The Great Escape 2010
Once a year thousands of industry types, music fans and bands journey to Brighton to take part in a wonderful three day event we call The Great Escape. Last year was incredible and this year was pretty much the same. Lots of sun, sea, stone skipping, band watching, fine dining, getting the worst press pass photos taken, the technical difficulties associated with any festival, the walking, the finding out such and such isn't playing, realising the band you wanted to see wasn't really very good but the weird band you stumbled across while getting a drink was the best band you saw and of course, the queues. Here's a few of the band's we've picked out as our highlights. Funeral Party managed to start of our Great Escape adventure in style. Taking place of another band (Calories in this instance) is always going to lead to some difficulties. Mainly playing to an group of people frantically flicking through their festival guide to figure out what the hell was going on, but credit to them, they managed to pull it off. Beautiful Californian Indie, with a pop edge. Very reminiscent of Head Automatica at times (not really on record), these guys managed to win over the crowd by the end.
Japandroids courageously battled against the elements to provide us with an enjoyable, if not short, set of in-your-face masterpieces. Most bands would have taken such technical difficulties as an opportunity to freak the fuck out but they didn't. They took it for it was and went with it. All credit to them.
Avi Buffalo were the sort of band that would have best suited a daytime set on the beach, rather than a late night (god my legs are hurting) set in pitch black room. Regardless of that, these guys played a flawless set. At the average age of 18, these Californians played one of the most confident performances I've seen in a long time. Very impressive. Ruby Suns were another band that fell fowl of the 'technical difficulties monster' at their show at Revenge but that wasn't going to stop them as they headed to the Pavilion Theatre later in the day to showcase songs from their latest record, Fight Softly. At times it lacked presence but at its peak, these guys really connected. Ultimately the above record is a stunner and so even though they seemed a bit bummed from their earlier mishap they couldn't fail to be worth seeing; it's just a shame that they didn't get the chance to shine in a more intimate venue and it would have been nice to have thought that they were enjoying themselves more. Stagecoach might be teachers pets around 405 towers, but this sort of performance really cements why we love them so much. Banging out songs from their soon-to-be released EP 'Crash My Ride', the band ended their set with lead guitarist Nick Tanner on top of some amps and drummer Matt Emery leaving his drum kit behind for Elephants' drummer to take his place while he balanced on the bar. Mental? Yes. Brilliant? Also yes. Hold Your Horse Is took part in the BSM showcase at the Pav Tav and delivered one of the best sets of the weekend. Playing to a packed house, this three piece played an extremely confident set amongst the drunks, the Jägerbombs and the lovely sea air. If you needed a wake up call, these guys certainly gave you it. Grown Ups certainly ticked the curiosity box. A few days after their performance the band were set to play a set of covers for us in London, so we were all wondering if we'd made the right decision. We were right. Playing the sort of music that only Americans can pull off, this Chicago based band gave anyone that wasn't wearing ear plugs a reason to see the doctor once the weekend was over. Muuchu were one of our hidden gems. Playing to a small but attentive crowd at Life, near the back bar, the innocent, youthful duo bashed out a bissed out, thoroughly melodic, charming and languorously charismatic set. 'Somebody Tell Me' was easily their highlight track; so effortlessly catchy, just the right side of saccharine and pulled off with tightness and surprisingly heavy beats. Ok, they might fall a little foul of the most adamant supported of the war on twee (TWAT) but unless you really do have a heart of stone, Muchuu are one band we seriously expect to be thrust into the glittery limelight very soon.
Broken Social Scene were always going to be good. You can't have that sort of line-up and history without being good and they proved that with a set that included Willkommen Collective taking up brass section duty. If you missed it you were either a) in the queue or b) being carried out on a stretcher due to the sauna type temperature within the Corn Exchange. Seabear are a brilliant, if slightly morose looking set of Icelandic pop folksters. To say someone is 'typical' could only be such high praise when it's Iceland they're typical of and despite not having heard much of their material prior to this intimate gig downstairs at The Terraces, Seabear certainly impressed. Gorgeous, understated melodies shored by fulsome, gorgeous trumpet, piano and violin harmonies were very much the order of the day. Whilst they didn't throw up any real surprises or left-field tempo changes,
Danny And The Champions Of The World played their folky sounds outside a campervan on the seafront, near the Concorde 2. Giving free beer out to the crowd and covering Springsteen amongst others, there was a real party atmosphere with festival punters joined by people on their way home from work and a bunch of holidaymaking families. The Northwestern unveiled not only a new lineup but also a new sound. Backed by brass and violin, the band have moved on from their impressive, albeit standard, indiepop fare to something far more intense and complex - imagine a noiser Broken Social Scene and you're halfway there. It's still a long way off Hope Of The States, one song even has a samba/calypso vibe, but it shows a band willing to reinvent themselves again and again. Othello Woolf, we are told, writes and composes all of his music and then auditions for a band to help him play it. Well, the young London lad and his band of cool rolling funksters both do a bloody good job of it. We're also told this is one of this first live shows, which adds even more gravitas to a performance that is assured, effortlessly cool, and intelligently funky in a way that few bands can get right these days without coming off as weird Parliament rip off or uncomfortable fusion. Othello's tunes are heartfelt, catchy and when delivered as they were from the balcony of second floor Beyond Retro, have an air of lilting timelessness.
Sky Larkin played in the hottest venue known to mankind. Mixing up efforts from their debut album 'The Golden Spike', along with fuller-sounding tracks from forthcoming sophomore effort 'Kaleide'. A band growing in confidence, it was just a shame I could only see one band member and their set was so short. Although it was a relief to be able to breathe on exiting the venue. Basia Bulat was my surprise of the festival. I'd never heard of her but made my way to the Church venue to get my front row seat for Slow Club, and was astounded by her enchanting voice. Starting off by playing the piano at the back of the room, she soon moved to the front stage and was ably backed by two friends on bass, trumpet and backing vocals. She continued to mesmerise everyone with her unique take on folky pop, including an enticing acapella song to close the set. She also had some unusual instruments - of all the acts that performed at TGE, did any others play the hammered dulcimer? They say if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all. With that in mind, Wild Palms:... Team Ghost, Nicolas Fromageau's offshoot from previous band and French shoegazers M83 were in wall-of-sound guitar rock out mode through the entire set and it proved a pleasingly relentless sensation. At time it was a little one-trick but in the low-lit cramp of Revenge it was enveloping and the lack of subtlety was easily made up by Nicolas' enthusiasm and the heavy hitting grooves. Check out the EP whilst you wait for their next show, it's awesome, and here's hoping they flesh out the dynamics a bit in the future; it will make them great.
Slow Club closed the festival in style. Although seemingly a bit overawed by the grand surroundings of the Unitarian Church at first, the two piece soon got into their groove and made use of the tremendous acoustics, performing a number of awesome-sounding new songs. Their harmonies were to die for, and they also had a nice aside in typically self-depreciating wit. Finishing with an unplugged version of 'Christmas TV' that had everyone, even the corporates, singing along, it was the perfect end to another Great Escape. PS. See you next year Brighton. x Header image © Mike Burnell 2010