Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Great Escape 2012 - Friday Review

Friday, the second day of The Great Escape and I awake with a pretty clear head. After nearly thirty years of existence and almost half of them drinking more than I should I've finally learned that ale is the drink that thanks you the next day. My first act of the day is an early one at midday, Martha Paton at Komedia. I arrive and she's just started, she looks younger than I had in my head and her band look even younger. Don't let that detract you though, she's got a lovely voice which shines in the dark basement room, quite a large audience have turned up for a pretty much unknown singer-songwriter, perhaps they're aware of the word potential too.

Afterwards I quickly head to the seafront to catch Cut Ribbons again, this time it's a stripped back acoustic set with only three of the band members, it doesn't quite hit the highs of yesterday but the gentle melodies allow me more space to fall for Anna's voice all over again. The weather gods agree too as despite a little wind, the sun comes out for the first time all weekend. Afterwards there is a little break in my schedule so I grab some food and check out a few shops in the lanes.

The Latest Music Bar is my next stop, the first time I've seen an act upstairs and it's a good one too. Abi Wade treats a pretty large crowed to an extended soundcheck which acts to whet the appetite for the real deal, it's quite fabulous too, Abi creates a compelling sound with her cello, a beat box and her voice. Her cello is plucked more like a guitar and bashed in equal measure and it makes the most organic and percussive sounds imaginable. Afterwards I head downstairs and catch a song or two from a band that don't really do anything for me before heading to The Fishbowl.

Rozi Plain is the first act I am there to see, her set draws you in instantly, her gorgeous voice repeats around your brain, her evocative melodies enchant overwhelming you with delicacy and warmth. It's heavenly. The crowd seem like a who's who of musicians from the local scene and acts soon to play, there equally unanimous in applause of Rozi's talents. I decide to make (what turns out to be my last visit) to the seafront and have a quick beer in the sun before heading back inside to watch FOE at Life, three songs later I decide I'd rather be back at The Fishbowl and scoot out as quickly as possible.

I catch a band I'd never heard of previously and they are a revelation. The 'Stroud and proud' Hot Feet playing as a duo come trio, their songs are delicate and beautiful, the soft female vocals (I later learn are from a lovely lady named Marianne Parrish) are haunting and the guitar patterns intricate, I instantly fall in love and Hot Feet are without doubt the new band discovery of the weekend for me, an act that will most definitely be featured here again in more detail soon enough. A tip first, don't get stuck behind guitarist Jack at a gig, he's 'quite' tall!

Another pint of Laines later and I'm ready for the next act. If I thought it impossible for the music to get better I was wrong because Emma Gatrill raises the bar again, I'd seen a picture of her London show the night before and it looked magical. Magical is an equally apt word to describe her, a collection of beautiful harp-based songs that bring a warm intimacy to the small venue, as I look on spellbound as Emma's gentle plucks and soaring voice makes the small venue seem even smaller, it becomes like a living room gig. Later Emma is joined by a guitarist and drummer who add wonderful atmospheric noises to her songs, her album came out last week and if you have any sense you'll be buying it soon.

Next up is a solo show by Mariner's Children well not quite solo as Emma provides backing vocals to the striking acoustic songs, the lyrics and guitar provide a rich tapestry and thought provoking music with powerful harmonies and as a self-confessed nay-sayer of male sung folk rock (I blame Mumfords) I find myself blown away by his/their sound, maybe there's a conversion on the horizon...

After three hours of sweet, soothing folk sounds I have an unadvisable encouter with chinese take-away before heading to The Queen's Hotel to watch the culmination of Amazing Radio's day there. Hype it seems is a fickle thing. It's probably easier to write down new blogs that haven't covered Shines than those who have but there is only a small-ish crowd (clashes against Grimes and Alt-J probably don't help their cause, alongside being on the alternative escape which for some reason isn't listed in the festivals iPhone app) to watch the Manchester four-piece, but nevertheless they perform a pleasing set bookended by their best (and most well known) tracks "Spent Youth" and "Shola".

Fear of Men take the stage next to a larger crowd and are joined by a fifth member on backing vocals (who I find the next day is Laish's Martha Rose, a band whom also have Emma Gatrill in their ranks - Brighton suddenly seems a lot smaller!), their show is excellent, one of the bands who I feel deserve the 'buzz' they've received since formation. Which in case we dare forget in the excessive internet hyperbole is only 12 months ago. They shuffle through a twenty five minute set of jangly indie and dreamy vocals quickly, barely stopping for breathe (and certainly not a chat). It's hazy, gorgeous and just what the evening needed.

The venue got suddenly busier around ten pm with the blue neck band identifying 'delegate' seemingly more in force than at any other point of my festival. 'Delegate' at TGE could mean anything, if could mean a guy who write a more popular blog than this one whose got a press pass, it could mean a an A&R guy for a label or it could simply mean a person with deeper pockets who didn't fancy a queue. The balance of delegate / normal tickets is one that I still think the organiser's need to address...

The reason for the influx was for one of the 'bands of the minute' (well according to my twitter feed and hype machine), PINS, four perfectly kitted out (too perfectly perhaps), good looking girls who can play a bit too. An A&R managers' dream you could say. They've only played about ten shows so far and are a little rough around the edges (not helped by an amp problem) but there are signs that given time they'll be able to follow-up the excitement that their early release caused to new blogs like this. "Eleventh Hour" itself is spellbinding, deep guitar and rattling rhythms recalling some of Manchester's finiest post-punk bands. For now I'll label them as promising and keep following them with baited breathe...

I could call it a night but I don't, I head for a drink at The Latest Music Bar and catch half of The Chapman Family's set. I find myself at conflict. I really enjoyed watching TCF about 15 months ago on tour with The Joy Formidable, yet here they start with four new tracks out of five (which in itself is no big deal) but when performed by a rhythm section that I don't recognise as TCF (their old drummer and bassist left amicably last summer) and instead see fresh faced, immaculately dressed lads I'm not sure what to make of it. TCF 2.0 is an entirely new band and I'm not sure where I stand with them. My time runs out and I head over to see my last act of the night Curxes...

The place, Riki Tik's is not a live music venue at all, it's full of drunks dancing to intolerable dance music. I'm expecting a car crash. Curxes take the none existent stage after a bouncer pushes a few people who keep trying to tumble into the keys and then you realise the sound system is shit as well. The band are really up against it, really. They perform admirably though. Roberta even ventures out into the crowd and intimidates a few people twice her size, her voice as strong and powerful as I expected. It's a shame my first Curxes experience had to be like this but I leave with enough there to know they'll be more to come and in venues where music is not a byword for overpriced piss-water lager.

I even manage to avoid the chip shops on the way home, Friday was a success...

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