The Great Escape Review (Weds & Thurs)

Another year, another city-wide deluge of skinny-jeans, frantic industry types and hundreds of great bands. Here’s what we made it to on Wednesday and Thursday at The Great Escape.

WEDNESDAY

Emperor The Stag, Prince Albert
With wristbands sorted, it’d be foolish to miss out on the extra night of free music the Alternative Escape offers. Cable Club favourites Emperor The Stag return to the Albert as part of a ‘South East X South West’ head-to-head of East Sussex and West Country bands, which means free Cornish pasties for a start. The band has roots in Fierce Panda signings Capital, with expressive singer Nick Webb carrying the latter’s soaring grandeur into his new outfit. Sometimes reminiscent of widescreen northern bands like Doves, Emperor The Stag’s skilful, warm-hearted songwriting marks out their own territory. (SH)

The Kid Kapichi, Hope
There’s not much happening closer to midnight on this first Alternative Escape night, but we manage to locate some late running bands at The Hope’s 1066 Invasion. You don’t need the keen eyesight of King Harold to realise it’s a chance for a bunch of Hastings whippersnappers to showcase their wares. The Kid Kapichi are a raggle-taggle bunch, knocking big Libertines/Arctic Monkeys influences together with some crunching, metallic riffing and fiddly five-string bass runs. They’re loud and tightly wound, and have some compact, supremely catchy songs in their arsenal. A messy and energetic dose of teenage kicks. (SH)

THURSDAY

Birkwin Jersey, Brighthelm Centre
The Great Escape opens at the Brighthelm with local lad Graeme Coop who goes under the moniker Birkwin Jersey. With a wide variety of samples and programmed electronic sounds he creates a beautifully ambient, and in places cinematic, sound reminiscent of Four Tet and Caribou at the top of their game. It all sounds quite organic, despite being created digitally, perhaps due to the fact Graeme mixes the sounds and samples live rather than just pressing play. He saves the standout track ‘Sixes And Nines’ till last – an absolutely magical way to end the set. This track in particular is impossible to stand still to. (SE)

Blaudzun, Komedia
Dutchman John Sigmond aka Blaudzun takes to the stage surrounded by a variety of musicians including his younger brother on guitar. His sound ranges from heartfelt delicate songs in the vein of Ryan Adams to a darker more rousing sound reminiscent of Beirut and Arcade Fire. He is clearly developing a cult following as a (male) member of the audience handed him some flowers which he duly used to decorate his mic stand. ‘Who Took The Wheel’ and ‘Elephants’ are the songs that might help him find a wider audience. (SE)

Feathers, Haunt
Feathers are an all-girl electro synthpop band from Austin, Texas. Live, they’re joined by a male drummer, but he is positioned out of the way so the four girls remain centre stage. Although it could be argued that their musical style is thirty years old, they sound incredibly fresh and current. On ‘Soft’ and elsewhere there are notable nods to early Depeche Mode along with other bands from that era. The thing that distinguishes Feathers them from their influences is the four-part harmonies that float over the top. What you get is Girls Aloud fronting the Pet Shop Boys and it’s impossible not to like. In an alternative reality a song like ‘Land Of The Innocent’ would be number one for weeks on end. (SE)

AK/DK, Bartholomew Square
A clever and generous bit of Alt Escape planning brought a whole day of high-ranking Brighton musicians to Noisescape’s temporary stage in Bartholomew Square. We just about time it to catch AK/DK, whose ever-changing double-synth and drum sparring seems to be entertaining as many dog-walkers and street drinkers as music fans. Graham Sowerby has invested in some very silly pitch-shifting gear, sending his vocals up and down the register to the amusement of both him and partner Ed Chivers. Fortunately the crowd are just as up for the playfulness, dancing round the Town Hall to AK/DK’s popping rhythms. (SH)

Mt. Wolf, Latest Music Bar
Okay, we hadn’t intended to see Mt. Wolf tonight. We were aiming for Fear Of Men, but things were running way behind time, and goodness know what time fellow lupines Wolf Alice made it on stage. Anyway, this pack of wolves were a gorgeous surprise, fluffy and lightweight in all the positive ways. As singer/keyboardist Kate Sproule’s sky blue vocals drift over deftly programmed beats and guitars we stop cursing our now useless timetable and become drawn in, spellbound. There’s a lot of this post-r‘n’b alt-pop around, but Mt. Wolf do it strongly enough to be worthy of your attention. (SH)

Melody’s Echo Chamber, Corn Exchange
It was their association with Perth, Australia’s psych scene (Tame Impala, Pond) that helped put the spotlight on Melody’s Echo Chamber (pictured), but tonight’s NME headline proves that frontwoman Melody Prochet deserves the attention. Backed by four unassuming blokes, Prochet is an accidental star, matching her unavoidably Françoise Hardy style vocals to concentrated keyboard patterns and dance moves somewhere between Tales Of The Unexpected and a game of paper, scissors, stone. Sensibly sidelining her more far-out tendencies in favour of the shimmering dreampop of ‘Endless Shore’ and ‘I Follow You’, it’s a kaleidoscopic and delightful show. (SH)

Phosphorescent, Dome Studio Theatre
Battling against sound issues and a restless crowd at the end of a long day, (comparative) old-timers Phosphorescent still delivered what could already be the best rock‘n’roll show of the weekend. Highlights included the E Street-esque ‘Song For Zula’ from new album ‘Muchacho’, as well as a version of Willie Nelson’s sublime ‘Reasons To Quit’. (Albeit with an apparently soulless man ironically yee-hawing somewhere behind me.) Best of all was closer ‘Los Angeles’, which threw the alt-country playbook out completely by climaxing with a Sonic Youth-invoking minute-long feedback solo. New favourite band. (PM)

Title Fight, Concorde2
Kingston, Pennsylvania’s Title Fight seem to have already secured their place as a hugely influential band in the world of melodic punk rock/hardcore. Tonight is a fine example of why as they blast through tracks such as ‘Secret Society’, ‘Shed’ and ‘Safe In Your Skin’ (which, in our opinion, should always be followed by ‘Where Am I?’ but sadly wasn’t). The crowd are insane throughout the set, and there aren’t many moments when somebody isn’t going up for a surf or piling forwards for a singalong. Top quality show. Imagine if Concorde2 had no crowd barrier… (CB)

The Great Escape, Wednesday & Thursday 15-16th May 2013
Words by Chris Biggs, Philip Mason, Simon England and Stuart Huggett

Read our review of Friday here
Read our review of Saturday here

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