Wednesday, 20 May 2009

When Life Gives Me Lemons, I Throw Them At People: THE GREAT ESCAPE 2009 (Band-by-Band Review)

I bet you're asking yourself, why am I tagged in this when I didn't go to the festival? Well, it's because I care about you (For those of you that weren't at this years Great Escape that is).

I made it... 24 bands in 3 days. Not bad going, eh.
Cut to the chase...


William Fitzsimmons
A mellow start that included the best beard of the festival, an offer to go over to Illinois and have a bbq in Williams back garden, and for him to also express his love for The Office by reeling off a few one liners from the series. What a great way to earn kudos, eh. Arguably the most claustrophobic venue at this years Great Escape, The Arc, hosted some great daytime shows. William Fitzsimmons falls into that bracket.

For Fans Of: Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Fionn Regan

Asaf Avidan & The Mojos
Israel? Music? Music from Israel? *DOES NOT COMPUTE – DOES NOT COMPUTE* The Cello player on the other hand was rather good. So yeah, erm, whats been happening in Hollyoaks?

For Fans Of: Israel? Isn’t that where Jesus is from?

The Balky Mule
During the first 3 or 4 songs of their set I was trying to think who they sound like, eventually it came to me… The Research, but imagine The Research without their little £8 keyboard, the tempo of their songs slightly slower than normal (I guess marijuana is the ingredient for this), a simple 3 piece setup of Guitar, Bass, Drums all played by 3 men that look a bit rough round the edges and you’ll end up with The Balky Mule. Worth a listen.

For Fans Of: The Research

We Were Promised Jetpacks
Name a Scottish band that are shit…. Idlewild? HELL NO. Mogwai? You can sod right off… The Twilight Sad? “I’M FOURTEEN, AND YOU KNOW…” great song. Travis? Well…. Everything POST-Man Who, then possibly, yes. But We Were Promised Jetpacks certainly DO NOT fall into that category. Great energy from start to finish, and at times I was wondering if the singer was actually singing into the microphone or not. Based on the 4 songs I’ve been listening to constantly prior to this gig, I’m thinking their album could be a contender for my year in lists. Promising.

For Fans Of: Idlewild, Frightened Rabbit, Twilight Sad

Titus Andronicus
I was not leaving Brighton without seeing this band. Venue hopping is something I would not advise at this festival as it can cause upset. This time, I was willing to do it. Running through the rainy streets of Brighton trying to find The Volks. Thanks to a man sweeping rubbish off the pavements, we got there as Patrick addressed the crowd with “Hi, we’re Titus Andronicus”. Barged my way to the front for some raw sounding, lo-fi noise rock. I was intrigued as to how they would pull off their sound during a live set, I had a feeling the lyrics would be completely drowned in sound, I was right. So it was down to me to belt out each line as the speakers we put to the test. Awesome band.

For Fans Of: No Age, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Los Campesinos!

The Acorn
So, after we left The Volks we had a situation on out hands. What next? We got soaked walking to see The Acorn at the Pavillion. Worth it? For sure. Melodic folk at its best, some lush melodies that certainly helped dry out my jeans with all that foot tapping and swaying. Synchronized drummers are a joy to watch.

For Fans Of: Band Of Horses, Great Lake Swimmers, Okkervil River

The Miserable Rich
You can class the next 3 acts as a ‘Mini Trilogy’ if you like. A bit like Lord of the Rings I guess. 3 bands in a truly awesome venue. We had no idea that we’d have to trek somewhere that wasn’t even on the map in the festival program, and after so much walking, running from venue to venue, enjoying music earlier in the day, the only thing you could ever want is a nice comfy chair to sit in, right? Like a cinema chair? Well that’s what we got. Perfect. These guys hail from Brighton and make music that’s verging on classical, but with an Indie twist. A lovely array of instruments that project into such an uplifting sound (especially in this venue). That’s about as best I can describe them to be fair.

For Fans Of: Guillemots, Jeremy Warmsley

Like Titus Andronicus, I was not leaving without seeing this guy. After spending the night before trying to think if 12am was in the middle of the night or the middle of the day? I would of preferred the latter. Alas it was the former. To make things better, the venue made me even more excited. From the Faroe Islands, this guy has an amazing voice, his lyrics are as quirky as the lining on a Ted Baker blazer, with matching music. His album ‘The Singer’ is one of my most played so far this calendar year, full of gentle, inspiring melodies. Shame that his set was only 6/7 songs long.

