The Great Escape 2012 - 10 acts you need to see

The Great Escape, Brighton – Day 2 – Friday 11th May 2012


Friday’s programme kicked off with Birmingham’s Swim Deep at the Psychosocial Basement. I’d seen these guys nearly a year ago in Notting Hill and they looked like an exciting prospect for the future, but they weren’t quite there yet, admittedly. Times change. They are now nothing shy of brilliant.

After a new influx of material and few instrumental and line-up changes, the deliverance behind the band’s entirety makes a lot more sense. They structure their songs in conventional pop formats, yet the aesthetic towards how they portray their sound and image is ridiculously cool. I believe they sit comfortably on the balance between pop and alternative. If they cleaned and polished up their music’s production and got a clothing endorsement with All Saints, they could get a number one in the charts, yet this isn’t who they are. They’re grungy kids who don’t take themselves too seriously and clearly love what they’re doing. Credit due.

Highlights of the set came from the just-released single ‘King City’ and it’s B-Side ‘Beach Justice’ – which quite possibly better than the lead track. Swim Deep have a lot of space in their songs that allow the synthy and electronic elements of their music to create a dreamy effect, which perfectly compliments lead singer Austin’s low crooning and relaxed vocals work perfectly. The lyricism behind most of their tracks is rather clever, something than can easily go unnoticed for developing bands: “Why only dream when you’re sleeping? – It’s lazy” (or something to that effect!). I’ve got high hopes for these troublemakers over the next year, so invest some interest now before everyone else does.

Next came that point of the night where you have to take one for the team. I was planning on seeing Alt-J in a few hours, yet when walking past the venue, Blind Tiger, the queue was already building for arguably the most hyped band at this year’s Great Escape. I found myself surprised with the two acts that I had to ‘endure’ prior to Alt-J. I wasn’t a massive fan of French Films on record, yet in a live context they really step up to the mark. An obvious contemporary comparison to relate them to would be The Vaccines, but they don’t try so hard to be ‘cool’ and don’t make the music seem more than what it is. It’s just simple, shameless indie-pop with a Scandinavian outlook. Pleasantly surprised.

On the other hand, I had the exact opposite reaction to Weird Dreams. I liked this band on record and was looking forward to seeing the live product, yet found the whole performance dull, lifeless and disappointing overall. There’s not really a lot more I can say. There was no spark, excitement or dynamic. I would had left if my contribution to the venue’s maximum capacity wasn’t so ‘valuable’. Unpleasantly surprised.

I personally regarded the evening’s headline slot as ‘a moment of truth’ for Alt-J. I liked the band’s material, the whole ‘∆’ thing (press ‘alt’ and ‘j’ on your keyboard – it’s fun isn’t it?) and the strong sense of mystery surrounding them, yet I am always sceptical to fearlessly jump on the bandwagon of acts with mass quantities of hype floating around them, as it so often takes a rapid turn for the worst.

It took a while for everyone to get into their performance. They started with three relatively unheard-of songs, all of which still correlate to Alt-J’s distinctive sound; slow paced dubstep-esque drum beats, fiddly guitar lines, interesting synthetic sounds and easily identifiable interlocking vocals, sung in a uniquely characteristic manner.

However, the place erupted once they began the introduction to ‘Breezeblocks’. There was almost a feeling of relief across the audience as the band was halfway through their set without playing any of the ‘hits’. They immediately followed up with the equally famed ‘Matilda’ and ‘Tessellate’ and the crowd’s excitement snowballed after each song, which was having a humbling effect upon the band members. By this point it all became perfectly clear that this set-list was purely tactical and Alt-J were certainly adopting the ‘save the best until last’ technique. They signed off their performance with ‘Fitzpleasure’ (naturally). Pandemonium ensues.

They won me over. It is worth all the attention. DO believe the hype. ∆ ∆ ∆.


Catch of the day: Swim Deep

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.