The three day music convention / shin-dig that is the Great Escape in Brighton is the biggest event of its kind in the UK. With a host of conferences, parties, gigs and fringe events, it has become an important date for both the music industry and fans of new music. This year the event saw beautiful sunny weather hit the coastal town, an expanded line up of daytime gigs, more quality fringe events and a significant number of highlights.
The Music Nova Scotia showcase in the Queens Hotel brings the first music of the day. Ghost Bees are twins - Romi and Sari Lightman - who play meandering harmony led songs covering unusual subject matter such as witches and shared wombs, with their medieval vocal interplay binding well. Their kooky ambling banter about desecrating a statue of Anubis is amusingly charming but the flashing lights either side of the stage seem rather incongruous to their sparse acoustic playing, which is quiet and at best rather basic. Flashing lights suit Rich Aucoin (pictured) much better as he brings colourful high energy electronic jams to a motionless audience that he is determined to get dancing. Syncing his music with childhood films Aucoin is a celebratory white-clad high-fiving high-energy entertainer, who encourages those watching to get down on one knee and then jump skywards in a manner reminiscent to the Spike Jonze directed video for Praise You by Fatboy Slim. With skew-whiff Daft Punk referencing grooves and numerous excursions into the crowd Aucoin achieves his mission of making it as sunny inside the building as it is outside and feet moving.
“It may be Thursday afternoon and this may be a clothes shop, but now is the time that everyone should clap their hands,” announces The Agitator from a mezzanine balcony overlooking vintage boutique Beyond Retro. With a raw king of the jungle authority, The Agitator’s shoulder twitching, hip thrusting, hollering Elvis styled delivery hoo-ha’s its way to the soul with just the stripped back elements of drums and vocals. “Enjoy your shopping,” he announces as he finishes. Several shoppers look slightly confused.
The signs either side of the stage stating “Hearing protection must be worn,” at The Basement are a worrying omen for the audience of Let’s Buy Happiness. Let’s Buy Happiness have already produced one of Breaking More Waves songs of the year in Better On Paper, so their early evening slot has a lot to live up to and hearing protection is not on the agenda. They don’t quite meet the expectation, although there is undoubtedly still significant potential. Shimmering guitars compliment lead singer Sarah’s vocal which bears a close resemblance to Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays, but the beauty of the bands sound is crushed a little by the loudness of the drums and Sarah’s nonchalant appearance, chewing gum whilst she sings.
Back at the Queens Hotel flame haired chanteuse Gabby Young sings jazzy, acoustic based songs that hint at French music hall and the vaudeville. Explaining that normally her band is an eight piece hence the name Gabby Young and Other Animals, today she just has one such animal. Her voice is undoubtedly superb - full and captivating, yet her measured songs sometimes seem nothing more than something to be admired from afar. Likewise Dan Smith a keyboard based singer songwriter who uses vocal looping and classical cascading waterfall pianos instrumentation on his best song Alchemy to good effect without ever stunning.
Having won the International Song Writing competition in 2009 for Love Lust there is already justification that the flamboyant King Charles is a stunning tunesmith. “I’m a sensitive soul” he mumbles with a glint in his eye before proceeding to whip the small partisan crowd into a frenzy with his blustering psychedelic Hendrix meets Kravitz riffs. With his big lapelled suit, shirt open to the midriff and beehive hairdo King Charles looks the debonair dandy and with songs infused with royal majesty such as Time For Eternity he can do no wrong. The adventurous folk-pomp of the aforementioned Love Lust promotes a wildly energetic stomp, his reworked version of We Didn't Start The Fire a romp, and chaotic scenes emerge as he climbs the drum riser and shoves his head through the ceiling of the venue. Performance of the day.
As Brighton seafront begins to take the strain of wired up indie kids the late night / early morning show at Digital features the much hyped Egyptian Hip Hop and Fenech-Soler. The spotty low fringed Egyptian Hip Hop have a mash of indie grooves, riffs and ideas but like a man with a map in the fog have not yet any clear definition of where they are going. Fenech-Soler are exactly the opposite. Like the thinking mans credible Calvin Harris Fenech Soler are the ultimate synthesis of rave pop in glittery shirts. Perfectly constructed, clearly defined and hedonistically danceable they provide the perfect arms aloft climax to the end of the first day of the Great Escape 2010. Even when the stage lighting fails and it’s left to the dance floor strobes above the audience to sustain the spirit, party-vibes are omnipresent till the very end when the band roll out Stop and Stare and leave victorious. Guaranteed to tear up the summer festivals this year, Fenech-Soler were vigorously fun.