The first evening of Brighton’s Great Escape Festival was in full swing when the acts scheduled for Komedia kicked off their night. The sheer diversity on offer from one venue over the course of the evening was astounding, from folk-infused pop, to noisy punk-dance through to dub-reggae, there was something for everyone, and, as the ever-changing makeup of the audience suggested, each group had their own fan base out in force.
First up, representing Holland for the evening was Blaudzun, a seven-piece group who mixed folk music and instruments with uplifting pop melodies, to create an uplifting and joyous set. The group had obviously won some fans earlier in the day at a previous gig the played in the city, as many in the audience had been so impressed by the first show that they felt a second time was a must. Between the various members in the band, the range of instruments played was staggering, all of them playing at least two or three different instruments (mandolins, banjos, trumpets, accordions and electric violins were amongst the instruments which were brought out at one time or another.) The band’s sound varied from uplifting pop-ish tracks, complete with folk-dance rhythms, to lighter sounds which the various extra instruments gave interesting textures to- creating washes of music which flowed over the audience, creating an ethereal atmosphere. It is not hard to imagine, especially with the make-up of the contemporary charts, this band- the project of Johannes Sigmund, his brother, and various others- rising in fame and popularity, with many of the songs sounding similar to various tracks which have shot into the public consciousness on the back of advertising campaigns.
Band two was London group Thumpers. Their brand of safe, commercial pop which seemed to have less depth than a puddle in the desert, and seemed devoid of much in the way of meaning and thought, won them a small following. The tracks were fairly similar and basic, following more clichés and set formulae than what constitutes “radical new music” than can be found in an issue of NME.
Next up, Is Tropical came to the stage in a blaze of distorted guitars, leather, punk-rock attitude and technical difficulties when it took a while for them to get their microphones to work properly. This additional frustration, however, seemed only to fuel further their angry mixture of rock and synthesised beats, which gradually increased as their curtailed set progressed. The trio, which was expanded by the addition of an extra singer for their final track, performed tracks which mixed thrashing guitar chords, brief solo passages and heavy drums with synth beats, meaning it took a short while to get used to their unusual sound, but once it was in full flow, it was hard not to enjoy their infectious grooves.
The final group was London dub-reggae outfit The Skints, on the first of their two Great Escape shows. The band’s urban, reggae sound, mixed with rapping and ska flavours has won them a large following over recent years, and the club was packed with a full audience, all skanking the night away. It was hard to remain still as The Skints’ upbeat rhythms kept up at an unrelenting pace. Three of the four members at various points took to the mic, each of them with a totally different vocal style, each of which perfectly suited the style of tracks they were singing- from melodious, slow dub-reggae, to rapid-fire ska to rapping over the Jamaica-meets-London mix. This melange of grooves and funky tunes made for a fantastic end to the night, far and away the best band on the bill, offering funky grooves and great sing-along tunes. (Although a brief attempt by an audience member at crowd at a stage dive/crowdsurf met with minimal success).
By the very nature of the Great Escape Festival, audiences are very fluid, moving from venue to venue to see different bands on different bills, which meant that the different groups and subcultures who flocked through the doors of Komedia on Thursday evening each brought with it a new atmosphere and a different energy- each in itself interesting to watch- giving the different bands appreciation. Although it would have been an interesting experiment to have the same audience stay in for all four of the evening’s bands, as at a standard gig as opposed to a festival event, to see what dynamic would emerge then.