The Best Acts at The Great Escape 2016 (that I saw)

Sorry for the quiet spell on the blog, it's been quite the time... I'm back from The Great Escape (my ninth time) in one piece, more or less, and in lieu of a full day by day recount of the weekend and the thirty odd bands I saw I'm going to cherry pick the absolute best. I'm also going to stop waffling and get on with it.

Hyphen Hyphen
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Friday at Brighthelm

Yes. This was the one TGE 2016. 

Hyphen Hyphen are a French electro pop quartet whom appear to be pretty popular in their home country (so much so that they won best live act at the 2016 edition of their Brit Awards equivalent - I now know why) but I'd never heard of until looking for a band to end my night on Friday, I went with Hyphen Hyphen simply because I'd already seen Ary three times this year and their description on the festival app (which was much improved this year, just missing Spotify integration and defaulting to the correct time on the line-up page in my opinion) sounded interesting. The show was their live UK debut and will certainly not be their last, surely soon to be singled out by bigger and better blogs than this as a future crossover artist (with 1.3M views on their "Just Need Your Love" video perhaps they already have).

It took about a minute to fall in love with the band, emblazoned in warpaint and radiant smiles and just about long enough for front-woman Santa to catapult from the side of the stage and launch into the first of the bands hypnotising songs. I've seen some commanding leads in my time and Santa immediately joins the select best, filled with a boundless energy that sees her catapult around the stage quicker than anybody I've ever seen in my life and coupled with this incredibly powerful voice, each song filled with soaring, ethereal melodies, glistening 80's keys and tribal drums and after half an hour passes in the blink of an eye I'm itching for more. Unfortunately it is 2am and the venues security are quickly chucking everyone out of the room before we can even give them the reaction they deserved.

This is how to put on a show.

I'm later asked to describe them and the best I can muster is London Grammar on acid, that'll do for now. Go and discover them yourselves UK.

Muna
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Saturday at Coalition

Another band making their debut UK performance this weekend and another set to hit the headlines, LA's Muna performed a ridiculously accomplished set of their flickering, 80's indebted pop-rock. They also received the absolute biggest reception of any band I saw at the years festival. It was similar to last years Aurora show in the same venue, the audience immediately putty in the hands of a band clearly on their way to bigger things (it probably helped that the band clearly had a handful of friends in front rows whom knew every word to every track).

"Loudspeaker" is a song I featured on this blog a year ago, the name of their recently released EP and the bands closing track. It's glistening dark pop filled with crystalline vocals and the perfect summation of the girls sound, undoubtedly likely to draw immediate Haim comparisons although much more cinematic with each polished guitar hook, pulsating synth beat and rich vocal washes over you with a rich, warming glow. You feel like you're starring in your own 80's montage. 

I'm pretty soon making an unscheduled trip back to my nearby hotel room to drop of the bands vinyl.

Dream Wife
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Friday at Photomatic

Packed into a tiny shop in the lanes, handed a free beer and sweating profusely; pretty much the ideal situation to finally catch Dream Wife live I'd say.

The Brighton based band did not disappoint in their home town with a raw, shrill and energetic show that reminded me of a slightly more pop Dolores Haze (whom I'd caught up with again after seeing twice, quite brilliantly at By:Larm in March the night before). Rakel Mjöll's vocal changing from innocent pop sweetness to snarling, ferocious bite in the blink of an eye amongst driving grunge rhythms, killer pop hooks and chaotic drums, the packed room lap it up and my friends who see the band at one of their other shows return with similarly positive reviews. 

Noisy, aggressive, poppy, brilliant.

Julia Jacklin
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Thursday at Komedia and Friday at The Haunt

I have one simple question to ask you. How the fuck had I not heard of Julia Jacklin until the day before The Great Escape? Not only seemingly one of the talked about acts of SXSW this year (and soon to be the same after her shows at TGE) but every drop of her music couldn't be any more 'me' if she had come into my house, taken my record collection and tried to replicate it. 

Both of her sets I catch are chocked full with wounded country ballads that are akin to Angel Olsen and Caitlin Rose, filled with stirring electric guitars from her wonderful backing band (when the sound desk broke at The Haunt and caused a twenty minute delay they took to some impromptu jamming - I doubt Julia will remember the second half too fondly, the mix was certainly not as you'd like) and intimate, honest lyrics.

"Pool Party' closed both sets and is Julia's debut single, it sums up the shows, a combination of swelling instrumentation and devastating voice that makes you linger after her every word, it's achingly pretty, beautifully sad, outrageously brilliant. 

She plays in London again tomorrow before returning in September. That's pretty good news.

Al Bairre
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Thursday at The Prince Albert

2015's TGE highlight Al Bairre return a year later to pretty much the same reaction, 'oh fucking yes, this is awesome'.

The Prince Albert stage is tiny, it doesn't lend itself too well for a band as boundless as Al Bairre but it's okay, bouncy indie-pop knows no boundaries and soon enough the afternoon crowd is nodding along to each rhythm and smiling to every infectious, exhilarating track. The good news is this year I know the words to most of the tracks and I'm left grinning like a slightly mad cat, a slightly drunk cat too as I'd perhaps had a few too many beers in the afternoon beforehand.

