Since its inception in 2006, Brighton’s Great Escape festival has been a steady burner, picking up the pace over the last couple of years. Now in its eighth iteration, they are the unofficial festival circuit opener.
The sprawling mass of venues makes TGE an attractive proposition and amongst the headline acts, Everything Everything and the oddly placed Bastille and Billy Bragg, there’s enough new talent to keep even the most jaded music fan happy.
Noise pop three-piece Popstrangers are a Friday highlight. Their lovely three-minute rock racket fuses the dynamics of Nirvana with the scuzz of Black Rebel, and they clean it with the pop sheen of Neil Finn. At least one song, ‘Heaven’, has the kind of hook most bands spend an entire career searching for. It's amazing how something as simple as a “oh oh, woho oh oh” has an audience hooked.
Brooklyn electronica artist Empress Of channels Liz Fraser with a vocal delivery as fragile as the finest china. The crisp beats and dreamy washes of synth gives us a tantalising glimpse of the massive positives that her debut album will contain. This first UK gig shows that she has an audience just begging to fall at her feet.
On a much more sedate scale, Straw Bear, over at the BBC Introducing stage, trade in dreamy acoustic pop. Sweet nuggets such as ‘Kitty’ take the sounds of Americana and bring them back to Blighty. Their Midlake-meets-Doves twang makes them perfect for a mid-afternoon set, sounding as cosy as your favourite duvet. Their warmth and familiarity bring compulsory smiles.
Enough of the niceties though, for a lysergic-laced psychedelic wig out, as the Smack venue hosts Japanese space-rockers Bo Ningen. They not only shake everybody’s shit but then transport us to Mars. They inject pure migraine into our craniums and dump us, coming down heavily, in the loudest Kyoto pachinko parlour.
A mass of hair, snake-hips, yelped vocals and confrontational, downright rude white noise head-f*ckery, Bo Ningen take the noisiest parts of Loop, MBV and Slayer and make them louder. Only 363 sleeps til the next one, then.
Words: Chris Todd
Photos: Anna Kroeger
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