Festivals 2015: The Great Escape – Day One

Nouse’s coverage of Europe’s biggest festival of new music begins with a run-down of Music Editor ‘s first day in Brighton, featuring reviews of Jack Garratt, Kate Tempest and SOAK

Photo Credit: MAMA Productions

Photo Credit: MAMA Productions

Most promising TGE set of the day: Jack Garratt @ Wagner Hall

Best new song of the day: SOAK – ‘Oh Brother’ @ Wagner Hall

Best discovery of the day: Fismoll @ Spiegeltent

Best TGE moment of the day: Kate Tempest’s encore, ‘Progress’ @ The Corn Exchange

It’s not every day you get to run around Brighton in increasing states of delirium, trying to find obscure, hobbit-sized pubs that have been temporarily turned into gig venues. And I get to do it for three. Welcome to Nouse’s coverage of The Great Escape (or ‘TGE’ for those who are hip and/or happening), wherein I spend a weekend having the time of my life, and then tell you in startling detail exactly how and why you missed out.

The Great Escape is stupidly, unfairly cool. Under an Ed Milliband government, it would be subject to a ravaging Cool Tax, so that all the other festivals who work hard and struggle to get by in the cool stakes can have a fairer, cooler future. (Sorry. I’m writing this at 3am). Set across the whole of the city, in cavernous halls, circus tents, churches and clubs, it brings together 3,000 delegates from the music industry – DJs, writers, producers, publicists and free-loading student journalists – and 18,000 fans of new music for three days of just about any kind of genre or style you could imagine. Today, for instance, I watched a Las Vegas teen with a delightful androgynous vocal bring down an underground club; shortly afterwards, I was subjected to a group telling-off from a ferocious female rapper who told me exactly why I’m a misogynist, in time with a really excellent trap beat. It gets better.

My day began with a 30 minute set by Baby Queens, a Cardiff quintet of talented women who drew a mighty crowd to the adorably-named Spiegelpub, a wedding marquee erected on one of Brighton’s many green spaces and pumped full of fairy lights. They were evidently hindered by a small stage and, pivotally, a lack of drum set, but the five did a strong job of adapting their typically densely-produced, soulful R&B to a stripped back, acoustic space. They probably won’t be worrying the charts any time soon, but Baby Queens might be worth your attention if your cup of tea is generally sweet and served in a Destiny’s Child mug.

Photo Credit: Caroline Vandekerckhove

Photo Credit: Caroline Vandekerckhove

Next up was SOAK in Wagner Hall, a futuristic little venue decked out in decorative tin foil and a small army of lighting rigs. A firm, long-standing favourite of mine, teenager Bridie Monds-Watson from Ireland seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the size of the crowd that arrived to hear her fragile, miserable songs. Rattling through her immaculate set in the face of absolute silence, that included ‘Sea Creatures’, a song about whales, and ‘Oh Brother’, a brilliantly bleak number from her forthcoming album, SOAK looks poised to be the next British acoustic success story.

Via a glorious binge on the energetic future pop of Shamir in Brighton’s seafront club Coalition, during which the 18 year old American hurled himself over the barrier to individually embrace half of the assembled crowd, I headed to the Corn Exchange to take in the genius of poet and rapper Kate Tempest. The Mercury Prize nominee isn’t an easy artist to pin down. Her sets unfold in a fluid, relentless spoken word – more like a grimy, very angry poetry recital than anything else. There’s the quality of the preacher to her delivery, if  a preacher were to scream tales of lovelessness and misery set in the darker corners of British society to the drunken masses. Her encore ‘Progress’ was thirstily consumed by a transfixed crowd in the Corn Exchange; she closed her set with the immortal line ‘Once we had the fear; / now we have the fix’. I head back to Wagner Hall for my next hit.

Jack Garratt closed the Thursday at TGE with comfortably the best set of the day. Superbly bearded, surrounded by synth drums and keys, and far too charming to be allowed, the man behind ‘Worry’, ‘Chemical’ and ‘The Love You’re Given’ seems as much like an electronic wizard as anything else, churning out addictive dub beats overlayed with his own spectacular vocal leaps, and guitar loops to die for. He exchanges chat with the crowd easily, and holds the room with an artistry of one twice his age. I grabbed his setlist. He’ll be huge.

Look out for Day Two summary of TGE, featuring more great new bands and tales of me getting lost in Brighton.

 

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