With three weeks to go, Brighton’s Great Escape festival is close to selling out , though there are still some weekend tickets left plus a few Thursday and two-day tickets. It’s always a good weekend, with the hottest names from the blogs playing alongside brand new acts, visitors from afar and the odd time-served veteran – here you can listen to some of them.
It’s never too early to start planning for a trip to the seaside, is it? Frankly the weather in Brighton in May is quite capable of doing just about anything you can think of, so we’ll maybe leave the suncream vs umbrella decisions til a bit nearer the time. But with three weeks to go, Great Escape has unveiled its schedules so at least you can start trying to work out which bands you’re going to see.
Even for a seasoned Escaper, seeing it all written down looks more than a little overwhelming – our advice is to make a vague plan. Believe me, I’ve tried turning up without a clue and wrestling bits of paper in the seafront wind while trying to phone all your mates who aren’t answering because they’re in a venue with no signal, all the while convinced you’re missing something amazing, can be a bit annoying. On the other hand plotting a minute-by-minute timetable can lead equally to frustration – with the best will in the world some timings will slip, some queues will be too big to bother with and you might not actually be hungry during the 20 minutes you set aside for refuelling. Pick a must-see or two for each day, a hitlist of other things to aim for, a bunch of maybes, and fill the time in between by whatever’s nearby or takes your fancy at the time. Nothing planned for a couple of hours after the band you’re watching? Stay in the venue (provided they weren’t the last on, of course) and see what it throws at you. You don’t want to spend more time walking about than watching music, especially if you don’t know the city well and have to keep getting your map out. And yes, you will need a map unless your local knowledge is encyclopaedic – the mobile data signal can be a bit sketchy in some areas and you don’t want to be wasting time and precious battery life waiting for Googlemaps to load. Still don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas…
Oyama – Thu 16th, Above Audio 13.30; Fri 17th Queens Hotel, 19.45
They’ve come all the way from Iceland to bring you warm, fuzzy shoegazey loveliness. We saw them at Iceland Airwaves in November and we’re looking forward to seeing them again.
Young*husband – Thu 16th, Prince Albert 15.30
They’ve played at Sonic Cathedral nights in London and influences include Stereolab, The Birthday Party, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Yo La Tengo, Broadcast, Wire and The Cocteau Twins.
Monster Island – Thu 16th, The Brighthelm Centre 15.30
Twisted Northern poetry and abrasive post-punk dissonance are the order of the day from this astonishingly prolific Manchester-based band.
Girls Names – Thu 16th, Coalition 19.30
This Belfast four-piece have been getting deservedly great reviews for their second album “The New Life” which brought a more expansive, Bunnymen-like sound to the fore compared to their rather C86-flavoured debut. It suits them, and they’re always really good live.
Cloud Boat – Thu 16th, The Brighthelm Centre 20.30
Friends and sometime tour mates of James Blake, and sharing some influences, their spectral dreampop uses electronics and acosutic guitars to great effect.
The Naturals – Fri 17th, Above Audio 19.45
One of our favourite finds of last year’s festival (caught largely on a “whatever’s nearby” basis) where they impressed with “understated vocals and guitars that build from Foals-ish squiggles to crashing waves” and “songs (that)somehow seem to get bigger and more interesting as they go along.” Great to see them invited back.
Rebekka Karijord – Fri 17th, Prince Albert 20.15
She comes from the Arctic north of Norway, plays the harp (sometimes) and is not averse to wearing a black cloak on stage. LTW’s Dave Brown was at her debut headline gig in London at the start of this year and wrote of a voice that “pierces the silence of the room when she hits the high notes, of which there are many” but also “moments of reflection and beauty”; I was at the Manchester date and am inclined to agree.
Billy Bragg – Friday, Dome
Because while it’s mostly about new artists, there’s still space for a genuine living legend who needs no introduction. The Bard Of Barking headlines the second of three big shows at the Brighton Dome (Everything Everything do the Thursday and Bastille the Saturday, all with appropriate supports) – there may be limited wristband access to these but you can buy a top-up ticket (£7 per night) to guarantee entry. Non festival attendees can also purchase full priced tickets. For details see the festival website.
You know what he sounds like. That said, we’ll never shy away from an excuse to post a great song like this…
The Veils – St Marys Church, Sat 18th 21.30
Their new album “Time Stays, We Go” sees Finn Andrews – once compared to David Bowie and Nick Cave by none other than Geoff Travis – and his band on fine form, while St Mary’s is a beautiful place to watch music, rather unassuming from the outside but vast and cathedral-like once inside. I’m going to stop short of making that into a dodgy analogy, but… oops, too late.
And the final recommendation: go and watch some stuff that’s not on the main schedule…
Alternative Escape kicks off on Wednesday night so if you’re down early you can get a few more bands in, and there are daytime and evening events across 15 venues throughout the main festival weekend organised by various promoters, bloggers and labels. You probably won’t have heard of most of them – I haven’t – but you could find your new favourite band in there before anyone else has heard of them. The Pav Tav’s Saturday all-dayer looks particularly worthy of a visit, with Aldershot’s Our Lost Infantry blending post-rock with stadium pop hooks; proggy math-pop from Halifax’s Wot Gorilla and ‘mutant science punk rock’ from Glasgow’s We Are The Physics among the 16 acts (!) lined up there.
The daytime session in the Republic Of Music courtyard (Friday) is also recommended, as you can catch sets by some of the bands appearing elsewhere at the festival but in a more intimate (and outdoor) situation. Last year we caught an incredible set by Pond whose main schedule appearance was queued down the road – this year Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs, ON AN ON and Splashh are on the bill. Definitely worth spending an evening digging through the listings – there are links for most of the artists to check out.
Oh, and don’t forget to eat.