The Great Escape Festival (8-10 May, Brighton) // Words: Saam Das
Wind. So much wind. Bands. So many bands. Those two aspects of The Great Escape pretty much sum up the 2014 edition of the festival. Also, late running trains, but that was more of a personal struggle. Nonetheless, we had our usual great fun in Brighton, catching plenty of new bands as well as few old favourites. We're splitting our review into three sections for ease of reading so do pop back for those soon-to-arrive installments.
Wind aside, our festival begins in excellent fashion on Thursday afternoon, thanks to German electro-poppers Claire (whose latest album is appropriately named 'The Great Escape') - supplemented by the free pretzels on offer at the Green Door Store. Nice one, guys. The Brighthelm Centre is the next destination - half church, half pre-school, half perplexing - for The Night VI. The band deliver soothing melancholy, complete with on-stage harp, although the latter does feel extraneous at times.
At the Festival Hub, now based in the Old Steine Pleasure Gardens, we take advantage of the much-needed free wifi (3G in Brighton has been perennially atrocious) as well as taking in Northern singer-songwriter Eva Stone. Battling illness, she still belts out her tunes and comes across in a charming manner. Unfortunately, her songs fail to resonate with us live, although we'll be keeping an eye out for her recorded efforts - which may well benefit from a more richer sound.
The more dynamic Kimberly Anne follows, a similarly endearing performer. Employing loop pedals, audience participation, and #goodbanter, she breezes through her excellent set - finishing off strongly by giving out free tea bags which come with a download of one of her tracks. We may review the tea at a later date.
Trotting over to Sticky Mike's Frog Bar and its somewhat dingy basement, we catch the rollicking Port Isla. Their efforts suited the intimate basement setting, and in 'Steamroller', they have one of the festival's biggest anthems. With any luck, they'll be playing the track across many, many festivals this summer. Leaving in a fairly euphoric mood, we pop over to Coalition on the seafront for Ballet School - only to discover they're running about 20 minutes late as the funk-infused Jaako Eino Kalevi continues and continues....
Considering the band we're trying to see are playing again the following day, we abandon ship and seek out the R&B-tinged Max Marshall - a solo artist we'd only heard days previously via the Tipping Point/Killing Moon festival compilation. Flanked by a live band, adorned in "MM" t-shirts, she brings her strong vocals and infectious melodies to a receptive Komedia Studio Bar audience.
With PAWWS running a tad late at the adjacent Komedia, and battered by the winds, we take an early commute back to London to prepare for our return the next day. Compared to previous years, we'd say that this was certainly a reasonable start to proceedings, only really dampened by the gale-force weather on offer.
Read our day two review here. Find more info on The Great Escape at greatescapefestival.com.