12th-14th May 2011
Words and Photo: Alex Penge
Billed as ‘Europe’s leading festival for new music’ The Great Escape aims to recapture the intimacy factor of the Great British festival. This year’s headline coups include indie heavyweight Sufjan Stevens, instrumental hip hop innovator DJ Shadow and tropical punksters Friendly Fires.
The variety of artists on offer is certainly the USP of the Brighton-based event as legendary punk poet John Cooper Clarke opens proceedings. Failing to disappoint, the Factory Records associate delivers his wit filled recollections, including crowd favourite ‘Evidently Chickentown’.
Maintaining the festival’s tagline for new music, Echo Lake provide an onslaught of guitar combined with lead singer Linda’s impulsive harmonies. ‘One to watch’ billing for spoken word artist Ghostpoet is just deserves. ‘Us Against Whatever Ever’ and ‘Cash Carry Me Home’ preach through a vulnerable and sozzled British urban persona that is refreshing and poignant.
Next up are Warpaint and their tribal homage to The Slits is welcomed by the strong Corn Exchange crowd. The crowd is also treated with new single ‘Jupilee Real’ in what looks like a busy year for the band since the release of their acclaimed debut album The Fool last year.
The Radio Dept. supply the shoegazed chimes of the weekend with sheer Chapterhouse-like concentration of their pedal set up throughout. A misty-eyed set from The Antlers is without doubt the best performance of the weekend. Peter Silberman and co’s dream pop is able to spark spiritual imagery. Surely the three-piece are destined for big things in 2011, just like the year their Brooklyn compatriots The National had in 2010.
Nostalgia comes from the globally represented Yuck. Fresh from a tour around the U.S. the youthful band recapture late 80s indie rock of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth combined with the distorted blares of My Bloody Valentine. The roaring chorus of ‘Get Away’ and the resounding ‘Hoiling Out’ are the highlights of a set filled with slacker pop melody.
Rough Trade’s Frankie & the Heartstrings close the weekend. The Sunderland group bring their own brand of anthemic C86 pop that Josef K would be proud of. Energetically climbing on the Hector House speaker system, lead singer Frankie Francis introduces the next song of the evening ‘Ungrateful’ to the intimate crowd. Blissful and delicate, the Orange Juice roots can be seen through ‘That Postcard’. A new song ‘Berlin Calls’ concludes the set and is almost 2011’s answer to ‘Kennedy’ by 80s indie pop legends The Wedding Present.
The Great Escape is a great alternative to the British festival circuit and certainly one that can no doubt claim to be the cleanest. With over 300+ bands at your disposal playing across 30 venues, the festival is sure to cater for music enthusiasts interested in seeing up-and-coming indie artists. Just be warned, expect to trek!