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Great Escape 2013: John’s Day 2 Evening Roundup

 
By on Friday, 31st May 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

An American Diner hot dog and a chat with the lovely Nina Nesbitt was my treat for the interval between bands on Day 2 of the Great Escape 2013 as I ventured across the Brighton seaside for some rock and roll at Concorde 2, courtesy of Arcane Roots, Marmozets and to a far, far lesser extent, Hacktivist.

Following the release of their debut record ‘Blood and Chemistry’, Arcane Roots have built upon their already formidable stock, gained through endless touring and promotion to become a hearty prospect on any billing. The record ‘Blood and Chemistry’ itself is fantastic, and is chocka block with the kind of anthemic rock music that Arcane Roots are powering out at the moment.

Live at Concorde 2, the guitars are absolutely huge and frontman Andrew Groves and bassist Adam Burton throw themselves about the stage with such force, it’s a miracle that by the end of the 30-minute set that they haven’t collided in anger. Central to the showcase is Groves’ tremendous vocal range, with his piercing falsettos and screeches reaching the ceiling of Concorde 2 before plummeting down to meet us in the pit.

Slow is anthemic in its inception and it’s obvious that this festival season you’re going to hear a lot of it. Maybe not as much as Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, but still, you can’t miss it. It’s huge. The entire set though proves a testament to how the band is destined for a massive 2013 and onwards. The songs are brilliantly constructed, and the three-piece pull those off with ease in the live arena, adding a beautiful bedlam to the proceedings. (9/10)

Marmozets offer up a less refined platter than Arcane Roots. Their music is very raw, with cutting riffs galore. Frontwoman Becca MacIntyre is not cut from the clichéd Hayley Williams or Florence and the Machine cloth that every female focal point is lambasted with these days, instead she hails from the relatively new school of Eva Spence. The kind of madam, who is not to be f****d with, if you get my drift?

While the rest of the band look no older than 16, they shred away through a set littered with wonky time signatures and shrieks. It’s a brilliant kind of catastrophe on stage as the band do look like they met 5 minutes before, but the music more than compensates as belting tune, after belting tune is produced by the five piece who have been garnering some more than favourable reviews from the associated rock press. (8/10)

Now after two brilliant sets of proper rock ‘n’ roll I was presented with the nu-metal sludgery of Hacktivist. A truly vile and awful band that genuinely upset me. Their cover of ‘Niggas in Paris’ by Jay-Z was frankly offensive and their nu-metal bile was aggressive and at times frankly just rude. No grace, no charm and arguably one of the worst bands I have ever seen live. Nothing more to say really, except that anyone saying nu-metal belongs in 2002-ish clearly hasn’t heard Hacktivist and realised that even Limp Bizkit had more going for them than this group. (0/10)

It didn’t get better from there sadly, as I ventured to The Loft for something a little lower key. Instead I was greeted by the tuneless aural assault that was The Weatherbirds. To give the lads credit, they are young and obviously were nervous, but it was a set of monotony, where each song blended seamlessly and regrettably, dully into the last. Luckily, it was only 15 minutes long. (3/10)

To close the night at The Loft were Nightworkers, a band who sported hairstyles from a variety of genres and generations. We had a faux Robert Smith on lead guitar and Huggy Bear’s English cousin on bass, fronted by a veritable Jim Morrison/Tom Meighan collaboration in the form of Jack Moullin. The songs are there, first and foremost, as a live outfit they are really tight regardless of whether their keyboard player Joe Haberfield is available.

