Monday, 17 May 2010

Great Escape 2010 @ Brighton - Review (Day 2)

With the promise of more sun by the seaside, spending the whole day in dark nightclubs, pubs and other such venues is not such an attractive proposition. Thankfully The Great Escape provides for a number of outdoor gigs.

A carport forms an amateur makeshift d-i-y stage in the ray-drenched courtyard of Shipwrights Yard, where the Republic of Music and Skint Records present a varied showcase of artists. Yet there’s nothing amateur about The Miserable Rich. They have a beautiful elegance, grace and composure in their songs that often reference substance abuse. “They call me a pisshead, but what do they know, there’s more love in this head, than these eyes can show,” sings lead vocalist James as their cellist downs a can of Scrumpy Jack. Violin, acoustic guitar, hand bells and the aforementioned cello combine to create warm, affecting and highly charismatic songs.

Watched by both Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim and Egyptian Hip Hop the odd ball quirkiness, blonde mop top, vacant stare and warbling Syd Barret-esque psychedelic weirdness of Connan Mockasin is an acquired taste but receives love from a significant number of the audience. Childlike, almost a joke gone wrong, the songs he plays are dreamy, hazy and just one joint away from being utterly surreal.

“This is our first gig in the sunshine, we’re not usually of a very sunny disposition,” suggest Mirrors (pictured) as the rhythmic pulse of Fear of Drowning rings out over the courtyard. Certainly their angst-ridden ambient electro pop shouldn’t work in the daylight and the addition of sharp suits, dark shirts, ties and attempt of using a strobe in broad daylight should fail dramatically, but it doesn’t. With their vocalist adding some skinny boy camp robot dancing it seems that Mirrors emergence into the light is a good thing.

As the ever expanding audience enjoy the weather there are two things that strike immediately about Tigs, the lead singer of Chew Lips. First that she exudes self confidence, pulling shapes and chatting to the audience as if they were her new best friends, the second that she carries a superb vocal - a soulful Karen O singing perfectly over layered digital pop. This girl can really sing, without seeming to ever try too hard. Slick, with its plentiful bounty of beeps and builds is particularly gilt-edged. The Great Escape may be an indoor festival, but sometimes dancing in the afternoon sun is the top-drawer way to go.

As evening slowly approaches The Futureheads play a not so secret ‘secret’ show on the porch roof of the entrance to Audio. The set is punchy, urgent and short, the band appearing to be somewhat befuddled by the unusual setting of the gig which sees them raised up significantly higher than the crowd and surrounded by palm trees. “This is very strange isn’t it? You can probably see right up my nose into my brain,” jokes lead singer Barry. As second wave indie brit rock / landfill indie has died a death it’s important to note that The Futureheads remain a going concern. It’s easy to be complacent about their concise new wave sound, but they are still a sharp and impassioned band. Still not afraid to give the punters what they want they end with their cover of Hounds of Love (see video below) and skip away into the sunset.

Coalition welcomes the space drums, synth washes and robot vocals of Polish three piece Kamp! Heading for planet future-retro pop their danceable grooves hint at French house and colder German electronica. It slowly draws people in to the darkness and dancing.

Dancing is something that you might expect from an audience watching Gold Panda. Or at least some significant head nodding. Yet Life is so oppressively rammed that even the chopped samples and loops of You cannot make people move - probably because they can’t. Nine months ago Gold Panda played in Brighton (here) and about forty people were there to witness it. How times have changed.

Back in Coalition Wolf Gang brings a menagerie of influences and mixes them all up to give a modern pop context - hints of David Byrne, eccentric indie pop and possibly even first album MGMT can be heard. Standing infront of an illuminated white cube with his name on it, a white scarf draped around his neck, Wolf Gang (real name Max McElligott ) is at his best when he’s creating big sing-a-long pop songs such as The King And All Of His Men, which despite being a hit track on many of the hip blogs has a mainstream sensibility written all over it that suggests it wouldn’t be out of place on BBC Radio 2.

As the night continues its time for Hurts. For the third time this year they overwhelm us with their melodramatic theatrical brilliance. Opera singer. Check. Theo Hutchcraft staring moodily at the floor. Check. Affected use of the hand in pocket. Check. Vampire cheekbones. Check. Almost Nazi-esque outstretched hand. Check. Sensuously fingering the microphone stand. Check. Slicked hair and suits. Check. Yet aside from the image, all of the calculated pretension, all of the things that make Hurts visually so appealing to some and annoy the hell out of others, they have a collection of grandly brilliant pop songs. And at the Great Escape, unlike the NME tour where at some venues Hurts found some punters drifting away as they played, the band have the audience in their hands, or rather most of them - Drowned in Sound in an entirely predictable way tweeted that Hurts were gut sucking. By the time Better Than Love blasts in in a wave of strobe light euphoria, Hurts are riding the crest of the wave. Theo even has a wry smile on his face. He knows this is vindication. “Do you ever feel emptiness, are you scared it’s going to last forever?” Theo questions at the start of Happiness. Despite what some have been suggesting, the sound of Hurts is not empty at all. This is how all great pop music should be. Triumphant.

Still in Coalition Kid Adrift have a difficult job to follow and unfortunately suffer serious technical difficulties. They only have stage monitors for two songs, half their rig cuts out and one drunken member of the audience feels it necessary to shout abuse at them. Yet the band persevere and ultimately deliver with waves of beats, complex crescendos of piano and extreme bombastic rock sounds. Imagine Muse suddenly discovering processed heavy beats on a laptop, and you would be somewhere close with Kid Adrift. There’s an element of prog-rock pomposity to what Kid Adrift do, but there’s a magnificence to their pomp that is refreshingly exciting.


fadedglamourblog said...

Am impressed with the number of bands you racked up on your Great Escape-ades! But I have to disagree with your concluding thought on Hurts as "how all great pop music should be".

Maybe it's because I'm deeply cynical but I would much prefer a band to organically develop rather than carefully plot their future movements as if the next 12 months of their career was an intricate marketing campaign.

If more bands take Hurts as a template, I will be very sad indeed.

- saamFG

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Yes, clocked up a pretty decent number of bands :) and more to come with the day 3 review which goes up at 00.01 tonight.

The Hurts debate will go on and on I suspect. Many for very understandable reasons, like your good self, are deeply cynical about the whole marketing campaign they have used and likewise many simply cannot stand their songs. I seem to be in the minority, but right here, right now that's where I am. I actually love the fact that everything is so calculated and that it makes people cynical. It's my warped personality :)

For me, the Hurts live performance was "how all great pop music should be" because ultimately it's how how they make me feel when I see them play - to me that is what great pop music should be, to make you feel some sort of emotion - be it excitement, love, anger, sadness. Of course we're all different so although the likes of some of the pop acts I currently love (Hurts, Ellie Goulding, Kylie Minogue) will not produce the same emotion for others that I personally feel, I can't deny how they make me feel - this is why I write "It's how all great pop music should be."

Of course I realise that many people will sneer at my ever growing love for Hurts - but I hope that at least those who dislike them will understand that at least I'm being honest about what I feel, irrespective of their own views of the band.

Incidentally - When Hurts came on stage at Brighton Theo started by saying "Ladies and gentleman of the Brighton jury we are Hurts" - I suspect he is very aware of the cynicism surrounding them and knows they are being fully laid out and judged because of the campaign they have used.

fadedglamour said...

I see what you mean and while I'm deeply conflicted over their methods - I feel their almost scientific approach is the antithesis of what music should be about - ultimately, I think the songs hold up. And that's the most important thing.

- saamFG