Keith Goldhanger went to Brighton during this years Great Escape Festival and tried to separate those who are there to work from those like himself who are just there to drink beer and watch some fab bands.
The Great Escape festival finished a few weeks ago. Since then one old man has been thumping his keyboard day after day venting his disapproval towards those in Brighton this weekend who seem to forget that there’s a few of us in town that really don’t give a damn about finding another band that may become as big as ‘Chapel Club’ or who may be filling a gap on Channel Four’s ‘Sunday Brunch’ in two years’ time. You wouldn’t be interested in an angry man’s words about the current crop of twenty-year-olds who seem to be intent on persuading folk such as ourselves to walk across town to see a band that they think have ‘potential’ and you wouldn’t want to wade through three pages of what is basically a big list of different types of ‘potential’ we think might exist in the world of ‘Rock & Roll’ (if we’re still allowed to use this term above the word ‘indie’) that some of us simply don’t give a stuff about.
I’ve even toned down the amount of swear words now I’ve calmed down a bit.
My favourite band at the present time consists of two blokes singing along to the backing track of a CD they’ve recorded in their tiny bedroom and my favourite tune over the past couple of years was recorded by Daphne & Celeste.
If you hold onto that thought for future events then you may realise that I may not be the person to approach if you’re trying to convince me about a new band that sound like Kasabian.
No one seemed to show enough enthusiasm that would persuade me to go and see a band they recommended this weekend. So many failed to actually come up with any reason that wasn’t connected with their annual salary and very few suggested that I should go and see a band by showing any signs that they were a bit besotted or building an unhealthy obsession about the band in question.
There’s only so many times we can look interested when being told that bands A, B, C or D are “getting a good reaction at the moment”…. “A good reaction from who?” I ask … well, “They’re getting played on the radio” I’m told, and “publications (web sites such as this one) are going mad over them!”
The response we give is that we can hear what the radio plays (most of the time) and we read what’s in the NME when there’s one lying discarded on the pavement but the best bands seem to come our way via our mates telling us about them on Facebook or Twitter or by standing in tiny rooms at half eight on a Tuesday evening.
Promoters seem to be an even better source of discovering new bands nowadays. It’s these people we all really need to thank as they’re way ahead of the game than anyone one else it seems.
Three days after this event I’m looking at emails I received from people before the event who appear to send out a lot of emails to strangers about certain bands I’ve actually seen this weekend but I can’t remember much about any more. This, (I will respond to these people later) is not good. The bands I’ve seen who I believe are offering something truly magically creative (more than 50% at this event we attended alone) are the bands that coincidentally I’ve never heard mentioned before.
Therefore using all of the above as an excuse to justify not walking for miles around the streets of Brighton, a decision was made to stay in ONE place (Bar Rogue, Royal Albion Hotel) and allow anyone who really wants a beer and a catch-up to come and find where we are. Every band here over the three days is seen on an equal footing – if you exclude the ones we’ve seen before and written about previously (and indirectly had a hand in them being in this bar either before or after their other gigs in town).
Earworm (who are the promoters of this) are music fans like you and I.
They book bands they love and they realise that if there’s loads of bands (say, from Finland, and Lithuania for example) kicking their heels around town during the main event then there’s a possibility that they can grab some of these and allow them space for an additional show.
This isn’t about money either.
This is about simply showing off a lot of bands these people really like and listen to day to day and maybe give Great Escape punters a second chance to see if they’ve not been able to make the other shows around this busy town.
These are bands that Earworm feel should be connecting with more people than they probably are.
People like myself and hopefully whoever else walks through these doors during the weekend.
Earworm are providing us with bands we can and will discuss in the present tense NOT the future tense. If you really want to know how many of these we think (well, I think) will one day headline Glastonbury and make bucket loads of money for the people who are probably staying awake after our own bedtimes snorting coke from a glamour model’s arse (OK then, probably not) then it’ll be NIL – Zilch – A BIG FAT ZERO.
We’re here to witness a lot of bands in their prime.
If they are yet to reach their ‘potential’ then I’m afraid some of us simply are not interested. We’re here for the present, these bands are genuinely brilliant already. Some of them may not even exist in twelve months’ time, but some of them will, and some of them may end up down YOUR local on a Friday or Monday evening where your attendance will contribute to a really bloody great night out and give those who arrange such evenings justification to keep putting these shows on.
Some of these bands, even though we sometimes wonder how, will even get better and better (I’m looking at you ASYLUMS). Seeing bands X, Y or Z before they reach their ‘potential’ (that word again!) we are simply not interested in (yet).
