For many, music is a release, a break from the norm, a chance to shut yourself off from the world and either dance by yourself in your room or silently nod in time with that song that always matches your mood.
Gigs, however, are a little more complicated, especially for young folk. There aren’t many who, in their teens or early adulthood, haven’t either stood awkwardly at a show, unable to let loose for fear of what others may think or say, or worse, not attended the gig at all.
This writer is guiltier than most, often found with hands shoved in pockets or firmly crossed, allowing only the odd half-assed jump-along or fist pump. However, the big lesson to be taken from 2017’s The Great Escape in Brighton is that you are not alone.
Bands like HMLTD (above) and Confidence Man led the way in inhibition-releasing onstage madness over the weekend, both being totally comfortable in their own skin and managing to instil that self-confidence on its audience at the same time. Between them, they played five shows across the three days, creating a buzz so big that they could have easily played another five.
The former, a six-piece who defy description, (alright, how does glam-punk-indie-freako-electro rock sound? Oh, and some dubstep too) played an early-evening slot on Friday at The Haunt, which was well received by a somewhat-bemused crowd, who had got in early for the forthcoming Charlatans show in the same venue.
The latter’s third-and-final show of the weekend came at the end of Brighton’s most famous tourist spot, its pier, in a seaside-style bar by the name of Horatio’s. A late recommendation from a fellow punter, there was no warning as to what was to come. Confidence Man, to put it simply, are the dance moves only your bedroom sees, the girl and boy your parents don’t want you to hang around with, and that Boyzone performance on the Late Late show all rolled in to one.
A rain-hit Brighton meant Thursday belonged to Jagara and Anteros (right), who delivered back-to-back slots in Bleach, which were every bit as good as each other. Jagara’s grungier-Haim sound is a welcome twist on a style which has become a bit worn since the American three piece returned with new material in recent weeks.
Meanwhile Anteros, and more specifically frontwoman, the Debbie Harry-esque Laura Hayden are poised for the big time. Due to be opening Glastonbury’s Other Stage this year, Hayden commanded the tiny stage at Bleach as if it were the Pyramid stage. An enthralling watch with single Breakfast the distinct highlight.
The Irish contingent were also down in Brighton in force with Wyvern Lingo, Orla Gartland, Áine Cahill, Brian Deady, new face Rosborough and Hare Squead all putting on excellent performances but it was Rejjie Snow and Ailbhe Reddy who were the pick of the bunch. Reddy, who releases her new EP today, captured the imagination of a full-to-the-brim Prince Albert pub early on Friday afternoon with the backing of a full band giving her all the confidence she needed. However, it’s the more tender moments, especially Coffee, which truly showcased how much talent the Dubliner has at her fingertips (pun firmly intended).
It’s rare a Rejjie Snow show passes where someone doesn’t say they’ve just witnessed someone on the edge of greatness and Mr. Snow, real name Alexander Anyaegbunam didn’t fail to deliver at Wagner Hall either. Blakkst Skn and Flexin’ are worthy of ending any club night and undoubtedly will when Rejjie’s debut album finally lands later this year.
Politics was a big talking point in Brighton over the weekend with the UK’s general election just under three weeks away and there was no shortage of political statements from bands across the weekend. None more so than from satirical lovechild of Robbie Williams and Mike Skinner, The Rhythm Method, whose brand of sassy, self-deprecating tunes don’t hold back on telling it as it is. Front man Joey (or Joseph, as his Mum calls him) says “this song always reminds me of something my Dad used to say” as he unfurls a poster before Party Politicks which reads “If you voted Tory, you’re a nonce.” No arguments here.
While shows from the likes of Sigrid, Marika Hackman and spotlight shows from Slaves and Rag’N’Bone Man were too busy to get in, there were still plenty of other highlights. Jerry Williams (above) put smiles on faces at the BBC Music stage with a superb burst of pop on Saturday, while down at Patterns, the Australian showcase featured storming sets from both Olympia and Tired Lion.
The Bella Union 20th anniversary showcase was the place to be on Saturday evening, with super slots from Mammút, Lowly, Pavo Pav and even a special guest solo appearance from perennial Bella Union member John Grant. The highlight though, was undoubtedly rapper Baloji (below). The Belgian is of Congolese origin and this heavily influences his sound, as does his backing band, who originate from right across Africa including the legendary Lengo ‘Dizzy’ Mandjeku who gets the biggest cheer of the weekend as he arises from his chair to play his guitar to perfection while placed behind his head. Spoiler is the highlight, perfecting the blend of styles Baloji brings to the table.
It was HMLTD’s second show of the weekend, though, that was the talk of the town as weary delegates and fans alike began their journey’s home. A tiny 110-capacity Prince Albert was packed to the point that this writer was shoved in the staff door and had to climb over the bar just to get in. The set was 3 songs old when a venue organiser was seen whispering in the ear of the band to tone it down. Ignored.
To The Door, a spaghetti-western-style, enthralling three minutes sees the crowd swarm left and right as the floorboards creaked. And creak they did. The stage manager re-appears, a bit more forceful on this occasion. Frontman Henry Spychalski approaches the mics and mumbles “This is our last song, stop jumping and dancing or the floor might collapse, or something, I dunno…” before bursting into life with the near-psychotic circus show that is Where’s Joanna? Did the dancing stop? Not a chance. Long may it continue.
Pictures courtesy of The Great Escape – Phoebe Fox