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Groove Armada are a perfect end to the final day of The Great Escape

The Great Escape 2010 review

published: Thu 20th May 2010

Groove Armada

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th May 2010
venues in Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9NA, England MAP
£55 for a 3 day gig pass; day tickets also available.
last updated: Tue 11th May 2010

Having subsisted for two full days now on chips, cheap wine and not enough sleep, I decided to save my energy on Saturday for the evening and napped for most of the day before making a leisurely trip down at about 6pm.

Clock Opera
First on the bill for tonight were Clock Opera at Hector's House. Getting a huge amount of press recently for their remix of 'I Am Not A Robot' by Marina And The Diamonds (who were also at the festival) they're starting to see (well-deserved) large crowds at their events. Having seen them myself recently at a sadly ill-attended Standon Calling pre-party, I was looking forward to seeing them play to a more receptive crowd.

Opening with 'White Noise', which starts off quite slow and ambient before a fantastic beat kicks in, they set the tone for what would be an amazing set. The sound at Hector's House was far and away better than it had been at the Hoxton Bar and Grill, and this added a whole new dimension to their music. Wonderfully atmospheric, synth-filled music, they manage everything from slow and meaningful to upbeat and dancy without missing a beat (as it were). For a band without a bassist (their guitarist plays bass on some, but not all tracks) they produce far more bass than should be possible. They also use some beautiful samples – especially in 'Alouette', which is one of their slower songs and is incredibly moving.

Esben and the Witch
From here, the obvious choice was Esben and the Witch (and if you don't know why then I implore you to go and listen to both bands). Their set was unbelievable – incredibly atmospheric synths with Rachel Davies' voice soaring over the top. They manage quite a varied repertoire without disembarking from their trademark sound, and I could quite happily have listened to them for hours. Their set was marred only by the constant chatter from the rear of the crowd – I just wanted to tell everyone to shut the hell up!

We headed back to Hector's House for Band Of Skulls but there was just no way that was going to happen. Even Detroit Social Club, having come out after their set to cool off, were having trouble getting back in. Rather than queue in the vain hope that 50 or so people would suddenly decide to leave, we went to see Ganglians at the Pavilion Café instead.

Ganglians play summery, laid-back pop. Or they would do if the bass hadn't been quite so high. I wasn't sure if this was by design or down to sound issues, as there was also a terrible feed-back-buzz from the main guitar. They had some nice sounds, and some excellent guitar riffs – instantly evocative of a sunny evening on the beach – but it didn't quite gel for me. The singer looked like Jeff from Stillwater though, (the fictional one), which made me smile (if you don't get that reference, we're not friends).

We decided at this point to join the queue for the Corn Exchange, as Arts v Science and Groove Armada promised to be a stunning end to the festival, especially in such a small venue for them (although we did have a back-up plan if we failed to get in). By 11.30, when doors were supposed to open, the streets were in chaos. Multiple queues, no staff, no-one sure where to go (as the priority queue only specified silver wristbands, whereas this was a separate event and many white wristband holders had guaranteed entry tickets). When the doors actually opened around midnight, no-one seemed any the wiser and they nearly had a riot on their hands.

Art vs Science
The lack of speed with which they were getting people into the venue meant that Art vs Science played the majority of their set to a half-full hall, which was a great, great shame as they played a blinder of a set. At times sounding like Run DMC, at times like the Chemical Brothers, they dominated the stage as though their lives depended on it. There was a fantastic moment at the end of one of their songs where Dan McNamee sat on Jim Finn's shoulders and downed a full pint of beer, while still playing a guitar solo. Definitely not to be missed. They were the perfect choice to warm up a crowd who were almost entirely there to see Groove Armada, and especially perfect given what people had had to endure outside of the venue. No-one could fail to love them, and by the time they’d finished everyone was looking distinctly happier. Actually, by the time they played 'Flippers' everyone was looking distinctly happier, but it is a fantastic track.

The Corn Exchange is an absolutely perfect venue for Groove Armada; with its high ceilings and huge mirrored windows the laser shows – which were stunning in their own right – were taken to a whole new level.

Groove Armada
Groove Armada were predominantly testing out their new album, which marks an interesting directional change from their older stuff. With less use of samples and a full-time vocalist, their new tracks are much more like 'songs' than the intricate layers of sound we've come to expect. I liked it though. Sure, some songs were better than others, and some went down better than others, but you’d expect that from new material. It's an interesting and unexpected direction for them to take, and I’m definitely looking forward to listening to the album in its entirety.

The highlight though, without a doubt, was their first encore; an astoundingly wonderful version of 'At The River'. As soon as the trombonist took to the stage, the crowd knew what was coming, and even though a substantial proportion of them were severely flagging by now, they responded in earnest. This was what they had come to see. After another new track, they finished with 'Superstylin' – the opening strains of which brought people running back in from the cloakroom. A perfect end to a fantastic festival. I’m looking forward to next year already.
review by: Hannah Morgan

photos by: Chris Mathews

Thursday 13th to Saturday 15th May 2010
venues in Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9NA, England MAP
£55 for a 3 day gig pass; day tickets also available.
last updated: Tue 11th May 2010

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