I’ll tell you who we’ve seen this weekend that does have ‘potential’ though. A chap called Oliver who most people that attended this particular venue over the weekend would not have even noticed. Oliver is part of a small army of six or seven people from the local Northbrook College who were responsible for the lights and sound this weekend and who, without exception made every band sound great and went about their business so efficiently that half hour sets followed by twenty minute changeovers were consistent over the duration of our attendance. There were probably similar people all over the town this weekend doing the same, however Oliver is sixteen, and he may have been the last one standing at the end of all this and is gearing up his existence to get involved in the things we all often take for granted when we go out in the evenings. Including Saturday, when most kids of his age should be learning how to smoke fags outside the local shopping arcade not replacing a string that the performing band have snapped but would like back after they’ve played us a tune that doesn’t require the broken instrument for a few minutes.
OK then . . . so who are these bands we’ve seen and which ones are going to be eventually chased down the street by the man we met who claimed he worked for a secondary ticketing company (and was hopefully not telling us the truth)?
The Ferns we were told as we walked through the door we’d love. By their Dad. They were OK, pulled a good sized crowd and sounded like they’d owned a Stone Roses album or two.
YATS, a guitar/drums duo as good as any other duo formed by hoards of folk since hearing ‘Hotel Yorba’.
Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? from Finland were an early highlight as they threw out 2-minute pop songs that reminded us of The Pipettes from the last decade and many early 60s pop combos. SuperGlu were a late addition and a highlight of the whole event even though they’d just finished a show across the road about three minutes earlier, and FANS who we’d been listening to and enjoying immensely since their inclusion in this event was known, sounded (surprisingly) like a joyous Joy Division adding euphoria to the bits that the combo from Manchester many years ago omitted from their songs. They made us wonder why this band were not one of the bands people were sending us emails about earlier in the week (maybe they were?).
Listen to this whilst I continue to waffle on …
FANS were also a band that played the main Great Escape event more than once over the weekend and brought along one or two people who had seen them before and wanted to catch them again as soon as possible or before they would learn that their other shows may clash with something else equally as good. This is certainly a huge benefit of the weekend when it comes to scheduling clashes. We were told of many occasions where wristband holders got to see pretty much all of their favourites once they learned of other shows under the banner of The Alternative Escape that were providing everyone with even more choice.
Inwards is one man a few digital gadgets and a lot of wires protruding from such instrumentation that had us swaying to glitches, gurgles and the odd welcome foot tapping bass drum.
Gang had a lot of hair and a lot of decent grungy, melodic tunes, Perch had us tapping our toes to the jerky twisty noise and rhythm whilst Without Letters, a Lithuanian electro outfit, kept our interests up and reminded us to search for our dancing shoes and party the night (evening) away as they filled the room with tunes a little like Hot Chip playing hypnotic joyous 70s detective style intro music that would usually accompany a chase between the bad boy and the good cop.
We end the day with Southend’s Asylums who yet again tear the room apart and manage to climb on everything, twist their bodies into shapes even unsuitable for a Russian gymnast to attempt, and still throw out shouty catchy sing-a-long tunes after every shouty catchy sing-a-long tune they own. An album is on the way and it’ll be an album some of us are really looking forwards to hearing.
Fabrics open up day two with songs that seem to have most of the staple things required when making indie music in 2016 – twangy reverb guitar, a couple of ooohs, a couple of quiet bits, a couple of loud bits and a lot crashing drums. Retoryka who have a man in grey tartan trousers looking like either Ian McCulloch or Paul McCartney (we couldn’t decide) were an odd bunch making odd music that we shall investigate further and probably discover after few listens that they really are worth shouting about. They sang a song about pretending to be American. Without sounding American but understanding why some people may chose to do so.
Why An Eye also, we couldn’t work out what they were doing. Simple riffs, grungy choruses a bit Sabbath and tunes we need to investigate further before deciding if their songs will stay with us for a few weeks, months, years or days.
The Wholls, a band we have been told “great things are being expected from” entertained us with some witty banter in between the Arctic Monkeys sounding tunes, left a guitar in the venue and then didn’t miss it for four days by which time they’d played a dozen gigs and were now almost in Scotland.
CuT arrived, played a blinder and came a step closer to providing at least one of us around here a reason to sit down for a few hours and ask them where they’ve been recently, about the change in line-up, the new tunes and the lack of facial hair along with the more interesting subject of where Dan finds all those catchy choruses that he seems to evenly distribute around each song.
Fragile Creatures may have one or two tunes one of us loses interest in before they end (we find out later these are what are referred to as ‘the old ones’) and a few tunes we really love to bits (we find out later these are what are referred to as ‘the new ones’). Their recent single Stowaway is a big moment in this room – however not as big as what follows.
The Fiction Aisle feature Fragile Creatures’ vocalist on guitar, a little older now Thomas White (Electric Soft Parade, Brakes) along with six other people, some of them producing the only wind instruments of the event. We’re hearing some epic tunes played with discipline and restrain that remind us of those wonderful nights years ago when we’d stand in front of Hope of the States trying not to shed tears caused by the orchestral sounding songs in front of us. A highlight of the weekend for sure, maybe THE highlight once we get to learn what that last tune they performed was and start humming along to it on the Tube one day.
