The Great Escape 2013 - Saturday Review

Seemingly in the blink of an eye it’s the last day of the festival. After another early morning wake-up, breakfast and numerous cups of coffee I head to The Mesmerist to see a band I've featured a couple of times recently, Keebo.

Their early set time doesn't do many favours and the punters that have managed to dust themselves off early all have a beleaguered look about them. The sound is muddy too which doesn't help but amongst all that there are some wonderful textured guitar sounds and intricate melodies entwining with smooth, blissful vocal harmonies. There's obvious potential here and Keebo are very much a band on the up, I’m looking forward to hearing them again soon.

I rush all the way to The Hope to catch another new band I've recently featured but not seen live (until now), the London based Sisters. The fact they are playing in a real venue makes a huge difference and although I arrive mid-set I’m compelled by the large, loud sound the trio are making, grunge-riffs and ferocious beats combine with dreamy, nonchalant vocals and the audience is entranced – an exciting act is found.

Next I head to Komedia (via a quick trip to Pompoko) to watch an act I’ve followed for a while but had never actually seen live, Mary Epworth. The time-keeper at Komedia is clearly still enjoying the job as Mary has started and my watch still hasn’t hit her apparent stage time. The set gradually builds in power as more members of her backing band join the stage (and then spend much of the set moving around instruments) and is met by a large audience. Her strong voice is given plenty of room to shine amongst organ, guitar and drums and it’s a wonderful set, there are real haunting moments and beguiling ones too as Mary crosses the boundaries of multiple genres in half an hour and then just before we are about to be treated to one final, solo the time keeper is back and that’s it. Over. Still what we got was a real treat for those in attendance

I stick around for another new (live) act to me Wall, yesterday’s set in a Church might have been a more grandeur setting but here I can get close and that intimate feeling is fitting because Lyla’s hushed vocals and her bands subtle instrumentation is beautiful and touching and makes your hairs stand on end. Her ‘biggest’ tracks to date bookend the set “Magazine” and “Shoestring” and a genuine talent is definitely confirmed.

After I head back to The Mesmerist, the place is rammed. The ‘Blog Up’ meeting is currently in progress but besides a brief chat with two bloggers I already know Robin from Breaking More Waves and Saam from Faded Glamour I stay low profile. I’m not very good at introducing myself and anonymity is pretty good too.

I’m here to see a band I’d never heard of before, local act Iyes - though given the crowds clearly a lot of people had – unfortunately they have some technical problems with their electronics and have to scrap their normal show in favour of a short acoustic set, for me at least it works perfectly and they pull of it off effortlessly with a few smiles too. The vocals are stunning and I made a mental note to check out the ‘real’ band afterwards.

I decide there is time to do a quick run and after four hours of standing on my feet I rush back to my room, run a quick 5k (Brighton is perfect for these short runs up and down the seafront) and return to The Mesmerist in good time to see Embers for the second time in as many days. Worries about the sound in the pub managing with the sheer intensity of their music prove unfounded and as with yesterday it almost blows the roof on the room. I won’t repeat my praise again  but suffice to say this band is incredible - 'The' unquestionable find (although I'd already 'found' them) of The Great Escape 2013.

A change of tempo next as I head to the festival’s main hub to see Farao performing on the hub ‘stage’, the only outdoor show I saw at The Great Escape this time around and it is almost sunny too. Farao have the sort of devastating harmonies that linger in your brain, so beautifully written and delivered by Kari’s gorgeous, ethereal vocals that make the listener fall effortlessly in love with them.

It feels weird to be in Audio – the darkest in a City of dark venues – whilst it’s still sunny outside, I’m here for Parlour and it’s very busy for a super early show - and afterwards when I leave there is also a massive queue waiting to go in  - the next act on were NME buzz band Superfood who may or may not be good, I’ve never heard them – the sound guy takes a while to get the sound anything like right but eventually Parlour shine with a whirling cocktail and wonderful shoegaze, shimmering guitars are radiant and fuzzy and beautiful daydreams occur, the only track I'm familiar with before "My Love" sounds even better live so it's a win-win set.

I’m then left with an evening for which I didn’t really have any plans, after numerous clashes over the weekend I found Saturday night a little on the light side – unless you are a fan of electronica. I decide in the end to go and sit in Blind Tiger for Big Deal (who annoyingly directly clash with Drop Out Venus, the other band I’d have liked to have seen) so I taste a few acts I’d never heard before.

The first of which were Australian act Dune, unfortunately there is no sign of Frank Herbert and their dance friendly eltectro-pop, whilst enjoyable enough, seems out of place at 8pm. An early morning set, ironically in one of those dark and dingy venues I’ve been talking about rather than on the white walls of Blind Tiger, when people had enjoyed a few more drinks and were up for a boogie would have suited themh more, they are surprisingly enjoyable still with thick bass-lines combining with an engaging front-woman and although I doubt I’ll be queuing up at their album launch, the set passes quickly.

Next up is a girl making a bit of a name for herself, Chloe Howl, I can see why. Her sound combines mainstream with electro-pop, it’s a combination that has worked with blogs over the past twelve months and her three tracks on YouTube are at a million plays in total. It's not really my genre and her biggest song so far "Rumour" doesn't do much for me but her smooth vocals are win me over on the beautiful and undoubted highlight "I Wish I Could Tell You".

Afterwards YADi arrives to an alarmingly empty stage which gives me immediate pre-gig worries. No amps, no guitars, no keyboards. All the sounds come from the drummer whose beats add to a backing track whilst YADi dances around the stage. I’m not sure if it’s the Doom Bar I've been drinking a little to quickly or whether the combination of Eastern chimes, pummeling beats and pop is now ‘my thing’ but I quite enjoy it. Closing track and lead track from her recently released EP The Blow is the clear peak, again I’m not sure they’ll be a round two but it’s fun and in spirit of Eurovision which is happening at this exact same time, fun is good enough for me.

Big Deal prove they are deserved headliners of the night almost immediately, an expanded sound means their duo are now a quartet and the more minimal beginnings are put to bed in favour of a lively, grungy sound. Earlier that day it had been commented to me that the most frequent word on this blog is probably fuzz and here I am using it again, fuzz is definitely apt here, “In Your Car” and “Teradactol” are the two big (and familiar to me beforehand) tracks in the set, dramatic and thunderous, with album two due very shortly, Big Deal are set to be just that.

That’s your lot. The Great Escape 2013 comes and goes in three whirlwind days. Overall it has been a good year if not my favourite ever. Thoght I'm sad it's over and I’ll be back again next year without any doubt.

Thinking of coming next year? Aside from arriving at a venue before doors opening I didn't have to queue once so don’t let people saying they couldn't get in anywhere put you off coming next year – it’s all, as I've said before, about being prepared. There are the niggling problems which seemingly occur every year such as lack of updates over the weekend about schedule changes and some poor venue choices for bands but overall The Great Escape organisers do a fine job and it should be an essential part of a new music fans diary. Only three hundred and sixty days until the next one! Oh, buy your tickets when the Super Early Bird tickets go on sale. I paid £35 for the whole weekend - later a Saturday day ticket was that same price.