I said it last year, I'll say it again. Go and listen to this band now. Two sold-out shows in London either side of the festival signal people are. 

The Big Moon
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Saturday at Komedia

I think this is my fifth time seeing The Big Moon already (not my last) and easily the best, a new track kicks off the set and it's brilliant. It sets the tone for a great 'matinee' show to please a packed early Saturday crowd.

Fun and engaging, polished and charismatic, the quartet whirl through half an hour's worth of brilliant guitar pop, there's killer hooks at almost every turn, plenty of shredding guitar duals and enough singalong choruses to pack a stadium.

With tracks like "Cupid" and "Sucker" already in their arsenal, the future keeps on getting rosier for this outstanding quartet. 

Dagny
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Thursday at Komedia

Now signed to Island Records (which will hopefully mean we'll have some more music to share soon) Dagny is surely a shoe-in to appear on pretty much every 'Sound of 2017' list and now I've seen her a couple of times, I'm happy to be along for the ride.

There's an additional guitarist at Komedia in comparison to the show I caught at By:Larm and it only adds to the dynamic performance. I love the fact she employs a real band around her, I do struggle with singers and laptops, the live band not only makes for a compelling live show but adds so much 'feeling' to the music over a digital backing. I'm running out of things to say about "Backbeat" so I'll just say this, magic.

Aldous Harding
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Friday at Paganini Ballroom

Playing exactly the same venue as twelve months before Aldous Harding is the real deal. It's a set that's entirely made up of new music from her amusingly titled forthcoming record Party and one that beguiles from start to end.

Her music is fascinating, the first four track all see Aldous on her traditional acoustic guitar playing long-lasting finger-plucked melodies filled with wounded tales of personal battles and losses before she switches to vocal duties alongside a friend playing keys and changes key completely, from heartbreaking whispers and spine-tingling emotions to strong, defiant bellowing and dramatic arm movements which both have the audience equally transfixed throughout. The set, as the year before, is littered with Aldous' dark humour and unnerving faces, you aren't quite sure if theatrical or real, I think it's probably both. 

Don't miss her when she returns to the UK later in the year.

Ekkah
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Saturday at Synergy Centre

I already knew that Ekkah knew how to get the party started, now I know they can end one too. Ending Saturday with a typically disco-laced set in the strange surroundings of Synergy Centre to a healthy crowd who danced away like the venue was still the night club it was some years ago (and I can remember go to when I visited a friend at uni some dozen years ago). 

"Last Chance to Dance" sums it up perfectly, just listen to that bass-line. Its funky throwback melody moulded with infectious hand-claps and ultra smooth vocal hooks sound like the love child of The Jackson 5 and 80's Madonna and the result is just is good. "

The absolute highlight though is the look on everyone's face as they enter the building after being ID'ed (and I'm talking everyone, especially Robin at Breaking More Waves). 

The Great Escape 2015 - Saturday Review

Glorious sunshine welcomes the final day of The Great Escape Festival 2015, it's a welcome bonus as I head to The Black Lion for the first show of the day just before midday.

There's a strong London contingent waiting to see the trio Fever Dream and they aren't about to be disappointed. The band rip straight through an eight strong set taken from their recently released debut full-length Moyamoya, their energetic set is a joy to watch from beginning to last, balancing noise and distortion with texture and melody (unlike what I'd heard the night before) as a relentless rhythm section hypnotises around Adey's taut vocals. 

The crowd aren't going anywhere fast as next comes Russian shoegazers and Fever Dream label-mates Pinkshinyultrablast. They wheel in the biggest amp I have ever seen and standing near the front I am worried I'm about to have my head taken off.

The vocalist is having technical difficulties with reverb control but that aside you'd never have known, it's a delicious set of dense guitarscapes, an abundance of fuzz and power yet there's more than MBV revivalists here, with some glittery, tropical shimmers and skittering electronics on display. It's a wonderful balance of power and beauty and I'm left with a tough decision of whether to see them again later (I decide not to because I see they have a London show announced for later in the year).

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Jagaara play to a packed house over at Dome Studio, it's a short but perfectly formed set, a mixture of the sublime and delicious. Jane has the most beautiful of lead voices and their songs are brilliant but the trio are performing without a live drummer that I really think will elevate their sound (it's the second time I've seen them and both times without - I'm not sure if it is a conscious decision or they are in-between drummers). Closing song "Marble Arch" showcases where I believe their strengths are, entwining pop and rock with fiery rhythms and soaring emotion. I look forward to hearing more expansion in due course.

Next I take a choice on whim, after yesterday's disasters I'm hesitant and hoping my luck has changed, it takes about thirty seconds to realise it has.

Belguim's Intergalactic Lovers are brilliant, they remind me of Metric without the synths, a scintillating, sparkling power pop band will a compelling lead vocalist and energetic guitar rich melodies. I'm wondering quite how I'd never heard of them until this point (subsequent research shows very few people in the UK seemingly have - that's got to change). Soaring emotion, innovative and uplifting and I cannot get enough of the wonderful lead vocals. A new band to follow is found.

