A-Z of The Great Escape Festival

16 05 2011

With over 300 new bands showcased in 30 venues across Brighton, The Great Escape festival is like Camden Crawl, only with more seagulls. And one and a half more piers. Here are 26 alphabetical mini reviews from the gig-fest by the sea…

Apes, Fight Like. If Florence & The Machine had decided to add synths instead of harps, and a punky attitude instead of a formula for chart topping success then they’d still only be half as good as Fight Like Apes.

Brothers and Bones. After waiting through the abomination that was ‘Trials’ (who were doing a bad impression of an early 2000 college band), Brothers and Bones brought bongos and bluesy rock to a packed Komedia on Friday lunchtime. Toes were tapped, heads were nodded and clapping ensued.

Concorde 2. A cracking venue that didn’t feature in my weekend purely for the fact that it’s just to far away from everything (apart from the nudist beach).

D/R/U/G/S. And not the recreational kind. Don’t be fooled by the quirky forward slashes kids, drugs really are bad.

Experience. Only a wise old festival head will know that you’re better off sticking close to your venue or gigs of choice, thus maximising the time spent watching music and minimising the time spent being turned away from capacity shows. As a second year veteran, last years disappointments were vital to this years resounding gig watching success.

Frankie and The Heartstrings. Not even sound issues could stop F&TH cementing themselves as my favourite band of the weekend. Lead singer Frankie performed the second half of the set from the lofty heights of the bar in front of the singing, dancing masses. And after that show, lofty heights is something the Sunderland five-piece better get used too.

Guest, Special. Despite rumours of a Snoop Dogg gig, there was nothing to rival last years surprise Cribs show.

Heartbreaks, The. When the Heartbreaks last played Brighton it was in front of a handful of punters on the night of the X Factor final. On this occasion TV viewing figures deprived them of a larger crowd, but this time there were no such distractions. “Elegant British pop to be proud of” is how the guide book described them, and boy did they live up to the hype.

In Flight Safety. Didn’t see them, but it’s a good name right? And a more than acceptable review for ‘I’.

Jezabels, The. They played four shows over the three days, each one of them a resounding and packed out success. The futures bright.

Katy B. A combination of good timing and savvy queuing meant that I got to see one of the weekend’s big names. Once I got inside, the bass line shook the Corn Exchange to the ground and Katy B showed everyone why she’s one of 2011’s biggest stars. Oh and ‘On A Mission’ – TUNE.

Lucy Rose. The elfin-esq singer songwriter has added a backing band to her phenomenal voice and heartfelt lyrics. The 12.30 slot in Komedia didn’t do her talent justice.

Mean Poppa Lean. Stripped back acoustics and a man down, Brighton based Mean Poppa Lean didn’t disappoint. Stage presence and catchy rhythms – local boys done good.

Newcastle Brown Ale. My tipple of choice. And what a bad choice it was come Friday morning.

Open Air. Three days spent in dark, low ceilinged venues could have started to become tiresome. But in true festival fashion, many of the surprise an impromptu gigs took place in the May sunshine – and the festival is all the better for it.

Phone Signal. A seemingly permanent feature of TGE was that none of the venues had any phone signal, particularly those on the seafront. Difficult to keep in touch with fellow gig goers, but it did save my twitter followers from a host of drunken tweets.

Queueing. Ahhh the ever present problem. There were some hefty queues, particularly at the bigger venues but the brilliance of TGE is that there’s always a venue with space just round the corner.

Relentless. Hosts of the open air gigs at festival HQ, the free caffeine packed drinks only added to the wealth of the musical talent on offer. Shameless promotion, yes. But good music to go with it.

Seaside, The. They both have plenty of gigs, lots of new bands and a whole load of drunk music fans, but one thing that Glastonbury doesn’t have is the Great Escape’s sea front setting.

Turner, Frank.

Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings,
About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings,
And the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering,
And help us with remembering that the only thing that’s left to do is live.
After all the loving and the losing, the heroes and the pioneers,
The only thing that’s left to do is get another round in at the bar.

Poet of the people doesn’t do it justice.

Unknowns. Brother and Bones, Dog Is Dead, Young Empires, just three of the previously unknown bands (to me) I saw this weekend. Some instantly forgettable, others slotting nicely into my new music collection. This is why I love The Great Escape.

Various Publications. When I asked a music journalist who she wrote for, she replied “Various Publications”. Could that answer have got any more pretentious?

Wristbands. Your key to the city. That is unless there’s a queue.

tXt Service. You’ll have to let have this one. The text service is a vital part of this festival, allowing you to keep up to date with capacity issues and secret gigs (phone signal depending).

Yuck. The ones that got away, dam line up clashes.

Zzzzz. Or lack of. Thank the lord that TGE ends on a Saturday to give you Sunday to recover (and write a mildly amusing blog entry).


