The Great Escape 2013 - Friday Review

Straight on with day two of The Great Escape and Friday starts with a period of stewing around the lanes drinking excessive coffee and then running to Hove and back to wash away a few of yesterdays ales. Kill or cure, that's the motto with running.

A shower later (you'll be glad to know) and I'm at Above Audio awaiting Embers. The quartet come quintet (with the addition of Sophie from PINS on violin) are crammed onto the tiny stage and soon they are producing the sort of mind-blowing landscapes which their tracks so far had indicated. It's loud, very fucking loud and knowing nods of approval to friends in between their wonderful tracks indicate that's also immense. Still new to the live arena as Embers, there are no signs of mishaps as wave after wave of expansive, shimmering noise and punctured drums combine with three way vocals and sharp violins. When/if Embers return to next years festival, it'll be somewhere more bigger than this. The fact that they come across as genuinely nice people only increases the already high affection I hold towards this band.

Next to the aptly titled venue Smack, a venue that hosted some not-so-secret 'secret shows' during the weekend, Friday's hottest lunchtime ticket (free) was for Wolf Alice, luckily I'm early and after a long, name-checking off a list queue I'm near the front (the show was rammed and the stage elevation tiny - I can't imagine those near the back could see much) in time for the start of the set.

The band have been much hyped in the blog community over the past six months and the show delivers on the louder, grunge-pop front from fuzzy guitar driven opener "Fluffy" to closing track, their latest single, "Bros". Ellie's voice isn't quite allowed to shine and the softer earlier beginnings of the band are displaced for a loud, very 90's sound - it works well in the surroundings of a sleazy looking club and the reception they receive is suitable of the 'buzz' heading their way.

I stick around because next up are Findlay, I’d heard good things about the North West artist from a number of friends, I can see why they are hooked, the show engages from the beginning with a feisty, spunky set of fast-tempo rock & roll songs with beasty riffs led by a front-woman who commands your attention.

After a walk through the lanes I slow things down next in the Fountain Head to see Anna Lena & The Orchids playing a stripped down set, a new track sits perfectly amongst those from her wonderful debut EP and it sounds almost perfect. Anna's beautiful vocals combine with subtle electric guitar and backing harmonies from an artist I’d see later in the weekend, Farao. It’s Norway day too and there are a few flags are flying high and so they should.

I head to the courtyard next to try and see another Norwegian Susanne Sundfør but it’s impossible to get near it and instead I decide to have a couple of hours of wandering around Brighton and food.

The evening session starts with one of the acts I’ve been most looking forward to all weekend Golden Fable. The venue is a dimly lit basement (as so many are in Brighton) and I wasn’t anticipating it to suit the bands graceful beauty but I’m more than pleasantly surprised that with the addition of an excellent (really excellent) live drummer the band merge their choral wonder with a fuller, heavier sound and I’m instantly blown away. The set continues to astound and is met with a great reception by a vast crowd – as glowing an endorsement as any.

I head promptly to the Fountain Head to see Emma Gatrill, last year her show at the Fishbowl was one of my weekend highlights and I was hopeful for more. Those hopes were soon dashed when I walked through the door at the venue – which was still operating as a pub with a hired PA by the fireplace – there was your typical Friday night mixture of drunks and belligerents in attendance whom seemed oblivious to the attempts of Emma to quieten them even a little, her delicate harp melodies and beguiling vocals are all but lost amongst this setting and it’s a devastating shame. Thankfully the funnier side of the situation is made by most.

I head around the corner to The Basement where Bird are due to play. Unfortunately there’s another problem completely out of the bands hands. The organisers decided (for whatever reason I cannot say) to change the running times of this show three times (and later send a message out recommending the show some four hours after Bird had played) and it seems word has not got out about the reschedule of the gig, the attendance is far less than they deserve. Thankfully they don’t let the sparse splattering of punters put them off and Bird deliver a fantastic set of almost entirely new songs which bodes extremely well for their future, entwining harmonies and haunting, brilliant melodies, yet again Bird confirm themselves as one of my favourite new bands.

 As perverse as it sounds I head back to the Fountain Head next for The Mariner's Children, another act I’d seen at last years festival in slightly better conditions. The hope was the drunks had moved on by now. Naturally they hadn’t and there is a little delay before the band take to the ‘stage’. The number of people watching the gig out numbers those not by now and it’s a real shame that the chatter of those dis-interested folk rises above the instrumentation. Amongst everything there are some beautiful harmonies and the louder songs taken from their recent EP release almost drown out the noise too. Excellent.

I grab another beer and wait for This Is The Kit. Kate and Rozi soon start and I’m close enough to almost be able to ignore the surroundings and immerse myself fully in their craft. I’m delighted than near the end of the set “Earthquake” is played as I missed Kate playing that on my previous This is the Kit gig. From the start they engage the audience (those paying attention) fully and even bring a couple of girls forward to add harmonies – they actually sound ok too – this is a band who should be household names by now, such is the depth and grace of their songs and it’s wonderful to see them in a tiny Brighton pub.

With music at the Fountain Head finished I head across the road to Blind Tiger. The Adelines are a new band to me who I discovered and blogged about prior to the weekend, their set successfully merges the melodic shimmering guitar based sounds with punchy drums and dreamy vocals best seen on their debut single “Alleyways”. An enjoyable set from a band you’ll probably hear more from here.

Last but not least for the day in the same venue is Cut Ribbons, they sound a lot tighter than last year and louder too and the venue is deservedly full as their sky-scraping guitars and power-pop rhythms merge with soft-sweet dual vocals.

By now it’s past my bedtime an evening drinking has given me 2am munchies so I regrettingly hit the seafront chip shop and head home with other waifs and strays.

Friday with a dozen full sets, almost all of a good quality and a couple of exceptional ones from bands who will be on my must see lists the next time they hit town – The Great Escape has a few uses indeed.