Despite being recently voted by NME as the UK’s best festival, I still can’t work out the Great Escape. In the last 5 years is has been running I have attended three and will admit I find it hard work. The festival requires much planning, a central crash pad, a deep wallet and very comfortable shoes. The line-up is so overwhelmingly unknown to even the moderately clued up you are sometimes at a loose end as to who to see. But this is why it is a great escape, freeing yourself from what you know and discovering new music. The bands that blow you away are the ones that you had no idea about before the festival. 3 days and 19 bands later, my body is aching and my mind is whirling from all the fantastic music I have discovered.
My weekend started with Chateau Marmont aided by a light show at Digital, providing a futuristic dystopian horror soundtrack. Komedia provided the perfect venue to be romanced by The Dodos, before I settled in for a (slightly) drunken celebratory night at the Source vs Recommender party, featuring Mirrors, Foreign Office, The Agitator, King Charles & Pope Joan.
Friday started a little fuzzy but was rectified by the blissful Japanese inspired beats of Gold Panda. Unfortunately Life didn’t do him or the sardined crowd any justice; slightly roomier instead was Wolf Gang @ Coalition followed by Hurts straight after. I didn’t want to try my luck for Wild Beasts after seeing the huge queue, so I settled on the Moshi Moshi records party @ New Hero with everyone’s favourite boy-next-door James Yuill & Mirrors – they were getting around and were dapperly dressed every time.
Already missing out on a variety of daytime gigs due to deadlines and hangovers, Saturday was mission day and I was determined to check out the Alternative escape and the various street gigs, the first of which was Fenech-Soler. Adapt Barbers shop hosted a gig so intimate the crowd were feeling each other up, complete with free Mohawks and facepainting. Stagecoach were the first to wow with their bouncy grooves, but I quickly dashed to the Foundry to catch Kovak and their No Doubt-esque stylings, before dashing back to catch one of my favourite local bands Kinema with their geektastic homage to all things electronic.
After a quick dash home to recharge my batteries, I stopped into Komedia to check out the eerily familiar Erland & the Carnival, perfect for a heart-breaking road trip across no-man’s land. Prince Albert hosted the psychedelic oddities of La Shark and the orient other that Is Tropical. I ran to catch the end of The Phenominal Handclap Band, before my feet gave in and told me to go home.
The Album you must buy next: The Dodos
Echoing on the familiar sounds of indie folk that have been doing the rounds on the blogs thanks to bands like Yeasayer and Grizzly Bear, this experimental San Francisco 3-piece took me back to the those adolescent days where I would daydream to Jeff Buckley on repeat, but with much needed oomph and guts. Percussion is where the wonder lies; wowing the crowd by playing a Glockenspiel with a violin bow. Their most recent album is reminiscent of The Shins, but check out the debut Visiter (yes, that is the way it’s spelt) to go on a mesmerising lovesick walkabout that dreams of a happy ending.
The next big thing: Fenech-Soler
If the ‘it’ factor consists of pop-tastic catchy songs, barrels of energy, beautiful faces and spangly costumes, these guys have got it in spades. Add to that their ability to make a remix so stunning it could get your Grandma doing the twist, and you have the recipe for something as hot as Cut-Copy and Friendly Fires. They even had a dancing flash mob and a confetti explosion for their relentless street gig – which was one of 4 they played at the weekend.
The next band to see live: The Phenomenal Handclap Band
Playing rather appropriately at the refurbed Jam, this 70’s infused psychedelic-rock yet retro-funk band screams summer with style. Their energy so was infectious there wasn’t an um-bopper in the house. Everything about this 8-peice was so hot, my camera spontaneously combusted and I just had to give in and dance into a sweaty stooper like everyone else. Their record doesn’t do this band justice, they one to be seen live to be believed, loved and worshiped.
The big maybe: Hurts
This band appeal to people for two reasons. First you have the thirty-something crowd, who are nolstalgic for the 80’s when the new-romantics were well… new. With my generation being catapulted back into the 80’s not only stylistically but politically (thanks Dave) the theatrical power ballad may be making a comeback. While I was initially aware of them and pre-judged them as pretentious, particulary due to the ginger Paul Potts-esque singing statue at the back. However, throughout the gig lead singer Theo Hutchcraft came out of his shell a smidging and the crowd loved it. Hell, half of them were mouthing the words. But I am hoping for more Yazoo and less Spandau Ballet.
Gutted to miss: Theophilus London and Oui est Le Swimming Pool
It wouldn’t be the Great Escape if you didn’t miss at least one act you wanted to see. The rumour mill is that both acts were great. Sigh.
I have also made a spotify playlist of some of the bands I managed to catch.
This peice will also be published in the May issue of The Verse, alongside Issac’s and Caroline’s review, and a Kovac competition. Check it out!