Saturday at The Great Escape is summed up largely by two things – fantastic music & queues! I had heard tales of the amount of queuing to be expected at the festival but on Thursday & Friday we somehow managed to avoid any apart from when foolishly attempting to get into Warpaint just 5 minutes before they started. Saturday more than made up for that though! (Although to be honest we weren’t helped by the text messaging service that kept sending us to places that were already 1 in 1 out, therefore making it the biggest annoyance of the whole weekend.) The music I did get to see, however, was well worth the wait.
A trip to Beyond Retro on Saturday revealed the festival’s best kept secret with the discovery that bands such as Tribes & Treetop Flyers had performed there on the previous two days. Luckily, we found it just in time to catch the fantastic To Kill A King who I had no idea were even playing over the course of the weekend! I suspect this is one of the smallest gigs they will play in quite a while, but that made no dent in their enthusiasm and a band who record their music live ensure that they will not disappoint when you get chance to see them. In spite of the strange location they were both professional and completely engrossing, fusing gorgeous harmonies with, at times, hauntingly melancholic lyrics.
The festival was concluded that evening at the Communion hosted night in Komedia’s Studio Bar. Rhob Cunningham provided Saturday’s discovery of the day with his beautifully rich tones and slightly awkward yet incredibly charming stage manner. There were times when he seemed almost embarrassed to receive such well deserved plaudits from the crowd, but he overcame this with surprisingly witty banter and music that that ensured every single member of the audience fell silent as soon as he began. He was followed onstage by Matthew & The Atlas, a folk band whose real selling point is the harmonies created when Matt Hegarty’s country twang & Lindsay West’s reserved tones effortlessly combine. Their own, elegant take on the folk genre is both appealing and unique amongst British artists.
They were followed by my personal highlight of the festival – Ben Howard. In the space of half an hour he managed to go from being an artist I quite liked to one whose music I just can’t get enough of. Even from first offering These Waters his performance was hypnotizing; I’ve never seen anyone play a guitar the way he did for that song, using every single inch to create an extraordinarily individual sound. Even more he performs with more vigour than any singer/songwriter I’ve ever seen, speeding up sections of his songs to ensure he had every single audience member enraptured by both his energy and incredible voice. He was also helped by his incredibly talented band, including a drummer who was managing to play bass guitar at the same time! Without question, this is someone you really need to see live if you get the chance!
The final act of the weekend was Marcus Foster, an artist who has enchanted me from the moment I heard his debut Shadows Of The City a few months ago. The passion that runs throughout his music transfers to his performance on stage, whether it’s a pounding, upbeat indie/rock sound as found in the aforementioned track or acoustic & stripped back. It’s a shame that more Ben Howard fans didn’t stick around to see his show but not once did that stop him making sure that those who did were rewarded for doing so.
My first Great Escape was a wholeheartedly enjoyable experience filled with some simply stunning performances and alluring discoveries, culminating in proof of why Communion, with their obvious passion for live music, is one of the most exciting labels in the UK. It is undoubtedly THE festival for anyone with a severe passion for music and will be marked on my calendar as an important adventure for next year as well.