The Great Escape Festival (19-21 May '16, Brighton) // Words: Saam Das
Brighton was good to me on day one of The Great Escape Festival, and similarly delightful on its second day. I arrived in the darkness of Komedia to find Dutch duo Klyne's alluring combination of belting vocals and electronic backing. The surprising acoustic switch-up on 'Closer' proved to be a stunning addition, highlighting Nick Klein's powerful voice.
I was surprised to be greeted by a reasonably long queue in the afternoon at Sticky Mike's Frog Bar for Ten Fé, although thankfully it was one that reduced significantly in good time. Unfortunately, the curious downstairs section of the venue saw a relatively restricted view, as well as a considerably distorted sound. Some of the band's anthems, such as the rousing 'In The Air', still shone through - although the desire for better sound was apparent, at least from the audience.
A very short wander took me to the charming Paganini Ballroom, a befitting stage for Hollie Fullbrook's Tiny Ruins project. Her quiet folk was then bolstered by the addition of Hamish Kilgour, adding a welcome oomph to proceedings. And speaking of oomph, Johnny Foreigner's offered an energetic performance at the impossibly narrow Hub venue. Unfortunately, much like Ten Fé earlier in the day, the sound left a lot to be desired. Still, as the band amusingly noted, it wasn't so bad for a 3.30pm rock show.
The positively rammed East Street Tap was dominated by the excellent grunge pop of Northerners EAT FAST. An aborted attempt to see Seramic, thanks to a huge queue outside Patterns, then led me to Scotland's Holy Esque. Perfoming in the unique Carousels venue on the seafront, they weren't too impressed with the lack of enthusiasm from festivalgoers: "Judging from the reaction, going to guess at least half the crowd is from London. At least." Fair comment, as their moody electronic-infused offerings deserved better.
Alice Jemima, on the other hand, had a rather stirring reception from one audience member in particular - a dog, which spent much of her Jubilee Gardens set, wagging its tail. When I wasn't staring longingly at the dog, or enjoying Jemima's cover of 'No Diggity', I was endeared by the singer's friendly outlook: "Are you all having a good time? So am I!" Over at the North Laine Brewhouse, London outfit Majik were similarly pleasant asking the tentative audience to move in a bit closer as "it might be nice". The sense of intimacy was supported by the band's tender downtempo tracks.
The Sallis Benney Theatre hosted arguably the finest performance of the weekend as the enigmatic Meilyr Jones danced to the beat of his own (band's) drum. An arresting show from the outset, Jones' offbeat humour included serenading an entirely bemused member of security staff. A terrifically invigorating spectacle, somewhere between David Bowie and Belle & Sebastian. And maybe a bit of Alan Partridge in there too. A must see.
Back at the Komedia, I caught new London outfit Banfi, who were pleasingly appreciative that people had come to check them out despite them only having one track online. Unfortunately, their set was cut short due to technical difficulties, but I certainly look forward to hearing more from them on record. Clean Cut Kid had no such issues however, at the Brighthelm, where their jaunty music and their amusing "Scouse babble" finished my day two on a high. I might have even done a bit of dancing. Just a bit, mind.
Read about Day One's escapades here. Find more info about The Great Escape at greatescapefestival.com.