We do like to be beside the seaside… The Great Escape 2013

20 May


Over the last few months we have cast covetous looks at twitter as friends and acquaintances have been getting ever more excited as this year’s Great Escape festival in Brighton approached. Knowing that we couldn’t go, we steadfastly tried to avoid looking wistfully at the line up and cursing our absence. Then something magical happened and suddenly Saturday at the festival was happening and a fantastic day we had too.

We may be the only ones, but multi-venue festivals featuring genuinely exciting up-and-coming new bands playing in a more urban environment, are much more appealing than standing up to your knees in mud, in a space where your tent used to be, with the smell from broken toilets filling your nostrils as in the distance an over-hyped band of questionable quality play middling tunes.

So it was that on Saturday, in and amongst the winding lanes of the city and on the occasionally garishly festooned seafront that we attended our first ever Great Escape, and we had a great time.

In just a few hours we were treated to full sets from nine bands and some quality chat with fellow bloggers, all of whom had convened for the day’s entertainment. Our main musical highlights are below but special mention should also go to Blue Hawaii, Eye Emma Jedi and Lulu James, each of whom put on storming sets that were vastly different to one another. The Jedi clan should be particularly commended as theirs was performed at short-notice to replace another act who couldn’t attend, and a few hours before their actual scheduled slot elsewhere later in the evening.

Playing in the tight surroundings of a packed Mesmerist pub, expectation for the much vaunted and blogged about Embers are high, very high indeed. Certainly much higher than the low ceilings that hang over their heads, offering an immediate challenge for a sound that likes room to breathe and expand, to find every nook and cranny in vast expanses and fill them to bursting. That cannot happen here and instead the sound explodes out at an audience so close to the action they are practically on stage, pummelling them with intensity and energy instead. They offer the kind of excitement and energy that NME promised us Palma Violets would offer, and then some. Veins bulge and sinews are strained as “Part of Echoes” (in particular) rises up and threatens to take the floor above with it. They may well be best suited to epic surroundings, but Embers sure can rock the tiny venues to their core as well.

Velvet Two Stripes
Beneath the promenade of cars on the main road, each pootling along the seafront with not a care in the world, something is brewing. Where you would normally expect to find DJ’s, disco and dance, today there is a trio of Swiss ladies, and they have come to rock. As baselines throb, electronics spasm and shudder into life, as vocals shriek out and drums thunder and boom, there is one more element that grabs the audience by its collective nutsack and won’t let go. Leaning slightly forward and staring straight ahead, resplendent in what appears to be a small cowboy hat and wearing the look of someone who knows just how damn good she is, stands Sara. In her hands, a weapon of such potent devastation it could bring Brighton to its knees should she wish it. From this stringed beast comes the sort of grinding, wailing licks that require you to pick your jaw back up from the floor after you’ve heard them. She effortlessly wields her guitar and coaxes from it solos and riffs that appear to conjure up the Ghost of Hendrix to play them. If we could play guitar, we’d want to play it like Velvet Two Stripes’ Sara, we imagine there’s more than one professional out there who thinks the same.

Following a set by the colourful effervescence of Lulu James can’t ever be easy but Danish purveyor of noodle-pop goodness, Karen Marie Ørsted (or MØ as she is better known) more than manages. Dressed in black and with a long plaited ponytail trailing down her back, she walks on stage with a look that parents of teenagers everywhere will know only too well. The challenging ‘yeah, what of it’ look that politicians point to when making statements about Broken Britain. We don’t know if there is an equivalent where MØ is from (Destroyed Denmark perhaps?) but it is a look she has perfected. What follows is a set of surprising and stunning energy and showmanship. She prowls around the stage, her plait whirling as she flings her head around, fists pumping the air and her legs, hips, feet and everything else jerk and thrust as she power dances. Sounds that transmit pleasantly from your stereo are injected with verve and vigour and attitude. She closes with “Pilgrim” which is transformed into something altogether more vibrant, the call of “Holla/Holla/Holla” is no longer a delicate piece of backing, here it is a full on, shout along call to arms. She has won many new followers to her cause tonight, of that there is no doubt, even if she does look like she could pull a knife and demand your wallet at any minute.

Closing the night for us, and our day of musical adventure, is Scottish electro-pop trio, Chvrches. Expectations are high and queues snake outside as excited festival-goers desperately seek entry into what is one of the hottest tickets (or wristbands) of all three days. Those lucky enough to get in are treated to a set that only enhances their reputation as one of the bands to watch out for right now. Not even the proclamation from an injured and bandaged Lauren (wrist) that all the men will die earlier than the women can dampen the audiences enthusiasm, not even the males. We are treated to a set of nine infectious electro-pop songs (with a real and very welcome emphasis on the pop element) that behove movement and that uplift and invigorate. As the air is dissected by green lasers and a tunnel of smoke surrounds Lauren from above, it is clear that there is more to Chvrches than a line of viciously entertaining and amazing tunes and by crikey what tunes they are. Big things are coming for these guys, no question.

One Response to “We do like to be beside the seaside… The Great Escape 2013”

  1. name not supplied August 1, 2013 at 22:17 #

    sounds good, i might see what next year’s has to offer and mooch over.

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