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Back at The Black Lion and I manage to take in all of the late running Flowers show, the last time I saw the London based trio they were supporting Fear of Men so it's a nice touch that Jess from the band is standing front row singing all the words to the opening track.

The set is wonderful, Flowers emit this sense of charm that few bands can match and the venue is quiet as the crowd's hearts melt to Rachel's endearing vocals, the band effortlessly switch betwen riotous fuzz pop and minimal swoon pop in the blink of an eye. It's gorgeous.

Me and my friend take an extra beer in the venue before I rush around the corner to Cafe Marwood for round two of Siv Jakobsen. I needn't have rushed so much because it's running twenty minutes late. I take the chance to get a much needed caffeine boost and head upstairs.

Siv plays the exact same set as yesterday, I don't mind one bit. The location is perhaps more suited to intimate folk and although Siv is suffering with the side effects of the high pollen, you'd never know as her set is just as spectacular as the first. I find out the next day is Norway's national day and by the end I'm already looking forward to her return to these shores.

After I rush up to North Laines (a venue/pub with its own on-site microbrewery - as amazing as it sounds). I was hoping to catch some of She Drew The Gun but I arrive too late and instead I wait around for Sväva.

What follows is the most unfortunate moment of the weekend, the band had traveled from Holland for a few UK shows including this one, they are two songs into a set that's impressing, drawing shimmering guitarscapes and dreamy vocals and most impressively, they'd managed to draw a crowd from the on-looking pub-goers and then, with no warning whatsoever the power goes out.

I'm not completely sure what happens or who was organising what but the end result is the bands set is pulled. It's extremely harsh on them. Personally I couldn't see the problem with letting them return (the delay was about 15 minutes and the venue was running to schedule). The crowd disappeared when the power went and there were no announcements as to what was happening so it's perhaps equally harsh on Adna who follows on stage. She's bedazzles with wizardry behind the stage managing to control keys, laptop, guitar all whilst singing her haunted hymns, there's spacious melancholy in the way she plays and it would be great to see her return with a full band to let her concentrate on the guitar and vocals. 

Into the evening Novella play at Brighthelm. I've seen them play probably ten times now but this is the first time since they've expanded to a quintet and since the release of their debut Land. They play a wonderfully hypnotic 35 minute set that comes to life around relentless kraut-rock guitar rhythms and pulsating beats, swirling effortlessly around  crystallised vocals with the poppier choruses of "Something Must Change" a real highlight. It's certainly not going to be the last time I see the band, nor feature them here.

Saturday evening's schedule was bare for me, I'd spent a while trying to find someone new/interesting to see and perhaps mainly because a friend was there already plump for Komedia Studio Bar and a South African (sorry I knew this, I was just being stupid) band I'd never heard of Al Bairre (pronounced Al Bear which sounds even better).

The decision is probably the best one I make all weekend. The bands live show is incredible. The band are beyond infectious, they give it their absolute all and this unbounded enthusiasm and energy rubs off on the packed crowd inducing a Saturday night boogie and huge applause between tracks. Al Bairre are a genre-hopping mix of indie-pop character and electric violin/cello.  It's dense, bouncy and brilliant. The cover of the weekend occurs half way through their set with a riotous version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". The band don't stop for a single second, jumping around stage, swapping instruments and vocal duties and smiling, it seems they were having just as much fun as the audience. 

A revelation. The band play in London tomorrow. If you can go - you must (details). 

The next band fail to ignite me after that and I make the decision to end my weekend with a few quiet beers and a sit down. I'm near to where Maccabees are playing and it's extremely busy outside. Then just like that The Great Escape comes and goes for another year, yet another success and a brilliant weekend is had by (pretty much, I'm sure there are a few grumblers around) all. Of course it is not without problems and some that are the same every year (the app is rubbish, changing information is slow to filter through, the text service is a waste of time etc) but The Great Escape is generally a high quality, well organised event that showcases the depth of new music talent across UK and the world, you cannot ask more than that for the £40 ticket price I paid. See you next year TGE.


The Great Escape 2015 - Friday Review

Friday starts (as did all three of my mornings) with an all you can eat breakfast to set me up for the day. The sun was out early but by the time I'm ready to leave my hotel it's cloudy and chilly, still it's a step up from Thursday's rain (it's so much nicer to be at a festival and have a real bed and a shower each morning!).

I make my way to Paganini Ballroom to see an artist I've never heard before Sasha Siem, her show is well received by a midday crowd. It's the sort of set that's impossible to take your eye off, a genre-hopping combination of Bjork styled eccentricity, varying between grandiose chamber pop where violin, keys and guitar collide in a dizzying spell and sparser, more beautiful moments, it's the latter that I find most rewarding, I am partial to a bit of gorgeous melancholy after all.

Through one of Brighton's narrow passages next to Shipwrights Yard where I first take in a short, sweet set by Portsmouth singer-songwriter Jerry Williams (all the sets here are just twenty minutes). She looks impossibly young and her set is infinitely charming, her sweet voice carries nostalgic (that's to old boys like myself, to Jerry they are current) tales of teenage love and boys checking out girls from behind their sunglasses. 

