Saturday, July 20, 2024

Live Review: The Great Escape Festival 2014

With a weekend simply bursting with exciting rock acts – like New York’s Augustines or the Kendal rock-poppers The Wild Beasts. And with special sets by groups like Brighton’s own punky Gnarwolves or the prog-rock artists the Von Hertzen Brothers.  Added to these the all-or-nothing escapades from such legendary bands as The Subways … and even a secret gig played by Kaiser Chiefs. You had to admit that this year’s Great Escape was always going to be a whopping great celebration of rock – in all its many guises.


Possibly the only problem with Brighton’s Great Escape is that the stages are situated all around the town. So you have to literally walk miles tracking down your favourite bands. Armed with our timetables and a strict sense of duty … we foot slogged into the horizontal rain. It soon became very clear that wherever we ended up first would be an anchor-point – otherwise we would be drowned rats – before we had even started.

So we began our weekend sheltering away from the icy sheets of rain at the Blind Tiger pub. Spending quality time with the mild dream pop outfit Alvvays – flown in all the way from the Toronto-area of Canada. We plugged into their rich layers of resonance and overflowing sourness. Molly Rankin (lead singer) wooed the crowd who swayed soggily. And she went some way into coaxing the sunshine to come out from his shell – willing it to blink out at us from behind a sullen sky.

Over at the packed party at the Queens Hotel, we witnessed the Dutch indie band Taymir as they played their decidedly 1960’s shaped rock ditties to an excited audience. It was the first of two fantastic shows for this band, and it proved to be a howling success. The four young lads from The Hague are still celebrating the successful release of their début album ‘Phosphene’ and it was abundantly clear that they are likely to hit the big time very soon.


We got up early to see Luxembourg’s  Angel At My Table at The Bermuda Triangle. It seems we got the times wrong on our cleverly devised timetable. So we went to The Hope pub instead. AAMT have already opened for Paramore, Biffy Clyro and  Good Charlotte ( amongst others) and they performed a Euro-tour (as well as a trip down-under) in 2013. So they already feel like a thoroughly seasoned band. Their song ‘Open Seas’ is an explosion of lush chords and rapidly developing rhythms. Joelle’s (lead singer) voice was as clear as a crystal thimble. The bell-like sounds of her fluid vocals cut through the luxuriant fabric bonds of each song. Lacing all the work neatly together.

Beretta Suicide Great Escape 2014Australian band Stonefield played a rockin’ set over at the Madeira Shelter. The performance from these four sisters was so hot that it almost set the musty old seaside woodwork on fire.  Their songs are certainly summer-radio  ready … but they also boast an electrifying quality that’s full of zest and wonder.

Power punk multi-instrumentalist and  Patti Smith impersonator  over at the ‘Animal Farm’ showcase at The Tube later in the day – played a rare set that combined both ingenuity and nerves. The whole performance tingled with powerfully emotional under-currents. It was as if the band-members were all about to explode … and they were struggling to keep a complex series of torrid emotions under tight control.

Sneering Leeds-based trio Beretta Suicide also played on the ‘Animal Farm’ stage. Their gobbets of sleaze-infused punkish theme-tunes were hard to ignore- full of gritty, sweaty impulses.


Swaying Wires-Great Escape 2014The gentle rivulets of folk-rock sound produced by the Finnish act Swaying Wires at the ‘Battle Recordings’ show-case delicately awoke us in the faint noonday sun that moodily glimmered over the Fishbowl pub. This band produced a  collection of songs that – although richly ambient – were also powerful enough to excite us.

Punk duo Slaves seemed to be on everyone’s ‘must see’ list for the weekend. Slaves are Isaac Holman (drums and vocals ) – with Laurie Vincent – who was showing off his new guitar;  “I had to get shot of the other one … she started to become disloyal and deceptive…” They played the most unpolished & unholy set ever witnessed at the Coalition.  Their sounds were uniquely British – Slaves drummer Isaac Holman Great Escape 2014perhaps even a tad quaint and ordinary … but very dirty and street-wise nonetheless. Their combined raw energy seemed enough to power a medium sized aircraft carrier. The huge noise produced by these two likeable – yet feckless – Kentish lads was gigantic.

Our favourite rock act of the festival was brought to us by Mammut from Reykjavik in Iceland. It is true, these boys and girls sounded like The Sugarcubes – but that is no bad thing. Kata, the lead singer, floated – crafted – and gurgled her way above and across most of the lyrics… taking the most subtle, twisting, turning, floating songs you can possibly imagine; Then spiralling them into something even bigger and even more fluorescent.

Ása-Bass Guitar - Mammút - Great Escape 2014 image by Neil Mach

Sometimes, the tiny flakes of swirling sound created by Mammut fluttered around the room (at Above Audio) like fairy gold dust. Yet, at other times, we heard huge stomping bear-shaped mounds that seemed to trudge towards us in great swathes of thoroughly addictive riffs. This was a sensational act to watch. And to listen to. And to experience.

Another amazing weekend spent in Brighton. Where rock is still considered to be a precious commodity.

Neil Mach
Neil Mach
RAMzine Senior Writer - With a career spanning 30 years author / journalist Neil Mach is an expert on the music business and is a reliable guide. He especially loves heavy metal, prog & blues.

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