Suddenly everyone can have their slice of pie

In its short lifetime the Great Escape Festival has already plundered itself with many traditions, some more akin to a day at Thorpe Park, everyone rushing to see the biggest attractions creating a queue and ruining it for everyone. This year kept the queues and the familiar names to accompany those not so, only they were set to headline one of the 30 odd four band line ups with Thursday nights Samurai and Colossus being the Young Knives and Vampire Weekend.

There is a lot of pressure on the opening band at any festival and as the Laurel Collective took the stage at the Levis Ones To Watch sponsored event there was a lot of blank faces in the audience. The six piece immediately created an atmosphere with guitar riffs a plenty and a driving blaze of organs carried by question and answer vocals that rather than compliment each other attempted to outdo each other from start to finish in every song. Anywhere else that would have stood as a criticism but with this lot the battling vocals on songs like “Vuitton Blues” make them stand out from the rest.

Next up on the Levi Ones To Watch was Ida Maria, carrying a whole lot of hype and along with her successors Johnny Foreigner found herself on the cover of the festival program. The Scandinavian is hard to pigeon hole and her band is very much a sideshow of session musicians with personality and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Ida Maria is not so much ‘Queen of the World’ but the biggest (and by far the best) diva that alternative music has to offer before the summer is out. The diva herself is full of the squawks and squeals of Bjork and Karen O rolled up into a sexy punk ball that could have rolled straight out of the 1970’s and while the punchy set included odes to sex, alcohol and probably more sex it was far too short and sweet and time will only tell if this band can turn themselves into something substantially more than the underground force they are becoming, but without doubt Ida Maria pulled off one of the best sets of the weekend.

Johnny Foreigner made the Levi Ones To Watch stage after what seemed like enough technical issues to put anyone off, including the audience at a festival that generally runs like clockwork, but backed up by a loyal following they sped through their set unfazed. The hand speed of both guitarist and drummer was impressive enough to frighten Ricky Hatton but unfortunately speed was often prioritised over substance and there is a very up and down notion to the quality of the set. They are a mix of so many different styles it is hard to put your finger on where they are going right or wrong, but their energy pulls through even the worst of their songs and whether they sound any more ‘electro’ on record is still to be decided. Either way their racket is endearing and listenable keeps you moving and interested and as I mentioned still contains the odd rough diamond. That is essentially what Johnny Foreigner are at the moment and unfinished unpolished article, maybe that suits them and they still did more than enough to make their new record worth investigating rather than recommending.

After an evening of surprises and antics the Young Knives almost felt like a safe bet in the humid basement on the seafront. After Mercury prize nomination and successful tours on the back of “Voices of Animals and Men” the band were back where they belonged, in a frantic mess heading up a small gig venue with loads of fans who new the words to the oldest and newest releases. Their set was a mix of their two most recent albums with a healthy dose of the new including a quick fire burst of all three singles “Superabundance” has produced thus far. How they haven’t managed to breach the Top 30 of the singles chart or the Top 20 of the albums chart is completely beyond me and the other couple of hundred people who screamed every word of album tracks such as “Dyed in The Wool”, “Light Switch” and “Counters” straight back at the shirt and ties ruling the stage. If you then add “She’s Attracted To” and “Weekends and Hot Days” into the mix amongst a handful of other crowd pleasers you’ve got an entire set of geek rock pop classics in the making. The mob were burning calories faster than a supermodel at weight watchers and enjoying every minute of the chorus packed intellectuals pop catalogue, and the band themselves were on fire, getting better as the set went on. By the time they brought the Levi’s stage to a close for the night they brought the house down with them, and I doubt there was anyone in the room that had sweat a drop without justification. Already, thanks largely to the unstoppable force that was The Young Knives new live set, every other stage that followed over the weekend had the almost impossible task of living up to the variety, energy, surprises and pure punk pop crescendo Audio had witnessed.
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