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By Ben Crawford
Saturday came as soon as Friday went, I’d like to say that I had plenty of sleep in-between, but alas a programme of DJs through ‘til the early hours at Coalition had put pay to that. However, an afternoon of diverse (and hopefully good) music at Life on the seafront was all I needed to sort me out. That, and a bit of sun, of course.
Only a select few Great Escape venues have a daytime programme and Life was the only one of my chosen three which did, so at last I didn’t have to run between destinations and could really take the bands in. First up, Cap Pas Cap, from Dublin. Now, this was the first band of the day and it does take me a while to warm up, but I can’t say it was the best thing I’ve ever heard. Seemed like a good idea and I could tell that this pulsating and anthemic electronic music would be rather nice through some decent speakers, at home, or played by a DJ, but sadly for them something was lacking in a few parts of this live performance. My suspicion is that nerves crept in (particularly for the guy hammering the beats well out of time to the backing track). Nerves were again present in the stage presence with little eye connection to the lunchtime crowd. I say that, they could of course have been doing some breaking down of barriers that is so forward thinking that I just didn’t get it – there was certainly applause at the end of each number. Also, the Great Escape guide says they are a 3-piece and there was definitely only two on this day – so perhaps someone let them down!
Cap Pas Cap playing at Life
The Suzukis were up next. They’d clearly come down from somewhere that was clearly in the North of this country – they were miserable from a distance, yet charmingly mischievousness when you actually spoke to them - Plus they went for the typical no-frills Wigan dress sense. In fact, whilst their music is full on post punk menace which smacks you full on in the face – their ‘show’ is a little held back. But surprisingly, I found it worked and whilst I don’t listen to much hardcore screechy shouty stuff, I was kind of mesmerised by the sheer speed and noise of what they delivered, and the singer’s voice is actually pretty fine. Two tunes before the end and he declared “Ok, we’re gonna do a slow one now” – suffice to say it was now just regular speed music as far as I was concerned.
You can see photos of all of these bands and plenty of festival goers by clicking the links at the bottom of this article.
After the Suzukis had warmed the afternoon crowd up for a taste of thrashing, noisy, metal sounds, they were, hmmm, ‘almost’ prepared for what was about to come. Blood Command. What can I say? Whilst this bunch of Norwegians appear totally normal, frankly, they aren’t. When you hear ‘Norwegian band’, you expect something that’s going to make you say “Oh, that’s cute” or “Ah, aren’t they clever with their little take on cooly electronica”. And, when the cute little girl (who I thought was actually just keeping tabs on the band’s merchandise when I was annoyingly quizzing her about the T-Shirts), came out on stage, whilst already embarrassed about my merchandise girl faux-pas, I was still not prepared for what happened next. From approximately ten seconds before the first song started, the bass player got down from the stage and stood in the crowd and never really went anywhere else again. By half way through the first number merchandise girl / lead singer was down there as well and the best spectacle of my two days was very much underway. This is, as my dad would put it, ‘proper headbanging music’. And they banged! This is surely nothing I would ever care to listen to at home. Ever. But if all gigs were this like this, we’d all go to more gigs, that’s for sure. Check out the photos and this video that I managed to get...
Blood Command at Life, showing us the rowdier side of Norwegian Pop!
After a three hour break the evening began and so did my frantic three venue experience once again. Every venue was packed all evening as The Great Escape showed that whilst it would seem to have smallerised on the whole, has certainly made sure that the gigs that are available are suitably attended. And, as I arrived at Jam for the first act of the evening, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, I approached assuming the doors weren’t open yet. One of those famous Great Escape queues was in attendance, sadly though, the venue was already rammed, so it wasn’t looking good for those outside. The reason for this is because there is quite a bit of hype about this talented young singer songwriter, with all those famous radio peeps bigging him up left right and centre. His beautiful songs just reel you in, so much so that the crowd was actually left speechless between numbers as you’ll see in this video I took....
A couple of songs by Benjamin Francis Leftwich at Jam
Some Brighton talent in the form of Us Baby Bear Bones was to be found in Life in the early evening. Giving us a sufficiently ‘in the woods’ vibe to their almost fairy tale like presence, singers Puff(?!) and Daisy even had cartoon-like make-up on their faces. Don’t let me explain what they are like, check out this video I made of them performing their ever so pleasant track, Ghosts...
