The Great Escape 2011 - Bands to Watch (Part One)

I'm going to do this for every festival I go to this year, a list of 'ones to see', starting with The Great Escape in Brighton which kicks off next Thursday 12th May (that's exactly one week away!), it'll be my fourth visit and I think this year is probably it's best line-up to date (scratch that, it definitely is).

If you don't know what The Great Escape (TGE) is, take a peek here - 3 days, 30 venues, 300+ artists and without a doubt the best new band festival in the UK if not Europe, at time of writing weekend tickets were in short supply but not sold-out.

Robin over at Breaking More Waves has done a better do's and dont's post than I could attempt, so head over and read his here - basically if you want to see a band that filled a two page spread in the nme the week before at a 200 capacity venue don't roll up ten minutes before they are due to start and expect to get in, let alone get to the bar beforehand. As with any festival common sense and a sensible schedule is important, Horatio's is a good walk down the pier, you aren't getting from it to Concorde 2 in five minutes. Basically use your head but more importantly have fun and try and uncover a couple of new gems, my general school of thought is to see new acts ahead of ones that I've already seen - though we'll see how that plays out next week!

Straight onto my ones to see live, I'll split this into two posts, firstly this part which will cover ten non-UK acts (based - there are a couple of UK born artists that now live abroad here), the second part containing ten UK based acts comes tomorrow. In alphabetical order:

     Komedia (upstairs), Saturday 14th May 15:15
     Horatios, Saturday 14th May 19:45

A band I'm very much looking forward to seeing for the first time, Canadian four piece Braids released one of the best LP's of January with 'Native Speaker', experimental multi-layered melodies which ebb and flow with fizzing guitars, bubbling electronics and the glorious voice of Raphaelle Standell-Preston, which like the music moves around with equal parts ethereal grace and energetic bounce. "Glass Deers" built around looping synths and beautiful vocal harmonies whilst "Lemonade" their most commercial track has earned them some high praise in nme, expect their shows to be packed and a bit bloody good too.

For fans of Animal Collective / Dirty Projectors.

      Shipwrights Yard, Saturday 14th May 16:00
      Horatios, Saturday 14th May 20:30

Another artist I'll be seeing live for the first time will be EMA (Erika M Anderson) who came onto my agenda in early April (I've since discovered her first band Gowns). I've had her debut LP 'Past Life Martyred Saints' on repeat for the past couple of weeks or she is very high up on my "must see" list. The album is heartfelt, dirty and raw with variable structures and incredible guitar playing throughout. Listen to opener, "The Grey Ship" - The first half is like sailing in a melancholic, tranquil ocean that suddenly crashes in a thunderstorm with throbbing bass, over-amped guitar, crazed violin and thumping drums. Absolutely stunning, just like the whole album. A sure fire end of year list favourite. If you aren't in Brighton, EMA play a free show in London 11th May.

For fans of PJ Harvey / Nico

       The Loft, Thursday 12th May (Alternative Escape) 20:30

Emika's sound is seductive and spooky dubstep / minimal electronica, I blogged her just this week so read that post for more information on her and to listen to three tracks. Let's just leave it as I'm pretty smitten for the what I've heard and will certainly hope to get to see her at The Loft as part of the Alternative Escape on a night hosted by her label (free to wristband holders and available to non-festival attendees too). I'm surprised she isn't on the main line-up to be honest.

For fans of Portishead / Amnesiac era Radiohead

The Jezabels
       Above Audio, Friday 13th May 13:15
       Queens Hotel, Friday 13th May 20:30
       Digital Saturday, 14th May 15:20
       The Loft Saturday, 14th May 00:30

A prolific number of shows will help my clash-centric weekend veiwing for sure, I discovered The Jezabels researching this very festival and here is what I wrote in March, I think it's pretty accurate: Epic and confident indie-pop anthems built upon layer-upon-layer of beautiful sweeping soundscapes, melodramatic soaring guitars all driven by emphatic galloping drums though, the real jewel in the crown has to be the absolute powerhouse vocal of lead singer Hayley Mary, her falsetto is insanely grandiose, ranging from haunting beauty to delicate sweet in a matter of seconds. If that sounds your thing then take your pick from the shows above, I reckon I'll find myself at two of these.

