The Great Escape, Assorted venues, Brighton
Wednesday 18 May 2011
Brighton's answer to the South by South-West festival has, it appears, already outgrown its roots. Five years ago it was about showcasing new bands, though now, in summer festival style, it's wilfully drawing bigger crowds with established names. Hence, punters find themselves in the quandary of whether to follow the A&R trail and take a chance on the untried acts, or face the long and inordinately slow-moving queues in order to see the stars.
Attempting the former route, I found myself watching David J Roch al fresco in a windswept square and was rewarded with a series of vivid folk and blues songs about death and the devil, sung with a voice wrung out with fear and heartbreak. Further investigation reveals that his music is produced by Jim Sclavunos, of Bad Seeds and Grinderman fame, and is championed by Richard Hawley, a man who knows soul when he hears it. Roche is also an undertaker by trade, which puts him at closer proximity to the devil than most.
If you're looking for the bands of the future, then Cloud Control would seem likely contenders. Already a big name in their native Australia, where they have bagged the country's equivalent to the Mercury Prize, they have taken the elegant folk harmonies of Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons, and given them a boot up the backside with great whooshes of psychedelic rock. Their sound is at once serious and joyful, intimate and epic. They deserve to be huge.
In the stuffy, carpeted basement of a seafront hotel, Florrie is making her second attempt at a mainstream pop career, her first having unaccountably stalled. She's a little bit Kylie, a little bit Blondie and a little bit Nina Persson, and has a seemingly endless store of memorable pop songs. In a venue where the ceiling doesn't skim the top of her head, you imagine she would put on one hell of a show.
DJ Shadow's attempts to turn what is essentially a DJ set into a major event involves cramming himself into a white globe and projecting films on top of it. His sound – an aural collage of beats and samples – hasn't evolved much in the last 15 years, though he's a likeable host, exuding as much charisma as is possible for a man trapped in a large ping-pong ball.
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