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« The Great Escape - Day Two | Main | The Great Escape »
Friday
May132011

Great Escape - Day One

Roaming round Brighton for a taste of seven different acts to get this three-day festival underway: lots of interest, some big queues, good feel…

The main news is that the favourites romped home, on splendid form: Cloud Control and Brasstronaut, the two bands I'd most been looking forward to seeing, did themselves more than justice in their very different ways. But no big new discoveries to press on you, so far.

Brasstronaut made a fine start. It's difficult to define the style if you haven't heard them: their Facebook page defines their genre fairly accurately as 'mutt'. But the mongrel, as usual, displays hybrid vigour. There are both classical and jazz chops in the mix of ambitious, big-screen, arrangements; a lot of subtlety in the interweaving of trumpet, clarinet, lap-steel, glock - and an amazing looking wind-synth I hadn't seen before, the Akai EWI.

They seemed a little nervous and don't have the greatest stage presence, but relaxed into it and got chattier as the set progressed - taking it in their stride when a guitar amp packed up completely in their penultimate song. Bryan Davies is perhaps the most obvious showman, playing flugelhorn and glock simultaneously at one point and treating us to some appalling jokes in the downtime. Drummer Brennan Saul was infectiously enjoying himself throughout and pounding out a storm - and was friendly and appreciative in a chat afterwards: a nice guy. They're off to the continent and will be recording again in the summer. Brennan had good memories of their BTV session last year, which is always worth another look...

Cloud Control's early evening set was markedly different. First on to the NME stage in the cavernous Corn Exchange, they were obviously determined to take no prisoners and make life difficult for anyone following them. Very loud, very energetic - Sydney's finest are convincing as a band on the threshold of something bigger and ready for that. Slight disappointment for an aficionado of their lovely album Bliss Release because some of the space and quirkiness and jingle-jangle was sacrificed... but my sense was that they were on a mission, and the mission was duly accomplished.

The songs were strong enough to take it, and it's remarkable how, one album in, they can play half an hour that feels like a greatest hits selection - opening with 'Meditation Song' (still my favourite) and including 'Gold Canary', 'Nothing In The Water...' and 'Ghost Song', to whoops of recognition. Heidi Lenffer announced that the band had relocated to London so 'we'll get to know each other' - well enough to calm things down a notch next time, I hope, and let the melodies and harmonies shine through a little brighter.

I went on to see Alexander Tucker at the Pavilion, but left unconvinced. A big table of noise generators and effects promised an interesting range of sounds, but too often things descended into echoing, muddy, layers of similar sounding stuff, with the odd burst of completely undecipherable and not very melodic vocals. Things perked up at one point with an interplay of sampled cello and sleigh bells, but they were soon buried again...

Special mention for John Cooper Clarke - not sure what he was doing at a new music festival, seeing as he's neither, but he was on good form and a big crowd at the Komedia lapped up his poems and a stand-up routine that is now very well honed.

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