The Great Escape, Brighton - Day 1 - Thursday 10th May 2012

The Great Escape, Brighton – Day 1 – Thursday 10th May 2012


Day 1

I was welcomed to Brighton last Thursday with wet hair and an ominous grey cloud lurking overhead: the quintessential Great British festival. Keen to ignore the potential of a washout weekend and to get reveries underway as soon as possible, I swiftly grabbed my wristband and made tracks to get to The Haunt on the seafront for the first band of the day.

For the past year I have been keeping an admirable eye upon La Femme. They combine 60’s surf sounds and songwriting stylistics with the darker sides of 80’s synthwave. I wasn’t quite sure of the instrumentation of the band in a live context, as I had only heard them upon record. Hence my surprise when I walked in the room to see an electronic militia of 4 synthesisers and a drum machine positioned as a firing line at the front of the stage.

Their performance started brightly. Most of their material has ‘four to the floor’ rigid bass drum beats played at a danceable up-tempo pace. They often include instrumental sections where they play with musical dynamics incredibly well and there is a strong sense of enjoyment and feeling amongst band members, which isn’t lame. ‘Fun’ can be lame. By the time they dropped their most popular track, ‘Sur La Planche’, (third in the set) the crowd really picked up and were completed sold by their efforts.

They’re cool. The singer is a babe. The Parisians also opt to sing in their mother tongue, which of course contributes to their coolness. In case you hadn’t noticed, this was an outstanding start to the Great Escape 2012. J’adore La Femme.

I then ventured over to The Green Door Store, a lovely little venue built within the foundations of the railway station above it, to catch Cave Painting. This band adopts the ‘less is more’ approach to music. It is obvious that they are all outstanding performers, yet they concentrate more on the overall sound and the parts are very well thought out and strategically textured.

There’s something very Paul Simon about Cave Painting. They use sweet harmonies, subtle and sophisticated afro-beats and confidentially segregate the soft, reverbing lead vocal from the rest of the music – sometimes even to a cappella. Good stuff.

Fitzherbert’s was the next stopping point that afternoon to check out the much hyped Aussie psych-rockers Pond. It was ridiculously busy. This isn’t even a venue; it’s the upper function room of a small pub. Yet in the spirit of urban festivals: if you can physically fit a band in there; it’s a venue. However, upon reflection of the event I cannot think of a more apt environment for Pond.

They create sweaty, noisy and shamelessly psychedelic rock, which could easily work as a soundtrack to a documentary on Woodstock in the 1960’s. Pond are not really pushing boundaries in terms of musical innovation, but it’s just so likeable that no one would seem to care. The singer was revelling in the overly populated audience by making his own moshpits and engaging them as part of the theatrics. Its good to see that the ‘Spirit of ‘69’ still lives on!

I decided to hang around at Fitzherbert’s for the following act,St.Lucia I knew from prior research that their clean, polished synth-pop wasn’t really my bag, but I wanted to see what all the [undeserved] fuss was all about. It was awful. This wasn’t solely down to the band, which did perform well, but it was simply a case of being put in the wrong place at the wrong time. The venue didn’t complement their music. People were walking out mid-performance. I followed.

As the sun set that evening I bowled over to the relatively gigantic Corn Exchange to witness arguably the most talked about band of the moment; Savages. The slot was a bit of a last-minute arrangement, as Savages were filling in for New Build who had suddenly dropped out, yet they rose to the challenge confidently.

The all female post-punk outfit encourage repetition between the bass and drums to build a sturdy platform upon which free reign is given to the swirling, gothic guitar effects of Gemma Thompson and intensely haunting vocals from Jehnny Beth. The ethos of Savages’ songs is that they appear to be loosely structured, which allows the girls to feel the music and reflect energy off each other and therefore sculpt their collective sound. On a less artistic note, I was stood next to Michael Eavis and his great, big, bushy beard. He was loving it.

Just around the corner was the Pavilion Theatre where TOY were just about to start. There was also a never-ending queue that meant missing most their set, much to my absolute distress. To rub salt in the wound, from what I did catch at the very tail end of their performance seemed completely encapsulating. They were wrapping up the show with a Krautrock-esque ruckus. Psychedelic guitars were feedbacking everywhere, drums were getting demolished and the noise was building and building to a highly dramatic finale.

It then struck me that the aforementioned queue was by no means for TOY, but it was for the succeeding headliners of the theatre that night; Django Django. The Edinburgh art school quartet has had a great year and were certainly one of the most hyped acts of the festival, yet I was not completely convinced. Their music does not personally appeal to me, yet it is easy to see why they are becoming so popular. They write intelligent indie-pop songs and have developed their own sonic identity, which in this post-modernistic day and age is drastically hard to come by!

Everyone expectedly went berserk when they played the hit ‘Default’ and the performance was flawless throughout – with the exception of a 6-minute wait due to a technical hitch, which was rather embarrassing and visibly awkward for the band, but that wasn’t really their fault so we’ll let them off! I’m sure that Django will continue to reach greater achievements this summer and beyond.


Catch of the Day: La Femme


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