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The Great Escape 2015

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The Great Escape 2015

Posted on 23 May 2015 by Dorian

Any festival is only as good as your viewing choices, and this is especially true of a multi-venue festival such as The Great Escape. If you choose to watch some of the not-so-great acts, missing out on better acts elsewhere, then you have nobody to blame but yourself. However, if you take random(ish) choices as an overall guide then I think it is unlikely that this 10th anniversary Great Escape will go down as one of the vintage years.

Very little stood out as being particularly new or different this year, and a lot of acts were so middle of the road that the whole thing was in danger of becoming a traffic accident. Nothing I saw hit the highs of Parquet Courts or Phosphorescent from previous years and although one of the best live acts I’d previously seen at the festival, Django Django, were playing it was their third appearance here and nothing to get excited about.

My underlying sense of ‘meh’ with the weekend was probably caused by a combination of jet lag and a reaction to a band as bad as The Vaccines being the festivals secret special announcement. I have no desire to be a killjoy, and everyone else I’ve spoken to loved the weekend, so in the spirit of positivity here are some of my personal highlights.

Happyness

Happyness

Happyness released one of the best albums of last year and are one if the most likeable live acts I’ve seen in a long time. Their catchy homage to the best bits of 90s indie rock sounds as good as ever in a cramped Sticky Mike’s and the non-album tracks they play have me itching for their next release.

Saycet

Saycet

Slightly sombre European electronica is something that you are always guaranteed at the Great Escape, and this year was no exception. The Unitarian Church is one of the more reserved venues on the circuit, but it was a good match for French duo Saycet. This wasn’t a hugely upbeat affair, but it sounded pretty good to an attentive audience.

Son of Bill

Sons of Bill

A listing error meant that a trip to check out Popstrangers, in the recently branded Hub, actually meant a set by Sons of Bill. This was the cause of some confusion to those expecting antipodean pop and getting some guitar heavy US country rock. For those that were there by mistake it turned out to be a happy accident as quality playing and appealing tunes made this a very satisfying way to spend the afternoon.

C Duncan

C Duncan

C Duncan may sport some unwise facial hair, but his likeable tunes and genial performance more than make up for it. His performance is a little low-key, and it is hard to tell exactly where his career will go from this show, but he is definitely somebody to put on the “ones to watch” list. Brighton’s own Fatcat records saw enough in the classically trained Scot to sign him up and I’ll personally be keeping an eye on his progress.

Get Inuit

Get Inuit

I’m not somebody who cares hugely about originality, borrowing is an essential part of pop music, but I do wonder why you’d wear the Weezer glasses if you sound this much like Weezer. And when Get Innuit don’t sound like Weezer they sound like Cloud Nothings, another band with a singer that sports Buddy Holly specs. Eyewear decisions aside they sound pretty good and it is a really fun set of songs, and if you are going to have obvious influences I can think or worse places to start.

SLUG

SLUG

SLUG are the work of Field Music bass player Ian Black and their debut album was good enough to lift them above the side-project category and establish them on the festival list for 2015. The songs are great and Ian Black is a surprisingly gifted front-man with a great voice and some proper axe-an skills. The backing band are uniformly great, featuring both Brewis brothers, and the whole set sounds wonderful. I’m already looking forward to seeing them play again at the Green Man festival in August.

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long

The Independent Label Market held in the Open Market was not as huge success, and footfall for the labels who set up stalls was disappointing. I hope that this feature of the festival is repeated next year, but some thought from festival organisers on how to get crowds down this end of town is needed if it is repeated. It was also disappointing for the acts that played on the market stage throughout the afternoon, with only a handful of passers-by stopping to watch some quality sets. However, for me it was great to see the guys from Gare Du Nord on their stand and Ralegh Long’s songs (accompanied by Jack Hayter) sound great even if there isn’t the biggest audience to hear them.

Low Pines

Low Pines

One great feature of the festival is getting to hear live music in a wide range of venues, some that I don’t visit at any other time of year. Something new for me in 2015 was getting to see the Brighton Museum used as a setting for a range of acoustic acts. I was largely bemused by the popularity of openers, the Dunwells, who got the biggest applause of the evening. They clearly had some talent, but they looked and sounded just like a group you’d see getting voted out in the later rounds of the X-Factor and they left me pretty cold. Much better was the soft folk of Low Pines and the endearingly cute Japanese pop duo Moumoon who provided one of the most charming sets of the weekend.

