The Great Escape is a 3 day festival that takes place in the UK. Think of it as an equivalent to Austin, Texas SXSW but on the smaller scale. I purchased a three day ticket in March from Brighton’s Resident Records. They still had saver tickets available and it worked out cheaper to buy the 3 days rather than buying the Thursday and Saturday separately.
Thursday came and I already knew who I wanted to see. The fact that I had subscribed to the text service could result in last minute amendments to my schedule. My arrival was slightly delayed because there was signal problems in the Balcombe area. When on the train I received a message saying head to the Dr Martens store as Chloe Howl would be performing a secret set. So once I was finally down at the coast I headed for the store straight away. The location of the performance was kept a secret and you needed to write down a contact number so they could text you with the time and location. It was first come first served and only 20 people were getting in (they were giving out 30 tickets). It was then off to the Festival Hub to collect the wristband. Once on it was then straight to the Komedia which was hosting an Australian Showcase. In all honesty the Daytime line up didn’t appeal to me that much. I wanted to see Courtney Barnett and Kate Miller-Heidke and that was the main reason for staying there. This festival is all about discoveries and I made two of them. These being Aussie duo Ginger & The Ghost and 5 piece band Tigertown. Well Ginger & The Ghost impressed me because the set oozed energy. Ginger (Missy) provided the vocals whilst The Ghost (Dan) provided the music. The stage set up was interesting as white polystyrene were made to look like mountains. As for the set it was short but Missy put everything into it and for some songs she jumped into the audience. The performance was very Florence Welchesque.
The 5 piece Tigertown are a family band and the head of this group are married couple Chris and Charlie Collins. Also you have Charlie’s brother Kurt (drums), then you have Chris’s brother Alexi (keyboard) and his sister Elodie (bass). Now this 5 piece excite me greatly as I enjoyed their dreamy indie pop immensely. They have released 3 EP’s which are Tigertown, Before The Morning and the most recent EP Wandering Eyes. What was showcased was to amazing for words. The programme described them as having a Fleetwood Mac feel to their songs and yes I could see traces of Fleetwood Mac. I was literally bowled over when Charlie started singing the opening track. The second tune sounded similar to Ellie Goulding’s This Love. All in all a 6 songs were showcased and the vocal delivery was smooth and entrancing. From doing more research from the songs that were performed the only two that I know titles for were the contagious Back In Time and the stunning What You Came Here For.
Honestly I don’t know how I first came across Kate. When the line up was announced she was a definite must and I was lucky that Miller-Heidke was playing at the same venue as Courtney Barnett. Brisbane born Kate is currently on her 4th LP which is O Vertigo! Which was funded by fans through the popular PledgeMusic which hit its target in just 3 days. The set that was played was showcasing material from that album. Firstly Kate looked stunning and at the same time she was an excellent singer/ songwriter. Things opened up with a keyboard number and this being the quirky Lose My Shit which is about losing your shit. The vocal delivery was soft and mesmerising. Even though there is the odd swear the cute Australian makes her get away with it. Anyhow this was a beautiful love song with beautiful lyrics. O Vertigo! Was upbeat, contagious and it was a tad operatic. Up next was Words which was Kate’s 2nd album from debut LP Little Eve. This was upbeat and I adored the acoustic feel to it. I could pick up on country vibes when seeing this song performed right in front of me. During the mid point there was some frantic guitar playing from Kate’s husband Keir Nuttall. Yours Was The Body saw Kate perform whilst playing the keyboard for this hypnotising number. Closing tune Humiliation saw the use of a loop pedal, some awesome guitar playing by Keir and soprano like vocals by Kate. Basically this made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge. Kate Miller-Heidke has a cracking pair of lungs and I could tell she put everything into it (in fact she delivered the whole set with plenty of passion). Also I adored the witty banter. All in all Kate may not be an upcoming artist but in my eyes she is. Although on the 4th LP Miller-Heidke has rarely been over to the UK to perform. When she is back I am most definitely booking.
Lose My Shit
Yours Was The Body
The final act of this showcase was Melbourne based Courtney Barnett. This was the first out of three gigs she was playing at The Great Escape. Courtney has a backing band The Courtney Barnetts but for this set it was just a solo Courtney Barnett. Canned Tomatoes (Whole) kicked things off. This was played at a steady pace and was rather hypnotic. Scotty Says was upbeat and infectious at the same time. This was about a break up and lounging about. Out Of The Woodwork was extremely promising. This tune was delivered at a steady pace and it showcased Barnett’s top notch song writing skills. It actually reminded me a lot of Billy Bragg. DePreston which will feature on the début LP (unfortunately the Record Store Day 2014 release did not happen) is a tune that excites me greatly. Barnett’s vocal delivery was extremely fragile and this was a song that immediately captivates you. The location that is in the song is Preston which is a suburb in Victoria, Australia. The lyrics tell you of moving to a house in Preston which is not all great “As for first impressions, This place seems depressing”. This then ends with the line “If you got a spare half a million, You could knock it down and start rebuilding”. Penultimate song History Eraser was detailing Barnett’s lifestyle whilst Avant Gardener which closed the set painted the story of having a panic attack during an Australian heatwave.
