Capturing the sounds of developing acts amongst those who are fairly established is an appealing outlook for Brighton's, The Great Escape Festival. With accommodation not on camping sites, and coverage of music across venues, these are just a few of its traits that are marked with fondness amongst those who are drawn to it.
My departure from London seemed well suited based on cost and time alone and having fortunately found accommodation a month and a half earlier, my simple but pleasant stay at the Andorra Guest Accommodation, close to the seafront was a find that I found pretty comfortable.
Despite having my baggage in tow, I located my guest room via The Great Escape's newly formed, Festival Hub, in order to capture the Brighton-based, Rizzle Kicks, on arrival.
A set I was only made aware of having willingly signed up to this year's 87085 Relentless Energy Drink's notification service. A service, which on joining for £1.50, enabled me to receive notifications of any secret daytime shows and current festival happenings across the weekend.
RIZZLE KICKS (Festival Hub)
On entering the grounds of Jubilee Square, the light drizzle slowly transformed into more appealing rays of sunshine as the Rizzle Kicks duo introduced us to their MC'ing grace and immediate admittance that 'it's way early to be singing'. The duo, who I first noted in London only a few weeks earlier, were minus the individuals who supported them with instruments back then, though from what I could see of the two was how they just worked off each other quite nicely.
With Rizzle's occasional pauses in the next track, 'Sunshine', being down to him not being able to swear, this info was what then led onto the thoughts behind 'Youngster'. A track, which incorporated the words of, ' - back when I was younger, I wanted to be everything on the planet, now that I am older, I wish I could've been everything that I wanted - '. A conclusion which I considered these particular youngster's to be doing already.
Having heard Rizzle and Sylvester's verses about gardens and stopping with the chatter, came the intro of Rizzle being ' - last on the heaven list' in the somewhat capturing tale of 'Prophet (Better Watch It)'. A track, which pre-play we were told we could now check out the video for. And with the 'Kicks being granted one more track to finalise their time, our ears were opened to the lyrics of new song, 'Down With The Trumpets'. Which embedded Sylvester's words of '- when I get down, I get respect now', which to me is something we should all maybe consider.
Indeed, based on what they produced as part of the introduction to The Great Escape, the clarity that could be heard set a nice tone to what we could all maybe expect. And with the sun revealing itself aptly during Rizzle Kicks' first track, this too gave me an impression of what the weekend could maybe offer.
All in all, the welcoming by the Brighton duo was one that provided a nice introduction to the festival and did enough for their appeal as MC's to look out for.
COMMON TONGUES (Festival Hub)
The follow on info I received via the texting notification was the planned performance of Brighton's second home offering known as five-piece, Common Tongues. But due to my unfamiliar route from my accommodation to The Hub, my arrival this time was one that came mid-play. Though similar to what I'd heard before, the vocals were clear and crisp in spite of their work being notably different and on stage, instead of two, there were five including a violinist.
As they finalised a track on my entry, their offering of '-if you like what you hear, check us out on facebook, myspace, youtube...redtube...?' was what immediately followed, which at least gave their watchers an option.
Soon after this came the announcement of their 23rd May 2011, Something Nothing Records' release of debut single, 'Jumping Ships'. A track, which to me sounded folky based on Tom Anderson's strings work and lyrics. And his thoughts during their play of how he felt his '...guitar went horribly out of tune, but if you didn't notice...' was something I did think had little impact from what I did sense.
On ending their set with their finale 'about a man and his imaginary friend - Tom basically!' and additional comments about their not too accommodating guitars, what I felt was quite strong were their vocals. From either their harmonies or Tom's leading vocals, the strength that was carried forward worked enough for an adequate set.
CLOUD CONTROL (Festival Hub)
As the first day approached early evening, another set had been announced for The Hub. And from a four-piece who were scheduled already, it came courtesy of Australian band, Cloud Control.
Their Corn Exchange set for 8.30pm may've explained why their set was now shorter, though Alister Wright's query of 'are you all feeling stimulated?' and his personal response to how he did, was a hint they were happy to continue with an insight into what we may all see later.
A final look into the band's simple breeziness came via the light drumming and declarations of them being 'soul collectors', which was what their ten minutes were ended with. The minimal minutes that worked fine in their favour and was still able to demonstrate their simplistic appeal.