Toys Will Tear Us Apart: Joy Division – Transmission in Playmobil

9 02 2011

The story of one of my favourite bands – Joy Division – is far from light hearted. That was until their famous John Peel session from 1979 was turned into a Playmobil music video. Showing an uncanny resemblance to the original, the only difference with this toy inspired version is that the band members appear to be smiling.

Live Review: The Heartbreaks @ The Hope, Brighton

12 12 2010

Competing with the X Factor final isn’t a small task, but it’s the task that lay ahead of The Heartbreaks on a bitter Brighton evening in December. The Morecambe four piece were a support band and a few Brighton fans light as they took to the stage – undoubtedly feeling the effects of touring induced illness – but with high levels of anticipation none the less.

With a look that could have seen them easily slot into the cast of ‘This Is England 86’, The Heartbreaks showed exactly why they’ve been compared to their idols The Smiths with a short, sharp set consisting of brilliantly romantic indie pop tinged with a boredom and sadness born from their Northern roots. Their debut single ‘Liar, My Dear’ gets a rousing reception, while newby ‘I Didn’t Think It Would Hurt To Think Of You’ reads, and sounds like it could have been penned by Morrissey himself. When eagerly describing The Heartbreaks to my X Factor favouring friends post gig, I likened them to a British version of ‘The Drums’. And by a British version, I mean that The Heartbreaks have more balls, more guts, and more depth than The Drums ever could have dreamt up on their journey to to sun-kissed chart success.

They didn’t have a scantily clad Rihanna to win the audiences hearts, and they certainly didn’t have millions of pounds to spend on stage production. But while Simon and his elves were wrapping up Christmas number 1, The Heartbreaks were starting out on an entirely different popularity contest. A popularity contest that could see them become one of the hottest indie prospects of 2011. And after that performance – it’s a yes from me.

Song For The Weekend: The Maccabees – Walking In The Air

11 12 2010

Criminally underrated and lovable in equal quantities, The Maccabees proved that the ‘difficult second album’ really wasn’t that difficult when they followed their debut album ‘Colour It In’ with the phenomenal ‘Wall of Arms’. Taking a break from the recording of their third album, they’ve now gone and added a Christmas song to their ever growing arsenal. But not just any Christmas song, they’ve only gone and covered ‘Walking In The Air’! It would be incredibly cheesy if it wasn’t so bloody brilliant, magically haunting and remarkably moving. Mariah Carey eat your plastic heart out.

Freddie Mercury: 19 Years On

24 11 2010

So far this month all of my posts have focussed on the Movember charity initiative, but for one day only I’m making an exception for one of the greatest musical personalities of all time. Today, 24th November, is the 19th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death so I wanted to dedicate today’s post to Freddie and his astonishing musical legacy.

Live Review: Johnny Borrell & Friends – Audio Brighton 11/09/10

14 09 2010

It’s very difficult to review anything to do with Johnny Borrell without mentioning his tight white jean wearing, Kirsten Dunst dating, chart storming past. To dub him the ‘Marmite’ of front men is almost an understatement, but I went into this gig with the hope that for once he’d let the music do the talking.

The last time I saw Johnny Borrell perform live it was on Razorlight’s arena tour on the back of their second album, so to then see him nervously shuffle on to the tiny, dingy stage in Audio a mere 3 yards away from me was a contrast to say the least.

So with a clean slate and three new members, Johnny Borrell takes to the Audio stage with his (currently un-named) new band – comprising of a long haired grungy lead guitarist, a hippy bassist and a drummer with dashing boy band good looks. With minimal banter, a visibly nervous Borrell dives straight in a short, but energetic set which includes all new songs and a slight shift in direction from his Razorlight past. The base line has more funk, the lead guitar has more bite and refreshingly Borrell looks like he’s got his hunger back. Jolting his alarmingly skinny frame around the stage to the slightly rockier new sound, he interacts with his band mates and even cracks a smile at one point.

Lyrically its a shift away from the ‘night out/morning after’ style of early Razorlight, with more of an ‘us against the world mentality’ – a real reflection of Borrell’s journey these past few months and a rousing rallying call to the battles that lie ahead.

As quickly as they arrived, Johnny and his new band mates were gone. What they left behind was a set of tight, energetic rock songs and a swarm of happy punters. While Johnny Borrell & Friends weren’t the headline act tonight, it’s in his nature to steal the headlines, and on this evidence it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing these type of venues for long.

Pretty Fragrant: Sex Pistols Release Fragrance

10 09 2010

In what surely has to be the most bizarre beauty launch of all time, punk legends the Sex Pistols have released a fragrance. Apparently the scent is unisex (“A sample of Sex Pistols EDP madame?”) and is said to contain notes of lemon, pepper, patchouli and leather. The bottle itself is inspired by the iconic ‘God Save The Queen’ album cover – complete with safety pins and the Union Jack.

‘In the spirit of punk, you must be willing to express yourself with abandon. You wouldn’t be adverse to creating mayhem’ the company behind the launch have announced. I don’t know about you, but I reckon it’s got a fairly good chance of smelling ‘Rotten’.