Kicked off strongly with Laurel's Komedia set of cinematic folky indie pop. Without the Florence-esq production of her records she charmed the room of charmlessly arms folded delegates with some stripped down and charismatic pop songs very impressively.
Having never come across Emilie Nicholas before I went from being pleasantly intrigued to utter entranced by the bags of atmosphere, relaxed confidence, truck loads of bass and smartly stripped, industrial glitches. Also the best damn singer I heard all weekend. Very good indeeeeed.
The Neighbourhood were great but got screwed by their sound guy and having hailed Rosie Lowe's Right Thing the best song of 2013 I was keen to dash over and squeeze into a packed Komedia Studio Bar to squint from the back and marvel at the smokey minimal R&B sass of (what I think was) Lowe and her all-female band. Just caught the end of Raleigh Richie, who was bouncing all over the place to the monumental Bloodsport. Needed more of this one though. And the rest of the night was a neon dance fest to Claire's basement gig which concluded with one of the best high fives of my life from Josie-Claire herself.
Friday kicked off with a set from Canadian indie rock band Alvvays who recently impressed with Marry me, Archie and set the whole festival in motion early on Thursday lunchtime with their opening set. Said hit-song brought the curtain down on their show and set me on my jolly little way. "To The Warren!" we bellowed, enthusiastically, "For pop music of the highest order!". And so it was.
Tove Lo's second set of the weekend was well received, basically because she's a frighteningly on-point pop star. Her band of two drummers and keys/synth man were tight and the tunes are great and Tove Lo has the naturally magnetic appeal of a total pop star who you can't take your eyes off for a second and that calibre of quality is rarer than rocking horse shit and supremely exciting. Definitely he musical highlight of the weekend and they were all sound as a pound when we met up over a beer afterwards.
Although not necessarily to my taste, Kiesza was very impressive (Jeff Buckley cover aside) but watching her and the two overall-clad dancing guys doing their 80's beatbox street routines to her number one smash hit record you could be forgiven for thinking you weren't at a pioneering new musical discovery event. Not her fault she broke so soon I guess. Still good though, don't get me wrong, son. And so the evenings events in this venue came to a close with Ella Eyre. The UK pop music scene has been getting all worked up and cray cray since that Rudimental record last year and as a singer, she definitely delivers. Fantastic singer, very watchable, really good pop star, great band...hopefully she won't be suffocated by the hype.
I then dragged my scraggly group of idiots through wind and driving rain through the Brighton streets, pretending to know where I was going and somehow making it to The Haunt for Fat White Family. This same (apparently deceiving) confidence managed to earn us a completely unwarranted queue-jump and thus, we were into one of the most hotly anticipated buzz shows of the weekend, buying overpriced drinks and getting psyched about a band none of us knew much, if anything about. That didn't stop us getting down in the thick of it though and the punk rock hysteria, lead by a greased up man wearing nothing but a loin cloth swept over these enthusiastic morons (myself one of them). People were pushing and jumping and screaming and everything! Some guys even laid on top of the crowd and allowed themselves to be passed from person to person until said people couldn't be arsed anymore and abruptly let them fall 6-7 feet to meet the very solid floor. Fat White Family was a lot of fun - intense, energetic and chaotic, lead by a guy who would intimitade even Mr T with his unhinged terror.
Exhilarating stuff indeed and if you think the evening was started by a Canadian indie rock band, illuminated by a Swedish electro-pop singer and finished with a London punk band wearing a bloody loin cloth - all emerging acts who are awesome in their own way - that's what makes The Great Escape absolutely essential.
NME's gig at The Corn Exchange was the biggest and most grande of settings I experienced over the weekend, having bypassed the sold-out big name Dome shows. Philadelphia's hazy indie surf pop band Cheerleader suited the event, sounding like just the type of band the magazine has built its empire on. They had a real groove to their tracks and were definitely a good advert for guitar music not being dead just yet.
Enter Years & Years, the type of band the NME no doubt wants to be associated with to lose it's 'indie mag' tag. A constant confusion to me, this band. At first I thought they were an indie-dance band, then had to reconsider them as a dance group who make poppy songs and now I'm fairly convinced they're an R&B band with a shit load of bass and a penchant for sweet melodies. Conclusion: The most exciting UK band I saw all weekend. Creative, fearless, original and frighteningly young, they're a fizzy bag of sugary ideas and I can't wait for the next cola bottle.
Ear marked early on as a must see show to camp out for, National Anthem, Chess Club and the worlds finest record label Neon Gold put on a stellar line up at The East Wing and post hangover curing Subway, this weird convention centre-vibes venue was to be our galaxy of prosper. Sundara Karma were good with their sunny hook filled indie pop tunes which grew bigger balls than I was expecting live. Purposeful and confident, the Reading Chess Club signees made a strong case for being a hit at the more tropical of festivals this summer.
Young & Sick, a new one on me, had a singer with a stupid hat and a cute keyboard player but thankfully there was more to them than my crude initial observations. The singer sounded like Michael Jackson and was bloody amazing to be fair (shit hat aside), the cute keyboard player was also a great singer and their sultry slow jam R&B tunes converted this messed up corporate function room into a down-lit LA club. Which reminds me - the lighting in this venue was dire.
Probably the band I was most looking forward to, Wet are a priceless entity. They completely seduced me with their sweet pop which sounds like a candle lit duvet day in their Brooklyn apartment with way too much uniquely cool decor for my tiny mind to comprehend. Drummer aside, they looked like they didn't give too much of a shit, standing around being all Brooklyn and stuff, and I totally buy into it. Emotionally charged, smokey pop songs all over the place and NY cool enveloping everybody, they did nothing but reinforce why Wet are so exciting right now. I could go on about these guys but I'll sound like their press agent so in the interest of impartiality (and finishing this damn review) I'll move on.
Last act of the weekend for this guy, whose body weight at this point was probably comprised of aprox 70% beer, 30% other stuff, was MØ. One of my moronic companions hated Wet so I wanted to hate MØ, despite liking some of her songs. But she tore that bit of inter-lad rivalry to pieces and set fire to it, completely slayed the place and sprayed infectious energy and beats everywhere. She was bouncing around on stage, crowd surfing, running through the crowd, generally making a nuisance of herself really. Pretty stunning to be honest.
Not getting in to Jon Hopkins. Not seeing more of Raleigh Richie.
The queue for Rejjie Snow. Really wanted in on that one.
A seagull nicked my doughnut (there was no confusion about ownership either, it was firmly in my hand at the time of the incident).
The sound for The Neighbourhood.
Young & Sick's singers hat.
A couple of pints tasted a bit like soapy water. That's about it though.
See you next year Great Escape, you mystical new musical conjuror.