The risk of a multi-venue event like this, with so many acts and so many styles, is that you’ll not always see the best it has to offer. This year I don’t think I saw the best of the festival, but I still saw enough great music to make the time worthwhile. The Great Escape is still one of the best value musical events in the country and I’ll be back again next year searching the venues for something extra special.

By Dorian Rogers

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Steak Number Eight, Thought Forms, Sons of Bill – Various Venues, Nottingham (Feb 21, 2015)

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Steak Number Eight, Thought Forms, Sons of Bill – Various Venues, Nottingham (Feb 21, 2015)

Posted on 23 February 2015 by John Haylock

Tonight I was torn between staying in and watching some incredibly scintillating TV, you know the usual Saturday numbfest of The Voice, Casualty and The National Lottery Live results or actually going to see some live music, it really is a no brainer, and I opt for the latter. What’s more I’m bouyed by a 4-1victory for Nottingham Forest earlier in the day and the substantial winnings from a scratchcard so I embark upon a Southern Comfort fuelled night of musical shenanigans in Nottingham.

First up is a visit to the Rescue Rooms, to check out two support bands on the current Marmozets tour, so Steak Number Eight come on first. Put it this way, they wouldn’t go down well at a folk club; four dishevelled looking young lads in black, with some nice baseball boot action going on and some de rigeur long hair, discovering the joys of screaming alot and playing simplistic riffs for half an hour as loud as your amp will go before exploding into tiny pieces.

Thought Forms

Thought Forms

One of the many highlights from Greenman Festival last year was the unplanned discovery of Thought Forms, they blew me away with their trippy guitar sounds and ear bleeding vistas of sonic beauty. So imagine my joy at seeing they were on the bill with The Marmozets as well. The venue DJ had the good taste to be playing Loveless by My Bloody Valentine over the PA between bands, and very appropriate it seemed to. Thought Forms’ Charlie, Deej and Guy are given a measley 30 minutes to impress, it’s not nearly long enough and I question the logic of putting them on a bill like this. It’s a bit like putting Stephen Fry on Channel 4 teen drama Hollyoaks. Thought Forms might be a bit cerebral for a crowd pumped up for some Barnsley punk rock (although to be fair, they told me later that they really dug The Marmozets energy and kick ass fury and were enjoying themselves enormously).

A little after 8pm and Thought Forms go for lift off. Deej, the bearded animated guitarist, entices feedback and mayhem from his big box of effects buttons and pedals, looking every inch the coolest guitarist on the planet. Charlie on the other side of the stage is his female equivalent, but thankfully without the beard, and sandwiched between them is Guy Metcalfe who must be one of the most inventive drummers around. He almost plays with a jazz sensibility and it subverts the songs and makes them more intriguing and original. Due to the time restraints the band squeeze in only six numbers, three of which are from their mighty 2013 ‘Ghost Mountain’ album (now available on re-pressed vinyl) namely, the title track, Landing and Only Hollow, the other numbers included For the Moving Stars, Sound of Violence and Silver Kiss. Where on the album there is light and shade, exploiting to great effect the quiet/loud dynamic, live they attempt to go for the jugular – imagine an explosion in a Sonic Youth factory. Quite what the crowd of post punkers thought of this I’m not sure, but nobody got stabbed and I heard a number of whoops, some of which weren’t by me. Love these guys.

Sons of Bill

Sons of Bill

A swift exit, leaving a heaving Marmozets crowd going bonkers I made my slightly lurching way toward a venue called The Maze, it’s small, it’s hot, it’s got more beer, and it’s home to a devoted gang of like minded individuals who’ve been putting on nights under the moniker of ‘Cosmic American’ for over a decade now. Tonight’s draw are Sons of Bill, a fine bunch of five friendly guy next door musicians, three of whom are brothers and who purvey a wonderful line in country tinged rock. They area a little like Midlake, but with more firepower, they really were superb, beautiful harmonies, well crafted tunes and a guitar player in Sam Wilson who really knows his way around a guitar. Their current album is called love and logic, I loved them and logic tells me, you will too.

An entertaining bus ride home involving an argument over an open window, people being strangled and a wife shouting ‘leave him Barry, he’s not worth it!’ all added to a truly memorable night. And it didn’t finish there, at 1:30AM I found myself getting off the late bus and stumbling into a late night pub and within five minutes singing “You’re the one that I want,” from Saturday night fever. I ought to go on The voice. My head hurts.

by John Haylock

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