Binge-gigging by the sea
The report on another impressive year at new music festival The Great Escape in Brighton
The biggest obstacle a binge-gigger faces at the Great Escape? Brighton’s bloody hills. Those intent on getting to as many new bands at the festival as possible those steep gradients every time they cycle or walk to the furthermost edges of the gigging grid. You could, of course, simply stick to a couple of tried and tested venues on the same strip by the sea or in the Laines, but what would be the fun in that?
Indeed, if you had done that, you’d never have caught a smouldering, seductive set from newbies London Grammar at the very imposing St Bartholomew’s Church. A three-piece from London (well, they would hardly be from Birmingham with a name like that), London Grammar’s set is punctuated with cascades of dreamy, slo-mo, spinetingling moody washes of sound. The songs swoop and soar and make you realise you’re watching something rather special.
But that’s just the start of things at the Great Escape. There are around 300 acts in town for the weekend hoping that they too will receive buzz, attention and a big lump of rock before they leave again.
You have Yanks who have surfed a post-SXSW wave all the way to Brighton (The Orwells, Parquet Courts, Merchandise etc). You’ve European acts keen to show off their musical Esperanto like Susanne Sundfor, Ewert & The Two Dragons, Mo and Faye. You’ve Irish acts of the moment such as Little Green Cars, Kodaline and Girls Names. And you’ve acts from every point on the British compass looking for love in all the right – and wrong – places.
You also have Australians, which is where Josef Salvat comes in, sporting a fapper baby-blue suit (his shoes are another matter satorially). Now based in London, Salvat channels Bryan Ferry, Peter Gabriel and Lana Del Rey for a suite of superior, louche, dramatic songs and shimmy-ready disco bumpers.
There are also, it must be noted, a whole bunch of karaoke acts taking their musical cues from Marcus Mumford and his bunch of posh, waistcoat-wearing wastrels. For a while on the first day, it felt as if we’d died and gone to hell as every band we had the misfortune to see had one song which sounded just like “The Cave” and another one which imitated “I Will Wait” right down to the solos. We couldn’t get out of the venues fast enough.
If the gigs provide the Great Escape with its width and depth, there was also a convention to add discussion and debate from the many industry delegates in town. While the panels were well attended, many suffered from a lack of focus and a sense that we’d heard those arguments and points many times already.
There was also, as has become the norm at music conventions of late, an unspoken agreement to treat the technology and digital evangalists with kid gloves and not subject them to a rigorous interrogation. The lack of artists on some of these panels was very telling in this regard.
In truth, though, most of those artists were probably best experienced in their natural habitat. Out on the streets and in the venues, those acts went to work trying to convert arms-folded audiences into fans and followers.
Aside from the acts mentioned above, those who impressed OTR last weekend also included Holy Esque, MT, Echo & The Empress, Brolin, On An On, Cousins, Young Fathers, Iyes, Skaters, Bipolar Sunshine, Tourist, To Kill A King, Dan Croll, Rainy Milo, Blue Hawaii, Chloe Howl and Nick Mulvey. Let’s hope all of them scored some rock before they left town.