Festival review: the Great Escape 2012 in Brighton
Last weekend, over three beautiful nights and days, Europe’s music industry descended upon the seaside town of Brighton to discover the hottest and most-hyped new acts in the world. The Great Escape is predominantly a showcase for the industry’s movers and shakers, but at £50 a ticket, it is fantastic value for the punters – and they came out in their droves.
The streets were swarmed all weekend as the hip young things rushed between the two dozen or so venues to see what they could from the substantial line-up.
As we arrived, the light precipitation said nothing of the glorious sunshine we had over the next three days. However, it was escaping the drizzle that sent me into the first venue, where I came across the soaring angelic voice of Nina Nesbitt.
I only caught the last two songs from this young and promising songwriter, but I was clearly the last to know as the room was full to the brim as Nesbitt broke hearts and had the crowd singing along to the single The Apple Tree.
After a quick lunch we raced over to The Green Door Store to hear Among Brothers, allegedly Britain’s answer to the Arcade Fire. The six-piece act showed quality musicianship, but unfortunately the songs were a little lackluster. It was hard to see why a band with six members needed to use quite so many loops.
Last Dinosaurs have been making waves in the Indie Rock scene for some time now, and it is easy to see why with singles like Time & Place and Zoom. The boys put on a good show that started a little rough around the edges, but received a rapturous applause from the almost full room by the end.
One of the more well-known but still incredibly underrated artists on the program was the incredible Ben Kweller. While Kweller might be recognised more as a Folk singer, he really rocked out and gave the audience the genuine impression of loving what he was doing. The forty-minute set was laden with songs from new album Go Fly A Kite but included old favourites, Wasted & Ready and Penny On A Train Track.
After nursing a hangover on the beach Friday morning, we were walking down the street when the somber and sultry sounds of Lowpines pulled us into a nearby bar. Whilst not actually part of the official line-up but playing as part of the Alternative Escape, organised to run alongside the main event to showcase local artists, the Lowpines really, really impressed. It was an intimate show of only about 20 people squeezed into the little bar, but we were blown away. Modest and understated, the simple combination of guitar and bass paired with the duo’s gentle voices sent the audience into a state of ecstasy.
Later in the afternoon we headed down to beachside venue, Digital, to catch one of the festival’s most-hyped acts, electro Pop songstress Grimes. After arriving too early, we made the mistake of ducking out for a quick drink and by the time we returned the line was 100 miles long, and as all venues operated a strict one-out-one-in policy, we cut our losses and headed off to catch a recommendation from a gentleman we met on the beach, the intriguing AK/DK also on the Alternative Escapes Program.
Two stacks of synths and samplers, two guys and two drum kits, it was absolute chaos: AK/DK play heavily layered techno Pop which is just mesmerizing to watch it being created as they make loops from the synths and play live drums over the top. Throughout the performance there were a few technical problems, and some interesting timing moments, but I would not be surprised if you see them tearing it up at festivals next year.
Heading the Festival in the beautiful Brighton dome complex was Australian band The Temper Trap here to promote their new self-titled album. Singles Sweet Disposition, Down River and Love Lost sounded great but most of the new tracks fell flat, and the fairly young band already look jaded on stage.
We finished the night off with a trip to the NME stage to see next-big-thing Spector, a fairly run-of-the-mill Indie Pop band. They have a great stage presence, lead singer Frederick Macpherson is a brilliant front man and the five-piece were all impeccably dressed. Spector are a shining example of how clever marketing can go a long way to cover average songs. The crowd tonight could not get enough singing along enthusiastically to single Chevy Thunder and set closer Never Fade Away. And although there is really not much to get you excited about Spector, they have the look, the hype, and the following that predestines them to be huge.
Saturday, starting the day with a trip to the Aussie BBQ where Inland Sea put on an impressive display, cramming all ten members on stage for half an hour of folk Pop gold. I was keen to see The Killgirls but unfortunately they’d had to cancel. Moving on swiftly, next up was Jackson Firebird, who blew me away. The duo played straight-up Blues/Rock just how it should be, putting so much energy into their live show that one found themselves having to go and sit down afterwards.
Much worse could be said about Red Ink, as after one song I found myself running for the beach. Why are people still interested in this over-blown and self-important Indie Rock nonsense?
All weekend I had heard people talking about Chet Faker so I was keen to see what he was all about. The softly spoken Faker ambled slowly onstage and crooned his way through a short set that showed promise but never really got to the highs the crowd was expecting. He has a great sound; his unique understated voice sits perfectly over minimalist synths. However, the whole set felt like it was missing something, without his usual full band Faker just didn’t quite do his music justice.
I was hoping to catch the Alabama Shakes but two hours before their set, the queue had reached epic lengths so we headed down to the pier to catch DZ Deathrays. We got there early enough to watch Milk Music, who then proceeded to put the audience in to some kind of melodic grunge trance for 20 minutes. Their set was amazing, and judging by the audience’s feedback, it would seem this is the Rock band the music world needs.
It’s hard to believe that Madeon, self described “electro-pop-house-whatever” producer from France, is only 18. Back at the Corn Exchange he had the huge crowd dancing to his every whim for an hour of House madness to match any DJ twice his age!
Rounding off with Madeon’s set, the exhaustion from the three days of gigs finally set in, and with that, I made my way home.
For more info visit the Great Escape Website.