Next in the same venue it's a band I'd never come across before, Secret Company. They aren't my usual thing and their drummer is seemingly nursing the mother of all hangovers but I'm impressed by their polished alt/indie pop sheen, delivering a set full of guitar driven melodies and undeniably charismatic vocals, I can see them doing well once their EP comes out later in the year.  

Afterwards is a little unexpected bonus with a previous unannounced set from Brighton's own Dog In The Snow, it's good to finally hear "Africa" live for myself. The duo's set combines sparse, tranquil electronics, rhythmic guitar riffs and ethereal vocals to delicious effect, I keep hoping it's going the brooding intensity is going to explode but perhaps it's a little early in the afternoon for that.

A short hop across the road to Sticky Mikes for a not very well advertised set by one of the pre-festival hyped acts Bully.

The quartet, apparently tired from an early morning travel from Cardiff show absolutely no sign of fatigue in a blisteringly intense show. The highlight of the weekend (to this point) is a half hour set full of tracks that will make up their debut album (due in June) and includes the aforementioned "Trying" and "I Remember". Bully are a formidable force live with much of my attention focusing on the simply incredible lead guitarist whom spends much of the set perched down delivering a head-spinning display of guitar mastery amongst pummelling beats and Alicia's raw, growling vocals. The audience feel the thrill too, a non-stop, brutal set of quick, sharp grunge-pop. Awesome.

I'm undecided whether to catch Aurora performing at SpiegelPub next but decide I'll catch her later and instead follow my friend to The Fishbowl to catch Dios Mio, with a pint of the fine Brighton IPA in hand I watch the quartet deliver a strong performance of their sweeping alt-pop.

There's ringing layers of dreamy guitar swirls carried by a  powerful rhythm section and Helena's gorgeously soft vocal, it draws you in and when two new tracks are played near the end it's soon clear that Dios Mio will soon be building upon the foundations we've heard so far.

One of the acts I was most excited to hear follows, my live debut of Siv Jakobsen (I learn I've been pronouncing her name wrong, it's softer than sieve).

Ever wondered what a Britney Spears song would sound like through the eyes of softening melancholy? Well if you were in the audience you'd now know (the answer is awesome). Most of the set is taken from Siv's forthcoming EP The Lingering, an apt title for the spell she weaves with her incredible vocal and acoustic guitar.

"Caroline" leaves you drenched in a state of familiar longing yet one that's comforting too as haunting tones cover you like a warming blanket (just as the second IPA does). There's a more suitably genre-matching cover of Joni's "River" to end the set in majestic fashion and I'm already penning in a repeat dose when Siv performs again tomorrow. There's also a funny moment during an impromptu tuning Q&A when someone asks Siv 'What is the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow?' (with thanks to Monty Python) and Siv only hears Swallow. I'll leave that there though as this isn't an 18+ website!...

There's a gap in the schedule next and I meet with some friends for a chin wag and some dinner before starting the evening session at The Mesmerist.

So good is Sophie Jamieson these days that half an hour disappears in an instant with a trio of new tracks hinting that her next EP may surpass her last, the quartet deliver a masterclass in spacious, exquisite songcraft with Sophie's voice leaving you hanging on her ever word. It's great to see a full band set as the last couple of times I've seen Sophie she had been solo acoustic (I use acoustic loosely, the guitar these days is firmly electric). I quickly say hello to Sophie at the end and it's only when I'm on the way out that I realise there was no "Waterloo", "Stain" or "Other". A note to festival bookers, if you are booking Sophie Jamieson, she needs at least 45 minutes!

I didn't want any repeat of Coalition shut-out today so I'm inside the venue early to see Aurora. Early enough to find Robin from Breaking More Waves (again) and catch Beach Baby, it's not particularly my thing but the band are decent and the last song "No Mind No Money" is catchy enough to ear them some radio airplay and appeal to fans of sun-drenched slacker pop. 

Aurora is worth the festival admission price alone. I've talked about her wide-eyed glare and hand-shape movements when I reviewed her track "Runaway", in the flesh they are even more pronounced. Her stage presence belie's her still teenage years. She transfixes you with her stares and dances and makes you swoon with her incredible personality.

She is visibly taken aback by the huge, huge cheers that her breathtaking songs receive (the cheers and screams only grow throughout the set) and she seems to be genuinely enjoying herself too. It's magical. This is pop music right here, not what you see on television. She deserves all the success she is going to get, I just hope when I see her again in a year or two's time, that her unique charm and excitement is still there (the nerves won't be, this is just the start). The moment of The Great Escape 2015 and I leave possibly the happiest I've been at an individual TGE gig since I walked out of Josh T Pearson back in 2011.

I head over to The Haunt next, The Vaccines are secret headliners and I know it's going to be busy so I arrive early and abandon plans to see Monica Heldal (I'm unsure I'd get in to her venue too, Soak played directly after her, I assume it was extremely busy). I'm early enough to be inside within ten minutes to see The Big Moon (a band I've been meaning to cover here for about two months now). Perhaps too early because I have to endure one and a half sets beforehand. The first band are playing a guitar solo to rival Brian May. It's self-indulgent and it's shit. When they finally get going they play an acceptable form of 60's leaning psych-stoner rock.

