the alternative Escape is the place to find the best new bands

The Great Escape 2011 review

published: Fri 20th May 2011

The Xcerts

Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th May 2011
venues in Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9NA, England MAP
£49.50
last updated: Wed 11th May 2011

I was determined to make up for my previous day's complete lack of immersion, so started Friday's TGE bright and early in Above Audio for Team Me, who despite being the first act of the day had a deservedly large turnout. A side-project (although 'side' is surely the wrong word here) of singer/songwriter Uno Moller, Team Me are a simply wonderful quirky noise-pop band from Norway, and they got the day off to a storming start. Reminding me a lot of the Mae Shi, opener 'Come Down' got people involved and 'Dear Sister' had everyone bopping along to the music. They slowed things down a bit with 'Kennedy Street', which was simply beautiful, before picking up the pace again for the last two songs. Definitely check this band out if you can – they are really very good indeed.

On my way to meet Chris (eFest's photographer) at The Hope, I stopped in at the Pav Tav, which had been taken over for the weekend by those lovely folks at Alcopop and Fake DIY, who had put together quite a stellar line-up. I caught the last few songs by a guy called Elliott Morris – one of those artists who justifies the recent influx on singer/songwriters by actually being damn good at it. He finished his set with a Michael Jackson medly in which he started off with 'Billie Jean', and finished by singing 'Thriller' over the guitar riff to 'Smooth Criminal' (it really works).

Marina Gasolina
I arrived at The Hope in time for the second half of Marina Gasolina's set – who surely has to be every photographer’s dream. Holding the audience (and said photographers) in the palm of her hand, she strutted around the stage, prowled through the crowd and generally had one hell of a time. Playing a storming cover of 'TNT' before closing her set with 'Where The Wild Things Are', I'm definitely glad I caught her.

We stayed at the hope for the start of next band Black Drawing Chalks, but left fairly early on in their set – if you've got that much time to dedicate to trying to look cool on stage, you're obviously not putting enough effort into your music. I was most taken with their rhythm guitarist, who was the most outwardly understated but by far the most musically interesting. The bassist was just irritating.

Moving on from The Hope, we headed back to the Pav Tav, as it easily had the best line-up of the day, and stayed there until early evening, catching Social Club, You Animals, ute, and Tall Ships.

You Animals did their 'one-two, one-two' mic check to the tune of the backing music, which got me on side straight away. If it had been tricky not to get sucked into the summery sounds of Social Club (which it had, by the way) it was nigh on impossible not to get involved with You Animals. The venue was filling up nicely by now and the atmosphere really getting going. I went outside for a cigarette at the end of their set and found a queue outside the venue, which was a true testament to the quality of the line-up at this venue, as you had to struggle to even find it in The Great Escape programme, tucked away as it was in the midst of the one page the programme dedicated to the alternative escape. If you looked at the main programme, it appeared as though the venue didn't even open until the evening, so for people to be queueing at 4.30pm was very impressive indeed, and indicative of the fact that people are turning towards the alternative Escape as the place to really find the best new bands.

You Animals
ute were next up on stage, with their wonderful drum-driven blend of vocal harmonies and fantastic guitar melodies. The band themselves took a while to fully get involved in their set, but once they did they were really going for it, and the crowd were having a fantastic time. Often at The Great Escape there's quite a large turnover between bands, as styles can vary wildly and there are a huge number of venues to choose from now, but people seemed to be at the Pav Tav for the long haul – not overly surprising given that the line-up culminated later that evening with Stagecoach, and The Xcerts.

Tall Ships
Tall Ships followed Ute, and I have to say they have come on in leaps and bounds since I last saw them: their confidence and their stage presence have increased tenfold, and this is absolutely crucial with the type of music they make – if you try and play math rock without looking as though you know exactly what you're doing, the intricate rhythms and time changes risk sounding almost accidental rather than meticulously planned. You have to be convincing, or the crowd won’t back you. Today, the crowd backed Tall Ships, without a shadow of a doubt. By the time they played 'Vessels', the whole venue was clapping along and their closing number, 'Hit The Floor' was just sensational. Every single person in that pub wanted them to play something else, but unfortunately the venue was already about an hour behind time, and so it was not to be.

I had no clear idea of who I wanted to see during the evening, so decided to start with the intriguingly named Ghostpoet at Digital. The venue was rammed, although the impression I got from the people I spoke to was that most of them were waiting for the next act. Ghostpoet seemed to go down well, but to me he was a bit of a poor man's Sac v Pip, and uncomfortably similar to some of the music I used to listen to when I was 13.

There were no clear winners on the line-up for the rest of the evening until Stagecoach, and The Xcerts back at the Pav Tav, and if I'd stayed for them I would have missed my train back to London (although having seen the footage and heard the stories, I desperately wish I had stayed) I decided to head back to London and get a good night's sleep in preparation for Saturday. Unfortunately, however, I woke up on Saturday feeling like death, with a head full of mucus and other horrible things, so here endeth my Great Escape coverage for this year.

The Xcerts
review by: Hannah Morgan

photos by: Chris Mathews

Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th May 2011
venues in Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9NA, England MAP
£49.50
last updated: Wed 11th May 2011


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