Josh Hall, Lauren Down and Charlie Ivens braved the wind, the rain, the dodgy sound systems and the frustrating queues to bring you the best of Thursday at The Great Escape.
The woozy atmospherics and meandering melodies of Saskatoon, Canada based collective the collective Slow Down, Molasses were the perfect band to open this year’s festival. A slow pace dominates their songs while the richly layered textures underpin a quiet intensity. LD
Sometimes an empty room is exactly what you need to work out who you are. This is certainly the case for Echotape, drafted on to the Great Escape bill at the 11th hour, apparently thanks to a request from no less than US music industry ledge Seymour Stein. The upshot of this is the Hampshire five-piece are rattling around Above Audio with about 15 punters, but their singer has clearly drunk the Kool-Aid, throwing classic moody poses throughout as if he has “I am the singer in a rock band” on a permanent loop in his head. Echotape’s noise is driving, electro-tinged rock fare, melodic and radio-courting, dark Killing Joke riffs offset by the singers surprisingly muscular Delays-esque vocals. The underground is not for them: Echotape are aiming for the stadium, and appropriately enough, now it’s apparently OK to say so, we can hear shades of Simple Minds in the mix as well. Promising, if slightly silly stuff. CI
Seldom has a less comfortable-looking duo made a noise more enthralling. Boy Friend are two Austin, Texas residents, Christa Palazzolo and Sarah Brown, “best buds” (it says here) who’ve been collaborating on and off for a decade or more. Not that you’d know it from tonight’s show: the duo are standing far apart and don’t exchange a single word throughout. Christa hides behind a pair of synths while Sarah teases shimmering sheets of dreamy drone from her guitar, but you get the idea she knows the whole set-up is really a showcase for Christa’s striking voice. Bolstered by ladles of reverb, it swooshes round the room like a homeless ghost. Touches of EMA here, a cursory nod to the early-days 4AD of This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins there, but Boy Friend’s true playground is the ego-free interior of their heads. Watching them feels like an intrusion, as if we’ve torn down their bedroom wall and shone a spotlight in. CI
Instantly addictive but still with a way to go London duo Splashh were the surprise hit of the day. Gradually emerging from a lo-fi haze their ramshackle live line-up manage to pull together unhinged vocals and expertly executed scuzzy guitars for a reckless, intoxicating window into the 90s. LD
Storming through a high-octane set on an intimidatingly large stage at this point in their career Savages managed to more than hold their own last night. The fact that they are replacing New Build on the bill says quite a lot about the four-piece’s ambition, and the fact that they seem to take it in their stride says even more. Thrashing and jittering around the stage, Jehnny’s vocals pierce through taught relentless rhythms provided by the unbelievably expert hand of guitarist Gemma Thompson. Hurtling through ‘City’s Full’ and ‘Shut Up’ it should be clear to all that they are genuinely one of the most exciting bands around at the moment. If you can catch them in a more intimate venue, even better. LD
The Brighton seafront seems the perfect environment for Spoek Mathambo. The South African MC’s skittish, playful delivery speaks of lengthy, smoke-coated evenings in the height of a blistering summer, while Kuti-inflected guitar lines announce the arrival of each compulsively danceable track. But Mathambo is more than a simple good-time artist. There is a twinge of threat in his performance, and a creeping sense of unease in his songwriting – summed up, perhaps, by an unexpected Joy Division cover towards the end of the set. His remarkable rhythm section also deserve special mention, the endlessly shifting drum patterns having provided a complex, textured backdrop for this compelling rapper. JH