The next band are worse, much worse. The only highlight of which is when the set comes to an abrupt end. The guitarist decides it's a good idea to stage dive into the crowd, the crowd disagree and it ends with him crashing onto the floor. He jumps back on stage and goes off in a huff, the rest of the band finish playing on follow him off. I'm happier to be hearing the entirety of Prince's 1999 played in between. 

The Big Moon redeem the last hour, you can hear the melody and rhythm for a start, it's better than that though, a triumphant set that's rudely interrupted when an amp stops working. I already know how good a guitar player Soph is but the rest of the band are great too with recent single "Sucker" providing a real sing-along moment (along with a cover of Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger"). It's hard to know just how many of the packed crowd were here for them but it's certain at the sets end that The Big Moon have made some new friends.

I head to Brighthelm. I know it's a mistake soon after. The first band are proficient but not what I need and I sit down awaiting some friends. We all then witness a band who make The Darkness seem original. I'm intrigued at the start because the singer sound-checks his mic by singing Queen's "Dreamer's Ball". That's where it ended for me. A big crowd love it though and the band probably draw the biggest mosh-pit I saw all weekend. Proof if it were ever needed that one man's meat is another man's poison.  The last band playing are just noise, any hint of melody and vocal lost amongst (I believe on purpose) a quagmire of feedback and noise. I quickly escape to the safety of my room.

It turns out to be a pretty meh ending to a great day. Those earlier highlights though far outweigh any negativity, especially that incredible performance from Aurora. 

The Great Escape 2015 - Thursday Review

It doesn't seem like all that long ago since we were talking about whom to see at The Great Escape yet here I am sitting at my desk after returning home from the festival earlier this afternoon. Three days and just over thirty bands later I'm sitting content and surprisingly spritely, I went to bed at half two yesterday so it's probably just the adrenaline after three wonderful days of music. The Great Escape is a weekend that reinforces your love of music and (99%) of the people involved in music. Music people are decent people, as my random conversations and chats with friends old and new testify.

Anyway, casting my mind to Thursday midday and I arrive into Brighton to rain, horrific rain. It's absolutely sheeting down and I instantly am regretting my decision to bring just one pair of shoes and one hoody because they are drenched by the time I've checked into my hotel with the friend I'm staying with. We both go to the wristband exchange (the organisation is seemingly much better this year and we are in and out within minutes).

We decide to start The Great Escape 2015 and Komedia. The first act of my festival are Flyying Colours, a band I should have seen on Monday but wimped out of going to (to save my energy for TGE apparently). The set is short, only four songs in length but it is also brilliant, giving a sharp, explosive introduction to a dizzying shoegaze sound where searing guitar abuse is pared with luscious dual vocals, it's intoxicating stuff. Instantly a few of my friends change future weekend plans to see them again.

Next over at Patterns it's running an hour late and reeks of paint because frankly the place is still a building yard, I imagine the delay was because the health and safety officer was making them cover up a few exposed wires. The room (formerly Audio) does look better and bigger now though. I'm here as the new timing fits in nicely for my future plans but I do catch Violet Skies and meet Robin from Breaking More Waves for the first time of the weekend - my staple gig buddy where our tastes meet. Violet has a wonderful voice, soaring effortless and pure above restrained drums and keys, it's smooth R&B/pop which is made for radio play. 

The more elegant and carpeted Paganini Ballroom is my next stop (that's got to be a royal pain in the arse to clean after a gig) for one of my pre-festival highlights Aldous Harding. Her show lives up to billing, majestic finger plucked acoustic and timeless vocal, it's a deep beacon of emotion and the hushed silence in the room sums up how intoxicating the live experience is. What I wasn't expecting beforehand was the in-between stage banter, full of dry wit and sarcasm nor the cover that ended the set. After spending half an hour perched on a stool delivering semi-whispered, dark-folk tales of doomed relationships Aldous stands up and a cappella blasts of Edith Piaf's "Non, Je ne regrette rien". Stunning.

We've made the decision to head the mile or so up the road to head to The Joker next. A decision that me and my friend instantly regret when we walk into an empty room instead of seeing Britain whom were advertised as playing. We had around for about twenty minutes but nothing is going on (the not so frequently talked about joys of an unofficial showcase) and instead go across the road to Bleach. 

Curxes are the draw and they start their set late thanks to technical gremlins. As a non music techie I don't hear anything wrong with how the now expanded trio sound as they deliver a belting half hour set of material taken from their newly released debut album Verxes. I'm particularly taken to the dance-floor pop swagger of recent single "What You Want" (of course this is Curxes we are talking about, so it's a mutated form) and the addition of live drums is a complete win, pummelling beats are the perfect accompaniment to their sound. I'm suitably impressed.

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The evening session arrives and I try to get into Coalition to see Lapsley but I knew I'd left it too late after stopping off for a much needed coffee break on the way back down to the seafront from Bleach (I arrive at 19.10 and the queue to get in was already about the capacity of the venue!). I decide to take no chances with my later gig plans and head back up the road (and hill) to Green Door Store. I walk in as Dark Moon are playing and see twenty minutes or so of their rhythm heavy psyche, I'm taken to the gong that the singer delicately shimmers throughout and wish it was given a good and proper whack!

