine in a room full of drunk youngsters. So we arrived at this venue, which is situated at the end of the pier, which adds in it’s own sense of exciting magic, a few minutes early with our man Mark Stafford, a music lawyer and good friend, who was enjoying his seaside jaunt away from London. As we stood in the bar we spotted two of the boys from Mirrors, so we chatted over a couple of rounds of beers and thanked them for a good set of performances this weekend (see previous Great Escape posts). They agreed to join us in watching Theophilus do his thing. Standing alone on stage and working the samples and pre-recorded beats himself he fearlessly launched into his set. The amount of energy and enthusiasm this guy protrudes is exceptional. It’s like he’s possessed by his music. Jerking and posing, knocking his cap, tipping his shades, flirting with the girls and dominating the space, this was a totally perfect boozy peak to the evening. He ended by letting the last song blast out over and over, whilst he jumped off stage, selecting to dance with the crowd until it’s close. To say they wanted more was an understatement. We quickly met with his agent to try to secure a future Recommender show. It’s worth noting that as we left the venue we bumped into Jamie Klaxon. With our best journalistic hat on we asked him when the new Klaxons album might be ready and his uninhibited and certainly inebriated self informed us that they’re aiming for August 21st. Drunken exclusive. Nice.
BEST TRACK – HUMDRUM TOWN
EXPERIENCE – Having quickly darted into Audio one more time for a knockout cocktail on the busy evening terrace, we duly wandered down to Concorde 2, just in time for the last tune of Chatau Marmont‘s set. In a way this kind of points out the scale of The Great Escape, as this is a band we planned to watch and would love to see live, but because we were at the end of a mammoth three day festival, missing them in place for a Mojito somehow didn’t seem so bad. Nevermind, as we were really there to catch Sleigh Bells, the band arriving from New York with the most buzz. We darted straight backstage to say hello and met with their manager. Being over-confident on booze it’s possible that we tried to book them for a future Recommender show. Not totally sure though. Anyway, we were introduced to the New York duo. We enjoyed a funny moment when Derek Miller and I shook hands, before Alexis stepped forward and said “Hi, nice to meet you. My name’s Alexis…”. As if I didn’t recognise precisely who she was. We knew she was gorgeous, but in person she’s knock out. Totally knock out. We wished them lots of luck, but tonight they weren’t going to need it. Much in the same way Crystal Castles only played with a strobe light, the lighting for this show made it virtually impossible to photograph. We tried it from the photographer’s pit below, then from the stage entrance steps and finally by actually sneaking onstage with them, hiding behind the sampler desk. Lights or no lights, Alexis runs around the stage like a woman possessed, her hair moshing to the music. They’re unstoppable. The crowd got over-excited during Crown On The Ground and invaded the stage, which is not that easy when you consider there’s a barrier, a broad gap and quite a big step up, but the frenzy was simply too exciting for them. They were all quickly cleared offstage and Sleigh Bells completed the set that completed this years festival for us. It was glorious. The perfect storm. We love Brighton. It seems that there’s really no better place to escape to than your own home.
BEST TRACK – A/B MACHINES