Going back to the Meighan comparison though, Nightworkers have everything about them to emulate the Leicester-born, heirs to Oasis’ throne. Frontman Moullin is confidence personified and the lad-rock swagger is there in abundance throughout their short set. It’s all about boozing, broken romance and a bit more of the former and the crowd respond with a minor stage invasion, to which the band reacted well, by joining in the party on stage. (8/10)

After a break to catch my breath after the chaotic scenes at The Loft, it was off to arguably the biggest spectacle at The Great Escape 2013: the return of Klaxons. Now, I never got the fuss about Klaxons when they were first about, sure one of their members is fornicating with Keira Knightley and she’s swanning about Brighton and yeah, 2006’s ‘Myths of the Near Future’ was a top album. But 2009’s ‘Surfing the Void’ was utter bile, bar ‘Echoes’, so why the fuss? The whole ‘inspiring a genre’ is something I don’t buy into at all. However, with an opportunity to catch what the hassle was all about was one I couldn’t resist.

What I was met with was a slap in the face, as the synth-driven awesomeness of ‘Atlantis to Interzone’ hit me smack bang in the face. The set began at that pace and there were no signs of it ceasing, as the new songs which everyone was anticipating fitted seamlessly, into a set of Klaxons at their poncho wearing best.

Five new songs in total were what we were treated to, and if that is the quality that we should be expecting from their third record, then I am definitely in for a telling off. Thanks for proving me wrong, Klaxons. Now do something more awesome. I dare ya! (9/10)

To end the night, it was to somewhere a little more low-key than the Corn Exchange, the Green Door Store, where Canadian rock band The Balconies were closing the evening’s shenanigans. The sound was the opposite of low-key though, as frontwoman Jacquie Neville gyrated and gesticulated about the petit stage. The disappointment was that the band’s bass and guitar monitors were sadly far too loud and drowned out Jacquie’s voice, which on record for the Canadian outfit is the finest part.

However her energy and the sheer brutality of some of the songs were enough to limp along the set, for an extremely LOUD end to day 2 in Brighton. (5/10)

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Evening Roundup

 
By on Friday, 31st May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Every time the recurrent thought of “oh, I’m not doing the Great Escape next year, it’s too mental” comes into my mind, something amazing happens while I’m in Brighton that restores my faith about the seaside festival. True, it tends to attract more of the ‘entitled’ crowd than Liverpool Sound City does; the first afternoon this year, I was pushed to the side by two uni kids who were whinging about something instead of actually watching the band on stage. But for the sheer random things that seem to only occur in Brighton and you’re in the music business, you can’t beat TGE.

Last year I got lost one morning, only to be hilariously greeted by the sight of Zulu Winter (who I’d met at SXSW 2012 2 months earlier) literally busting out of their van on New Road. Friday night this year, on the recommendation of Ed Blow of Dirty Hit, I ordered moules and frites at the Dorset and who should call my name but Henry Walton, guitarist of the same band, in town playing in his friend’s band for the weekend. It was nice to see an old friend, but really, I was chuffed that he remembered me! If you’re wondering, Zulu Winter is working on their next album, which is great, great news! (Another moment to savour during the weekend was Jon Higgs of Everything Everything saying, “my, you’re a clever girl!” when I showed him my day job business card; his parents are biologists, which intrigued this boffin editor.) But on to Friday night…

In general, I usually don’t have to worry about badge queues at SXSW, because the majority of acts I want to catch in Austin are indie and British and usually aren’t all that well known in America yet. This night, my idea of catching Marika Hackman at the Unitarian Church and swanning in quickly and easily through the badge queue didn’t go exactly to plan. And to be honest, had I not gone up to security at the back door and asked him if there was a separate badge queue, I think everyone queuing would have just stayed in their places, oblivious that there should have been some queue hierarchy. So always ask! After my enquiry, they decided not to have badge and wristband queues; no, they decided to have 3-day versus weekend badge queues. Not terribly fair either; I can see if I were English and had to work on Thursday, there wouldn’t have been a point in me buying a 3-day wristband, is there? Anyway…

Marika Hackman Great Escape live

I got inside, only to hear the last 2 songs of Hackman’s set. Once inside the church, I realised what the problem with the place was; the room they were using was tiny! I was expecting it to be as big as the main room of St. David’s in Austin, and it’s nowhere near that. Forget the size for the moment, though. Whether it’s divine intervention or not, every concert or set I’ve seen inside a church has always been acoustically brilliant, and Hackman’s set here was no exception. Considering what I’d read previously about her love for Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac, I was surprised to see her stood with her guitar and no other accompaniment. She looked a little scared faced with so many eyes watching her. However, talent won out, as she stood resolutely to deliver one after another of her lovely songs. The applause at the end was thunderous, and she bashfully exited stage left with a huge grin on her face.

