The Great Escape 2011

Festival season starts early in Brighton (or does it ever end?), and just a few days back from Madeira we took a little more holiday to enjoy our first festival together, The Brighton Great Escape. Three days spread across the city, with over 100 acts playing, I’d dedicated a good portion of the week to planning who to see, listening to festival playlists and discovering new music.

We were joined by Sarah and Mark, travelling down from Bristol they arrived early on Thursday morning. After some coffee, fresh croissants and a lot of comparing schedules we started our festival. Sam was still working, so for now it was just the three of us.

Luluc, Rhob Cunningham, Moddi and 22

At Jubilee square we picked up our shiny red weekend wristbands and searched for the Queen’s Hotel on the seafront. Luluc, Rhob Cunningham, Moddi and 22 were playing what we called the “morning session”, which ran from 12 ‘til 4pm. On a carpeted hotel room we caught the end of Luluc’s set; guitar and deep beautiful vocals, their track made famous by Grey’s Anatomy. Rhob Cunningham was up next, an irishman, his songs were stories with guitar and they were lovely. And between tracks he had stories too, seems he was attacked by a falling starfish when he arrived in Brighton. Moddi followed, a beautiful serene norwegian folk act with cello and accordion, this set turned out to be a festival highlight. The music so incredibly powerful and different from everything else on offer. With Becks and Corona in plastic beer cups, 22 took the stage, norwegian again but very very different - compared to Muse and The Mars Volta, they were an extremely energetic young band that liked to jump around and punch their fists through the ceiling, I can’t say we were overly impressed. The weird half-backwards-mohican the lead singer sported was entertaining however.

Moddi by Rob Orchard
Moddi by Rob Orchard

Ready for more music, we nipped into an alternative escape venue, the appropriately named “Live music bar”, to see Brother and Bones and Model Society perform. On the way back we were lucky enough to catch Cloud Control perform three songs, including my favourite, “There’s nothing in the water we can’t fight”, at Jubilee square.

Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka and Max Richter

Home for pizzas and back out again with Sam, we headed to St Mary’s church for the fat cat records event. Sat in the pews at the front, sipping wine (beer in a church feels awfully wrong), a stage with grand piano and projector was setup beneath the dim light of a chandelier and the dying stained glass sunlight. Dustin O’Halloran opened the show, with a gorgeous, deceptively simple piano composition, accompanied by a string quartet. It was reminiscent of Ludovico Einaudi. Sitting a little awkwardly in the wooden seats, we watched Hauschka perform his peculiar strain of piano music, heavy on the obscure percussion and ending with ping pong balls being thrown into the grand, it was delightfully different. We spent most of the act trying to work out how he was making such incredible noises. In the dark now, all sunlight vanished, Max Richter culminated the show with a perfect rendition of his Infra album, complete with strings, he also played my favourite, “On the nature of daylight”. All in all an excellent post-classical event, and now onto something very different.

Dustin O’Halloran by Andy Sturmey
Dustin O’Halloran by Andy Sturmey

Gang Gang Dance

At 10:30 we arrived at the Pavilion Theatre (the Uncut stage) to catch the end of Babe,Terror’s (not “Baby torture”, I might add), improvised and very clever drone set, but consisting of a single man surrounded by fairy lights and humming into a mic occasionally, it wasn’t the most riveting viewing. I love this sort of music, but with the room filling up for Gang Gang Dance, the vibe wasn’t there. And then the main set, the reason we were here, the very loud and awesome Gang Gang Dance, playing their new album “Eye Contact”. With tribal drums, Kate Bush-esque vocals, and a flag waver, the gang dance kicked into full swing. It was phenomenal and I’ve had their albums on repeat ever since. In their vietcong hats they danced with us, and we went home, ears ringing, ready for two more days of awesome music.

Gang Gang Dance by Ricardo Vamp
Gang Gang Dance by Ricardo Vamp

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