The Great Escape Festival, Brighton, Day 1 (14/05/09)

Charlie Ashcroft | Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Great Escape Festival, Brighton, Day 1 (14/05/09)

With fish and chips digested and umbrella up, Daily Music Guide began the first evening of The Great Escape out at sea, watching mostly-female quartet THE MALES produce a decent dose of synth-tinged garage rock at Horatio's Bar on Brighton Pier. Despite an initially lacklustre response from the Horatio's crowd, their set gathered momentum as it progressed, with 'Seven For A Secret' being a particular highlight.

The King's Road Arches were the next stop-off, to take in FANFARLO at a packed Honeyclub. Their shimmering folk pop made a strong impression in a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Jeremy Warmsley and Wild Beasts all-rolled-into-one kind of way. While Simon Balthazar's vocals hit notably great heights on 'Drowning Men', they soared wonderfully for the most part, often surfing atop those glorious brass and string crescendos which have made Fanfarlo's debut album 'Reservoir' such a rich listen.

With next door's Digital venue rammed for Emmy The Great, DMG stayed at Honeyclub to see Grammatics, only for Mercury-nominated MAPS to take to the stage as part of a revised running order instead. Sadly, with his first two slow-burning examples of dirge-like electronica failing to inspire much excitement, the compass was brought out again, immediately pointing to TITUS ANDRONICUS at Volks.

Sure enough, the Americans' thick-edged, meaty punk racket got the blood flowing once more, thanks to a rip-roaring selection of tunes from their 'The Airing of Grievances' record, doing the Rocksound bill very proud indeed.

After experiencing such a degree of lo-fi noise though, a shift in tone was required. Laura Groves' BLUE FLOWERS suited the mood perfectly, with her beautiful, stripped-down songs available to a lucky few at the Redroaster Café on St. James's Street. Defying the nearby noises of police sirens and general road-related hubbub outside, she mesmerised her audience with a wonderful set at one of The Great Escape's more intimate venues.

She was followed onstage by IAIN ARCHER, whose renditions of 'Acrobat' and 'Songbird' and tales of songwriting in the Bavarian forest displayed his charm no end. The subsequent route to The Corn Exchange provided an opportunity to catch the closing stages of MIRRORS at the Sallis Benney theatre. Their stunning visuals and almost-military precision contributed to an overriding feeling of importance and vitality in the venue's grand setting. Seemingly dealing in deep-voiced, dark-wave-style anthems, they will earn a 'ones to watch' tag in no time at all.

And so to THE MACCABEES. With new album ''Wall Of Arms' recently out and Brighton's Corn Exchange harbouring an unrivalled atmosphere of worship tonight, overjoyed bedlam ensued. 'No Kind Words' and 'X-Ray' hit the spot early on, but the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for 'Toothpaste Kisses' and 'Precious Time'.

The band looked genuinely blown away by the hometown reception, but they've clearly come into live form at just the right time to add to the momentum generated by their second LP. 'First Love' provoked the couple stood in front of DMG to stop jigging and snog like they were 14 again and 'Love You Better', complete with brass section, rounded things off absolutely splendidly.

With more dancing still to be done, all roads led to CRYSTAL FIGHTERS at Ocean Rooms. Performing as a duo, their show was characterised by a series of breathtaking beat changes and ridiculous turns of pace. Combined with dollops of Basque-flavoured instrumentation and Sebastian's fist-pumping vocals, it all suggested that very few people are doing what this lot are doing at the moment. 'I Love London' and new single 'Xtatic Truth' had the watching throng in raptures. Their revolution is underway.