The Great Escape 2017 Review

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To say we were excited for The Great Escape was a bit of an understatement, the festival is of course a chance to vibe off some of the best new music out there, so what better excuse for a weekend away by the seaside, the rain just added to the beautiful backdrop, naturally. Just off the train with our cases in tow, we narrowly missed out on the first gig of the day, Crimsons, 1pm at the Hope & Ruin. Diverting through Jubilee Square for our ticket to wristband exchange, we began flicking through the guide working out our gig circuit; a maze that very quickly became a welcoming part of daily routine.

Despite the odds against Wyvern Lingo on this years ambitious outdoor Fender stage – the incessant, heavy rain and delayed sound check wasn’t felt by the audience, we huddled together and everything was kept light with the Dubliner’s sense of humour. We were even treated to an exclusive premiere of their new single ‘I Love You Sadie’.

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Flyte at The Fidlers Elbow; Photographer: Rachael Crabtree

A last minute secret show announcement via Flyte’s Twitter arrived in perfect timing for shelter – so we headed to a pub we wouldn’t have otherwise known – The Fidlers Elbow, home to a fantastic PA, and a quaint setting to boot. The lighting and mirrors gave a beautiful backdrop to the quartets quasi-acoustic set. The intimate space housed their unbeatable harmonies allowing us that moment of heart warming solitude. Warming us into their set with the best cover of Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ we’ve ever heard, followed by their timeless ‘Faithless’ before touching on some exciting new material, hinting to the hotly tipped upcoming debut.

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Our latter accidental find, L.A Salami at the Unitarian Church was invitation enough after several alterations in gig timings and venues, and such a pleasant surprise too. Having recognised the singer from a Burberry Acoustic session on YouTube, as ‘When The Poet Sings’ began…It was incredibly well received; the intimate setting was silenced by his political poetry – a pensive wordsmith we look forward to revisiting a future full length show of, no doubt.

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Penny Police; Will Steadman
Penny Police at The Marlborough Theatre; Photographer: Will Steadman

With a recent Line of Best Fit feature, and a storming Record of The Day piece under her belt, Nordic synth-pop wonder Penny Police (Marie Fjeldsted) took to the stage of the Marlborough Theatre with a warm wind of expectation rising around her, and she didn’t disappoint for a second. Accompanied by fellow Danes, producer Aske Bode and Copenhagen’s go to percussionist Asker Bjørk, Marie held the audience in the palm of her hand like they were a mountain of rare feathers. It was like witnessing a jigsaw’s final piece falling into place – it’s the second time we’ve seen Penny Police in the last 6 months, and the difference was astonishing. That she’s a writer and recording artist of upmost integrity has never been in question; but this was a 30-minute moment of an artist realising she’s about to hit bigger things. As one person put it, her delicate but captivating voice “could tease the hydrogen atoms from a teardrop” – melodies that flout gravity, and a personality that is so genuine, that it’s impossible to imagine her not making records for the next 20 years. As a fan of her earlier work, it’s a wonderful thing to see how this artist keeps getting better and better. New single ‘Fool Like Me’ is sublime. The song she closed the set with, ‘Don’t Ask Me About Love’, is crying out to be a follow up… fingers crossed!

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Ten Fé gave such sublime set at The Arch, check out our full review here!

Friday 

When we finally climbed the last stair to the attic of The Prince Albert, we could barely squeeze in the side staff door for the Irish Showcase. Unfortunately our entry was only permitted towards the end of Ailbhe Reddy’s set who was every part the singer-songwriter we had hoped for, such a distinctly powerful vocal range, we were in awe of tracks: ‘Distrust’ and ‘Relent’.

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In quick succession Marc O’Reilly arrived. Now we knew he was going to be great, but woah, when O’Reilly & Co arrived we were completely overwhelmed. We were talking about this set for days after. You genuinely can’t beat the Irish (not being biased or anything here) but from their innate homeliness that cushioned us at The Prince Albert coupled with their natural wit and earthiness and complete lack of seriousness. In-between songs O’Reilly shared his car hire mishap that Ryanair refused to refund, forcing them to rebook the three new dates with another. Later extending the Ryanair banter as he introduced us to the band…“So as you can see that’s my brother on keys, same receding hairline as myself, another thing to blame Ryanair on”. The trio’s synchronised drums, keys and guitar, maintained off the scale rhythms, impeccable timings which accompanied O’Reilly’s commanding bluesy voice!

