A Festival Mixtape: Great Escape 2011
The Fugitive Motel made its second visit to The Great Escape last year and enjoyed a thoroughly British weekend. You will queue, you will eat lots of chips and you will enjoy bracing walks along the shoreline while ludicrously fat seagulls fly straight at your face, but all of this, combined with the finest in national and international new music, means that you'll have a good time. You may even see a recently elected Member of Parliament conducting a walking constituency surgery at the bus stop, or Darwin Deez queuing for doughnuts, if you’re really lucky.
It's a compact and hospitable place, attracting punters from far and wide – there's no sense of 'unwanted outsiders' at TGE. Furthermore, the whole affair is set in the wider surrounds of the Brighton Festival, giving you plenty of other artistic things to explore. However, you still have no excuse for not seeing some or all of the following during your visit:
1. Frankie & The Heartstrings – 'Ungrateful'
Frankie & The Heartstrings are busy bees this summer, playing pretty much every festival going, and it’s only fitting that they return to the scene of their seaside triumph last year (and the place where your humble editor stumbled across them and instantly fell in love). Following their inclusion in last year’s TGE mixtape with the brooding 'Fragile', the blistering 'Ungrateful' opens this year's virtual compilation with a middle eight guitar riff that not only includes a key change, but demands to be sung along in a boozy manner at this summer's festivals.
Frankie & The Heartstrings - Ungrateful by 3WTM
2. Art Brut – 'Nag Nag Nag Nag'
Art Brut are another band who inspire fanatical levels of devotion, as best exhibited when Motel reviewers go and get horrendously drunk and/or end up crowdsurfing at their shows. They’re shouty, they’re ridiculous, but they sing amusing songs about unrequited love and Top of the Pops and comic books. Plus, there's something about Eddie Argos and his poker-faced vocal delivery that, love it or hate it, will have you thoroughly entertained.
Nag Nag Nag Nag by art-brut
3. The Joy Formidable – 'Whirring'
The Joy Formidable - another band with a healthy festival schedule for 2011 - gave us the first very good song of the year with the release of the charming 'Austere'. What’s more, one Dave Grohl has now appointed himself as a character reference for the trio, thanking them on Twitter for this particular track and dubbing it "the song of the year". High praise indeed, and rightly so.
Joy Formidable - Whirring by The Drift Record Shop
4. Young British Artists – 'Bring The Sun'
Young British Artists have crossed the Atlantic - it was only a matter of time before they got namechecked in the New York Times. For any transatlantic visitors who are wondering why they should devote their attention to the band, well, there are two reasons. Firstly, they offered a strangely endearing description of themselves as a bit like "a sound investment on the FTSE 100" last time we interviewed them, and secondly, 'Bring The Sun' is a gorgeous, hazy mess. Guitars drenched in feedback compete with optimistic synths and Leo Scott's distorted, hopeful vocal turn to create something that's truly magical.
Young British Artists - Bring The Sun by pullyourselftogether
5. Christian Aids – 'Stay Positive'
Christian Aids are an anonymous collective from Manchester, but don't let that, or their name, put you off this, a strangely melodic melting pot of dancefloor beats that succeeds where so many others have failed in the past year. Blending the ethereal, dark atmosphere of most of last year's major musical hits with a sense of urgency and melody that hasn't been seen in dance music since its early-to-mid-nineties heyday, 'Stay Positive' encourages you to do just that. And what's on the cards if you go and see them in Brighton? "Big plans", apparently. Enigmatic to the last.
Stay Positive by Stay+
6. D/R/U/G/S – 'Velodrome II'
D/R/U/G/S (and whatever you do, don't confuse them with D.R.U.G.S who are an altogether different and far inferior kettle of fish) were one of the Motel's highlights of In The City last year, where they were just SO TREMENDOUSLY LOUD that you couldn't help but listen and be delighted by a sonic assault that rattles your stomach like a washing machine on fast spin. The overall sound on record is more measured, allowing the precision that Callum Wright puts his songs together with to really shine. 'Velodrome II', the highlight of D/R/U/G/S' debut release 'Love/Lust', has a metronomic quality that's absolutely hypnotic.
D/R/U/G/S - Velodrome II by wearemachinemusic
7. Let's Buy Happiness – 'Fast Fast'
So, Let's Buy Happiness, what have you got? Impressive male/female harmonies? Check! Plaintive guitar and guitar and piano lines? Present. A sense of joy that runs through your music? Absolutely. A lead vocalist who's elected to set up camp in the territory between between Bjork, The Duke Spirit's Liela Moss and Sky Larkin's Katie Harkin? Yep. Put it all together and you've got this...
Fast Fast by letsbuyhappiness
8. Saint Saviour – 'Happy Blue'
Saint Saviour was recommended to me by a friend who I consider to have impeccable musical taste, and selecting a track for this mixtape from Becky Jones' burgeoning Soundcloud collection was difficult due to the consistenly high quality on show. The Motel loves its remarkable voices, and it probably won't be too long until she is troubling our recently revived I'd Marry That Voice section. 'Happy Blue' mixes theatrical Pet Shop Boys-style pop beats with Natasha Khan's approach to instrumentation and production, and there's much more where this came from. Out of all the lazy Kate Bush comparisons that have been made by music critics over the past two or three years, Jones is the only woman who comes remotely close to the great lady. If she keeps this level of originality and invention up, expect her to be a contender for National Treasure status before the end of the decade.
Happy Blue by Saint Saviour
9. Mechanical Bride – 'Sound and Vision' (original by David Bowie)
Now, if you're going to cover the second best David Bowie song of all time after Life On Mars, you had better bloody well get it right. A tip of the hat then, to Brighton's very own Mechanical Bride, who recorded this for a War Child compilation last autumn - it’s such a good version that it warrants your undivided attention. Lauren Doss and company release album number two, Living With Ants, next month.
Sound and Vision - Mechanical Bride by Thommills
mixtape by Kate Goodacre
The Great Escape takes place at various venues across Brighton between Thursday, May 12 and Saturday, May 14. Day tickets for Thursday, Friday and weekend and 3-day tickets are still available from the festival's official website.