The Great Escape continues to be an awesome event for new music enthusiasts wanting to get a leg-up on international bands poised to make moves. With the 2014 edition including 400+ bands playing over three days in 30+ venues, there’s no lack of good music to check out. The festival is growing quickly with 100 more bands compared to last year. While The Great Escape (a.k.a. TGE) does share the SXSW danger of becoming too big for its own good, this event (for now) still has far more intimacy than the aforementioned Austin festival. Like always, more bands also means more schedule conflicts, and also like SXSW, even top tier Delegate and Press credentials won’t penetrate lines (or in some cases no lines) at venues. For example, Future Islands sounded great… from outside, and the TGE showcase for Wild Beasts would have been great to review had we also remembered to buy a ticket for it (thought that’s what passes were for)? And so for festivals like this, it seems the best plan of attack is to focus on artists that, to date, either haven’t or rarely play live. Both Bruce and Mike from team B3SCI were on the grounds for TGE and here’s their report:
Some 2014 faves for Bruce included Courtney Barnett, who is not only blowing up in the US but in England as well. She plays a mean guitar as it turns out. The melodic electronic artist East India Youth has been an NME darling this year, and as TGE proved, is doing quite well in England. His one-man show has a clean sound and he’s quite animated on stage. The Isle of Wight brothers, Champs, serenaded us in a church at TGE with their sweet harmonies and were also major highlights. Two UK bands, growing in local buzz, who delivered nicely onstage were Childhood and Jaws. The Australian band Calling All Cars is a metal/electronic hybrid with great songs, and they blew the walls down. Interestingly, they will soon be relocating to Manchester. Fellow Australians Sheppard just had a #1 pop single in their homeland and have a commanding stage presence to back it up. The UK’s Echotape have forsaken their art-pysch direction for a more straight forward rock direction that shows strong potential. Amber Run was a fave (see below). Finally, Portland’s Rare Monk must get a shout out. I joined Mike from B3Sci for their 1:30am set on Saturday night. This Portland band is making major forward strides. Their mid-tempo bluesy rock is played with precise power and competence.
Some 2014 faves for Mike came from both the expected and unexpected. Amber Run won audiences with pitch perfect harmonies and pop songs primed for college campuses throughout the world. The young 3-piece of/from Blaenavon lived up to their radar worthy hype with a stellar rock show to boot – big promise here. Hozier was good, while “Take Me To Church” stole the show; the band dynamic felt a bit on the safe side. After being tipped from a friend, Brussels band BRNS were a favorite surprise of TGE, with an energetic and expressive live show that was, at times, reminiscent of heavy pop pioneers WU LYF and indie rock mainstays Local Natives. Rare Monk’s alluring melange of atmospheric indie rock proved a powerful UK debut. Annie Eve drenched listeners with her knack for clever song and a live band including an accordion no less. Peace performed a pleasant ‘surprise’ set at the NME showcase, which was definitely a highlight, and Khushi was another favorite with his live band set up, showcasing what really counts… his songs.
Have a listen to some of our favorite picks from the TGE Festival below:
The Great Escape (Official)
Reviewed by b3