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Strong Asian Mothers at Sticky Mikes; Photographer: Rachael Crabtree

By the evening, we were on edge to catch the iridescent genre hip-hopping R’n’B Strong Asian Mothers who filled a capacity Sticky Mike’s. They sure knew how to shake a few souls, delivering the festivals most danceable of sets with their refreshing brass and electronica. Opening with a Queen cover “because who doesn’t love a bit of Queen?” Bringing to the table sharp wit and unabashed tomfoolery was enough to win our hearts times over – highlight moments were: ‘Don’t Let Go’ and ‘Sober’.

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Skipping across to Jubilee Square, the Belfast trio, Beauty Sleep, drew us in with their dreamy pop brilliance on the BBC Music Stage. We loved their fuzzy bass lines and warming chorus effects on the guitar. Bouncing back when their keyboardist broke her cable and none-standing nailing their infectious melodies and psych-pop hooks!

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The Unitarian Church each time offered a sanctuary of momentary pause in time and on this time around a special mention goes to the zany and mythological H.Hawkline who gave a really delicate stripped back performance here tonight. His voice and guitar alone accentuated the coyly romantic Belle and Sebastian-esque lyrics. Concluding with a delicate finale ‘My Mine’ hinted to the masterpiece that awaits us; latest record: ‘I Romanticise’ is released via Heavenly Records today (Friday 2nd June).

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The Districts at The East Wing; Photographer: Rachael Crabtree

Somehow nearly missing out on The Districts at The East Wing, we scrambled in, weaving in-between the masses to get a piece of the visceral rock. It was a much needed moment to bask in some decent guitar rock since Ten Fé, maybe it was me, but scattered about the daytime shows there was a lot of music on the brink of commercial pop. The Districts harness heavy guitars, moody and terrifically lush reverb-riffs. After so much recent airtime on BBC6Music, of latest single ‘Ordinary Day’ it was stunning to see them smash it live!

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Saturday

Bryde at The Komedia was one of todays highlights for the sheer versatility in voice and guitar. Describing the artist as an folk singer-songwriter to the chap beside us, who popped by the venue on a whim, I quickly realised didn’t really hit the mark – Bryde is an exception to alt-folk, channelling more fiercer rock, and while at times, delicate, is far from the assuming fragile folk artist. The multiple textures created by the three-piece were as unpredictable as compelling.

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Flamingods were absolute legends, and very fortunately from Bryde’s set we could slip next door to catch them at an overflowing Komedia Studio. The contagious psychedelic vibes were wildly exotic and of their own magical making – as many alternating rhythms as interchanging instruments. Driving melodies that were constantly changing and effortless in their summery soundscapes, that had us on high for days after…

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Flamingods at Komedia Studio; Photographer: Rachael Crabtree

Early queuing was much needed for the treat of Babeheaven at The Haunt where the mesmerising vocals and sparse arrangements really stood them apart from the vast electronic acts that saturated the festival who had busy backing, that much brilliance was lost. These however, knew how to punctuate their synths, drums that were unfussy in approach and maintained distinct vocals, all the while subtle, soulful. ’Moving On’ and ‘Friday Sky’ were wonderfully hazy moments, rewinding and moving.

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By Saturday night we were in much need of our prog-rock hit, which came courtesy of the tropicdelica quartet, Black Peaches, an exciting new project of Rob Smoughton, best known as a member of Hot Chip. Unable to move past the coffee counter (not for want of coffee) at Cafe Plenty we found ourselves staring around the room and upon faces of those in awe of what we could hear, and just about see, in reflection on the glass window. Their set was relentless, unbelievably infectious grooves, literally one song glided simultaneously into another – it was one heavenly trip…Fire and Water Sign was a completely sublime set closer.

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Glass glided in to steal the night, giving us the best finale you could wish for. As flawless as ever, drawing everyone in with their spellbinding dramatic pop. It’s exceptional how much their sound has changed since their Union Chapel show, whilst that performance was light and synthy, tonight was underpinned by a darker undercurrent, shaped by the heavier, distorted guitars and a drummer in replacement of the synths. Lead vocalist, Jessica Winter, altogether wielded a punk persona close to Siouxsie and Banshees – seriously, we will never cease loving Glass!

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GLASS at The Cafe Plenty; Photographer: Rachael Crabtree

Writers: Rachael Crabtree: @eccentric_eejit Will Steadman@steadman_will and Elizabeth Andrade@LizzyyEA

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