All in all Courtney Barnett is one tremendous singer/ songwriter. The material that was showcased was mainly from The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas plus you had the amazing DePreston as well. Just from seeing the set list there was even another newie listed and this being Elevator but unfortunately that wasn’t performed. Barnett’s style was Anti Folk Rock which worked wonders. As it was only just her made me see the songs in a brand new light. It was just like the record as The Courtney Barnetts didn’t feature on The Double EP. After having seen Courtney Barnett just the three times she will always have my full support during her music career. Before Courtney took to the stage the hot came on to say a few thankyous to the bands which played and got everyone to repeat the line “My favourite new band is Australian” and I reckon that is right and that band being Tigertown.
Canned Tomatoes (Whole)
Out Of The Woodwork
Once I left Komedia I had a wander round Brighton expecting a text at any moment revealing the time and location for the Chloe Howl gig. Why I wanted to attend was to mainly cross her of my list. Chloe was playing the Vevo stage at The Warren later that evening and I was considering just giving it the skip. With the thought of 20 people getting in it was up to me to take a punt. My decision could of paid off or it could backfire. This was to hang around the Dr Martens store where I went in the morning to get the ticket. The fact that there was an evening show at the store each day made me hopeful. Something was being set up in the store, the fact that they couldn’t confirm who was playing even after I asked is it Chloe Howl resulted in me knowing for sure to hang around. This was something like 4pm when I was there and the text wasn’t sent out until 5.50pm saying Howl would be performing at 6.30pm. I am glad I waited because if I had left it until the text was received it would have been one mad rush to get there.
So come 6.30pm everyone was in the Dr Martens store. Chloe Howl was to showcase 4 songs. Having postponed the June Scala date to September I was pleased that I had chance to witness Chloe Howl perform. It would have been nice if she sang a couple more but you couldn’t be disappointed with what Howl did decide to sing. This then leads me to the opening song of the evening and this being Disappointed which was extremely upbeat and contagious at the same time. Chloe’s vocals were pristine and it was nice to have the chance to witness this lovely tune performed acoustically. It was then onto No Strings. This stunning tune featured on the Rumour EP and it sounded phenomenal live. No Strings was Howl’s breakout hit and has lyrics that will make you smirk. There is no doubt that this was an epic song. Rumour was slightly personal as you can clearly picture what is happening as there were multiple story lines in this number. Rumour which is the current single was pacey and it was faultlessly delivered. Chloe’s vocals actually reminded me of Peggy Sue. “They kept her prisoner growing up/ Told her Jesus was enough/ She’s really into dirty stuff/ Perhaps it’s just a rumour”. Things ended with a tune that Howl had just started performing. This being It Takes Me A Long Time which was about heartbreak plus Chloe wrote this when she was 16. Now this was smooth and got stronger as it progressed. After that set I am most definitely booking for the new Scala date in September.
It Takes Me A Long Time
The evening schedule took me back to Komedia. I had wanted to see Norma Jean Martine at Coalition but as I was already at the Dr Martens store I decided to head for the Komedia for the very first act. This event was hosted by The Line Of Best Fit. First up you had Laurel who performed a superb 7 song showcase. Although this was the first time I had witnessed her live I was aware of the music that she sung as I was tempted to attend the Barfly show at the start of 2014. Showcased was a mixture of new and old tunes. Well when I say new I mean they haven’t properly been released (a few of the tracks appear on the Laurel Soundcloud). Things opened up with Shells which was utterly beautiful. I found this to be rather mellowing and the vocal delivery was out of this world. The song itself features on the brand new EP To The Hills. After Laurel mentioned how she was due to perform at the Escape two years ago but pulled out. It was then onto Fire Breather which was also a single. This number was utterly mesmerising and sounded similar to Lana Del Rey. Nicotine Dreams which also features on the new EP was one epic tune. The vocals were strong and powerful. I simply loved Nicotine Dreams it may have been a steady pace tune but it was the vocal performance that won me over. Mankind which appears in demo form on Soundcloud was another cracker. The lyrics were fantastic whilst my favourite part was the hectic chorus. Title track of the new EP To The Hills was a tad haunting whilst brand new cut Child Of Love was fantastic. Laurel’s vocals were slightly raspy and I found it to be quite hypnotic. Blue Blood then capped off the incredible set and this was dark pop which worked wonders.
All in all Laurel is one incredible talent who writes her own music. I would place this Southampton born starlet in the pop genre. The material showcased was outstanding and I for one cannot wait for the début full length.