DEEP SEA ARCADE (Komedia Upstairs - MOJO)
The Great Escape's scheduling of my second Australian encounter was hosted by Mojo at Komedia Upstairs. With their '60's-like beats which I understood this band offered, my mind was intrigued as to what I'd be hearing.
Deep Sea Arcade's Nic McKenzie's introduction of 'We're Deep Sea Arcade', was what led us onto 'Don't Be Sorry'. A track, which held a more Brit-pop infusion than '60's, which was based on its drum beats alone.
Their immediate follow on from their next track of 'Girls', was their distinctively '90's sounding, 'Keep On Walking'. A play which fused McKenzie's consistant orders to '- keep walking'.
Only later, did I sense a more '60's-esque appeal in more depth. A sound they worked well from the start of their end of May release, 'Lonely In Your Arms'. Its mix of drum beats, guitar leads and vocals were matched well to draw this conclusion. And as they said thanks to their hosts and the festival, the end of their set met a pleased sounding cheer.
From the sound that was played at Komedia, what I heard was a like a blend of Brit-pop and '60s beats, and as a mixture, it is one that has character.
THE HISTORY OF APPLE PIE (Horatios - NME RADAR LIVE)
A band I knew the name but not the workings of were London based, The History of Apple Pie, whose NME Radar Live set at Horatio's, had them located spot on along Brighton Pier.
Stephanie Min's more soothing led vocals, that were projected unclearly on opening, had me sensing their sound was not balanced right, which seemed true as more amendments were then asked for.
The Americanised guitar lead throughout the play of the next track, 'Tug', still saw them request for more changes. And as the continuation of their sound stayed the same, this unfortunately made them harder for me to absorb.
From Min's leading to the backing vocals of Kelly Lee Owens, this suggested that what they were after would have been clearer had the PA worked a little bit better. And with their style of more slower paced vocals against a backdrop of regular drumming and guitar work, this gave a nice sense of what they could offer had there not been such an issue with sound.
FIXERS (Horatios - NME RADAR LIVE)
My decision to remain on the Pier was down to the set slot for the five-piece called Fixers. A synth-driven band from Oxford who I knew the name but again, not the sound of. And as they came onstage just a little later than scheduled, our ears were greeted by frontman, Jack Goldstein's gradual balance of synths, bells and sticks work. An enthusiastic opening which led onto the thoroughly upbeat and capturing 'Crystals'.
Admittedly, the PA was still awkward but what differed was the impact it delivered. With the workings from reverbs and drums beats, the real sense I could feel from these Fixers was their enthusiasm that was matched with their produce.
THE JOY FORMIDABLE (Hector's House - THE FLY)
The near to nothing knowledge I had on The Joy Formidable on my Great Escape arrival, was how they were a band who seemed likened to greatly. And with my hope to expand on this info, I was keen for a clear reasoning why.
With their venue to capacity already, this in itself gave a taster to what many could be expecting, though the guidance for me to walk on further meant my presence was away from the trio. A position which made their sound less appealing and therefore, making it harder to listen.
My only plus was how I could see the crowd's motions and mouthing of lyrics, which hinted at a satisaction amongst them. But with my assessment being considerably unlikely, I departed the base before their set ended.
WARPAINT (Corn Exchange)
My earlier than planned route to Corn Exchange was a choice that I'd considered quite wisely, as the material from Warpaint was liked fondly so I sensed they'd be difficult to capture. With the venue and its greater capacity, this still meant it took longer on entering but with their set piece being timed for an hour, I was certain I'd still hear some of Warpaint.
As the four girls greeted those who were waiting with their words of 'it's really nice to be back here', this to me was a contrast to last year, which saw them based at the more smaller sized Horatios.
With their appeal to me being their strings work as a backing to their breezier vocals, what they opened with set a nice intro to the nine that were scheduled to follow.
A clear response of their appeal came pre-'Undertow', as the cheer from the crowd clearly put it. From their simple strings intro that led onto their combined 'What's the matter? You hurt yourself - Open your eyes and there was someone else -', the appeal wasn't just based on their music but also the calmness from their soothing vocals.
The hour long set came to an end with the somewhat enchanting, 'Elephants'. A track with its notable beginning of 'I'll break your heart - To keep you far from where our danger starts'. A memorable start that was matched by a kiss, which was blown to us as their set ended.
