The Great Escape 2014 - Friday Review

I'm awake early on Friday morning, I paced myself quite well yesterday (here is Thursday's review if you missed it) and after breakfast I head to do a little bit of shopping. I purchase Joanna Newsom's Ys on vinyl, something I've wanted for a while before grabbing a coffee and a Ben's cookie and heading over to Sticky Mike's Frog Bar for the music to start a little after midday.

I'm here to see Wilsen play for the fourth consecutive day. The surroundings are somewhat darker than the previous two days (both in churches) and they are playing as a trio without the drummer they'd borrowed for their UK tour (of which this is the last) but Tasmin and band continue to impress me, today felt especially beautiful given the time and location, "Magnolia" impeccably delivered serves as the most gorgeous opening to the day.

To Audio next for a band I've featured lots here September Girls. I've seen them play at least a half dozen times before but they deliver the best set I've ever seen them perform. It's (wholly) the same material and the five piece still combine doo-wop harmonies, darkly psyche rhythms and pure pop but it's delivered with a less ramshackle approach and the professional, tight and non-nonsense approach really rubs off on the music. The place is packed and nobody seemed to be leaving. That's about the best plaudit you can get.

Afterwards I head towards Dome Studio and stop for a rest in the baking sunshine (honestly) and take in the songs from a busker playing in the street nearby. The set is mainly covers, some of which are hit and miss but there are glimpses of talent and undoubtedly a lovely voice. I later find her name was Stephanie O'Brien.

I quickly grab some food from Pompoko before bumping into Josh and Soph from Hella Better Dancer on my way into the venue to watch Honeyblood in the same location where I first caught the duo perform twelve months earlier.

(Stina picks up on it too) The crowd is noticeably larger this year and their sound has grown more confident, playing tracks taken from their forthcoming album at a furious rate, the catchy hooks and rumbling percussion of singles "Bud" and "Killer Bangs" met with especially appreciative nods of approval from the crowd.

Beer Update 7: £4.00 for a local craft lager (possibly the nicest of the weekend).

I meet up with a friend at The Mesmerist next but decide to go for a quick beer before returning to the same venue to catch Laurel. I'd not heard her before but was happy to go and listen when I heard a Lana Del Rey comparison and whilst obvious, it is pretty accurate. She plays pop songs with a dark, cinematic edge with a pretty vocal and her half hour passes well enough. I can't help but keep looking at the reflection of the crowds feet from the stage too.

Beer Update 8: I had a pint of Lanes Best but I can't remember how much it cost - it wasn't overly expensive.

Time for some food now and as we are in Brighton it'd be rude not to head to the front at least once for a chippy dinner, the relentless wind means that the task is somewhat more difficult than it should be and I refrain from walking along the pier or the beach and instead take shelter inside.

It's almost seven o'clock now and time for the evening session to begin. I head to see another band I've not heard of or listened to previously but one that I'd had recommended to me; Alvvays.

Once they being it takes me about five seconds to wonder how the hell have I not come across the Toronto quintet sooner, a sound that combines the bristling energy of Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Fear of Men's way with melody, it ace and amongst pop hooks and dreamy vocals I'm already booked to go and see the band whenever they next hit London (as well as writing up a proper blog on the band soon).

In the same venue next for Marika Hackman and I'm not sure if it's because she follows the care-free indie pop of Alvvays or my pre-gig expectations were too high but her haunting harmonies don't quite hit the magnetic heights I was hoping for, the voice is there and tracks like "Cannibal" sound beautiful but goosebumps don't quite arrive.

Beer Update 9: £2.00 (yes really) for a bottle of Becks. Prize for the most sensibly priced drinks certainly go to East Wing.

It's a short walk to The Tube next for Las Kellies, a band I caught up with about two and a half years ago now on one of their rare London shows and my love for the Argentinean trio instantly returns, a glance at their set-list reveals about twenty songs and you are left wondering how the hell they've going to fit them into a half hour set, they do and more too, continuing to play until a lady comes with a hastily made sign saying 'two more songs' (but the band don't see that and she has to change it to 'last song').

The band have the best rhythm section of the weekend, thudding bass and frantic drums propel their tracks and the quick riffs "Perro Rompebolas" is a joy. I've a soft spot from tracks from their Kellies album and "Scotch Whisky" is the perfect summation of the set, fast, ferocious, fantastic and fun.

I walk briskly to Unitarian Church because next it is Broken Twin, one of my favourite discoveries of recent time. I arrive half an hour earlier than her planned set time to find a big queue. A lot bigger than I was expecting. I spend ten minutes clock watching, worrying and not moving before we are told the venue is running half an hour late. Nerves subside because I'm pretty sure with fifteen or so people in front of me I'd get into the venue in time (although the delegate queue on the other side moves with annoying frequency and makes them return). Soon enough you can hear the deafening rumbles of some ferocious percussion from outside that signifies the Oy set, and I wait semi patiently outside. After about 45 minutes of queuing (my longest ever at TGE) and the end of the Oy set I'm finally inside and get a seat on the second row. Not too bad.

Although the picture I've included here makes them look like a rock band Broken Twin are anything but, touching deep at your emotions as Majke spends much of her time playing a real piano to one side of the stage, the true chords bring out further depth in her haunting and intimate songs. "In Dreams" is my favourite track on her sublime debut album May, I'm not sure what the echoed microphone is called but Majke nods her head up and down singing into it as the entire church watch in silence whilst her band threaten to bring down the place. They never do of course and there's a restrained elegance throughout this shiver inducing set, I've said this before and I'll say it again, Broken Twin should be your new favourite artist.

I walk out of the church and reflect, I finally decide to head to a place I'd never been before Neighbourhood. I arrive and it's not a venue at all, it's a tiny pub and the stage downstairs is easily the smallest thing I have ever come across. I'm not quite sure how they managed to pull off the line-up of acts they had (Russian Red played her earlier today; someone who sold out two dates at The Lexington playing a place that can hold about 10 people if they have instruments!).

Not long after Femme comes to the 'stage'. It's fun, immensely so and it's pretty much impossible not to have a smile on your face. She plays four songs backed by a DJ who provides the beats and in possibly the smallest place you'll ever see her and you feel lucky to have been in the crowd. For a couple of tracks two dancers reduce the audience space further and it's impossible not to dance along as well. The people clambering around on the stairs for a better view must have agreed too.

The audience is asked to go upstairs so they can get the room ready for the next act who is Sea Change and one of the discoveries of the festival is found. I'd previously heard (and blogged) about "Let's Dance" and I actually summed it up pretty well last month when I said "full of lush soundscapes and bewitching atmosphere that should go down nicely in a dimly lit sea-front basement". 

What I wasn't expecting though is quite how good it would translate to this extraordinarily dark front-room (and quite how small the venue would be). It's incredible. Much darker and intense than I was anticipating beforehand with electronic rhythms, glitches and bass guitar combining around Ellen's ethereal vocals with new track "Bridges" hitting hardest. It sent chills straight through me, managing to sound absolutely enormous and transporting you to some massive dance tent. Imagine seeing Fever Ray in front of about 15 people -that's how good this was (apart from the idiotic drunk who somehow found his way into the room). The only complaint comes when the plug is pulled on the set for apparently going on too long, I could have done with another hour.

Beer Update 10: £4.20 for a pint of Asahi.

After a little walk I head to meet a friend and watch a couple more acts and have a few beers before bed. Neither connect with me but overall Friday was quite the spectacular day. I paid £39.50 plus booking fee for my TGE ticket. I received that much value in acts today alone.