For Fans Of: Jens Lekman, Jeremy Warmsley

Wasn’t expecting anything to be honest. But like any trilogy the finale always knocks up an unexpected twist. The previous 2 acts had an array of instruments on stage which added a lot of depth to the performance, so I was expected more of the same for the headline act. I was wrong. One keyboard and a guitar. Up step a Boy/Girl duo, who are ‘Not together’ according to the male French vocalist. Their English wasn’t the best, but they were making up for their grammatical errors by being drunk and laughing at each other about it. There was something really sweet about them both. Their playful lyrics, quirky and uplifting melodies made this a really fun show to watch. The lead singer kept informing us that he was drunk (a bit like what I’m doing now I guess), which made his English even funnier. Their lyrics are all in English, so that did help understand what they were singing about, most of which, included stories about Animals. Lovely stuff.

For Fans Of: Slow Club, SoKo


Strolling through a windy Brighton on a Friday morning, we decided to embark on the daytime shows at The Audio. I think Rupert & Myself were the first people in the building to be honest. First up at 12pm (ish) was Sourya. Interesting as he was using a Nintendo DS as part of a way to generate beats. A few songs in and the sound completely overloaded and cut out. Not so great, but quite funny. Interesting to see what this guy sounds like on CD.

For Fans Of: Passion Pit, Casiokids

The Voluntary Butler Scheme
A really short, 3 song set with Rob Jones (aka TVBS) and a piano. These were’nt just any old 3 songs, they were songs that contained whit, playful lyrics [“you wear a Da La Soul t-shirt to make yourself more hip-hop than you actually are”], at least I think that’s what it read, and great uplifting pop melodies that told childlike stories. Sweeeeeeet! Certainly one to look out for in the coming months.

For Fans Of: The Boy Least Likely To, The Research, Jim Noir

Hey Rosetta!
After catching a few bands at The Audio, I decided to make the windy trip along the seafront to The Arc for a showcase of Canadian bands, titled ‘Canadian Blast!’.
I turned up as Hey Rosetta were half way through their first song (at least I think it was, as I was their for most the set). Like the previous day, the venue was again packed and sweaty. I’d listened to these guys prior to the festival and enjoyed what I heard. It’s hard to really pinpoint what these guys sound like, but for all you who know your Canadian music, I think you will grasp an idea of what I’m talking about. Their set closer “New Goodbye” (which is also their album closer) was by far their best track.

For Fans Of: Wintersleep, The Acorn

Hmmm, good at what they do. Got the crowd going too. It was their first time in the UK and by the looks of things, they had some relatives standing in front of us the whole time, dancing and clapping. V Festival here they come!

For Fans Of: White Lies, Hard-Fi, Maroon 5

You could sense there was some hype surrounding this band before they all squeezed onto a rather small stage. Recently been on tour with The Acorn and their album coming out in the UK pretty soon, Ohbijou produce some really good, heart felt songs. Live though, I think they are capable of more. Perhaps not the best venue for 6/7 multi-instrumentalists, as they are capable of making their sound a hell of a lot louder. It didn’t project as much as it should of done. A bigger venue would suit these guys down to the ground.

For Fans Of: Broken Social Scene, The Acorn, The Most Serene Republic

James Yuill
So, a few hours break and time to charge the batteries for what was going to be an immense night. Off to Po Na Na we trotted in the hurricane-like weather to see probably the best line-up of the evening, if you’re quick enough to get there that is. We were. First up was James Yuill, listening to his album a lot prior to this festival made me think that this guy will most definitely be a highlight. A setup of a various mixers and synths accompanied his lonesome acoustic guitar on pub sized stage. Think Postal Service with a bit more oooomph to it. Like Hot Chip but only one guy making the music and I think you’ll end up with James Yuill. Certainly one to listen to.

For Fans Of: Postal Service, The Whitest Boy Alive, M83, Friendly Fires

Slow Club
Last time I saw this band Rebecca used a chair and a drumstick to whip up some beats. That was 3 years ago mind. Now they have the full set. Started off by stealing fellow Yorkshire friends, Tiny Dancers’ idea of walking through the crowd playing totally unplugged to a complete silent crowd. I was hoping to hear “Let’s Fall Back In Love” off lasts years EP, but alas. I had to put up with a set of all new songs. Great. They ended how they begun, by playing the unusual “Christmas TV”, what with it being May an all. I advise you all to see this band if you want some acoustic fun.

