Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Brighton rocks – The Great Escape by night

Between the official showcases, the official “unofficial” gigs and the unofficial unoffical stuff (where’s Rummy when you need him?), over 300 bands played at the Great Escape from Wednesday night through to Saturday. Kudos to the bookers and programmers because …

Mon, May 16, 2011, 14:59


Between the official showcases, the official “unofficial” gigs and the unofficial unoffical stuff (where’s Rummy when you need him?), over 300 bands played at the Great Escape from Wednesday night through to Saturday. Kudos to the bookers and programmers because they really had their shizzle together when it came to ticking boxes. There was the A list acts like Friendly Fires, Sufjan Stevens, DJ Shadow and Warpaint that you need to sell out an event like this. Then, there were a bunch of bands like The Naked & Famous, Foster the People, Young the Giant, Cloud Control, The Phoenix Foundation, Braids and others that people have been talking about for the last 6-12 months and who’d already shone at events like SXSW.

But the acts I really wanted to see were the acts on the next rung (as well as a couple of acts I’d seen at In the City in Manchester last October) and TGE was an ideal opportunity to do some on-the-up talent spotting. I saw about 40 acts in all – I’d have seen more if I’d hired a bike – and the overall quality was really, really high. I concentrated on acts I hadn’t seen before so if you’re looking for a review of Sufjan or Warpaint, apologies.

The band who stood head and shoulders above everyone else for me were The Jezabels, so much so that I saw them three times. Two boys and two girls from Australia, The Jezabels were already on my radar thanks to a couple of great EPs, but the live show was quite amazing. They’ve a fantastic front woman (Hayley Mary has the Karen O thing going on), superb musicianship and a clutch of handsome, well pitched, emotional pop tunes like “Hurt Me”. One for the long run for sure.

The first trache of acts to get the thumbs up included Rizzle Kicks (bringing back the golden age of hip-hop’s pop urges, they’re one for fans of Freak Power and Freaky “Koochie Ryder” Realistic so it’s no surprise that they’re working with Norman Cook), Big Deal (devastatingly simple and captivating cooing between boy and girl, each armed with a guitar), Fixers (Oxford band whose art-rock is now showing some fascinating frills and fringes – they’re managed by my old mucker and one-time Razorlight A&R dude Richard O’Donovan but I won’t hold that against them), Young British Artists (Manchester band who impressed me at ITC last year and whose frantic, epic, punky, popcore is now coming to the boil), Dutch Uncles (another band from last year’s ITC whose Beefheartian, unkempt pop has come on in huge leaps and bounds in the last six months) and Nedry (beepy and bleepy dubstep with a dark pop edge from this London three-piece).

Friday’s hit-makers included Michael Kiwanuka (superb songs in a Terry Callier vein from the singer with the Bill Withers/Ted Hawkins’ voice who recently toured with Adele), Bleeding Knees Club (two Aussie surf dudes making a big ol’ racket), Winter Gloves (charismatic new-wave swagger with some killer tunes from the Cannuck four-piece), T3eth (filthy jagged electropunkgrooves from rowdy Dalston oiks), Ghostpoet (Obaro Ejimiwe put a fine live shine on his excellent “Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam” album), SBTRKT (wibbly, wobbly bass-pop also works in a big room, especially when SBTRKT has Sampha and Jessie Ware onstage to provide vocals – his soon-come debut album is amazing), David’s Lyre (really impressive chamber-pop with some great tunes) and Walk the Moon (colourful, catchy as fuck party-pop).

Bands who featured in Saturday’s desptaches included DZ Deathrays (two more Australian desperados making metal-tinged, fuzzy, chaotic rock), Polarsets (highly infectious rumbling tropical grooves with oomph from a Newcastle band whose new single “Sunshine Eyes” is well worth checking out), Hot Horizons (Leicester band specialising in atmospheric, intoxicating pop with some 80s’ throwbacks), Becoming Real (emotional, existentialist electronica from the former model), The Holidays (fantastic Australian band whose “Post Paradise” album is chockablock with hot-to-trot tunes and melodies), Factory Floor (my ribcage, head and ears were still revberating when I landed back in Dublin the day after the gig) and, last but by no means least Lone (kudos galore to the OTR readers who recommended Matt Cutler to me – loved his warped, laptop breaks and beats).

There was a sizable Irish contigent at TGE with queues around the block to see Villagers and James Vincent McMorrow (the mighty Seymour Stein was in the audience for this one – yes, the legendary A&R man is still going around checking out new bands). Really enjoyed sets from Cap Pas Cap (who are now operating as a two-piece) and especially Funeral Suits. In the 18 months since I saw them at Crawdaddy supporting Two Door Cinema Club, Funeral Suits have really become a band to write home about. There’s a lot of muscular songwriting on display as they’ve honed their sound and developed an identity, which certainly wasn’t there before, while new single “Colours Fade” is an absolute beaut of a tune. A show which whets the appetite nicely for their debut album.