The Great Escape: Day Two
Amid hangovers and weary limbs after the opening day’s festivities, the second instalment of The Great Escape’13 creaked into life Friday lunchtime, yet it didn’t take long for things to hit full throttle.
At The Green Door Store, The Skints were so popular that any position with a half-decent view was at a premium, with the crowd stretching way back from the stage into the next door bar. Necks were craned in order to see them belt out their blend of ska and reggae. Up the road, the Brighthelm Centre offered a decent-sized room which was well attended for Fletcher. Or Ben Fletcher to give him his full name. The singer/songwriter (who we recognised as being Sarah Blasko’s guitarist) delivered a set that was a thing of fragile beauty, as his nylon-stringed guitar-playing was accompanied by a harpist, while his lyrics occasionally juxtaposed the music in their dark subject matter.
Alongside the main schedule also lies The Alternative Escape, a heap of additional shows programmed independently. One such event was at The Courtyard, where under grey skies, Night Engine belted out bouncy indie before Norwegian Susanne Sundfør played a short set. Her textured, engaging music, with warm vocal over programmed beats and a bunch of synths, is likely more suited to intimate, dark surroundings than an afternoon courtyard, but there was enough here to suggest that her evening show at Green Door Store would be amazing.
At the Queens Hotel, all five members of OYAMA (pictured, below) had to delve into their pockets to turn off their mobile phones as one of them was interfering with the PA during their show. “This isn’t part of the set,” they joked. Phone interruptions aside, the Icelanders offered some interesting moments within their shoe-gaze fuzz, slowly building sound and then demolishing it with an explosion of drums.
Up next was Caitlin Park (pictured, top). Accompanied on stage by UK singer/songwriter David Ford on drums and that man Ben Fletcher on guitar, the Australian’s show was one of the absolute standouts of the weekend. Her cleverly-structured folktronica utilised a sample pad, loops and Ford/Fletcher’s backing vocals as she played a set of songs from her debut album and her – as yet unreleased – follow-up. Old songs like Baby Teeth and Jack, Where You At? sounded as great as ever while her newies showed impressive extra dimensions to her songwriting. Most notable was her next single, The Sleeper; a groovy-as-hell number built to make hips shake and feet stomp. Absolutely irresistible. Anyone who was elsewhere during this eclectic set was simply in the wrong place.
Billy Bragg‘s headline show at The Dome was a strange thing. Heavily leaning towards an American country sound, Bragg appeared onstage in pointy boots and cowboy shirts, delivering Woody Guthrie covers, such as I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore, amongst his own compositions and well-known protest songs. You have to admire the singer’s vision, yet, while his band were excellent and his arrangements fine, it takes some musical chops to successfully pull off such a sound. While the inclusion of You Woke Up My Neighbourhood from way back when shows that this isn’t an entirely new direction for him, perhaps the country vibe is not something especially suited to his blunt vocal and guitar-playing. Bragg (pictured, right) is undoubtedly at his best when belting out his leftie busker anthems. His songs – unquestionably important in their time – still sounded impassioned and with a sentiment that remains as true as ever. And of course, his banter was fantastic. There can be few more naturally affable stage-presences than his and, he’s right, Margaret Thatcher never will know how Breaking Bad ends.
Post Bragg, there was time to catch big haired indie hotshots Childhood at The Blind Tiger Club, whose energetic show suggests they fully deserve the mountains of praise that has been heading their way over the last few months. Keep a keen eye out for the Londoners. Meanwhile, over at The Haunt, the surprise guests were Palma Violets, whose set was off the hook. Punters stagedived, crowd-surfed and created general fervour as the NME darlings shook The Haunt to its very foundations. If their album was more ordinary than extraordinary (it was), then their live turn here was absolutely fucking ace.
After this, the Friday night parties kicked on and on and on and on like a Duracell Bunny with a can of Red Stripe. Tomorrow’s hangovers would make today’s seem pathetically small.