The Great Escape 2014 - Saturday Review

Reviews of Thursday and Friday.

Saturday you've arrived so soon, the final day of The Great Escape and the weather forecasters (unusually, of course!) have it wrong. Instead of rain Brighton is full of blue skies (the wind is still relentless). After breakfast, coffee and another Ben's cookie (yum) it's an early start at Boutique. I can't remember what this place was called last year but it's not your usual gig venue, a red lit basement with seedy/sexy ambiance. It's not exactly the sort of place you'd expect to see The Cadbury Sisters but here they are on stage.

They are wonderful too and deserve a much bigger crowd then they are playing too, combining heart melting vocals with ever changing instrumentation. Ranging from sublime harmonisation with delicate acoustic backing to soaring peaks of complex, shimmering guitars and percussion. Their set reaches an almighty peak on their final track (and most recent single) "Milk" and I'm already in line to buy their forthcoming EP.

Afterwards and into the sunlight. I decide to head to Above Audio next to check out Lay Low but I get it wrong and it's not actually Law Low on stage but a band I have never heard of before Mammút and so I stumble across my 'unheard before' band of the weekend.

Mammút are fantastic, as compelling an act I see all weekend and you really cannot take your eyes off frontwoman Kata throughout. One moment their set is beautiful, ethereal, calm and delicate before out of nowhere exploding with soaring peaks of controlled aggression. Even for somebody who doesn't particularly listen to non-English lyrics I'm hooked (they sing in their native Icelandic). I try and explain what they sound like afterwards to a friend and fail, I end up with a tired Bjork-cum-Evanescence. Thankfully you can just go and listen to one of their tracks at the end of this post.

Because Mammút were too good to leave by the time I get up the road to Blind Tiger Powder Blue are already in full swing and it's another great set - so many in one afternoon. The Canadian quartet bring a rich blend of simmering psyche rock and big, punishing beats to the table, it's a combination I can't help but adore and I instantly fall in love with the swirling guitars of "Go On Forever" and the darker mood of  finale "Run". It's played to a packed house and I'm not the only one impressed.

Afterwards we head down to the front and with the wind firmly in our faces try and track down where Blessa are due to be playing a 'secret show'. We find it by the Carousel, in fact they play under a carousel horse (I'm sure it's a first for any band).

They play a short stripped back set as a duo, I've no idea if the band have experience of this sort of setup before (I've not seen any acoustic videos from the band before) but removed from the 'full live sound' of the quintet you can hear Olivia Neller's vocal in true clarity, prettier and more intimate than ever amongst restrained electric guitar with the rendition of latest single "Unfurl" especially suited to the surroundings.

I leg it back to Blind Tiger next and have to queue to get into an afternoon show (something I don't think I've ever done before at The Great Escape, an indication of the growing popularity of the festival for sure) so I have to listen to about two songs of Mise En Scene from outside, another new band to me, when I eventually get in I understand why the place is packed out; it's raw, raucous fun and I'm impressed.
The band exude confidence as well, the trio happy to shred guitars and shout at the audience to dance along, it's loud, vivacious and commands attention from start to finish, glammy, grungey, ramshakle noise with vocals that are prettier than you'd expect, I add another band to my 'check out after the weekend' list.

Beer Update 11: £4.00 for a pint of Red Stripe.

I head to The Loft next with the aim of seeing Novella but it's after their set time and the band before them are just about to start, I decide not to stick around and continue with my plan and so it is off to The Mesmerist I go to check out local band Fickle Friends.

It's fair to say the place is rammed, I get a beer and stand tightly packed near the front. The band are good, it's hard to believe they only started at the turn of the year. The sound is tight and the melodies are sumptuous, an irresistible blend of jangly guitar and buoyant keys get the crowd shuffling their feet even in their confined space whilst the soaring vocals make me think of some of the finest moments in 80's pop. "Play" and "Swim" stand out because of their familiarity but the rest of the set is hugely enjoyable and a band confirm their potential.

There is time for a beer in the Fishbowl before I head to Audio to see Powder Blue for the second time today, I'm in time to catch the start this time and the set is more assured than their earlier one too, the more traditional gig surroundings and darkness of the venue suiting the quartet.

They seem more confident and they get a great reception, it's not hard to see why, a beautiful, hazy maze of layers guitars, keys and some punishing percussion. "Go On Forever" sounding exceptionally good live, it's so good I buy the vinyl afterwards even in the knowledge I'm carrying around it for the rest of the evening and the only real disappointment is learning Shelby is a Man Utd supporter!.

Next to Komedia and French For Rabbits, a band I've been wanting to see perform for a long, long time. Ordinarily when a band start off with their biggest two tracks ("Claimed by the Sea" and "Goat") you'd perhaps be worried about the second half of the show but not here, the duo-cum-quartet (with the addition of a touring bassist and Amos from Fanfarlo/ Sophie Jamieson on drums) blossom throughout, a gorgeous, soothing blend of swoonsome folk and soon you are carried far away from the dark, bleak surroundings of the studio bar and land somewhere much more suited to their gorgeous tones.

I stay at the venue and afterwards comes Young Summer, her vocals are good but I'm left longing for a 'real band' to support her (she is accompanied by an electronic drum kit and samples), perhaps then she'd be good but I stick around because next next it is Blessa performing in more traditional surroundings than earlier.

The dark room is more suited to the shoegaze / alternative-pop sounds of the Sheffield quintet and their blend of dreamy vocals awash with chiming, anxious guitars sounds great. Brooding yet light, gloomy yet romantic, nostalgic yet modern, Blessa tick every box.

Beer Update 12: A Pint of Red Stripe for £4.10

Next I head of to Latest Music Bar to see the first band show by Eliza Shaddad, there have seemingly been a few scheduling problems throughout the day and there is only time to hear four tracks, Eliza plays the entirety of her forthcoming EP Waters and it's delicious, the title track especially suited by the addition of a rhythm section, it sounds enormous. Compelling and beautiful in equal measure, it makes for the perfect summation of the weekend and The Great Escape 2014. Musically one of the finest editions yet (there is the niggling suspicion that Brighton is at capacity about now and I hope the festival doesn't expand too much for next year, the festivals 10th year. I shall see you there regardless.

Beer Update 13: £3.00 for a can of Red Stripe