FRIDAY 13th MAY
PS I LOVE YOU (Prince Albert - 13 ARTISTS)
With a variety being stretched across Friday, there was a listing I was keen to just follow. And with two sets in one day planned for PS I Love You, I was determined to appear to at least one show. The Canadian duo of Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson were again an act I had minimal knowledge of, though what I took from the showcase they offered made me keen enough to want to hear more.
Their set greeting of 'Good morning everybody' to the intimate and well filled Prince Albert, led immediately into 'Meet Me At The Muster Station', a play which presented a garage rock tinge. And what followed with the play of 'Breadends' was a display of Paul's remarkable guitar work. A view that impressed us all visually.
The coalition of the twosome through team work was a segment that worked well in their showcase. From Saulnier's magical strings skills to the apt playing of drums from Benjamin Nelson. All in all, what was shown from these Canadians was their compatability as a team to blend together well. Not to mention how they enthralled those who were simply just watching.
ADMIRAL FALLOW (Green Door Store - SHOWCASING SCOTLAND)
The Scots known as Admiral Fallow were a band I was keen to hear work from. Based on their roots and their Scottish appeal, what I had hoped was to hear the blend from their instruments. Though, what replaced them was the sole work of one Fallow, the founding member of Louis Abbott.
His decision to perform alone was a pleasant yet unplanned surprise. And as he greeted the room full of watchers, he explained how it was only his second. A follow up which led to someone questioning where the ‘buggers’ had gone, to which we were told 'in their houses'. Though the truth was that 'they're doing things they cannot wriggle out of'.
And as he continued to perform minus bandmates, what I noted was his crispness in vocals. However, it was clear that he was now feeling heated as his 'holy shit! - it's hot' led to a girl at the front to start fanning him. She was thanked with his caramelised biscuit and his offer for another '...person's railcard?'. And as the girl may have found this rewarding, the latter offer was still kindly rejected.
His initiation to tell us when the others were featured, such as '...starts with piano riff' during 'When You Were Raised', were the factors he pulled off so naturally, not to mention his short talks with pure humour.
Abbot's intro to 'Taste The Coast' was marked comically as it included his venture to Shetland where a guy he met comfortably told him '...this is where it happened' to which his reply was to ask 'where what happened?'. The guy's admission that, 'this is where I shat myself', worked a treat to the start of his next play. So much so that when he forgot lyrics to the next track, it seemed only fair to be met with crowd laughter.
From the work he was so used to with bandmates to the 'Switching Off' cover of Elbow, what he shared was his sole capability and his approach to work crowds with pure humour. And even though it was a shame he was solo, what wasn't a shame was his natural ability.
AIAS (Horatios - NME RADAR LIVE)
The trio from Barcelona who fused lyrics in Catalan against a backdrop of what seemed like summer-pop indie, were the band I was drawn to that evening.
Vocalist Gaia Bihr's intro of, 'Thank you, we are Aias, we are from Barcelona', led onto their next dose of warmly fused anthems, filled with harmonies and the workable backing from their strings work and drums.
What was noticable from the three on occasion was how at times, amongst their backing of summer fusion, was a slight tint of what seemed garage rock. This may have been down to me hearing things oddly due to the better yet not great PA, but what I did sense was an adequate balance where their work shown seemed likened by many.
TRIBES (Horatios - NME RADAR LIVE)
The listing of Camden band, Tribes, was a set I was keen to hear more from. Having seen them play set slots as openers as well as sets that were pre and post signing, to assess from a festival deliverance, was a set I was eager to view from.
Having seen the band first play in February, I was keen to take note of progression. And as a fondness I now knew was growing, their set here was an aptly placed setting.
With the well-led guitar work from 'Whenever', as an opener this gave a taste of nice offerings. A sample which was received well by many, prompting the words from Johnny Lloyd of 'Thank you...how you doing!'. And as they continued with the story of 'Sappho', a slight switch in tone came via 'Himalaya'. A play which marked a more paced spot of drumming.
A notable change through their live work came courtesy of the track, 'Nightdriving (Useless God)'. A track, which as a demo works without drumming, though in this case, they were added but just lightly.