From there, I decided to check in to one of my favourite venues from last year, Sticky Mikes’s Frog Bar closer to the water. Why? There was a rock/folk double-header like no other, that’s why: Story Books, who I’d befriended at this year’s SXSW, and To Kill a King, TGTF 10 for 2013 poll alums who I’d not seen live yet. While I was waiting down the front, I met two really sweet girls on either side of me who knew of both bands, and neither were bloggers or in the business – seriously, what are the odds, right? One was from London and the other had come over from Canada. Going real international.

Story Books Sticky Mikes Great Escape live

Both bands have a lot of band members so the question was, how was eveyrone going to fit on the stage? The space restriction did affect Story Books’ Kris Harris and his ability to truly rock out the way he likes to when he’s wailing, but considering what space he was given, he did an admirable job with his moves on tunes like ‘Glory and Growth’. I think ‘Too Much Like a Hunter’ EP opening track ‘Simple Kids’ is ranking up there with my favourite anthemic songs of 2013 and will become a classic; it’s got such a memorable chorus and a driving rhythm throughout, just so mesmerising.

To Kill a King Sticky Mikes Great Escape live

If you’re a To Kill a King fan and don’t fancy Bastille (me) or you waited too long to buy your top-up tickets to the Brighton Dome show Saturday starring both to them (my new friends from London and Canada), then the only option left was to see To Kill a King alone at Sticky Mike’s on Friday. I’m really quite glad I chose this show over several others, and I’ll tell you why: even though they’re not entirely folk, TKAK put on one of the most memorable sets of my TGE experience this year, feeling like the cross between a hoedown and a house party. You wouldn’t expect a band that puts out an album called ‘Cannibals With Cutlery’ to be so amiable and non-aggro, but Ralph Pelleymounter and crew quickly got the crowd behind them with their winsome brand of rocking out folk.

The main complaint I have about Sticky Mike’s basement –besides the low, claustrophobic ceiling and stupidly placed beams always in your sightlines – is that there is no way in hell you’re getting a mobile phone signal down there. So if you’re going to meet somewhere there, you better get your communications sorted and plans made before you descend. I was supposed to meet several people there, but couldn’t find any of them. I did however run into the brilliant Louise Minter of AMP Publicity, who recognised me from last year and gave me a free-t-shirt; how nice is that? And with that, I went home. Yeah, I know, going home before midnight on Friday night at the Great Escape is a bit of a copout, isn’t it? Sometimes exhaustion wins out, though. And trust me, resting up for my Saturday was entirely worth it!

 

Great Escape 2013: John’s Day 2 Afternoon Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 3:00 pm
 

Header photo of Mikill Pane at the Fishbowl by Hannah Saul

To shake off the cobwebs / hangover / grossness of Thursday at the Great Escape 2013, an early start and breakfast at somewhere fancy seemed appropriate. My foolish decision to choose a croissant over a delicious panini, which my colleagues indulged in, was to be the first of my folly for the day.

Feeling unfulfilled and underwhelmed by my breakfast, I headed alongside Ollie from Top Button and Hannah Saul, TGTF’s resident videographer, towards the Fishbowl for my first Alternative Escape event of The Great Escape. In front of me were five fresh-faced lads from New Desert Blues. Their set proceeded to be a short showcase of what this band are all about, with a youthful exuberance in their music, their five-piece harmonies gracefully travelling around The Fishbowl.

