The Great Escape 2012 - Saturday review
'A final dash through Brighton's Laines'
John Bownas - 13 May 2012
As the final day of The Great Escape 2012
grinds into gear, it’s easy to start to wonder how much you’ve missed. Even the best laid-out itinerary can only
get you into about 10% of the shows in the main programme. And if you start to worry about the Alternative Escape listings
as well then that becomes more like 5%.
But life’s too short for regrets. So here's a canter through what a dash around the Brighton Laines uncovered on its final day.
Strangers @ Audio (7/10): A big slab of echoing, synth-driven, power-pop from Basildon’s latest rising stars. Whether they can follow in the footsteps of fellow Basildoners Depeche Mode or Yazoo only time will tell, but on face value it’s probably unlikely. That’s not to say they don’t have the songs. ‘Shine on You’ and ‘Safe/Pain’ are both little crackers. Audio, with daylight streaming through the windows, doesn’t feel right today. But a darker venue, late at night, to suit their mood might make all the difference. Don’t expect chirpy dance tunes or day-glo t-shirts.
Crowns @ Green Door Store (9/10): Crowns’ other gigs at The Great Escape are in a West Cornwall Pasty store and a laundrette. David Cameron and Nick Kamen, eat your hearts out. This show is played in equally cramped conditions, tucked under the railway arches beneath Brighton Station. Cornwall’s Crowns deliver a folk-fuelled frenzy of military rhythms that have been much-loved by The Pogues and the sadly departed King Blues. Today they give it their all and the sweat tells the story. Expect a little bit of Olde South-West England, mandolin and rock swagger.
King Charles @ Streetgigs (8/10): Adding a little outdoor action to his main show at The Warren, King Charles rocks up outside the railway arches and enthralls a swelling crowd with his trademark melange of psych/rock/pop/folk. As striking visually as musically, the accomplished multi-instrumentalist, classically trained singer and award-winning songwriter is down in Brighton to brighten up the day and plug his first studio album, 'Loveblood', which has just hit the shelves. Don’t expect to be bored or visually offended.
The Suicide Of Western Culture @ Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar (6/10): So this is what happens if you don’t give your child a Casio VL-Tone to play with. They grow up, grow a beard and at the first opportunity rush out and buy grown up musical electronic toys so they can finally make all the noises they didn’t get to create in their youth. Only louder. And with more knobs on. A crazy spider's web of cables links a dozen-or-so seemingly random boxes with flashing lights and sparkling dials and the room fills with a spinning variety of loops, beeps, swoops and leaps. Expect to be mightily confused and/or swept along with the DIY ethos of the whole thing.
Aiden Grimshaw @ Coalition (7/10): Moved from Audio to this larger and more atmospheric space, it’s time for Aiden Grimshaw to break out from his X-Factor failure. All powerful falsettos, feathery fringe and anguished glances he serves up a surprisingly solid line in orchestral synths and vocally embellished lyrics. Look out for forthcoming single, ‘Is This Love’ and if you like that then there is an album due out later in the year (‘Misty Eye’). Don’t expect Simon Cowell to be in the audience.
Drop Out Venus @ Horatios (5/10): In amongst a day of generally pretty decent acts Drop Out Venus sadly fail to nail any colours to Horatio’s mast. Like the echo of a slow shout punctuated by ethereal whispers, the loud bits need to be quieter and the quiet bits need to be fuller. Expect to feel there is something missing.
Vondelpark @ The Haunt (7/10): Not Amsterdam’s favourite park, but a Surrey/London trio of lazy Sunday afternoon dancetrack merchants. Taking the stage that last night played host to Friends they manage a similarly tight-packed audience, but without the hype. And this is a friendly experience that draws you into their electronic world, where dubstep meets something sweeter. Don’t expect to go away laughing, but don’t expect to cry either.
When Saints Go Machine @ Digital (7/10): A late start for WSGM due to the de-spaghetti-fying of the stage that is required after French electro duo New Look have overrun. The Danish electro-poppers with the most gurning keyboard player we have seen in years try to ‘do electro pop things that others haven’t done before’. Whether they succeed or not doesn’t really matter – they do what they do eminently well, and they have a cool name. Expect to not be able to take your eyes off the gurning keyboard player.
Africa Express Soundsystem @ Brighton Dome (9/10): Joined on stage by Kano and The Noisettes, the Africa Express Soundsystem sets the Dome alight with engorged African rhythms and their fine rendition of Joy Division’s ‘Control’ – accompanied by a gruelling but thought provoking video backdrop. If you want to get the party started then this is the band to do it. And here they are pretty much wrapping things up. Expect the unexpected and a host of special guests.
Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny @ The Pavillion (9/10): straight in from Holland and missing a couple of guitars courtesy of a well-known orange-and-white liveried budget airline, BJHatHoD promise thunder-folk topped by a contemporary twist on a 50s beehive hairdo. What they deliver is sumptuously multi-layered, mildly operatic and percussively choral. We can’t hear the thunder, but we don’t care. Expect to hear a lot more from Ms Houghton – coming to a festival near you soon.