Saturday 18 May 2013

The Great Escape Festival 2013 - Review (Day 2)

Day two of Brighton’s Great Escape Festival brings more music than you could possibly cram into any day. But we tried.

Following our review of Thursday’s proceedings, here are 10 more things we learnt about the Great Escape 2013.

1 .Finding time to eat at Great Escape can be a problem.

Unlike some outdoor music festivals where the biggest queues can often be found by either the toilets or the food vendors stalls, being an urban festival there’s plenty of choices of places to eat. Yet if you want to see as much music as possible at Great Escape, taking an hour out to grab some food seems like a horrid waste of time. Thankfully there’s a downtime period between about 5pm and 6.30pm each day, so our tip is eat a humongous breakfast, grab a quick sandwich on the go at lunch and then use that downtime wisely in the evening.

2. Embers don’t do things in small doses.

All things considered Manchester band Embers’ set at Above Audio shouldn’t work. It’s ridiculously early for rock music (12.30), the venues layout is appalling, far longer than it is deep, with the band separated from the crowd by a five feet high wall and no proper stage as such. Yet Embers blow both minds and ears. Their huge cinematic soundscapes are mountainously impressive, as if Sigur Ros has become a fully-fledged rock band. This is big music. With the addition of a violinist their unblinking fervour sonically references Chichester’s Hope of the States in so far as their sound is enormously expansive and dramatic. It is undoubtedly one of the best things we hear all day. New single Part of the Echoes (streaming below) packs punch after punch and afterwards we’re left stunned and numbed.

3. Sometimes going to see a band ‘just to pass time’ isn’t a good idea. Especially when you could be enjoying a coffee and cake.

Whilst Great Escape’s downtime should mean a chance to recover and refuel, for those who never want the music to stop, the outdoor Hub stage (a converted airstream caravan) keeps going all day. Unfortunately Poland’s Enchanted Hunters make us realise we should have followed our own tip in 1 above. Imagine a twee Bjork in a bad dream playing alt. folk and with flutes. They have a song about being dumb and walking in a forest. That says it all really. A sit down and an expensive frothy latte may have been less rock n roll, but would have been far more enjoyable.

4. A girl and a guitar still pulls a crowd.

Marika Hackman was sweetly overwhelmed by the size of her audience in the Unitarian Church, telling the at capacity crowd she expected about three people. Despite her rather serious face whilst playing (which she joked about) she displayed a neat line in comedy if the music doesn’t work out. “Sorry I’m such an awkward tuner. Not like the fish.” Her meanderingly polite songs are almost medieval in their sound and the longer she plays the more appealing her sparse plaintive tunes become.

5. We might have just seen a future star in Josef Salvat.

Is it too early to start talking about the BBC Sound of 2014 or Blog Sound of 2014 list? If it isn’t then we’d like to mark the card of Josef Salvat as an early contender. Dressed in a pastel blue suit, like the Miami Vice version of Hurts (without shoulder pads), his self-assured and lyrically uncomfortable atmospheric pop songs sound like what Theo and Adam should have been doing in 2013 if they hadn’t decided to try and become a stadium rock band. The man looks like a star and performs with the sneer and venom of a star. One to watch.

6. There’s still hope for the Klaxons.

After their appalling second album, Klaxons returned to the live scene at Great Escape in the aircraft hangar sized Corn Exchange. With a set that was heavy on first album hits and some new songs as well, the new songs sounded less aggressive, more electronic and appeared to have a semblance of a hook and a tune. 

7. Sometimes astral ethereal electronic floatiness is hard to find in a stuffy scuzzy upstairs room in a pub.

Lorely Rodriguez (Empress Of) was clearly excited to be in Brighton for her debut UK show and maybe it was this excitement that translated into a performance that was much rawer and less full of the celestial loveliness of her recorded work. A rammed room seemed to adore her, but we’d have liked less bounce and more beauty. On record Empress Of might sound like The Cocteau Twins vs Grimes but in reality there's still some way to go to meet those dizzy dreamy heights.

8. Brolin could join Marika Hackman to do a stand-up routine.

The minimal soul and beats of Brolin may sound magical and mysterious and he may keep his identity hidden by sporting a menacing silver crucifix adorned mask, but strip this away and in terms of a live show there’s quite a character that seems at odds with the gentle coy beauty of hush gems like NYC “I am smiling under this mask, the trouble is when I smile I look like I’ve had a seizure,” he jokes. Later he apologises for the size of his miniature keyboard, which he says has shrunk. Unlike most bedroom / laptop producer types Brolin really seems to be able to pull it off live. Accompanied by a drummer / electronic beat maker he shadow boxes the air and takes himself right up to the crowd, even getting the tiny packed room to sing along at one point.

9. San Zhi make very pretty pop music.

They just do. Lovely little melodies that get under the skin.

10. Queues at great escape are inevitable. But you don’t have to be part of them. (We didn't really learn this, we already knew it, but lots of people are still learning)

Yesterday we heard rumours and grumblings on twitter of many venues being at capacity as the evening wore on, with lengthy queues and many one in one out situations occurring, even for delegate badge holders. Somehow Breaking More Waves missed all of this. Our tip: If there’s someone you really want to see, arrive very early and as the evening goes on limit your venue hopping. Over the last 48 hours we’ve seen 28 bands and haven’t stood in a queue once. It’s all about planning in advance and arriving early. 

(Top Tip: If you’re reading this before Saturday evening and are planning to see Chvrches at Digital tonight we recommend you arrive before doors open. It’s going to be one of the hottest tickets of the weekend).

Embers - Part of the Echoes

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