The intricate guitars from their lead player proved the perfect augur for frontman Josh Parker’s brilliant voice. The tunes sounded big live, of that there was no denying, but when I returned home and had a listen to them on record it became clear that these guys were immensely talented. At the Fishbowl, there was an intense nervousness it seemed, but the impeccably dressed five-some with pristine instruments in hand managed to overcome these nerves to produce a thoroughly competent set. (7/10)

Following up from that were Night Engine, a band who our Head Photographer Martin Sharman raved about after their performances at Liverpool Sound City. Not only that, but I doff my cap to any band who play four gigs in the same city in 3days. It’s not record breaking stuff, but impressive nonetheless, especially with the level of energy and dynamism the band puts into its set.

At Above Audio, Night Engine did not disappoint. Frontman Phil McDonnell is a bastion of brash confidence, and their immensely funky bass riffs provided by Dan Deacon. It’s all quite faux-romantic material, with shades of one of their heroes Bowie prevalently appearing throughout. The entire gig in fact stunk of a late ’70s, early ’80s vibe which translated to the huge crowd brilliantly as heads bobbed in sequence. The tunes weren’t entirely memorable, but as a set, they gelled well and they stuck out as a shining spark amongst the indie scene at the moment. (8/10)

After a brief detour to buy the most sour sweet I’ve ever tasted (more on them later) we ducked into the Fishbowl again for some more Alternative Escape goodness, in the form of London rapper Mikill Pane, or as I see him, the black Example. Just listen to his new single ‘Good Feeling’ and tell me you don’t think of the silver-tongued rapper.

Onto Mikill though: an imposing fella at over 6 feet tall and not really what you expect at a venue like the Fishbowl, more akin to hosting guitar bands and such. But Mr. Pane makes the most of the packed crowd, shoehorned into the constraints of the venue. His call and return style of performance works brilliantly to a novice audience, and has the punters eating from the palm of his hand from square one.

Having cycled down from London (again, more on that later) his exuberance and high-energy in performance alongside DJ Odin was admirable and saw him earn a lot of fans amongst the naysayers. In fact, by the end the choruses were being belted out by the most timid fan, to the seasoned revellers. Harley Alexander-Sule of Rizzle Kicks was one of the amassed crowd, and just showed how Mikill Pane’s pop credentials are all there:

Friends with Rizzle Kicks – CHECK
Collaboration with Ed Sheeran – CHECK
Ridiculously catchy tune about cycling – CHECK
Endless call and repeat choruses – CHECK
The backing of Example and other pop juggernauts – CHECK

Smiles were worn by all around the Fishbowl at the end of Mr. Pane’s set but none wider than Pane himself. (9/10)

 

Great Escape 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Afternoon Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

I had arrived in Brighton the Tuesday prior to the Great Escape 2013 and was suffering from some kind of stomach bug that was not making me very happy. (It’s just not normal for me to be in Britain for so long and not have Indian at least once.) Add to that borderline exhaustion and admittedly too many things on my mind on what was coming up in a couple days, and nerves were fraying. So comparatively, my schedule for Friday was relatively tame, which I suppose shouldn’t be such a surprise, as I spent the previous night up too late at the Waggon and Horses pub across the street from the Dome with several of Everything Everything, Kodaline and PR mates and happily being on the receiving end of comments like, “the Irish will never leave you!” (Guess you had to have been there…)

New Desert Blues Great Escape live

I was really touched by the thank yous from Kodaline for coming out to their Dome show that I felt compelled to see them again the following afternoon at Audio. This was their second scheduled appearance in Brighton, with only one other at what I’d been told was a very small space at the Warren Friday night, so it was either see them at Audio or probably not see them again until they returned to Washington. After the previous rough night, I woke up later than I should have, and then decided I couldn’t leave the flat until Liverpool Sound City reports were all sorted for that week (you lucky people). John swanned off to meet our friends for breakfast while I was feverishly typing into my laptop and then I got a text to meet him at the Fish Bowl for a band called New Desert Blues. So I arrived just in time for the band’s last song, so I’ll let John fill you on their set.