The room is rammed by the end of the set and whilst the next band are setting up I decided to head to the bar and toilet, it's impossible to get back into the room (the planning of the Green Door Store is shocking, a narrow funnel into a much bigger room which seems people stand back and clog up the entire room). In any case I'm glad of that shortly afterwards. The polite way of describing the band that I won't name, you'll be able to look it up easy enough if you are bothered, is NME friendly... Once their set finishes I sneak back to my friends and wait for a band I hadn't seen up until this point Black Honey.

It's a fine, fine way to love a virginity too, Izzy is as good a front as I've seen in recent times, she reminds me of TJF's Ritzy with her intense stares and emotive, powerful vocal. The tracks are as good live too, "Teenager" hits the spot with the lively, mainly local crowd and the cinematic whirl of "Spinning Wheel" set things off in scintillating fashion. There's been an excitement about this band pretty much from day one and live you can figure out just why.

Shortly afterwards PINS come to stage and are back to their normal line-up (bassist Anna had broke her leg in a car accident). It's a brilliant set too, there's the treat of a few older tracks (most excitingly "Luvu4lyf") amongst the glittery sheen on the new songs. "Young Girl" and the bite of "Oh Lord" thrilling most, Faith's icy glare and piercing vocals holding your attention amongst beautiful, energetic guitarscapes. It's over in no time at all, that's always the sign of something that you want more of...

A full circle as I end my day back at Komedia for a band I'd neglected since their surprise reformation earlier this year, Mt. Wolf. It doesn't take me long to learn the mistakes in my way with guest vocals from Only Girl a welcome bonus before a finale of "Hamburg" seals a late winner for highlight of the day. Stirring deep within is an effortless tapestry of restrained, atmospheric instrumentation and heart-melting vocals. I'm swooning on the spot and as I make my way out to the streets with the rest of the audience I'm left wrapped up in a hazy blanket of warming bliss. It is a stunning moment to end a truly top class show. 

It's now sometime around midnight (a little Airborne Toxic Event reference for you) and I'm shattered, my girls had me up at six am and I decide to head back to my hotel instead of following my friend to Brighthelm, in hindsight I made the wrong decision (but I do latterly catch the band that were playing, more on that in Saturday's review). Day one of The Great Escape is quickly over, a mishap in the middle of the day aside, it's been a great start. 

The Great Escape 2015 - Preview (Ten acts to see part two)

This is a continuation of the last post. Part One of my preview of The Great Escape 2015 can be found here.

6. Arctic Lake (Facebook)

Who?
A London based trio who mould minimalist instrumentation to emotive vocals with smouldering results.

Where?
THE JOKER (Alternative Escape)
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 - 1:45PM

Why?
Arctic Lake are honestly one of my favourite new acts and one whom I'm very excited about and "Only Me" is the London based trio's latest track and the follow up to the unbearable beautiful "Limits" (which got playlisted by Radio One no less) and is, there is no other way to say it, absolutely fucking gorgeous.

There's a soul-searching beauty to the restrained vocals of Emma Foster and the flickering atmospheric space of the accompanying instrumentation coexists to perfection. Perfection yes, that's the word to describe "Only Me".

7. Bully (Facebook)

Who?
Bully is a young Nashville four-piece blasting out of the gates with high-powered grunge punk reminiscent of the beginnings of indie rock. The band is fronted by Alicia Bognanno, an audio engineer who has been cutting her teeth on the soundboards of indie clubs and studios in recent years. After opening for the likes of Best Coast, Those Darlins, and Superchunk, Bully is ready to grab their own audience.

Where?
THE HAUNT
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 8:00pm - 8:30pm

Why?
Bully are here to take you back to the 90's (although it's close to the stage when that phrase is incorrect with Internet readership who never experienced it in the first place - argh old age!) with the guitar heavy "Brainfreeze", a fuzzy, infectious addition to the grunge revival with hooks and sugary vocals that certainly hit the sweet spots. 

The other song I came across from the Nashville quartet's self-titled EP is "Milkman", it takes the pace up a dozen more notches, a storming, breathless shrill pop monster that is poppy yet viciously rocking at the same time and wraps up within two minutes. It would be greedy to ask for more than that...

8. Adna (Facebook)

Who?
Swedish born (now Berlin based) Adna, an artist likely to cause your heart go a flutter with haunting songcraft and her beautiful, affecting vocals.

Where?
THE NORTH LAINE (Alternative Escape)
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 - Time Unknown
THE NORTH LAINE (Alternative Escape)
SATURDAY 16th May 2015 - 7:00PM

Why?
"Living" is taken from Adna's second , recently released album Run, Lucifer and immediately it hits hard with an incredible opening verse "I need to get out of my own head, to leave my whole past, get new thoughts, new feelings, a whole new life, I never wanted this one". 