The Camden quartet's finalisation came as expected from their ever pleasing note of 'We Were Children'. A play that was covered well vocally and as a known track, entices you quickly. Lloyd's cleverly marked out lyrics of 'they stole your clothes, I took your watch, I couldn't look you in the eye, why's it always those who you love the most, you criticise', worked well as a following for watchers, though again in their demo, it differs, with Lloyd's updated live version of how they 'stood there, throwing ice cream in your hair'.
The listed tracks played were considerably appealing so very little if any assistance was needed. From simple exchanges to Alex Turner like lyrics, these are a few things that may mark their progression and in time, will be sure to go further. And if the band are to return and play next year, like Warpaint, they may find a new basis.
Marking my Friday the 13th, was how I could no longer catch the setpiece by Friendly Fires. With their basis being set at The (Brighton) Dome, it was awkward in terms of admission and as a system now out of my hands, my consolation was at a more intimate venue. But what I knew of them having seen them on Monday was how the energy they displayed was still capturing.
MONA (Hector's House - THE FLY)
With my intention for only catching a third, I could now capture the full set of Mona. And with their set at a place a lot smaller, I was fine to embark on my journey.
Having seen Mona only once back in February, what I knew from that live set was pleasing. So to come across them again with more knowledge was a basis I was happy to build on.
With a similar slot to the band from the first night, the band's play was extended to 45 minutes, which for many would surely be welcoming. And as the four-piece huddled up before set time, their appearance was soon presented more openly.
Their capturing start began with the ever grabbing track of , 'Trouble On The Way'. A track marked well with the inclusion of Nick Brown's well noted 'Here's my blah blah blah blah - Take my hand'.
And with the release of their debut album on the 16th May 2011, what I figured we'd be hearing more sounds of were the tracks not yet heard from their debut.
Brown's introduction that 'we're from Nashville, Tennessee', was soon followed by 'Lines In The Sand', a track they'd once played on Later...with Jools Holland last year. A familiarity that was furthered with the notable intro to their previously released, 'Listen To Your Love'.
His next questioning of 'y'all heard of Johnny Cash?' was followed by Mona's semi-bluesy sound courtesy of, 'I Seen'. A song not written by Cash, but written in honour for him.
Mona's team vibe on stage gave a sense of an effortless ability. Not to mention, Brown's balance on the amp, during the play of next single, 'Shooting The Moon'.
In fact, the frontman's cool correspondence with the crowd may've been the reason for his note of 'y'all still here?' pre-finale. A query, which was responded to with a short cheer, which increased as he noted 'oh c'mon, that was pathetic!'. After announcing they'd play 'one more song' before reminding us they were 'Mona from Nashville, Tennessee', was the mid-album track of the impressively capturing, 'Lean Into The Fall'. An ending that worked well to conclude from.
The natural team work between the four and fine bonding between them and the crowd is a sign of their pure capability. So if Mona are to make a return here, it'll definitely be somewhere that's bigger.
VILLAGERS (Pavilion Theatre - UNCUT)
The slightly later show of Dublin's known Villagers was welcomed greatly by the mass amount of waiters.
With their schedule at the aptly sized, Pavilion Theatre, Conor J. O'Brien's immediate intro came to us from 'The Meaning Of A Ritual'. An opening which was led by the touching intro of, 'my love is selfish and I bet that yours is too - What is this peculiar word called truth'.
Their continuation after the widely recognised 'Becoming A Jackal' came via 'Pieces'. A song which embedded the feeling of, '- never come out the right way, cause I've been in pieces'. Which O'Brien seemed to match the emotions of through his lyrics and expression alone.
Slight variation came in 'I Saw The Dead' as it relocated Danny Snow from bass to simple tambourine hitting and frontman Conor, citing vocals whilst on keys.
The ending to the Villagers' run came from 'On A Sunlit Stage' which was delivered from just Conor on guitar with the support of a backing shaker. A simplistic approach which was seen to quite admirably.
And with the PA working finely to project the crispness of his Irish tone, what the viewers had then been apart of was a set that was layered in mildness.
