Music review: The Great Escape, Various venues, Brighton
It’s hard to shake the feeling that The Great Escape, the annual three-day gigathon for new bands and Brighton’s answer to Texas’s South-By-South-West, has grown too unwieldy for its own good. Certainly, the queues outside venues that snake all the way to Eastbourne offer little hope to the majority of seeing the year’s buzz bands such as The Strypes, Swim Deep or Parquet Courts.
On the other hand where else would you find showcases in carpeted hotel basements devoted to the musical output of Catalonia, Nova Scotia and Poland, or indeed a hirsute, unnamed metal band playing out of the back of an illegally-parked transit van on a Saturday lunchtime in one of the city’s busiest shopping thoroughfares?
Around the corner from the traffic warden-dodging rockers is South Tyneside’s Nadine Shah who, seated at a keyboard, dryly deconstructs her sartorial choices. A former jazz singer whose voice is somewhere between PJ Harvey and Antony Hegarty, she is funny and upbeat in person though her shimmering compositions betray a darker heart.
Across town, heavily-tipped California two-piece Deap Vally keep us waiting for 40 minutes for their Runaways-meets-White Stripes set and then, on finding a marginally less than euphoric reception, tell the crowd to “drink some fuckin’ whisky”. In their tattered hot-pants and homemade feathered bra-tops, Deap Vally have gone to some effort to look like they’ve been pulled from the gutter. They’ve got the tunes, alright, but the badass vibe is laid on irritatingly thick.
By contrast, Brooklyn’s Phosphorescent are so unconcerned with their image, they could have come off a long shift at the builders’ yard. Led by Matthew Houck, their wounded Seventies-style country-rock saddens the heart while lifting the soul. Glasgow’s hyped-to-the-hilltops Chvrches pull off a similar trick, while paying homage to a different decade. The trio’s atmospheric synth-pop is delivered through a pristine prism of Pet Shop Boys and Prince, with singer Lauren Mayberry a nervous but engagingly unpretentious presence.
The most exciting find of the weekend, however, are Night Engine, a four-piece from London fronted by Phil McDonnell, an unnervingly charismatic man with the looks of Damian Lewis and the body language of David Byrne. Their sound is angular indie rock, a smart update of The Associates, “Let’s Dance”-era Bowie and Franz Ferdinand. On paper, they couldn’t be less fashionable, which probably makes them a dead cert.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 2 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Germanwings crash: 'Andreas Lubitz planned to marry pregnant girlfriend', claims German report
- 5 Germanwings plane crash: Transcript reveals passengers 'screamed for over five minutes' before plane crashed into mountain
Cassetteboy joins forces with Russell Brand for Emperor's New Clothes film
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Jay Z launches streaming service Tidal with help from Kanye West, Rihanna and Coldplay
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Menstruation-themed photo series artist 'censored by Instagram' says images are to demystify taboos around periods
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans