With The Great Escape truly underway, Brighton is buzzing. If you leave the train station, you are greeted by a splendorous mix of industry experts and local musicians under the guise they are part of the festival. And in a way, they are. Brighton envelops the festival, becoming a nucleus for music for the weekend. Locals do not just accept the festival, they embrace it. Everywhere you look, you get the impression there could be a career-launching set taking place there. The energy is irresistible.
If you fancy a stroll on Brighton Pier, you may stumble across one of the most enjoyable sets of the festival. LEISURE take over Horatios, the bar at the end of the pier, for an early-afternoon jam session. The New Zealand outfit do their best to squeeze on stage, but once they manage to do so, for twenty-five minutes they have an absolute blast. In a conversational nature, LEISURE are relaxed, loose – inadvertently making their groovy tunes extra tempting. Even with a delayed start due to technical setbacks, the band do more than enough on stage to fuel one of the more active crowds of the festival. You can read more about LEISURE’s festival experience and their upcoming album with their interview with GIGsoup here.
And if it is grooves you want, then the best place to be all weekend is at The Arch. Fieh, on the back of some incredibly well-received singles, pack out the coastal club. Fieh is an eight-piece group from the mind of Norweigian Sofie Tollefsbøl . Norway has had a good run at The Great Escape; two years ago, you could have caught Sigrid just next door at Coalition – she is headlining the Hammersmith Apollo this winter.
Judging by their performance, Fieh could follow in similar footsteps. Their show is superb. Throughout, Sofie is overwhelmed by the experience; the crowd are loving it and so is she. Kicking off the show by catapulting herself off the barrier, onto the stage, the entire 30 minutes is an infectious dance. There is synchronised dancing, saxophone solos aplenty and a ridiculously talented drummer holding it down. At one point, a guitar solo receives applause so impressive, even the band join in. They all wear loosely matching orange uniform, and Fieh are far more than happy to be unified. The new songs are terrific; one is Alabama Shakes-meets-neo-soul. It is incredible. Expect them to take over the festival circuit anytime now.
Slightly more in land, Patterns plays host to one of the most electric sets of the festival. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets are a five-headed long-haired beast, fusing heavy riffs with invigorating time signatures. There is little space for the band to move, let alone the audience, but it all comes across brilliantly. Newer songs like ‘Bill’s Mandolin’ shiver with static, as if you would burn your hand upon contact with it. Apparently Psychedelic Porn Crumpets bumped into Hans Zimmer at BBC Maida Vale Studios the day before – and yes, that is the best sentence you will read all day.
Not all sets will go down in history, however. Shortly after Japanese punk phenomenon Chai took to the stage (the departing crowd in awe), Westerman emerges at Hideout to perform one of the most wistful shows of the weekend. It is decidedly unnoteworthy, with the Londoner Will Westerman executing some fine songs with little fanfare. His studio recordings are pleasant, inoffensive tracks and converted to the live setting, they are about as passable as you would expect. The same can be said for Balcony – by the time the London-based pop group take to Komedia Studio Bar at 11:15pm, their sound is so forgettable, you would not be blamed for calling it a night.
Even more so after the absolute party that went down earlier on in the day. The Beach is the perfect hot-spot at The Great Escape on most days, with its coastal location and brilliant lounge space sandwiched in between two sizable pop-up venues. This is only heightened when Irish rockers Inhaler take to the Ditto Stage. Their music is soft, patient and only partially forgettable. With matching leather outfits and greasy hair, they have the look and the sound to match. It is just a shame that both of those have been butchered to death years ago.
Something wholly contemporary, though, takes place at the Deep End stage next door. Leicester’s own Easy Life have been making some buzz, appearing on Later… and various radio shows. The day after supporting Lewis Capaldi, the group play to a packed crowd on the beach, something they sincerely appreciate. Frontman Murray has a blast, “This is the happiest I’ve been in… a month”, he believes after taking time to really consider the worth of the show. “We’re Easy Life, we’re Easy Life”, he later confirms. The second time is said out of true excitement and genuine gratitude. Throughout the show the crowd sings along, enhanced by the band consistently encouraging exercise. As final song ‘Nightmares’ is cut out, Easy Life rely on the crowd to bring it home, and they do. Murray jumps into the crowd for the fourth time and the rest of the band stand at the front of the stage, bowing and applauding. The show will stay with those in attendance for some time.
The same can be said for Haelos – although perhaps for unwanted reasons. The London group were set to head to the Deep End to celebrate the release of their new album ‘Any Random Kindness’, released that day. However, ten minutes after their set was due to start, Radio X host John Kennedy revealed it would be cancelled due to technical issues. Haelos’ show was dead on arrival.
In contrast, Friendly Fires burst into life. For fifty minutes, the St Albans party-starters produce a show unlike most. Fronted by the irresistible energy of Ed Macfarlane, his dancing ever-incredible, it is not a show to miss – a challenge as they clashed with the intense, raw Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes and the consistently charming and delicate hymns of Maisie Peters. Friendly Fires drop their three return singles, as well as an unreleased bop that will dominate this summer. Promising a new album towards the end, the whole set is a delight. Friendly Fires Friday more than lives up to expectations.