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).