SATURDAY 14th MAY
SACRED ANIMALS (Prince Albert - MUSIC FROM IRELAND)
The last day of my discovery weekend started at Prince Albert's 'Music From Ireland' showcase, which began with thanks to Sacred Animals. The newly formed trio, of Darragh Nolan, Mark Colbert and newcomer Dek, opened the day a little later than planned due to the sound check issues that morning. Though, this did little to minimise any watchers as the intimacy of their venue clearly showed.
Their production of more ambient material was a conclusion I drew to from their intro, a track which is named 'As You Sleep'. A song with soft vocals from Nolan, that were backed with the light drums from Colbert, but still gave way for support from Dek's synths.
Before playing their next song, 'White Islands', the vocalist's share that 'we're playing later on at Hector's House at 8pm. Just...to let you know' was unfortunately still responded to slowly. And as a point that I sensed from the beginning, the crowd's reaction although seemed warm, worked slowly.
Aside of this, what was sensed from this trio was their ability to work well from their harmonies, and cover Twin Shadow's, 'Castles In The Snow', well.
With Darragh's support from Dek's synths and Mark's drumming, what they showed was how they could pull off a sound that was calming.
FUNERAL SUITS (Prince Albert - MUSIC FROM IRELAND)
Making up the time from the minor delay, were the fourpiece from Dublin called Funeral Suits. A band, who I'd caught before in London and recalled as a band whose sound differed from their name.
After their opening was the twisted synth leading of 'Stars Are Spaceships', a play which although worked well hinted at a slight mismatch in timing. Something I sensed from the start but an issue they did overcome.
The visual energy during 'Flo-rida', was a vibe from the very beginning, and as they furthered their deliverance of energy, what delighted my ears was their 'Colour Fade'. A track which for me is magnetic, from its guitar riffs to Brian James' vocals. And having heard it receive airplay on John Kennedy's Exposure, it's no surprise that it can be owned via iTunes.
Completing their case of distortion came the workings from their last song, 'Machines (2)'. A play fuelled with a twist in guitar work as well as James' well placed and lingering vocals.
Their twisted synths and guitar work was compelling, as was their ability to mix instruments between them. And as a band who can fuse sets with energy, it is a charm that is simply rewarding.
BRAIDS (Komedia Upstairs - CANADIAN BLAST)
Canadian Blast & Canadian Music Week with Braids was where I found myself drawn to from the Irish. And with Braids' showcase at the bigger sized, Komedia, on arrival it was adequately covered. Like the morning, there was delay due to sound check, which was consistantly an issue throughout. But as they decided to eventually get started, vocalist Raphaelle's 'sorry for making you wait for so long' was acknowledged.
Their mid-set play of their dreamy-like 'Lemonade' did well to blend Raphaelle Standell-Preston's well placed vocals against the enchanting backdrop of the drums and guitar work. A mix which worked well despite her vocals to me, not sounding as balanced as preferred.
A noticeable trait from the Canadian four was how they regularly went from one play to the other. And even though what they heard was not to their liking, what the crowd heard was still pretty likened. Admittedly, there was minimal crowd talk, but their end 'thanks!' gave a sense of awareness.
GUILLEMOTS (Wine Cellars - RELENTLESS ENERGY DRINK STREET GIG)
With the notification of the final free street gig, being played out by the Guillemots at 5pm, I was fortunately able to move quickly to the Wine Cellars from the Festival Hub.
The play of their well-known, 'Made Up Love song #43' was played out crisply soon after and as Fyfe Dangerfield's vocals clearly told us, the sounds projected outside were well balanced.
Having arrived to a mass crowd of watchers and been present for a few of their short set, what was clear was the crispness in vocals, which if matched for their set at Komedia, would be a nice end to The Great Escape festival.
FICTION (The Hope)
The encounter I once had with Fiction was as an opening band for another. And from the work they projected back then, it was a sound that had remained in my memory.
Like the others they came on a little later, starting just before 9pm instead of 8.30pm. And with a late start being down to their sound check, their sound issues were persistant throughout. This was clear from the start as they shared how the sounds they could hear were just 'weird'. With their apology again after two stops, a shout from the crowd to confirm their sound was good suggested that what the crowd was hearing may indeed have been different.
Mike Barrett's request for assistance was delivered by their friend in the crowd, Harry. And as the projection of their music continued to cause problems, what was added was the room's overheating.