For Fans Of: Emmy The Great, Tiny Dancers, Eugene McGuinness

My new years resolution is to get dancing lessons from Casiokids. Awesome. Wasn’t expecting anything to be honest after listening to them before the festival and really sure what they were about, but all that hesitation has now gone. From start to finish they provided some retro beats from their vast array of retro keyboards, by this point the name made total sense, that will uplift and inject some life into almost anyone. Who said analogue was dead?

For Fans Of: Neon Neon, Cut Copy, The Whitest Boy Alive

The Mae Shi
19 Minutes to play a headline slot? Surely this was going to be interesting….
When was the last time you’ve been under a parachute in a small venue full of sweaty music lovers? Or the last time a guitarist rammed his way through the crowd, playing guitar and you find yourself getting caught up in the guitar lead? How about the last time you lost your friends at a gig? I bet you cant remember the last time someone hands you the microphone so that a bunch of your friends can sing a repetitive line over and over whilst the actual singer clambers up the amps with his guitar? I bet you’re trying to think… How did all that happen in 19 minutes? Well… trust me. It did. Awesome.

For Fans Of: No Age, Johnny Foreigner, Dananananaykroyd

Mumford & Sons
Noah and the Whale? Okkervil River? Bright Eyes? Iron & Wine? Tunng? Band of Horses? All those bands warrant the stage more than Mumford & Sons do. The biggest venue at the Great Escape was ram packed. Not all waiting for Metronomy either. The crowd seem to know all the songs too, where did this come from? I’ve never heard of this band before. Don’t get me wrong, they are good at what they do, but I just don’t understand the hype. If any of the above bands played this stage, they wouldn’t of got a bigger reception than these guys did. If Chris Moyles isn’t playing them in his prime time radio show, he soon will be.

For Fans Of: All the above.

Talk about disappointment. A full blow drum kit? A stage presence which mirrors that of Kings of Leon? Where have the synthesizers gone? Sorry, But Metronomy have gone downhill in my opinion. Last time I saw these guys was in a small church in Norwich, and it was one of the best gigs of 2008. Full of beats, dance routines, innovative dress sense topped with a lot of funk. This was just painful to watch. Even if we were right at the back of the venue, we tried to pull some shapes. But I just wasn’t feeling it.

For Fans Of: Holy Fuck, Late of The Pier, Friendly Fires, Foals


The Veils
A short walk to the end of the pier and into Horatio’s Bar for an afternoon of music was perfect. Especially on a sunny day in Brighton. Another 20 minute set angered lead singer Finn Andrews, and you could see his frustration after each song as he struggled at what to play next. “The Letter” off their new album “Sun Gangs” sounded really good live, so much so I found myself singing it all afternoon. Shorty after he pleaded with the crowd and asked them to all stomp at the same time, thus meaning, the pier would sail off into the ocean and they could of played for a lot longer. If only.

For Fans Of: The Dears, Cold War Kids, The National

The Deer Tracks
Queuing up, for what seems to be the most annoying venue EVER, being asked you can’t bring your own beer anywhere near this little makeshift stage is rather annoying. Imagine a carousel without the horses and being confined inside, that’s what this stage was like. Quaint to say the least. The Deer Tracks produce music that is identical to that of Müm. Appearance wise, think of Patrick Wolf laced in black. Good though. Very good.

For Fans Of: Müm, Bjork

The Boxer Rebellion
Not everyone’s choice of headline act for the Saturday, but seeing as Rupert & Myself failed to get into School of Seven Bells due to the 10 or so people that got to the queue before us! God dam them! I decided to run off and see The Boxer Rebellion, A band that have made one of my favourite albums of this year so far. They’ve been quiet since 2004, when I can remember them playing The Delph Bar (RIP) at Lincoln’s student union, have returned with a complete different sound. A more explosive sound this time around, very melodic sound chord progression along with their old tunes, proved to be a great festival closure for myself.

For Fans Of: Hope Of The States, Editors, The Cooper Temple Clause

There we have it....

Probably the best year yet if I am honest. We had an apartment. We were in Brighton for a week. Had a lot of my friends there. The weather wasn't too bad either.
Who's up for next year? Ross, Rob & Myself are in the running for the 5th consecutive year.

Comments/opinions/suggestions please....

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