The Great Escape 2016, Brighton and Hove, May 19-21
This year we’ve pulled out all of the stops for this tremendous three-day showcase of new music.
We attended dozens of concerts during the festival (at a variety of Brighton locations), so here are some concise reviews for you to enjoy...
Day 1, Thursday, May 19
Vallis Alps, the electronic Sydney-based duo of Parissa Tosif and David Ansari, offered an excellent start to the festival (12.15pm-12.40pm, Komedia). If you like Purity Ring, CHVRCHES and Aurora, then this band is for you.
Shortstraw (1.15pm-1.45pm, Prince Albert) are a most entertaining five-piece from Johannesburg who sound just like The Kooks. They played some uplifting tunes that reminded listeners of bright and sunny times...like the World Cup.
Anna of the North (3pm-3.30pm, Horatio’s) are an alternative pop trio from Oslo but the band members actually met in Melbourne. Their set took a little while to get going but the last two tracks were rather good. No doubt if they were American they would be famous.
Also from Norway, EERA (4.30pm-5pm, Patterns) provided a sultry, but pleasant-ish run-of-the-mill set. There were four band members on stage, but ‘Eera’ actually refers to a girl – the introspective singer-songwriter Anna Lena Bruland. She played the last track by herself.
Transviolet (5.30pm-6pm, Patterns) are a very professional and polished act from Los Angeles that will certainly go places. Easy on the eye (for boys and girls), this four-piece boasts a high-pitched singer, Sarah McTaggart. The euphoric ‘New Bohemia’ was definitely their best track.
The bizarrely named Have You Ever Seen the Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? (7.45pm-8.15pm, Latest Music Bar) delivered some enjoyably high-energy pop-punk infused with some Casio-style organ. Sounding a bit like Courtney Love, this band from Kouvola in Finland had a mad, enthusiastic drummer.
Let’s Eat Grandma (8.30pm-9pm, The Haunt) were the high-heeled and experimental multi-instrumentalists Rosa and Jenny. A talented duo from Norfolk in the vein of earlier Grimes, they moved around the stage in a unique way, interlinking in a choreographed manner.
Sudakistan (9.30pm-10pm, Latest Music Bar) should have been five guys from Sweden but their bongo player wasn’t able to come along. However, these boys make rock with a capital ‘R’. They played a loud, tight set with the frenetic ‘Dale Gas’ being their best track.
Alas, likeable reggae singer Kiko Bun (10.30pm-11pm, Spiegeltent) had to cut my favourite track ‘Sometimes’ as the show was running behind schedule. But he and his band still got the crowd bouncing along.
Day 2, Friday, May 20
The UK’s Woahnows (12.30pm-1pm, The Hub) sound like Busted for grown ups. A noisy start to the day, this trio of guys from Plymouth play poppy indie-punk with plenty of energy.
Aftwerwards K-X-P from Finland (1.30pm-2pm, Queens Hotel) absolutely blew listeners away. This trio, clad in monks’ habits, had hypnotic sounds similar to those in Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’ and certain PIL tracks. Just two drummers and a guy with an electronic box of tricks. If the legendary KLF were still around, this is exactly what they would be doing.
DBFC from France (2.15pm-2.45pm, Horatio’s) started life as a guitar band and then metamorphosed into a dance band. They reminded me of New Order and other Factory bands (or even Scissor Sisters), as sometimes you got a guitar-led track and then a keyboard one.
Amber Arcades (3.30pm-4pm, Komedia), a five-piece Dutch outfit, were a fantastic surprise. They are purveyors of everything mellow in a Stereolab and Broadcast bands sort of way and just got better the more they played. The hypnotic ‘Turning Light’ was their best track and it’s seriously worth going to their album launch gig at London’s Lexington on June 7.
Man of Moon (6.15-6.45pm, Concorde 2) was a Nirvana-sounding duo of lads from Edinburgh, who definitely benefited from the awesome Concorde 2 sound system. Their very loud set had the venue’s speakers pushing sound-waves through our bodies.
LCMDF (7.15pm-7.45pm, Horatio’s) are two sisters – Emma and Mia Kemppainen. They play likeable, commercial pop and are sick of the heavy rock scene in their homeland of Finland. Their best track by miles was the incredibly catchy ‘Rookie’.
There was attitude by the bucket load from the outrageous Girli (8pm-8.30pm, Horatio’s) and her buddy. Just picture an English version of Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad dressed in pink with a microphone. A thoroughly modern girl for a modern age!
INHEAVEN (9pm-9.30pm, Green Door Store) played eight great tracks. This exciting British four-piece (the new darlings of rock) included their three singles – ‘Bitter Town’, ‘Regeneration’ and ‘Baby’s Alright’ – in their set.
Then, as the clock struck midnight, it all went a bit ’70s psychedelia thanks to Dutch four-piece PAUW (midnight-12.30am, Latest Music Bar). They’re similar in look and sound to the German band Can with a touch of Kraftwerk meets The Horrors.
Day 3, Saturday, May 21
The UK’s Kelly Lee Owens (12.15pm-12.45pm, Prince Albert) offered pleasant sounds with her two accomplices – one was a cellist and the other was on electronics. Imagine Björk meets Purity Ring and voilà!
Grenadiers (1.35pm-2pm, Concorde 2), on the other hand, were so loud that my ears nearly bled. This trio of Aussie boys provided raw rock for those that love it. They should win an award for the festival’s loudest gig!
The Fin (2.30-3pm, Queens Hotel) are a westernised four-man Japanese dream pop band of the highest order. If only Justin Bieber fans knew about them, they would be huge.
ARY (3.30pm-4pm, Patterns Upstairs), a little Norwegian lady, had the biggest smile of the whole Great Escape. Providing wonderful modern electronic pop, she sounded similar to the excellent Emilie Nicolas.
Afterwards there was an acoustic set from another elegant young lady called Jones (4.30pm-5pm, Wagner Hall). It’s not the most exciting artist name in the world, but she has already appeared on Later...with Jools Holland and should do well commercially when her debut album comes out in autumn.
Next, Nadine Carina from Switzerland (7.30pm-8pm, Unitarian Church) delivered relaxing, melodic tunes that sounded like a down-tempo sedate Grimes.
Bayonne (8.30pm-9pm, Unitarian Church) is one-man band and Neil Morrissey lookalike Roger Sellers. An artist who surely feels his music through his body, this Texan was full of nervous energy, whizzing around like a worker ant or a busy bee.
Nzca Lines (10.15pm-10.45pm, Paganini Ballroom), the boy/girl duo Michael Lovett and Sarah Jones, looked good all in white but they took ages on the sound check and the songs were average except the last two funky tracks.
The last band of the festival for me was Deeper Upper (11.30pm-12am, Brighthelm Church & Community Centre), a four-piece indie-rock band from Lithuania. Sounding a bit like The Killers, their best track was their last one, the uplifting ‘Unity’ from their 2015 EP Ceremony.
So in conclusion, my favourite gig of The Great Escape by a mile was K-X-P and the surprise act was Amber Arcades. The act that most deserves to make it big is Girli, but in the Simon Cowell real world it will be Jones.
And, in my opinion, the act that will be most talked about in the music press in the coming year is Let’s Eat Grandma.
To find out more about The Great Escape Festival visit greatescapefestival.com.
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