The UK’s biggest and brightest showcase of new alternative music was enhanced this year by the irrepressible rays of sunshine – Brighton was grinning from ear-to-ear; everyone was glowing, rooms were gold emblazoned and the streets were so chilled you had to pinch yourself to remind yourself of the time.
Meandering in and around the sun-kissed seaside streets to over 30 venues, from pubs, nightclubs, street stages and beach marquees to catch a glimpse of as many of the 450 bands across 3 days where there were natural challenges in deciding who not to miss and the unavoidable gamble of clashes.
By the Saturday afternoon we felt we let in as much magic as we could manage and set-off on the long voyage home, as to recover from pre-festival (ill-timed) viruses. Our highs however, were unforgettable and without doubt Ireland found it’s way to everyone’s heart by it’s peoples innate charisma, wry wit and warm spirits.
This Irish Singer-Songwriter took the theatre by storm. It’s no exaggeration that his raw and commanding stadium-sized vocals never mind filled, but could be heard outside, the Sallis Benney Theatre, and without a microphone on many occasions to boot too! We were drawn in from the first powerful note; with bluesy and effortless vocal ranges certainly giving Hozier a run for his money!
His heart- wrenching lyrics were delivered with so much punch, we felt the pangs to our gut, particularly on standout tracks: ‘Symptoms’ and ‘Serial Killer’. Suffice to say this Dublin artist is an emerging soul-pop artist to watch, in fact, you’ve got to join us in seeing him headline London in July!
This was one of those most tender and sensitive sets that you needed in-between some sketchy shows that afternoon. George’s soulful delivery was effortlessly supported by the tight band. The emotive energy combined was palpable in Jubilee Square – the frontman called to mind Tom Odell, particularly on ‘Come Follow Me Down’. Their set garnered the attention of every passing punter, we reckon these are serious contenders to watch in the upcoming months!
This talented Perth-based singer-songwriter from the Melbourne-based management: Lemon Tree Music (which already boasts the likes of Tash Sultana, and Pierce Brothers) was everything we hoped for live – the guitar work was impressive to watch, let alone listen – picture Ben Howard in his early days!
He harnessed calming ambiance and had the ability to silence One Church very casually through voice and guitar alone. A slow burning musician that draws parallels to Jose Gonzalez. Playing his latest dreamy single ‘Elephants’ not forgetting his classic ‘Brave’ and ‘Misplaced’ that was every bit as moving in person.
There was no disguising the momentum behind this gig, genuine panic was in the winding queues eyes around Unitarian Church that it was to much relief we were admitted a pew seat. Effortless sensitivity oozed from the strings of the guitars, violin and soft percussion. Every musician’s precision within the five piece intrigued and sent us to goosebumps.
All that was needed was the lead vocalist to provide us with the passionate literary lyrics to give us moments of reflection: “We’re confined to be apart, To take sides in divided cells. We collide when we depart, Don’t ask me what’s the cost, I don’t know myself”. It’s music to make you feel as though you’re the leading role in a romantic drama.
Frontman, Josh Edwards began as London-based solo musician before studying guitar in Spain and the Andean (mini-classical guitar) in Bolivia to bring home together authentic influences and elements of Andalusian and Latin music and is every bit the entrancing artist you imagine he would be live.
Generating an epic wave at TGE was the alternative London via Birmingham five-piece, Ten Fé, who have really come into their own and hinted to even greater things with their very subtle teases of new music – we cannot wait for them to drop their second album! At a capacity, Black Lion, these brought colour to everyones cheeks.
Clearly meant for bigger stages and with only a snapshot of set, it was moments like these where you could feel impressions were being made; turning heads as they glided from song-to-song seamlessly and between lead vocalists, framing their varied influences and styles, with hints of Americana (‘Elodie’), Gospel (‘Twist Your Arm’) even a Middle Eastern vibe (‘Make Me Better’).
Get familiar with Ten Fé’s debut album: ‘Hit The Light’ this summer before you plunge into their much anticipated follow-up album released ahead of their biggest ever headlining UK tour this autumn.
To see out the evening we caught the ‘special guests’ Gengahr steal the hearts of The Haunt. Everyone was webbed into a lair of dreamlike haziness of their sunshine soaked guitar-rock enhanced by Felix Bushe’s haunting falsetto vocals.
Their garage-rock anthems from 2014 album, The Dream Outside such as ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ and ‘Heroine’ felt nostalgic and no doubt got the crowds joining in harmony. It was soothing lo-fuzz guitar-rock that reminded us of forgotten gems – their latest album of which, we’re currently tuning into!
Never mind adjusting to the darkness of Komedia as the Marsicans were beaming, attracting the crowds with their vibrancy. This Leeds four-piece radiated with relentless energy and were so genuinely elated, bouncing about the stage that no-one could keep themselves from smiling and basking in this indoor sunshine. The kind of festival band that are aware of their power in projecting their buoyant chemistry onto crowds.
The gnarly wit of this Dublin quintet livened everyones soul with their ferocious set at Marlborough Theatre! Their strong Dublin dialect and ode to the city ensures everything Irish runs through your blood (if it doesn’t already) twinned with the perfect amount of nonchalance akin to Shane MacGowan and Mark E.Smith.
The edgy, gritty drawl from lead-singer Grian provides hypnotic rhythm up against the kraut-rock influenced guitars and manic drumming creates infectious iridescence.
Having garnered early support from Steve Lamacq (BBC 6 Music) and being the feature of every major Irish publication these have picked up real momentum in their very early days. News came in last week (24/05/18) that they have signed to Partisan Recordings – everyone can see these lads are on the up!
The Belfast musician who recently released his debut album, Ephrata which sits somewhere between, as Joshua told the Irish Times: “…somewhere from Belfast to Chicago via Bogota” is able to transcend this interesting suffusion of styles live.
Burnside knows exactly how to constantly keep the listener on their toes with incredible textures and experimental folk paths with elements of Irish Country and Latin Folk. It was delicately dark and romantic, touching on deeper questions about time, love and death up against the modern age. Tipping on the poetic on our favourite track ‘Hologram’: “So love glows, like the moon, Swinging low above the Atlantic, Sparkles on the choppy days, I don’t care what they say, If I have to dance alone I will”.
Churches are synominous with an serenity and when paired with the acoustic artists, whether that be solo or band, there is always a distinct feeling of privilege.
I hasten to use this hackneyed turn of phrase, but this very unassuming singer-songwriter from Dundalk, Ireland, is the finest example of a chap wiser beyond his years. We were completely taken in by Keenan’s worldly and poetic storytelling. His Dylan inspired socio-political commentary was no doubt enhanced by the lilt of his Irish tongue. So much maturity was expressed through the way Dublin was referenced, new and old, standing testament to his wisdom, hinting also towards a character born in another era altogther. The rising singer-songwriter shared with us a quiet understanding of the world, navigating us through the streets of Ireland’s capital “…meeting underneath the GPO tower at sunset”.
When Keenan entered the stage he began with a humble reference to that day’s gigs across Brighton’s churches; “I’m not sure what He’s trying to tell me up there..” glancing up wistfully to the heavens. Everything was very natural and wry, not least mature; referencing his travels across on the boat to live in Liverpool for some years, that taught him a lot; stories gained from busking shaped the man he inevitably is, whilst remaining distinctly and proudly Irish; “…Sorry there, just had me passport sticking in my backside…” as he patriotically hit it to the floor the golden harp gave him his spotlight.
Photography: Rachael Crabtree and Elizabeth Andrade (@LizzyEA)