With the temperature rising to add to the awkward PA, it was difficult to assess the work of Fiction properly, though what it didn't do was stop those who were present to stay listening.
BEAT CONNECTION (Hector's HOUSE - THE FLY)
The Beat Connection duo from Seattle, are of two guys and electronic-like mixes. And as it was info I had taken from reading, what I didn't know was how it was produced.
On welcoming those who had gathered, came the greeting of 'hey guys...we got here yesterday'. A quick point which led onto electronica with the featuring mix of some embedded vocals. Their mid-set play of 'In The Water' differed slightly in terms of production, as Jordan Koplowitz moved onto guitar. With the backing of prominent beats to support the well placed repetition of, 'In The Water', Koplowitz continuation of hand claps after the featured steel drum beats were what many seemed fine to follow . Which seemed to suggest the crowd liked it.
As they immediately led onto the next to close off their set, a few cheers hinted at recognition for what they had chosen.
What was noticeable from the work they projected was how they could balance jaunty tones with their beats. And with Koplowitz's regular mouthing of lyrics, it gave a sense they were fine to produce it.
THE NAKED AND FAMOUS (Corn Exchange)
New Zealand's, The Naked & Famous have since developed a vast amount of followers. The balance of vocals led by both Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers against the occasional backdrop of synths, holds an appeal that makes sense for the Corn Exchange.
With the band's debut album, 'Passive Me, Aggressive You' making waves across the UK already, their opener with album first track, 'All Of This' was a play which cleverly embedded '-the spite builds up and I can't get through - Passive Me, Aggressive You'.
And as the theme of the album continued, the synth-hook intro into the album's second track and previously released, 'Punching In A Dream' was a sound that seemed likened immediately. A continuation throughout even though there seemed to have been maybe an intentional mismatch in timing between Xayalith's 'woah-oh' and Powers' 'forget you...'
Powers' statement that 'these are songs off our album' were the words that led onto 'No Way', a play with Xayalith's softer introduction that mounted well as the backing music progressed.
The band's correspondence with the crowd was made pleasantly as were the comparisons of Brighton as being 'like London by the sea'. Alisa's final words of 'we went on a rollercoaster ride today - thank you for having us' was the last dose of information shared, before they ended their set with 'Young Blood'.
From the well balanced vocals on offer and fair interaction all round, this maybe what helps their progression, as their live workings seemed very much favoured.
THE VACCINES (Corn Exchange)
The scheduled hour long set by The Vaccines at Corn Exchange was as expected, demanding. And as the venue had reached its capacity, it was clear that The Vaccines had followers.
Their immediate introduction of work were led by the drums for 'Under Your Thumb'. A track where the crowd clapped to drum beats. And as it ended to the huge sound of cheering, Justin Young's 'Good, it's good to see so many of you here', was how he simply responded.
The distortedly dark guitar riffs for 'Blow It Up' was matched by the overpowering of Young's vocals during his continuous words to '- blow blow blow it up'.
A slight diversion in sound came from the basis of 'We're Happening'. A play with an opening that echo'd a more beach-pop sound of the '60s against a hint of the band's recognised guitar riffs.
The citing towards the end of 'I can barely look at you, don't tell me who you lost it to' was what led onto The Vaccines' known suggestion of how 'Post Break-Up Sex' can help 'you forget your ex'.
And as they ended their set with their cover of The Standells', 'Good Guys (Don't Wear White)' and the shorter worked, 'Norgaard', the motions that were expressed from the crowd hinted how it was still feeling enjoyable.
The sound itself didn't seem balanced too greatly, nor did the expressionless look from Arni Hjorvar. But what was shown was Young's workable energy that seemed enough for him to work from quite comfortably.
THE GREAT ESCAPE 2011 CLOSING AT CONCORDE 2
As The Great Escape came to an end, I was aware that Factory Floor were amongst those who were closing. And as the Concorde 2 venue was placed further down, it consisted of an effort to walk to. I did it in the hope that I'd catch them with their set being scheduled for 1.30am. Though the sounds of electronica were still roaring so I ended with what I'd seen from The Vaccines.
As a festival that holds a balance in music, from those progressing to those considered established, what The Great Escape can offer its goers is a guidance to its potential returners.
Returners who will come back more recognised and be placed in a more suited capacity.
Photography + colour disposables by Stella Man