To The Hills
Child Of Love
When Emile Nicolas finished her set it was time for whom I most wanted to see that evening. This being Swede Tove Lo. Now I was sad missing the Hoxton show but Tove swung it for me and was the reason why I purchased a weekend ticket. Only 6 tunes were performed, 5 of which were from the EP Truth Serum. There has been a buzz about Lo and I can see why. Uptempo Paradise opened up the evening and WOW is all I can say. This was pure pop with electronic beats. The vocals were powerful and they make you fall hook, line and sinker. Its pace was rather frantic. Not On Drugs was upbeat and it is a number you just want to mosh to. The verses were light whist the chorus was both powerful and contagious. During this Tove says “I’m not on drugs, I’m just in love”. Now this tune was simply stunning. Out Of My Mind had a beat to it. My favourite part had to be the chorus which hits you in the face. Over was a break up song and it was strongly delivered. I really like the emotional lyrics that end with acceptance that the relationship is really over. What followed on was the song which set Tove on her musical journey and this being Habits (Stay High). From what I have heard by Lo this by far has to be the showpiece. I really liked the upbeat verses where Tove mentioned about eating dinner in the bathtub, going to sex clubs and having the munchies. The chorus was powerful and contagious as everyone was singing the line “I gotta stay high all the time, To keep you off my mind”. Tove Lo then ended with a song which she featured on and this being Run On Love which capped off a spectacular set.
After having witnessed those 6 phenomenal tunes I can easily say Tove Lo is the next big thing. She can easily conquer the UK market and I can see a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire announced. In all honesty I reckon Swedish artists do pop music the best.
Not On Drugs
Out Of My Mind
Habits (Stay High)
Run On Love
After Tove Lo it was a quick dash to see Honeyblood. I attended this because there has been a buzz about them plus they have supported Courtney Barnett on tour. Honeyblood are the Glasgow-based two-piece of Shona McVicar on drums and Stina Marie Claire Tweeddale vocals / guitar. The style of the music that they sing is indie pop/ rock. So when I get to the Bermuda Triangle I make my way straight to the front. The venue that I can compare it to is The Black Cap in Camden. The Bermuda Triangle actually looked like an underground bunker. At the front they were changing over and when Glaswegian Honeyblood took to the stage they showcased 8 superb tunes which feature on the upcoming self titled album. The opener was Fall Forever and there was problems with the sound throughout as it seemed as there was feedback. Still this was a rocking song and Stina’s vocals were extremely light. Things were all sorted for Kissin’ On You which was the only number which does not feature on the album Honeyblood (in fact it was released as a B Side). It featured as the flip side to Bud and this was a corker of a tune. I liked the swooning vocals and the drums gave this (and each song in the set) that extra oomph. Biro was incredibly catchy whilst Bud was the tune which started the ball rolling. This was one flawless track and it had been superbly written. Next it was onto Super Rat which was by far my favourite performed this evening. “You are the smartest rat in the sewer”. At first it started off really mellowing/ mesmerising then after some intense guitar playing towards the end Super Rat became a full on force. (I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here was dreamy whilst Choker which is full of catchy lyrics gets me excited over the prospect of having the début LP in my hands. The most recent single Killer Bangs ended the set. This was like a whirlwind and I found it to be very intense.
Overall Honeyblood are a band that I would like to see play live again. I sense that they have what it takes to make it and progress to bigger venues like Veronica Falls and Deap Vally. What was sung gets me excited for the forthcoming album Honeyblood which is released next month. If I had to pick a highlight from the set it has to be Super Rat.
Kissin’ On You
(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here
Once Honeyblood were over I then swiftly exit the venue and make my way to The Warren where Chloe Howl is performing. When there I’m greeted by a queue. It is not massive like Nina Nesbitt last year. After a few minutes I then turn to leave and make my way home. Klaxons had been confirmed as the special guest so that may have been why there was a queue or maybe there were already fans of the Klaxons already inside and staying there until they finished their set. So I then get the train home only to receive a text saying that The Warren was filled to capacity and no one was getting in. The decision made was therefore the right one.
OVERALL: My first day on The Great Escape was a blast. This day was all about new acts that I hadn’t witnessed before. The likes of Honeyblood, Kate Miller-Heidke, Laurel and Tove Lo were familiar to me but I came unprepared. The music performed was the first time I was hearing them. Yes I had heard the odd song but that was it.
Out of all the acts I witnessed my highlight has to be Tove Lo. I can tell that her popularity is only going to get bigger and I for one cannot wait until a tour of the UK is announced. The EP Truth Serum is utterly infectious and you just want to stick it on repeat. The same applies to the live performance. It was over in a flash, they do say time flies when your having fun.
Another highlight for me had to be Australian 5 piece Tigertown. These guys are literally amazing and the style of the music was indie pop. Each song performed was mellowing. The one disappointing thing about them is I cannot see them coming back to the UK anytime soon. Yes they have played the Aussie BBQ at Hoxton and more recently Ace Hotel for Communion but that is it.
It is a great shame really. The Great Escape is a wonderful festival which showcases new upcoming talent but that could turn out to be the only time there down here. I can say without a doubt Tigertown were my new favourite band. But I fear that they can fall into the same category as Fredrika Stahl, Brodka and Echo and the Empress (artists who I had seen at TGE over the years) and not make a return trip to the UK.
Well if Gossling (who are from Melbourne) can make a return trip to the UK 5 months after I saw them play The Lexington there is hope that Tigertown will be coming back in the future.