From there, it was on to Above Audio to catch a taster of one of Martin’s faves from Sound City, Night Engine. Again, John stayed for the whole thing so I’ll let him talk about their set, but from the little I heard, I wasn’t really wowed or anything. However, I will say that Above Audio is a decently large space and it was packed, so obviously their reputation preceded them. I saw the band later that day, with their gear in the middle of a street, talking to each other, but was too shy to say hello.

Gavin James Great Escape live

Then it was downstairs to catch two of the three acts of the Music from Ireland showcase. I missed Kid Karate but had seen them at SXSW, but I was keen on catching singer/songwriter Gavin James. It may be a bit of a cliche to talk about cute Irishmen like they’re leprechauns, but James actually alluded to the fact that he probably looked like one that afternoon. He explained he’d purchased a green coat earlier that week but it wasn’t until he arrived at Audio that he realised out loud that it was very green and half-jokingly explained with his ginger hair and beard and this jacket, he probably looked like the largest leprechaun there ever was. Ha! This made everyone in the place laugh so hard.

I can take or leave the singer/songwriter genre, but in this particular case, there was something just so disarming about him that made to stop and take notice. James seems like the affable chap at the end of a bar, downing pints while making you laugh with his stories. I don’t know as many Irishmen personally as I’d like but even I’ve heard how legendary the gift of gab and craic is supposed to be among the Irish, and this is the kind of guy I think everyone wants on their side. With songs like ‘Carolina’ and ‘For You’ under his belt, he definitely has the chops to make it in this business.

Kodaline Brighton Audio Great Esccape live

There was a decent-sized crowd for Gavin James, but geez, when it came time for Kodaline‘s crew to set up their gear, I started to get the sardine-in-a-can vibes. I was reminded how in Brighton, in stark contrast to Liverpool, you’ll be jostled, bumped and shoved out of the way if someone else wants your spot. I’d earned my place fair and square, yet two women unrelated to each other thought it was perfectly okay to push me from either side so that there would be room for them down the front. I was none too happy, but I stood my ground. No-one was going to ruin this experience for me.

Despite the pushing and shoving and the obligatory Facebook snaps with the band playing in the background taken by some of these punters with low attention spans, this Kodaline experience was near perfect for me. I always say to people that the absolute best thing to happen to you as a music fan is to watch an up and coming band gig in a teeny, tiny place and completely nail it, and of course, this doesn’t always happen, as you can’t always predict which band is going to be the Next Big Thing or indeed present when they play that hole in the wall place in your town. Kodaline have already gotten a taste for DC’s 9:30 Club and its cupcakes earlier this month, and I missed it. But I can say I saw them in places like Brighton Audio, where in a small room they left new fans spellbound. ‘All I Want’ is getting the lion’s share of attention here in America, and I don’t understand why ‘High Hopes’ doesn’t get more credit. It’s a huge, huge song that proves this band from Dublin can write anthems with the best of them. When I say to people, “they’re going to be the Irish Coldplay‘, I mean it.

Pray
Perfect World
High Hopes
Love Like This
All Comes Down to You
All I Want

 

Video Interview: Itch at the Great Escape 2013

 
By on Thursday, 30th May 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Itch, former frontman of the King Blues, is now a solo artist in his own right. Festival liaison John managed to get a chat with the gregarious singer at this year’s Great Escape, and thanks to John’s PA for the day, Hannah Saul, we’ve got it preserved on video for all to see. Watch the interview below, in which Itch tells us about his recent solo tour in Europe, what bands he’s seen so far at this year’s festival and about this unusual performance he’s got scheduled in an art installation. BBC-style content warning: there’s quite a bit of swearing in this video, so you have been warned.

Many thanks to Itch for this chat and to Ashley, who helped sort this interview for us – cheers!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN-DxgmKYO0[/youtube]

 

Great Escape 2013: John’s Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 29th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

As I stepped foot on the platform of Brighton station, I was met with not the 65 MPH winds that I was foretold, but instead with flecks of sunshine and a bustling throng of people ahead of me. So I trundled cautiously down the street wrapped in my cardigan and carrying my rather inconspicuous suitcase, I walked past The Hope, where my first live music experience of The Great Escape 2013 would take place.

