The Veils, Dan Mangan, Colourmusic, Liam Finn, Micachu and the Shapes - Great Escape '09 - Another View
Owain Paciuszko 22/05/2009
About a week on I've had time to reflect upon the bands I saw and heard at this year's marvellous Great Escape festival. Cramming over 300 acts into roughly 34 venues over the course of 3 days undoubtedly meant that much would go unseen and unheard, but I managed to scoot about town (inbetween working and some other commitments) and catch a varied collection of musical types.
Now, my day-by-day bloggage went up online at (rival website alert) The Hussy and was written in a blow-by-blow (slightly drunken) stupor. I decided to not give you folks another everything-and-the-kitchen-sink account but just highlight five bands I saw over the festival that have continued - seven days-ish on - to linger in my brain for various reasons.
In no particular order:
I'd been aware of this lot for a while, through hype via my favourite singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt. I had heard some of their songs and enjoyed them, but kind of pegged them as somewhat maudlin and good, but nothing I'd ever really gotten too into. Then I saw them live and that really made an impact, the lead singer threw so much into the performance that I'm amazed he can keep doing it; he seemed on the verge of an emotional collapse throughout the entire set, it was almost heart-breaking! The songs also were full of verve, energy, passion and power and really ear-marked their current album as something I have to get my mittens round as soon as possible.
Tucked away in a corner of the Arc, coming on at noon, had no effect on the charm and wonder of Mangan's set. Joined at the start by two members of Hey Rosetta, Mangan played tender, funny and occasionally broken-hearted songs. When the speakers failed him he stepped forward and went unplugged, his gruff voice filling the space and his lyrics smart and insightful. The true highlight was his final song, Robots, where he got the pre-lunch crowd singing, clapping and stomping along as he rambled around the venue everyone singing; "Robots need love too, they want to be loved by you!"
When I saw Colourmusic on the line-up I think I squeaked with joy, however ultimately their set was a bit of a let-down, but I have to blame the venue for that; the main room of the Kings & Queen seemed like a bizarre choice for this band and it definitely felt a little too airy in there. Nevertheless I still lost myself a little in their wonky rock sound, that threatened to pop ear-drums, but left a lot of people in awe of the blast of noise that came out of these white-jump-suit clad hippy-types. A lot of their set was comprised of new material, which came across like electro-metal and inspired lots of appreciative head-nodding and renditions of album tracks such as Rock n Roll Polar Bear and Yes! were played perfectly.
Son of Neil has always appealed to me on record, making great pop tunes that deserve huge radio play, which they seem forever doomed to be denied. What really threw me aback about his set though was firstly that he was largely alone - a backing singer and a guest appearance from Connan Mockasin aside - and using loop pedals. This led Finn to transform his songs into epic, sweat-drenched wig-outs that, like an auroborus, seemed to consume themselves and as Finn hopped from guitar to drums his skills as an incredible musician left mouths agape.
Micachu and the Shapes
Probably the most played band in my room since the festival, I had no preconception of this band other than I knew the name. They divided the crowd right down the middle, but I was knocked out by them from the first haphazard notes and peculiar style. It's like a 21st century junk band with awkwardly strummed guitar jostling with laptop processed synths and tin cans being played amongst drums, and it sounds absolutely crazy and totally addictive; like sherbert dib-dabs or some other retro-confection. Alongside this manic, fizzy sound they actually make songs that are really well arranged and memorable, rattling around your brain and demanding to be put on repeat.
Well, that's my summary of the five bands that really stuck out for me this year. The line-up was pretty good across the board, the Great Escape being a festival to showcase new and upcoming acts; generally everything I saw was pretty good and I eagerly anticipate the line-up at next year's festival.
(Photo by David Emery)