The Great Escape 2015 - Preview (Ten acts to see part one)

The Great Escape  Official Website

It's incredibly less than a week until one of my favourite weekends of the year, The Great Escape. This will be the eighth time I've descended on Brighton for a weekend of new music by the sea. Let's hope it isn't quite as windy as last year! 

This year has flown by and my research hasn't been quite as good as normal, there's still way more music than you can possibly listen to and just three days to see it. Over the next two posts I'll feature ten acts that I recommend you take time out of your schedule for and investigate.

I've historically done a preview of the festival and featured a few tips each year, I'm just going to cut and paste a few bullet points from those below to potentially give any newbies an insight:

  • Some 'new' venues turn out to be old ones renamed so watch your step. This year The Hope is now The Hope & Ruin, Patterns is what used to be Audio and The Hydrant is now called Bleach, to name but three.
  • If you do plan on going to one of the 'hyped' artist gigs, the advice is simple, get there early. If you plan on waltzing into the venue two minutes before stage time, you will be mistaken and you will spend the entire gig standing outside wishing you were somewhere else.
  • The Great Escape is a vast, widespread festival (if you've never been, be warned that Concorde 2 is a LONG way along the front, don't leave five minutes to get there).
  • Don’t forget the festival sister showpiece The Alternative Escape when you are investigating bands you want to see.
  • Brighton has abysmal phone reception, expect not to be able to load up your apps for up-to-date news. Take a piece of paper and pen (and the festival planner PDFs) with the acts you want to see on it. If you can get wi-fi then Twitter is usually the best place to find out about secret, last minute shows (of which there are usually many).
  • It's a marathon not a sprint; The Great Escape lasts three days and nights, don't go too big on Thursday and end up missing half the acts you want to see on Friday because you are in an alcohol riddled stupor. 
  • Go explore Brighton. There's more to TGE than just music, go for a walk around the lanes, find brilliant coffee shop (not Starbucks) and eat at Pompoko.

Onwards with the first five of my ten acts to see at the 2015 edition of The Great Escape (what is the festivals tenth birthday). The who sections of these previews are copied from The Great Escape (where applicable) so yeah, not my words!

1. Aldous Harding (Facebook)

New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding making her debut in the UK.

THURSDAY 14th May 2015 8:15pm - 8:45pm
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 2:15pm - 3:00pm

Aldous Harding released her debut album via home-label Lyttelton Records last April nd soon grew to become a cult favourite amongst lovers of lush, retro folk and otherworldly voices. The record is a wonder, a dark-folk album with vivid lyrical themes and fragile vocals.

The album's opener "Stop Your Tears" was the track that introduced me to Aldous Harding (aka Hannah) and instantly pulls you into an alternate world of genteel beauty. A beguiling, acoustic guitar provides the platform for much of the album and here its soft plucks and haunting backing harmonies are the only accompaniment to Hannah's voice, a timeless, natural tone which is capable of making the hairs on your neck stand on end.

"Hunter" is a sumptuous feast of rich musical landscape and fragile, haunting vocals from the get-go,  blending a style not dissimilar from Joanna Newsom with touches of Joni Mitchell, as subtle, weaving melody and intriguing lyrics full of lovely imagery and extraordinary beauty carry the listener off to places warm and brilliant.

2. Jagaara (Facebook)

Sibling trio from London whom incorporate a mix of folk, rock and electronica into their songs while continuing to experiment until they captured the essence their unique sound; Soaring hypnotic vocals, giving way to beautifully arranged, atmospheric instrumentation.

THURSDAY 14th May 2015 7:30pm - 8:00pm
SATURDAY 16th May 2015 2:15pm - 2:45pm

One of my 'fifteen for '15' Jagaara welcome 2015 with their first new music of the year, "In The Dark".

The track sees the trio, siblings if you didn't already know, extend the formula used to smouldering effect on their impeccable debut "Faultline". slow-motion soundscapes that rise with brooding intent amongst gorgeously tight harmonies and backed by darkly atmospheric percussion. It's simply to-die-for.

3. Aurora (Facebook)

Aurora, an eighteen year old resident of Bergen, Norway whom effortlessly creates music that somehow balances the line between haunting and adorable. From first listen, the fact that she defines her music as ‘dark pop’ begins to make perfect sense.

FRIDAY 15th May 2015 3:30pm - 4:00pm
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 8:15pm - 8:45pm

"Runaway" is Aurora's (who's dropped the use of her surname Aksnes since I last posted about her), one of Norway's brightest musical stars (and they have many) latest and best track to date. it sees her pure, mesmerising vocal joined by ebbing and flowing instrumentation that pares her voice perfectly, rising from a glacial, softening beginning to a swooping, soaring chorus full of emotion and strength. 

I'm not the biggest music video fan I'll be honest, I rarely sit and concentrate through one but the video for "Runaway" is magical, both beautiful and compelling, it sees what must have been a freezing cold Aurora standing in an absolutely gorgeous snow-filled landscape and later throwing what can only be called 'shapes' with big, wide opened eyes that pierce straight through you.

Since "Runaway" comes "Running With The Wolves" a big, bold pop hit in the making, it grows with magnificent splendour around big, booming choruses, icy synth drops and Aurora's crystalline vocals. Glamorously dark and amorously seductive, it's a potent combination. 

4. Pins (Facebook)

PINS are Faith, Anna, Lois,and Sophie. PINS mix together post punk, fuzzed up garage, and rock and roll.  They have created a distinct sound, and secured their place in the burgeoning Manchester new music scene.

THURSDAY 14th May 2015 10:00pm - 10:30pm
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 3:15pm - 3:45pm

Pins have cleverly picked the lead two tracks from their second album Wild Nights (due June 8th via Bella Union). First track "Too Little Too Late" offered a salivating insight into a progressive sound, a slowly unwinding number that saw synths join the Manchester bands arsenal, brooding and enrapturing in equal measure amongst typically piercing words.

The second peek at Wild Nights is "Young Girls", a looser track that's possibly the most accessible song they've shared to date, full of breezy guitar melodies, tight vocal harmonies and wistful romanticism, it's the sort of track you'd have on repeat as you are leaving home for the first ever time determined to never look back and fully of hopeless optimism.  

If you think these tracks are good, just wait until you hear "Oh Lord" live. 

5. Siv Jakobsen (Facebook)

Siv’s music is beautifully mellow, much like diary-entries - filled with melancholy and an almost brutal honesty.

THE FISHBOWL (Alternative Escape)
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 4:00pm
MARWOOD CAFE (Alternative Escape)
SATURDAY 16th May 2015 5:00pm

Siv Jakobsen is probably my favourite discovery of 2015 so far. The Norwegian singer-songwriter's track "How We Used To Love" emits this spine-tingling stream of emotion that gets me every time, it's easily one of most beautiful, affecting tracks of the year. The good news is that Siv's follow-up "Dark" is just as good, bringing a similar sense of magical melancholy to the fore.

"Dark" is devastatingly sad and overwhelmingly beautiful; sparse, still instrumentation plucks straight at your heart-strings with Siv's pure, spellbinding vocal resonating around intimate acoustic guitars and luscious string flourishes. Loneliness sure never sounded so good.