THE GREAT ESCAPE
Last week Native were out in force in Brighton at The Great Escape. The event is jam-packed full of incredible emerging and established talent, and is also a great place to catch up with industry friends.
Below are some thoughts on a few of our favourite performances from the day/night, but we’ve also included a link to listen to a Spotify playlist which includes all of the artists/bands on our ‘HAVE TO SEE’ list - but due to proximity/scheduling clashes and well, too much beer - we were unfortunately unable to make them all!
The first act we had the pleasure to watch at this year's TGE was Celeste, courtesy of our friends at Universal Records. There is a lot of talk about Celeste at the moment, and you could hear why. Her voice silenced a rowdy room of daytime drinking industry types, on a trip to Brighton to catch emerging artists and free sandwiches!
With just her voice and a pianist, Celeste held us in the palm of her hand, the quality of her vocal tone laid bare on songs like "Both Sides of the Moon". Sometimes you watch an artist and it is immediately obvious why there is a buzz about them, and Celeste is one of those. She didn't need to over elaborate to capture our attention, as her presence and quality spoke for itself.
The next day Celeste played a show for BBC Radio 1Xtra which was broadcast live. The BBC are supporting her early (also putting her on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury in June), and from what we heard that support is very well placed.
Following on from Celeste was Kawala. Also part of the Universal Showcase, the North London based usual 5 piece, was stripped back to 2 for an intimate and well rehearsed set. Described as 'The Simon & Garfunkel of the Urban Outfitters generation' (we can see why!), original members, Jim and Dan beautifully serenaded the audience with their sharp vocal melodies and striking harmonies. We loved their performance of 'Moonlight' and their tight, emotive, folky playing really set their music apart. 3 tracks left us wanting more - we can't wait to see what the future holds for these guys!
PAT DAM SMYTH
One of the acts we really wanted to catch this year was Pat Dam Smyth. Having scoured the Great Escape listings, we came across Smyth's life affirming "Where the Light Goes" released earlier this year.
Compared to Leonard Cohen and Pink Floyd amongst others, Smyth's songs about life in Northern Ireland, and after that touring around the world, conjure up bittersweet images - dark often being balanced by light.
The live show at the Queen's Hotel comprised of Smyth on vocals and guitar, accompanied by bass and drums, (and I think some backing track at points) - they achieved a surprisingly accomplished sound, with Smyth using a multitude of guitar effects to create the sonic palettes required on tracks like "Juliette".
In a full room, with an incredibly low ceiling, we were thoroughly captivated and look forward to whatever he releases next.
HAND IN HIVE SHOWCASE
Later on in the evening we headed to The Mucky Duck to check out part of The Alternative Escape.
Hand In Hive, an independent label and management company, in association with TheMostRadicalist and CALM, hosted an event to showcase some of the up-and-coming talent on the HIH roster. The label, set up by members of Downtown and Universal Publishing, were back for their fourth year at TGE, and the reputation of their showcases did not disappoint.
The first performance was an acoustic set from singer-songwriter Sofia Wolfson. Originally from LA, Wolfson has been writing and performing since she was 13. Although she’s still young, her captivating performance commanded the attention of a rowdy Brighton pub. We’re loving her new EP which came out in March of this year, and we’re looking forward to what she has in store for the future!
Next up were London-based alt-rock group Heavy Heart. The band have recently returned after a short hiatus, having released a new song for every month in 2016. These guys combined shoegaze guitar tones with eerie, atmospheric vocals to create a massive, stadium-like sound. What more could you want in a small pub!
We finished our Great Escape experience with a biggie. Hertfordshire grown, Friendly Fires were the perfect finale to a full day of music, sunshine and catching up with friends/colleagues.
The indie rockers will soon be releasing their highly anticipated third studio album - it will be the band’s first full-length release since 2011! They headlined the Radio X Presents stage at this year’s festival, taking place at Brighton’s popular Beach Site. Performing in a packed tent, the new songs were mainly a sideshow though to what fans really wanted (the old stuff!), with tracks from the first album providing obvious highlights, particularly an exhilarating performance of ‘Paris’. Other memorable moments include their best known tunes; ‘Lovesick’ and ‘Jump in the Pool’.
Even if 80s dance grooves and soaring stadium-sized choruses aren't your thing - I dare you not to dance.
The Great Escape is a fantastic event all in, and we highly recommend getting down there next year if you haven’t been. So much fantastic music, in a great city. We’ll definitely be back.
Check out a playlist below of artists we saw and loved, and also those we unfortunately missed =>