The Great Escape
Brighton, Various Venues Thursday, May 16–Saturday, May 18
The Great Escape festival in Brighton: a three-day event where the unannounced, secret shows and band or DJ-hosted house parties create the same amount of raw excitement as the actual headliners. Thursday night’s bill-toppers Everything Everything know all about that, being a band who have risen through the festival’s ranks – they now feel like the kings of Brighton beach. Clad in their navy boiler-suit uniform, the quartet may still look like they’re coming round to fix your water pipes, but the likes of newer slowie ‘Torso Of The Week’ and current single ‘Duet’ are anything but mundane. The biggest cheers are reserved for the oldies however (‘MY KZ, UR BF’, ‘Photoshop Handsome’), but the fact that a track like ‘Cough Cough’ – a deeply strange pop song – is the most celebrated of the day is testament to how strong the four lads have become.
Down the road, Drenge (brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless) make the vast surrounds of the Corn Exchange feel like a sweaty, scummy basement with the bluesy scuzz of the uncompromising ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Backwaters’. Mac DeMarco meanwhile, does a quite different version of ‘uncompromising’. The ’60s jangles of ‘Freaking Out The Neighborhood’ and his cover of The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ are hazily sweet affairs, but the man himself has plenty of magnetism, and is a subtle storm in a Rambo T-shirt. It’s entirely appropriate then, that the gig ends when he crowdsurfs his way out of the venue and into the car park, quite shirtless.
At the other end of the spectrum lie Temples: you know a band are born stars when a sea of heads sweep round whenever they enter the room. The quartet’s scheduled show at The Haunt is one of the weekend’s surefire highlights (not least for the debut outing of forthcoming B-side ‘Ankh’ – basically a string-sampling, glam-rock James Bond theme), but a secret guest spot in Shipwright’s Yard really shows their mettle. That the band can sound like Phil Spector working the sound desk in a venue that’s essentially a glorified car park is definite proof that they’re a cut above. Elsewhere, Mikal Cronin’s doe-eyed love songs gain a heavier garage stomp live. But Friday’s highlight comes in the form of another secret guest spot inside the sweatiest room of the weekend that leads to a stage invasion of epic proportions. Just a year on from their Great Escape debut show, Palma Violets’ 2am set feels like the coronation of four returning ragtag heroes. From ‘Johnny Bagga Donuts’ to a gloriously jubilant ‘We Found Love’ via a riotous, crowd-embracing ‘Fourteen’, the Palma boys’ set feels as exciting as any they’ve ever played, ever. This is a raucous rollercoaster that’s certainly showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Saturday bursts into action with Swim Deep putting in a last-minute appearance at the tiny Smack Bar, ‘The Sea’ and a final moshpit-inducing ‘King City’ proving admirable early afternoon party-starters. The weekend’s biggest disappointment, though, comes from the expected crackle and howl of Deap Vally. Today, their hypersexual Led Zep shtick simply fails to connect. Maybe it’s because half the crowd are expecting Jagwar Ma (who had to pull out due to illness), or maybe it’s because Los Angeleans Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards are a little too style-over-substance, but nonetheless the room remains unmoved. It’s left then, to Parquet Courts to round the weekend off and redeem the evening, which they do with ease and aplomb, of course. Their set is front-loaded with hits, and they dispatch the rattling, deadpan Modern Lovers-isms of ‘Master Of My Craft’ and ‘Borrowed Time’ early, but there are kicks to be had right through the whole thing. Roll on the rest of the festivals!