The pained, emotive lyrics are accompanied by an immersive melody where a soft ringing guitar and twinkling piano is joined by a progressive drum heartbeat, already "Living" is highlighting a polished, progressive sound but just then, the chorus hits and bam. The track explodes, blowing you away for good with a soaring, kaleidoscopic power-pop surge. I simply love it.

9. No Joy (Facebook)

Who?
Montreal’s No Joy, who are currently working on material to follow their sophomore LP Wait to Pleasure, are gearing up for an upcoming European tour alongside Cheatahs, including a date at The Great Escape.

The band continues to strike a balance between the blistering walls of noise they’re renowned for, with airy, expansive atmospherics that allow the songs to breathe and the melodies to seep through.  The band, renowned for their juxtaposition of unrest and calm, beauty and chaos, truth and fantasy, in the throes of dimed amps and hair-whipping guitar goddess rock music – remain unwavering as ever.

Where?
BRIGHTHELM
SATURDAY (AM) 16th May 2015 1:30am - 2:00am

Why?
I can trace my following of No Joy right back to their beginning. A band that I've held in high regard since their debut 7" blew me away back in mid 2010. My love grew with a couple of killer UK shows and a deafening Primavera set the following spring (I've said this before but No Joy are definitely an act to see live). 

Latest track "Everything New" sees the band return in brilliant fashion, the track, the first taken from their third LP More Faithful is absolutely bloody gorgeous.

Here at least, it sees the quartet tone down the fuzz and noise (their live show, in my history, have always been a whirlwind of sonic abuse) in favour of sumptuous melody with entwined dual vocal harmonies floating amongst ringing guitars, fizzing and restrained, graceful and calming, words that are very welcome in the No Joy repertoire if you ask me.

10. Black Honey (Facebook)

Who?
After dreamy opener ‘Sleep Forever’, 60’s psychedelic ‘Teenager’ and grunge rock ‘The Taste’ the band revealed their debut EP with their final hook laden track ‘Bloodlust’ and the first photo of themselves. To celebrate the band played a packed out secret show in their hometown of Brighton. Initially only being known as ’the sweet taste of darkness’ Black Honey have gone on to become an unstoppable force.

Where?
GREEN DOOR STORE
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 9:15pm - 9:45pm

Why?
Local Brighton quartet Black Honey have rightly become UK blog darlings and with recent support shows alongside Superfood and a whole host of festivals to follow, it's seemingly only heading one way. New track "Spinning Wheel" sums up exactly why.

It sees Black Honey add spaghetti western cinematics to their pop-noir assault, from a languid, dusty beginning that recalls Lana the track suddenly bursts into life with typically scintillating energy, there's Tarantino-esque atmosphere throughout with howling vocals, psychedelic jangle guitars and some pretty awesome machine gun drumming. 

The Great Escape 2015 - Preview (Ten acts to see part one)

The Great Escape  Official Website

It's incredibly less than a week until one of my favourite weekends of the year, The Great Escape. This will be the eighth time I've descended on Brighton for a weekend of new music by the sea. Let's hope it isn't quite as windy as last year! 

This year has flown by and my research hasn't been quite as good as normal, there's still way more music than you can possibly listen to and just three days to see it. Over the next two posts I'll feature ten acts that I recommend you take time out of your schedule for and investigate.

I've historically done a preview of the festival and featured a few tips each year, I'm just going to cut and paste a few bullet points from those below to potentially give any newbies an insight:

  • Some 'new' venues turn out to be old ones renamed so watch your step. This year The Hope is now The Hope & Ruin, Patterns is what used to be Audio and The Hydrant is now called Bleach, to name but three.
  • If you do plan on going to one of the 'hyped' artist gigs, the advice is simple, get there early. If you plan on waltzing into the venue two minutes before stage time, you will be mistaken and you will spend the entire gig standing outside wishing you were somewhere else.
  • The Great Escape is a vast, widespread festival (if you've never been, be warned that Concorde 2 is a LONG way along the front, don't leave five minutes to get there).
  • Don’t forget the festival sister showpiece The Alternative Escape when you are investigating bands you want to see.
  • Brighton has abysmal phone reception, expect not to be able to load up your apps for up-to-date news. Take a piece of paper and pen (and the festival planner PDFs) with the acts you want to see on it. If you can get wi-fi then Twitter is usually the best place to find out about secret, last minute shows (of which there are usually many).
  • It's a marathon not a sprint; The Great Escape lasts three days and nights, don't go too big on Thursday and end up missing half the acts you want to see on Friday because you are in an alcohol riddled stupor. 
  • Go explore Brighton. There's more to TGE than just music, go for a walk around the lanes, find brilliant coffee shop (not Starbucks) and eat at Pompoko.

Onwards with the first five of my ten acts to see at the 2015 edition of The Great Escape (what is the festivals tenth birthday). The who sections of these previews are copied from The Great Escape (where applicable) so yeah, not my words!

1. Aldous Harding (Facebook)

Who? 
New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding making her debut in the UK.

Where? 
ST GEORGES CHURCH
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 8:15pm - 8:45pm
PAGANINI BALLROOM
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 2:15pm - 3:00pm

Why? 
Aldous Harding released her debut album via home-label Lyttelton Records last April nd soon grew to become a cult favourite amongst lovers of lush, retro folk and otherworldly voices. The record is a wonder, a dark-folk album with vivid lyrical themes and fragile vocals.