For fans of (this is tough) The Killers (before they went shite?) / Shakespeare's Sister

Josh T. Pearson
          Pavilion Theatre, Friday 13th May 22:45

A man and an acoustic guitar, Josh T. Pearson spent many years in the wilderness, he returned this year with 'Last of the Country Gentlemen', a truly magnificent album, sparse and gentle arrangements, seven epic tracks (most track lengths are over eight minutes long) full of desperately sad songs weaving along a contemplative and sorrowful journey, one that is equally heart-wrenching and hauntingly beautiful. This show could be just spectacular, an acquired taste for sure, the Texan isn't all too accessible for your general Vaccines fan, but for the mature and cultured ear his appearance at this years Great Escape will be one to saviour.

        The Haunt, Saturday 14th May 20.45

Kitten have been on my radar since they blew me away at the Camden Barfly last Halloween, "Kill The Light" is simply on of the best indie-rock tracks of last year and it beggars belief that Chloe is just (now) 16 years old. These dates mark the groups first return to the UK since then and I'm pretty excited about their return, if you are looking for an act to see and like indie-rock music with a singer with an incredible stage presence then Kitten are well worth your time, "Kitten With A Whip" was a favourite at that Barfly date, utterly insane. I hope they add another date somewhere too as I'll be needing to do a quick dash from elsewhere to see them on time (hint - run a little late please!).

For fans of Yeah Yeah Yeahs / The Joy Formidable

Modern Superstitions
       Above Audio, Friday 13th May 19:30

For me Modern Superstitions were a surprise (a very good one) addition to The Great Escape line-up, I've been enjoying their EP for a while now and didn't really expect to see the Canadian group heading to the UK anytime soon, now they are I'll be sure to make sure I'm in attendance to see them play their first European shows, like Kitten above, Modern Superstitions are a indie-rock built around an absolute knock-out female lead singer, in this case Nyssa Rosaleen who on the live videos I posted here commands the stage and your attention, can't wait to see it for myself. There are some London shows before and after TGE too.

For fans of The Strokes / The Pretenders

       Green Door Store, Friday 13th May 00:00

There is only once place to finish your Friday night - Bolton born but now settled in Berlin, Janine Rostron aka Planningtorock is ready to blow us away with her new album 'W' (out 16th May) and this show just a few days earlier will potentially be the biggest and most flamboyant of the whole festival, PTR's distorted vocals over layered electronic synth. "Doorway" is utterly mesmerising, combining threatening atmospherics and general nonsensical experimental soundscapes to spectacular effect. Do not miss this.

For fans of Fever Ray / The Knife

The Soft Moon
        Audio, Thursday 12th May 20:00

Luis Vasquez the creative force behind The Soft Moon who released his debut LP in the UK early this year, it's a masterpiece of desolate, dark, moody and damn right sinister gloom in which Vasquez has successfully created his own distinct sound despite clear trademarks of late 80's post-punk sound. If that sounds right up your street then Audio is the place to be on Thursday at 8pm, I'm interested to see how his album is transformed into a live show.

For fans of Joy Division / Bauhaus / New Order

         Corn Exchange, Thursday 12th May 23:30

To end this part of bands to watch is a rather obvious choice but it'd be wrong not to include them. I've seen Warpaint rise from playing The Lexington to selling out Shepherd's Bush Empire since the time I first saw them at Horatio's during The Great Escape 2010, it's great to have them return a year later and play (the much larger) Corn Exchange. If you haven't heard of the Los Angeles based four piece by now you've clearly been living under a rock, let's just say that live the girls are arguably the most hypnotic and seductive band I've ever seen and boy does Stella know how to hit those drums. Must see.

For fans of Warpaint

If you made it here from an external link you might want to see the second part, which is here.