wot! no Steve McQueen?
wot! no Steve McQueen?

The Great Escape
selected highlights
May 2012

wot! no Steve McQueen?

The Great Escape is the UK’s premier music convention. We report back on some of the great bands that played there.

We go to a lot of these things, music conferences with lots of new bands playing. Sleep deprivation days of madness and nights of high decibel. In Europe the bands can be amazing, from black metal folk to electrnic lunacy with punk and noise thrown in, the UK is generally whatever hip whim has taken over the indie scene.. this year there are lots of nu folk types, nice boys from the suburbs with whiney songs but there is also a raft of some great stuff that makes the Great Escape stand out.

The daytime debate are a great chance to argue and debate music issues in the day and then gorge on the endless conveyer belt of new bands in the evening. Spending all day chairing panels about music and then drowning in the night time of music.

In Brighton at The Great Escape I’m chairing the pop and politics Arty Political Broadcast panel discussing key issues that affect the music community and then take the keynote interview with Michael Eavis and Rob Da Bank at a packed in conversation event.

The Michael Eavis interview, in front of the packed audience is a blast. The amiable Glastonbury boss talks about his Friesian cows, how he booked the Smiths in 1984 when I ask him about new bands and about Glastonbury itself when I ask about the spirit of festivals. An amiable man who is one of the last links back to the frontline of sixties counter culture, Michael is an unlikely counter culture icon- a farmer who loved music and kept the festival idea alive when the cops were busting all the others in the early seventies. You can’t get past the fact that this is the man that invented the modern festival and even if he claims tradition for noisy, bawdy good time gatherings go back to the middle ages it’s Glastonbury that was the game changer.

Below are some selected highlights of running around town on the gig trail…

There are so many bands playing that its impossible to get anywhere near to see them all so the following is a swift guide to what we managed to actually get to.

Somehow we manage to miss Tokyo’s Trippple Nipple and I’m sulking because they are quite brilliant. Their typically Japanese high IQ approach to their music sees them cramming more ideas into one song than most groups manage in a life time. Ostensibly they come on like some moody, electro pop band but they are quite capable of letting go in a rush of body paint, nipples taped up, nappy wearing gonzoid stage frenzy that quite terrifies the living shit out of the audience. They are like a pop band gone completely insane- a girl group who sound like a speeded up computer game, a totally sex beat, crazed cabaret on acid and they should be the world’s biggest band and they probably are in a parallel universe. They sound totally utterly 21st century and their stage show is like nothing else on the planet.

Haim are the buzz band that everyone has rushed off to see, three LA sisters who are folk meets R n B but live are far tougher sounding that bodes well for the future, a Fleetwood Mac for the future without the coke getting blown up the anus.

The Computers are an amazing rock n roll meltdown- quite possibly the best band of the whole weekend. Dressed in white they could be accused of being the Hives but have retained the punk rock rush and play a sweatshod manic set of band as gang gangbangers. Each song has a killer hook and that Jim Jones swaggering rock n roll feel to it, except they were doing this years before the fab Jones crew. Their gig in a Brighton launderette is legendary. We can’t even get in and stand outside in the street looking through the steamed up windows at the rock n roll demolition. This band should be massive.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen is atmospheric, cinematic, meditative clouds of sullen calm. In the middle of the chaos of running around this a good thing. The music’s pastoral beauty draws you in with it’s lush melodies and ”Ëœpost classical’ sense of grandeur.

Black Moth were once a garage punk band called The Bacchae who morphed into the heavier and more interesting Black Moth. With tracks getting produced by Nick Cave  and Grinderman member and ex Teenage Jesus, Cramps and Sonic Youth member/contemporary Jim Sclavunos the band are sounding ready and their heavy duty show in the cramped and sweaty room is a deliverance.

The Suicide Of Western Culture are a Spanish duo who also the explore the dark, moody, post classical, industrial electronic terrain. Their eponymous debut album, tinkering with eerie, lo-fi electronics, sounds like Fuck Buttons or Animal Collective but is mainly instrumental and is chillingly effective. With the same sort of intensity and droning whiff of danger as Suicide this is electronic music at its very best.

Odonis Odonis are tapping into the rich vein of shoe gazing crunched through a fat fuzz pedal. Their songs creep up on you and explode into an orgy of distorted passion. There are hints of Dinosaur Jnr at their filthy noisy best and the tripped out wooziness of My Bloody Valentine but also a big dollop of punkish energy and noise that makes them an adrenalised thrill.

Yacht look like new romantics lip gloss crushed with New York hipsters. The singer resembles a girly version of Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran but their command of their form wins over and despite their hipster credentials they are prepared to sweat for their incessant grooves which gives them an edge over the rest of their brethren in the Williamsburg coffee houses.

Antlered Man are amazing- an absolutely stunning band and my new favourite band. They take the post rock, math rock colliding riffs of a Shellac and play them with a metal power. They take the insanely complex, almost prog song structures and turn them into something that makes sense and can be translated to a mosh pit. Their debut album Giftes 1 & 2, is full of twists and turns, eastern drones headbutting intensely heavy passages- pure noise giving way to melodic rushes and they expand on this live. They are proper heavy as well, and their nerdy Woody Allen on steroids approach is refreshingly powerful and brilliantly unexpected.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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