The album's opener "Stop Your Tears" was the track that introduced me to Aldous Harding (aka Hannah) and instantly pulls you into an alternate world of genteel beauty. A beguiling, acoustic guitar provides the platform for much of the album and here its soft plucks and haunting backing harmonies are the only accompaniment to Hannah's voice, a timeless, natural tone which is capable of making the hairs on your neck stand on end.

"Hunter" is a sumptuous feast of rich musical landscape and fragile, haunting vocals from the get-go,  blending a style not dissimilar from Joanna Newsom with touches of Joni Mitchell, as subtle, weaving melody and intriguing lyrics full of lovely imagery and extraordinary beauty carry the listener off to places warm and brilliant.

2. Jagaara (Facebook)

Who?
Sibling trio from London whom incorporate a mix of folk, rock and electronica into their songs while continuing to experiment until they captured the essence their unique sound; Soaring hypnotic vocals, giving way to beautifully arranged, atmospheric instrumentation.

Where?
PATTERNS – DOWNSTAIRS
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 7:30pm - 8:00pm
DOME STUDIO THEATRE
SATURDAY 16th May 2015 2:15pm - 2:45pm

Why?
One of my 'fifteen for '15' Jagaara welcome 2015 with their first new music of the year, "In The Dark".

The track sees the trio, siblings if you didn't already know, extend the formula used to smouldering effect on their impeccable debut "Faultline". slow-motion soundscapes that rise with brooding intent amongst gorgeously tight harmonies and backed by darkly atmospheric percussion. It's simply to-die-for.

3. Aurora (Facebook)

Who? 
Aurora, an eighteen year old resident of Bergen, Norway whom effortlessly creates music that somehow balances the line between haunting and adorable. From first listen, the fact that she defines her music as ‘dark pop’ begins to make perfect sense.

Where?
SPIEGELPUB (HUB STAGE)
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 3:30pm - 4:00pm
COALITION
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 8:15pm - 8:45pm

Why?
"Runaway" is Aurora's (who's dropped the use of her surname Aksnes since I last posted about her), one of Norway's brightest musical stars (and they have many) latest and best track to date. it sees her pure, mesmerising vocal joined by ebbing and flowing instrumentation that pares her voice perfectly, rising from a glacial, softening beginning to a swooping, soaring chorus full of emotion and strength. 

I'm not the biggest music video fan I'll be honest, I rarely sit and concentrate through one but the video for "Runaway" is magical, both beautiful and compelling, it sees what must have been a freezing cold Aurora standing in an absolutely gorgeous snow-filled landscape and later throwing what can only be called 'shapes' with big, wide opened eyes that pierce straight through you.

Since "Runaway" comes "Running With The Wolves" a big, bold pop hit in the making, it grows with magnificent splendour around big, booming choruses, icy synth drops and Aurora's crystalline vocals. Glamorously dark and amorously seductive, it's a potent combination. 

4. Pins (Facebook)

Who? 
PINS are Faith, Anna, Lois,and Sophie. PINS mix together post punk, fuzzed up garage, and rock and roll.  They have created a distinct sound, and secured their place in the burgeoning Manchester new music scene.

Where?
GREEN DOOR STORE
THURSDAY 14th May 2015 10:00pm - 10:30pm
DOME STUDIO THEATRE
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 3:15pm - 3:45pm

Why?
Pins have cleverly picked the lead two tracks from their second album Wild Nights (due June 8th via Bella Union). First track "Too Little Too Late" offered a salivating insight into a progressive sound, a slowly unwinding number that saw synths join the Manchester bands arsenal, brooding and enrapturing in equal measure amongst typically piercing words.

The second peek at Wild Nights is "Young Girls", a looser track that's possibly the most accessible song they've shared to date, full of breezy guitar melodies, tight vocal harmonies and wistful romanticism, it's the sort of track you'd have on repeat as you are leaving home for the first ever time determined to never look back and fully of hopeless optimism.  

If you think these tracks are good, just wait until you hear "Oh Lord" live. 

5. Siv Jakobsen (Facebook)

Who?
Siv’s music is beautifully mellow, much like diary-entries - filled with melancholy and an almost brutal honesty.

Where?
THE FISHBOWL (Alternative Escape)
FRIDAY 15th May 2015 4:00pm
MARWOOD CAFE (Alternative Escape)
SATURDAY 16th May 2015 5:00pm

Why?
Siv Jakobsen is probably my favourite discovery of 2015 so far. The Norwegian singer-songwriter's track "How We Used To Love" emits this spine-tingling stream of emotion that gets me every time, it's easily one of most beautiful, affecting tracks of the year. The good news is that Siv's follow-up "Dark" is just as good, bringing a similar sense of magical melancholy to the fore.

"Dark" is devastatingly sad and overwhelmingly beautiful; sparse, still instrumentation plucks straight at your heart-strings with Siv's pure, spellbinding vocal resonating around intimate acoustic guitars and luscious string flourishes. Loneliness sure never sounded so good.

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




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.