Jingo were also rather epic but in a different kind a way. Big booming piano driven verses and big sweary choruses from this Anglo US four piece had those in the room transfixed as tune after tune came and went without allowing us to even pause for breath.
KRAK KRAK are a trio of hardcore shouty punk rock fiends who proved in their half hour slot that they knew all the right bits to exclude from their repertoire. No Guitar solos, words instead of growls and pounding drums that moved at a hundred miles an hour without any acknowledgment that there were some of us actually standing three feet away enjoying this. There will be mosh pits waiting all over Europe for KRAK KRAK who will be loved by all who spend their lives throwing themselves head first into this shouty stuff.
Finally, Arrows of Love end the day by throwing themselves around like we’re used to seeing, handing out guitars to audience members, drinking their bodyweight in alcohol and playing us tunes similar to those that anyone of any age should be able to justify in loving whether it’s twenty-year-olds looking for something they can watch and throw themselves about to at the same time or music lovers thirty years older who remember the excitement that bands of this ilk used to cause back when they were in their twenties themselves.
DAY THREE: BRAIN QUEEN start us off on the final day with grungy riffs, a T-shirt sporting Brian May from Queen (!) and a pretty decent set of tunes.
Dexy calmed things down with his booming voice accompanied by some calm acoustic riffs and then just as we expected a bit of mayhem and aggression from an unruly looking bunch setting up their gear that we see from the posters are called Babe, we then spend the next half an hour transfixed by the sweet sounds filling the room. Gerard Black could be the biggest potential pop star we see in this room this weekend. A high pitched voice backed by some very sweet non-intrusive instrumentation that we discover later are connected with the wonderful Francois and the Atlas Mountains and Moshi Moshi record label. They’re ticking all the right boxes already, sound like a chilled out Everything Everything, make us want to stand in front of them again sometime and learn that even though they may look as though they’re about to growl at us, scream and shout, roll around the floor and cause some early afternoon mayhem we couldn’t be further from the truth. Superb stuff.
Events are now getting some of us excited to the point of delirium once Porridge Radio arrive and we learn from this band that prejudging a band by their name before a note has been played is as bad as prejudging a band before hearing them by their haircuts as we discovered earlier.
Porridge Radio may one day be lumped into that section inside record shops marked ‘Riot Grrrl’ however they’re probably more like early 1980s favourites The Fatal Microbes, …And The Native Hipsters or even Brighton’s own The Chefs. That’s as close as we can get to a comparison. A unique outfit that consist of a guitarist who seems to spend the duration of the set staring out of the window and three young women who laugh, dance and sing their tunes that come across as very well-rehearsed, chaotic yet disciplined songs. Another one to browse the listing for over the next few months. A wonderful performance.
Lunar Quiet were a little 80s sounding also but this came from a presumed diet of early Cure LPs they may or may not own. We’re exhausted at this point and are reminded that frontman Tom also fronted last year’s attendees The Mono Polys who we also enjoyed and caused some of us to spend the year waiting to witness again.
Bathymetry won us over with their delightful dual vocals, stop/start songs and much needed laid back songs from their album we reviewed here last year and Cassels gave us yet another glimpse of their intense guitar and drum arrangements.
ALMA have the pianos and the sweet soft echoing guitars and voice to get any Sigur Ros fanatic swooning. Even though they looked a little displeased with their own sounds they were filling the room with this really was an excellent performance. Restrained, mellow and delightful tunes with a soft voice accompanying the looped electronic riffs. ALMA make music as the sun sets on our weekend and we wonder if the day will ever arrive when they will again as it rises.
And that was it.
Loads of new bands with little or no noticeable backing by those here in Brighton searching for or promoting some new bands to push into the world inhabited by the masses. A world we live in that’s submerged in great music at the moment, performed by creative people with focus on the present and very little on the future (yet) with tunes already available some of us believe the world would love to bits if seen or heard.
We saw and met a collection of people running around town, laminates blowing in the wind, living off a diet of cod and chips for three days oblivious to the fact that some of us can get what we want in just the one room, get home to switch on our SoundCloud or Bandcamp websites to a background of TV adverts reminding us that in a few weeks’ time they’ll be broadcasting the likes of Muse and Coldplay headlining the festival everyone wants to be at and everyone would like to perform at.
Muse are headlining Glastonbury for the third time this year and this will be Coldplay’s forth headline appearance.
Maybe there really aren’t enough great bands around at the moment then?
I might give Adele a look mind.
Pictures by Keith Goldhanger from top to bottom :
Arrows of Love, Asylums, Alma, Babe, SuperGlu, Have you ever seen the Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS?, The Fiction Aisle,CuT, Krak Krak, Porridge Radio, Cassels, Lunar Quiet and Bathymetry.
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All words by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).You may subscribe to the Goldhanger Shorts Facebook page too if you so wish.