The Great Escape 2011 - Saturday Review

So we quickly arrive at the third and final day of The Great Escape, Saturday starts earlier than the previous two days with a trip to Shipwrights Yard to catch local four piece Fear of Men who charm the crowd with their lush indie-pop full of hooky guitars and charming melodies, about perfect for the half-warm early summers day. It was the first time I'd seen them and if they carry on the way they are going, it certainly won't be the last. Stand-out was the first track I heard by the group "Phantom Limb".

Next I decide to have some much needed caffeine and warm donuts (I am in Brighton after all) before heading to what used to be the flagship venue of TGE, The Queen's Hotels for Generator's North East Invasion show, I catch the end of Polarsets set, their sound is pretty massive, some epic percussion dance tracks and they go down well with the crowd, next up were Mammal Club who again play to a large audience in the converted hotel space, enamouring the crowd with a couple of North / South jokes early on before playing a storming, indie set, if you are a fan of Friendly Fires / Foals / Delphic style experimental pop you'll do no wrong with both these sets of Geordie lads.

The primary reason I'd made my way to Queen's and was willing to forget about the impending FA Cup Final was for the afternoons last two acts, firstly it was the turn of Let's Buy Happiness and a mear sixteen or so hours since I'd seen them the previous night. If anything they were even better, sound even grander as their textured kaleidoscopic guitar sounds filled the room with graceful beauty. Since last nights amnesia I've remembered another new track to keep an eye out for, "Skinny Moon"! I'm sure we'll be hearing some new news from LBH soon, hopefully we will anyway!

Next on are headliners Lanterns on the Lake, a band I was pretty excited to see again (as I've previously mentioned), as soon as they start with "Lungs Quicken" I remember why, it's utterly gorgeous, with stunningly beautiful instrumentation the six piece band layer their sound with celestial melodies and ambient guitar soundscapes. The sound of silence you hear whilst they place is around a hundred people falling in love. The music is heartfelt, emotional and sublime, they do a musical swap-shop of instruments during song changeovers, though Hazel takes the majority of the vocal duties. The show has to be cut short by a song (I'm guessing so the evening show can sound check - though I'm not sure what harm five extra minutes would do?!) which is a shame but for the twenty five minutes set, the band manage to fill the audiences ears with the utter joy.

If a show is judged on the length of the queue to buy CD's afterwards then Lanterns are clear winners, as I walk out (I already have their three EP's) their is a long precession of punters keen to snap up the lovely handmade EP's. The debut album on Bella Union is nearly ready, cannot wait.

The afternoon is still not over, it's time to head back to Shipwrights Yard to catch EMA, another artist I'm particuarly excited to see, the show is rammed, after queuing (I'm guessing the majority are here for Frankie and the Heartstrings who are on after) I finally get in - the view isn't great (see picture below) but we are treated to twenty minutes of fuzzed up guitar heaven. "Marked" opens a shortish twenty five minute set which plays heavy on the droning, soaring intensity of Erika's guitar play never better than on her albums opener "The Grey Ship". It's a rather better set than this paragraph, the aperitif for more EMA later that evening because as we leave I'm handed a flyer saying EMA is playing an additional show at 22:30, deal.

It's surprising to some that there is a two to three hour break between 4:30-7:30 at The Great Escape, I tend to think it gives you chance to recharge, grab a bite to eat (or a nap) and not miss anything too exciting though I do think before long TGE could well be an all day affair. Saturday evening starts with a trip along the pier to Horatio's to see Canadian four-piece Braids, one of the biggest "buzz" bands in the lead up to the festival.

They play for probably slightly less than their allotted half hour to a jam packed and lively Horatio's and complete just four tracks due to the lengthy nature of their meandering experimental indie tracks, but on "Lemonade" especially it's just perfect, beautiful soaring vocal harmonies alongside intricate and technically superb instrumentation, Braids justify their hype.

I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place again as there are so many places I could go next, I choose to leave the larger Horatio's venue where EMA is playing next and see Kitten at The Haunt, the venue is new to me and it's fair to say I don't like it's dark and cheap club feel, the smoke machine in my face doesn't help either.

They arrive stage and deliver a blistering, energetic version (probably too energetic) of "Transmission" where Chloe jumps onto an amp with a clear aim of blowing away any cobwebs from the audience. "Kill The Light" is superb, slightly more reserve is shown as Chloe concentrates on guitar and her delivering her wonderful vocals and it works better for it, I said this last year and I still think it true, this band could well go far. Chloe's stage presence is superb though with the amount of tambourine bashing going on,  I'm pretty sure she'll have some painful bruises on her legs in the morning.

I quickly run (walk quickly) to Komedia where I find Lanterns on the Lake almost halfway through their set though I'm lucky enough to hear the track that I missed earlier in the day, their gorgeous noise fills the much larger room wonderfully and their are plenty of impressed on-lookers (although some annoying chattering can be heard behind - why do people do this!?). They seemed to finish before their allotted time which is a shame for me, especially as I decide to leave before Guillemots arrive and head elsewhere...

I go to Jam and catch nearly the entirety of a set I didn't plan on, French group Team Ghost and I'm pleasantly surprised, during their post-punk influenced sounds of wailing guitar crescendos and crashing drums wrapped in waves of synths I'm gradually pulled closer and closer to a pretty exhilirating set. It's an aggressive assault throughout but if this show is any indication of their sound then they are certainly worth further investigation.

After Team Ghost finish pretty much all of the crowd depart too leaving EMA to setup their equipment and sound check in an almost empty venue, it makes the Englishman in me nervous (and the band too, Erika looks
on with mild bemusement) thankfully before they start the room fills up to a more acceptable level.

It's a longer set than the earlier one at Shipyards which allows EMA more time to play more tracks off her album 'Past Life Martyred Saints', on a live stage it manages to pack even more punch, raw and intense, varying between grunge soaked guitar heavy hooks to a softer yet brutal motional roller, for the small audience here it's pretty fabulous

Top marks goes to her backing band, the drummer so nonchalant for twenty five minutes suddenly expoldes with a charge of packed precise drumming and the electric violinist is perfect throughout, though star of the show is undoubtedly Erika Wielding her star covered guitar she sludge's out her reverb-heavy distorted guitar lines whilst her singing recalls a younger PJ and Cat Power.

Closing with her noisy anthem "California" she finds a way into the crowd, before returning with a wry smile after a few punters back away from her advance. Then it's over, it's been utterly captivating. There may have been about 50/60 people here tonight but those who were walked out know they'd seen something pretty special.

There is still time for one last act, one quick alleyway away is The Loft where Alpines play a late night show. On tracks like "Empire" and "Ice & Arrows" their sound is fantastic, intense drums (from a real drumkit and an electric one) alongside Catherines soaringly powerful vocal (her look reminded me of Lykke Li), perhaps the show is a little too repetitive and a couple of tracks that don't use quite the same vocal range would add more variation, my tired legs are starting to feel it and I decide on one last trip to the over-prices seaside chippy and with that The Great Escpe 2011 ended, it was a pretty good year, yeah? Roll on 2012.