I have spent the last few days at Europe’s biggest festival for new music, The Great Escape in Brighton. Like Dot to Dot, Camden Crawl and Live at Leeds, it is a city festival and takes place at a number of venues across Brighton, each hosting an array of the best new music from around the world. Its a fantastic event, the range of music they have can satisfy anyone, from artists like Katy B, The Vaccines and Sufjan Stevens right across to relative unknowns like Rachel Sermanni, Braids and Foster the People. Heres a rather folky review of my time at the festival.
The first band I went to see was Treetop Flyers, recently winners of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and a band who I have been blogging about quite a bit. They played in Beyond Retro, where I ended up going to see a lot of daytime gigs over the weekend. Despite the small crowd (Thursday is quiet anyway), they were great. A band who are guaranteed to continue making waves throughout the festival season, starting my festival season off in grand style. I then received a text from The Great Escape informing me of a secret Smoke Fairies gig on a Balcony across town. One top tip I would give to anyone considering going to the Great Escape festival in the future is to sign up to the text alerts, it costs £1.50 but its well worth it. Smoke Fairies are a great band, and although they were slightly drowned out by the sounds of the street, I was really glad I managed to catch one of their sets.
Back to Beyond Retro next for Cloud Control. Wonderful! And then again for another secret gig, an acoustic set by Cloud Control. I then walked to the very end of Brighton Pier to Horatios to see Big Deal. Their blend of folk, pop and lo-fi provided a very chilled out gig. Next up, Cloud Control (see below), for the third time in one day! After seeing them in Beyond Retro I completely fell in love, there acoustic set was brilliant too but it was the evening show at the Corn Exchange which stood out a mile. They completely suited the huge venue and there energy was infectious. So many catchy songs to match their incredibly unique MGMT means Jefferson Airplane sound. This is a band who could steal the whole summer for me.
I spent the next part of my evening in an tiny upstairs room of the Prince Albert watching Mechanical Bride and Dry the River (see below). The sound and lighting in the venue was terrible but both acts managed to power through that and put on wonderful shows. Mechanical Bride will soon be releasing her much awaited album and judging by her set, its going to be quite a treat. Despite blogging about Dry the River over a year ago, I had never seen them live. They completely exceeded my expectations. Their first EP is quiet and pretty, mixing Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons but live they completely stand there own folky ground, exploding in sound half way through almost every song. Ones to watch for sure. After a failed attempt to get into Warpaint, my first day at The Great Escape came to a wonderful end.
After very annoyingly managing to miss both Rachel Sermanni and Lucy Rose, my first band of the day was Kyla La Grange. I can’t quite make my mind up about this girl. I like her voice, its very Ellie Goulding, but her sound is more rocky. I love her song on The Flowerpot Sessions, a clear standout of the album, but I can’t quite make up my mind about her other material. I’ll get back to you on that one. I then headed for the beach for my favourite secret gig of the weekend, James Vincent McMorrow (see below) on the famous Brighton Donut Pier. I love his album, but live he completely blew that out of the water. His voice was flawless and with so much power. The songs ran over the gorgeous sounds of the ocean and seagulls. Truly stunning. Michael Kiwanuka next, who I love and he is great live too. A wonderful voice and excellent songwriting. He played only with a bass player which was nice, but I would love to see him with a full band.
Next I headed to the Florist for Bloggerati, a blogging event organised by The Recommender, which sounds super geeky but it was actually really nice. I managed to meet up with Breaking More Waves, Faded Glamour, There Goes the Fear and Live Life Love Music, nice to put a face to a web address.
The highlight of my Friday was the incredible Anna Calvi (see below) at Komedia. The last time I saw her was when she supported Johnny Flynn at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds and its fair to say I didn’t really get it. Since then she has released a stunning album, my favourite of the year so far and I have absolutely fallen in love with her. She was perfect, incredible guitar player and stunning voice. I think the whole audience was stunned to silence when she played the first note of ‘Rider to the Sea’. I then went to The Recommender after party at Audio. The sound was pretty bad but I saw Alpines who were great. They are gonna be big business soon so it was great to catch them in such a small room. Real Fur also played that night who were really good, great bass player.
Dry the River started off my Saturday with a secret set at The Hub. After a couple of songs the PA system blew so they played an acoustic set on the edge of the stage, it was stunning and great to see them play so differently than at the Prince Albert. I then managed to catch about half of the last Lanterns on the Lake song as I got lost trying to find the Queens Hotel. I have since been informed that is was stunning so I am quite gutted about that one. Another secret set then, this time Guillemots in a car park. It was great, Fyfe’s voice is so powerful live, much better than on record.
The first band of my evening were Stealing Sheep at the Unitarian Church. I was excited to see a gig in the church but was very disappointed to find that the sound in the room was terrible. It really ruined the set for me which was such a shame as Stealing Sheep are such a great band and I would have loved to see them in another venue. I then went to see Daughter, I have fallen in love wither her EP and the songs translated well live too. She is very shy on stage which isn’t a bad thing, reminds me of the gigs from a very young Laura Marling. I then saw Olaf Arnolds (see below) in the Pavilion Theatre, which disappointingly wasn’t a very nice theatre but she was incredible. For a solo singer to stand on stage with a guitar and command the attention of the whole room the way she did is very rare. She played both a Johnny Cash cover and Bob Dylan cover as well as an array of her own Icelandic songs and got the audience, who were all sat on the floor, singing along an a couple of occasions. I would highly recommend catching her live if you can, stunning.
I then went to the Communion showcase room for Marcus Foster, as usual he was amazing, with a voice and stage presence like that, you can’t not be. He played a couple of tracks from the upcoming debut album which all sounded promising. A fine young talent. King Charles ended my evening with his unique brand of folk rock. He is someone who I have been waiting to make it big for a long time but he has never quite reached it yet. Everytime I have seen him though, he completely rams the room, mostly with girls in love with him, so it can’t be long before someone realises he is something special. A wonderfully energetic way to end my Great Escape Weekend.
Overall it was a great weekend, my standout highlights were Anna Calvi and Cloud Control, shortly followed by James Vincent McMorrow and Olaf Arnolds. The festival as a whole is great too, the location makes you feel like you are having a mini seaside holiday and the eccentricity of the streets of Brighton triples with the vibes of the festival. See you next year!
Mechanical Bride- Colour of Fire
Cloud Control- Meditation Song #2
Dry the River- New Ceremony