Great Escape Festival, review: 'it just kept on giving'
Written for The Telegraph [11/5/14]
Charlotte Krol enjoys Brighton's Great Escape Festival, which featured US pop star Kelis and the Mercury Prize-nominated British electronic music pioneer Jon Hopkins
Every May, the city of Brighton and Hove is taken over by 18,000 music fans and industry tastemakers for a weekend dubbed as the UK’s answer to Austin’s South By Southwest. Priding itself on the essence of musical discovery, more than 400 bands and artists play in 35 venues strewn across Brighton – from seafront nightclubs to graffiti-riddled bars.
It doesn’t boast many charttoppers but this is a sold-out event, and boy can you feel it.
One of the surprise guests at the festival, now in its ninth year, was Kaiser Chiefs. Only those who ran at the first rumble of a ’secret’ text message made it down to the city’s Concorde 2, an indoors seaside venue. The early chatter about Ricky Wilson’s appearance as a judge BBC One’s The Voice dispersed the moment the electronic stomp of Everyday I Love You Less And Less shot through the crowd. Wilson is about the most energetic frontman imaginable, who constantly demands attention from the top of guitar amps and the venue’s rafters.
The gig was punchy and fun, with new material from the band’s fifth album engaging the crowd’s attention just as fiercely as their “landfill indie” songs of yore (I Predict a Riot, Ruby, Oh My God) with screams competing against bold power chords, metallic synths and heavy-footed beats.
The Great Escape’s aim is to introduce music fans to artists in intimate settings “before they go on to headline major festival stages”. What a wonder it was, then, to see Kendal’s Wild Beasts headline the Brighton Dome on Friday half a decade into their career. Where new songs Pregnant Pause and Palace are ornate like much on the new album Present Tense, old favourites such as All The King’s Men and Hooting & Howling are the real crowd-pleasers, with their majestic stomp and gorgeous vocal interplay between Hayden Thorpe’s striking falsetto and Tom Fleming’s northern burr.
American pop star Kelis topped the bill at the Dome on Saturday. Dressed in a glitzy blue dress, this was not the early-noughties, provocative Kelis, but an artist willing to experiment with her persona. Hauling huge notes over smatterings of soul, funk, disco and beyond, she stood tall like a dreamgirl, the audience responding to the hip-shaking infectious rhythms and brass blasts of songs such as Trick Me.
Closing this year’s festival was the Mercury Prize-nominated British electronic music pioneer, Jon Hopkins. Dangling spider-like over his boards, Hopkins spun a intricate web of build-and-release electronics. Light Through The Veins, a song sampled by Coldplay on Viva La Vida, was an ambient slow-burner that built to a euphoric glow. His consistency, intelligence and passion hung in the air long after the set had finished – the perfect ending to a festival that just kept on giving.