Ghosts by Us Baby Bear Bones at Life
Rising Hip Hop star, K. Flay, at Coalition
Making a sharp dash to Coalition, I was privileged to see an artist that I’d been looking forward to seeing, K. Flay. This is an Illinois woman who is making waves on the Hip Hop scene right now, making her own beats and frequently cutting them up live herself using a drum machine, sampler and her Mac. She doesn’t rely on just a backing track alone, which is quite something considering she is rapping virtually the whole time, well, when she’s not playing guitar as well! This is no gimmicky white-girl-rapping kind of business – this understated lady is really good – in one track she really went to town demonstrating her lyrical versatility, rapping at an unbelievable pace. The music went from laid back Hip Hop beats to chest crushing Dubstep bass and whilst she does not have the bling (quite the opposite in her dowdy cardigan and jeans) she captivated even the most diehard rap-unenthusiasts with clever lyrics and a skilful display of musical multitasking.
You can see photos of all of these bands and plenty of festival goers by clicking the links at the bottom of this article
Staying in Coalition, Foster The People, an LA-based outfit, performed an enjoyable set. My friend, who’s a musician wasn’t impressed – too formulaic – he stated. But what the hell is wrong with formulaic when it feels like the perfect soundtrack to your upcoming summer, with melodies and choruses so catchy you feel like you’ve heard them before and a very real desire to be a carefree 18-year old indie kid once again (It’s been a very long time since I was 18). And as I’ve said before, I like dancing, so I’d rather listen to this than some cutesy, musical genius that is playing in slow motion. Check out there oooh, oooh, oooh-so-catchy track, Houdini, with its simple piano loops and tropical beats...
Foster The People at Coalition
Team Ghost at Jam
My mid-evening visit to Jam took in two bands, Dark Horses, a band that I knew must be good as they had recently adorned the front cover of Source magazine, and Team Ghost, a French band much in the same vein as M83. Dark Horses provided the psychedelic soul and an interesting thoughtful session with Team Ghost carrying on in the same emotive feel but a little more in it for the dancing feet, with their tunes somehow always starting off small and peaceful and ending in a crescendo of sound without you being entirely sure how you got there. Brilliant stuff in a packed and perfect venue. Something about Jam’s lack of height and virtual pitch blackness always makes it a great place to see excellent live bands – many of my best Great Escape moments over the past couple of years have been in there.
My final band in Life was Melodica, Melody and Me, who were in part made up of Brighton people, so it was nice to have a local element as my 2011 Great Escape was drawing to a close. This time a pleasing blend of folk, blue grass and occasionally reggae influences were present. Definitely one for the appreciators, the moustache twitchers and the people who prefer not to dance though.
Coalition was my final destination which seemed right as it was the largest of my three chosen venues and the programming was carrying clout for sure! First up, the last ‘band’ act of the night before the ‘dance music’ element took over, and it was White Denim. Now these here Americans were hotly spoken of even at last year’s Great Escape (although I failed to see them, so was extra excited this year) and have absolutely killed it at SXSW (in their home town of Austin) for the past two years, taking accolade after accolade. This is psychedelic prog-garage rocking at its best. These guys sure know how to get lost in a tune – with tunes regularly going over ten minutes as they freestyled and soloed their way through clearly improvised sections time after time! That are totally within their right to do this though as this is a, unlike Foster The People before them, skilfully crafted almost jazz-like display of musical talents.
White Denim at Coalition
And that’s where the Great Escape ended for me. Well, all except for Murkage! Essentially 4 MCs and DJ Murkage make the party happen. With all kinds of beats out there and an almost Punk like quality to their delivery on stage. There was stage diving, tops off, some very blue language, dubstep that my iphone4 could barely pick the bass out of and of course the crowd participation in a roaring rendition of “Fuck you David Cameron”. Welcome to the world of Murkage...
Murkage at Coalition
The crowd enjoyed a good old political rant!
View all the photos from Saturday at Life
Date: Wednesday 25th May 2011