Who would be that first experience? Well, a band that I came upon, completely by chance at The Great Escape 2011, by the name of Brother and Bones. Their signature brand of acoustic-driven stompery, which struck a real accord with me then wasn’t the centre point of their set this time around.

Instead, the focal point was that of Richard Thomas’ majestic vocal talents. The all out hoe-downery of their past shows was forgotten in favour of the more sensitive and subtle touch. Whether it was the best approach ion the tight confines of the Hope, is up for debate, but regardless of that Thomas and co.’s elegant harmonies struck an accord with the partisan audience of critics, A & R’s and the rest. Fully acoustic number ‘Gold and Silver’ was a mixture of what is brilliant about Brother and Bones though, fully showcasing the vocal prowess of Richard, whilst drawing attention to the elegance of the songwriting. (7/10)

After a brief interlude for a spot of Tiffin and a change of clothes to more sun-appropriate attire, I headed to The Warren to catch hotly tipped Tom Odell. After a reasonable amount of time queuing for an act, whom I believed was overhyped but worth a listen, I ended up in the staging area of the venue. A kind of Secret Garden Party / 2000 Trees hybrid in the middle of Brighton. Quaint? Yes. But after quarter of an hour longer waiting I lost patience and decided to head to The Prince Albert for some light folk.

Now Dancing Years (pictured at top) are an entirely different kind of prospect to what I expected. Going in relatively unprepared, I was expecting some wobbly synths, dodgy time signatures and all the other indie clichés that we love and loathe in equal measure. What I was met with was a touching mix of melancholic folk, but with the focal point of David Henshaw, in a more understated fashion than Brother and Bones earlier. In fact, the show revolved around the man, with the gentle violin being drowned out by his obvious talent.

He came across as a kind of squeaky clean Jack Steadman / Will Harvey hybrid. Resolute in stance, yet face-to-face as personable as any frontman, he makes the perfect central point for Dancing Years. The band’s gentle melodies are only going to see their stock gather strength and with shades of Dry the River interspersed amongst the soaring harmonies, they make for easy listening. Add to that equation that big hitters like Seymour Stein were in the audience and you’ve got ones to watch right here people. The only disappointment was the rather sparse crowd, probably owing to the venues distance from the main swarm of events. (8/10)

The allure of something raw like Dingus Khan was too much after the sheened sounds of Dancing Years, so off to the Hope I rattled my broken body. Only to be met by a sprawling queue, which while being entertaining in the characters I met, who included a Dingus Khan fan from Warner Music, a 19-year old PA for We Were Evergreen’s manager. and two bookers from the Netherlands’ PinkPop festival, who I’d like to note had some fantastic hairstyles.

And while the conversation was stimulating, the popularity of Dingus proved too much, as I was not allowed into the venue. However, I am reliably informed by Ollie McCormack of Top Button Digital that they were brilliant, and that the album is great to shake of the cobwebs of TGE on a Monday.

Following up from the disappointment of missing Dingus, I stumbled into the Hope for the second time that day to catch Dinosaur Pile-Up. Another Leeds-based outfit that in 2011 provided me with the scenes of the most chaotic gig in my memory, with stage invasions galore, circle pits aplenty and an appropriate amount of urine in plastic cups. It’s a festival, eh?

This set was a far more restrained affair, with the audience only really getting into it properly in the final few songs. Dinosaur Pile-Up’s hectic, strangled shredding should have been perfect for this venue, with shoulders pressed firmly against the walls by band and punters alike. ‘Mona Lisa’ kept its attraction and proved the hub of the set for me musically. Nevertheless, the moment of the short set was when a circle pit broke out at the front, and the smile of the veteran moshers face next to me as he watched with glee at the chaos unfolding, albeit momentarily in front of him. (6/10)

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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