So if you’ve been vaguely keeping up with this blog you may well know that I’ve had somewhat of a rough innings with multi-venue festivals of late. The Camden Crawl amounted to a mid-school holiday trip to the worst theme park in the world, where the only relief that follows soul-ravaging comedy-queue waiting is being told that the ride has finished for the day, but that if you’re lucky you may just be able to have a go on the rickety woodworm-ridden seesaw scheduled to follow your intended rollercoaster. Hmm, that’s a testing metaphor. Anyways, yeah, it was crap. And I maintain that generally these kind of events aren’t the best way to discover or enjoy new, or for that matter, not so new music…
However, Brighton’s Great Escape on line-up alone offered far more an intriguing prospect. Plus, there’s the added pro of not being in Camden. Plus, I get to kill two birds with one stone by staying with my mum (I grew up there) and make her happy. So before my train had even pulled in yesterday it was already ranking reasonably well in my estimations.
Maybe the organisers had read my Crawl blog, but when I arrived they accosted me and wrapped me head to toe in AAA passes. So in contrast to the enforced and improvised organisational commentary of my Crawl blog, the Great Escape reports shall be swaddled in a blankets of back-scratching falsity, but ultimately, may include reviews of some bands… So without further ado:
My nostalgia trip fittingly started at something of a Brighton institution. The very venue I’d first witnessed a live band at, aged 13, The Freebutt. Part of an inviting little showcase from feather ruffling Brighton indie imprint One Inch Badge Records, who’ve recently put out stuff by Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Gay Against You and The Lonely Ghosts. First on were Nullifier, who live comprise of an eight-piece supergroup of Brightonian indie luminaries, including members of Help She Can’t Swim, The Tumbledown Estate, My Device and various others that are possibly even less famous. The band, bolstered by numerous superfluous-looking extra ‘electronic dudes’ and percussionists, sounded utterly vast from the get-go. Imagine pre-Erol Late Of The Pier with a special mystical ruby ring that banishes all the dad’s record collection prog-shlock, replacing it with a giddy, clattering astral Fisher-Price grrrl-power. Blossoming hooks that rightly should have no business within a farmer’s mile of a scrotty bunch of indie dweebs in a dimly lit boozer at 7pm on a Thursday evening. Stupendous stuff.
Next I hobbled over through a nastily spitting downpour to Hector’s House. I knew it from days or yore as a studenty bar that used to (allegedly) serve gassy budget lager to anyone tall enough to peer over the bar. We came to see Magic Magic. They’re the latest of these recent lineage of bands that palpitates the Pitchfork axis, uniting fans of musty roots’n’roll, stubbly out-of-bed good-looks, baying spectral harmonies and saggy cardis that look like they’ve not left the guitarist’s body since he acquired it from the corpse of a hepcat scarecrow. They were perfectly listenable. Zinging choruses and sleepy strums. But nothing that impacted with more drama than an amiable ‘hmmm’.
Another venue, another buzz band. Over the road at the Sallis Benney Theatre Mirrors were almost ready to take to the stage. As I entered the venue I had any hopes and dreams of these mysterious Kraftwerkian synthscopic gloomsters rudely pulled from beneath me, as one of my accomplices let slip that in fact Mirrors are the newly reborn second life of terminally meek power-indie also-rans Mumm-Ra. Admittedly this was then lodged firmly in my mind throughout the following set. But nevertheless, while they omitted numerous nagging hooks that lodged themselves deep within the most brooding, troubled crevices of your unconscious, that theirs was yet another case of pomp over product. Their clingy beige nylon suits, choreographed robot statue silliness, and extravagant abstract A/V art assault added up to melodrama overkill, feeling at points like naff camp creation from the same BBC team that made the last ‘Dr Who’ series. Another possible reinvention of White Lies-brand transparency, unless they force a good long hard look at themselves before word gets out.
Fan Death, not live, and certainly not unleashed
Lastly, a band that by all rights should have been gash at this stage. Fan Death, the inspiringly well-named Canadian three-piece that surfaced towards the tail-end of last year’s italo-apocalypse, should by all rights be one of those remix acts that can poo-out silky-string strewn reworkings like they wolf down six portions of Bollywood biryani every night, but amount to an awkward office party co-worker karaoke booth sing-a-long onstage. Not so. Clad in witchy black tunics, and pirouetting with slinky grace, Dandi (of Dandi Wind almost-fame) has seemingly found her better-suited understated calling.
The dizzying synthetic trills sound like the unexpected blasts you get whilst tuning your radio on roadtrip holiday in Turkey, bound together with a meaty, bobbing urgency from the emaciated onstage knob-twiddler (who apparently nobs Dandi) and a pouty annunciations that makes the Glass Candy pack sound like a class of asthmatic sex pests. Great dance-pop realised with imagination and conviction. Like a instantly regretted chicken doner wrap at the end of a boozy Thursday evening, full of alluring eastern promise.