Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Diary of a Great Escape - Day Three


In the cold light of day, the inevitable festival analysis ensues. With Great Escape it’s a little different. Its structure distances it from the likes of T in the Park and Reading / Leeds and in theory, it works a treat. Yesterday I got up, had a shower and a cooked breakfast and made my way to the bar to see a couple of bands. It’s exactly the lack of a routine like this that puts so many off the ‘traditional festival experience’.

But in my opinion, the festival falls down in a number of other areas that cancel out the bonus of having a clean bonce and a full belly. Some of the venues have got appalling sound quality. Last night I went to see Woodpigeon, a Canadian folk rock band I had been really looking forward to. The Prince Albert venue was packed out, but the sound was shit. The band were visibly annoyed and the set was flat. Having seen them play Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall a few months back I knew they had the potential to be a cracking live act given the tools.

Before that, I had hit the Parlure, inside the Spiegel Tent (Brighton Fringe Festival is on at the moment, too). Again, the sound was appalling. I had gone along to see Deer Tracks but a huge delay meant the venue was two acts behind what it should have been. In a festival like this, scheduling is imperative. Everybody has their own timetable of what they want to see and given the need to move from venue to venue, even the slightest stoppage can have a knock-on effect.

In the end, we were able to catch Swedish band A Sad Day For Puppets. Their set was beset with difficulties. The female lead singer’s voice was completely drowned out by the guitars. It took some heckling from the audience before they changed it. The vacuous arena swallowed up the band – they were doomed from the get-go.

Yesterday’s highlight came early in the day. I was disappointed to find David Kitt had withdrawn from Great Escape because of a throat complaint, but Iain Archer’s acoustic stand-in set was more than adequate. The Reindeer Section alum was just the tonic for a slightly foggy headed Saturday afternoon crowd.

His appearance was part of the Music From Ireland showcase – an independent organisation that are similar to the Scottish Arts Council in nature has arranged for a handful of Irish acts to play eight festivals in the UK and abroad, including TGE and SxSW. Angel Pier were an earnest lot, visibly pleased to be playing and keen to take the opportunity. The lead singer had a mighty impressive vocal range, shooting from a Paul Banks style baritone to an urgent yelp in one verse. They reminded me of We Were Promised Jetpacks and the set was well received by a sizeable Irish contingent.

Fight Like Apes followed them onstage and provided an altogether more leftfield set. It’s a name I had seen bandied about in music press before the show and was pleased to see there was some substance to the hype. As mentioned in the last blog TGE prides itself on showcasing new music and should be commended for doing that relatively successfully. But there is definite room for improvement.

A tip to those thinking of attending next year: get to a venue with a decent line-up and sound setup and stay there.

4 comments:

Ally Brown said...

alright Finbarr, so what was your top two or three acts of the weekend then? My boss went and saw Holy Fuck, loved them, but it doesn't look like you saw them - schoolboy error! and did you go to any of the industry conference type things at all?

Finbarr Bermingham said...

How do Ally? Yeah a bit of an oversight, but it's difficult to schedule. The gigs are mostly on in the evening and the venues are pretty spread out. I never went to any of those things either. Was going to go and see Colin Greenwood but forgot about it, to be honest. Top 3?

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I don't think it was as good as it could have been though!

markzipan said...

hi finbarr, this is mark from woodpigeon. playing the great escape this year was one of the more disheartening live experiences we've ever had. our soundcheck, as such, involved us standing around waiting for the headliner of the night to finish checking their 4 keyboards. for hours. and when we finally got up there, we watched representatives from the great escape argue with the overly-stressed sound guy. when our set finally began, it was nothing but piercing thin feedback up there. hopefully the audience didn't have to hear what we did, but man ... it was tough.

i'm not saying that the entire great escape as a whole is a worthless endeavor. just that some attention needs to be paid to actually presenting the bands booked in a way that's not only befitting their sound and abilities, but also making the festival look good. how many shows did you see with terrible sound?

thanks for sticking up for us, though. that definitely means a lot. we'll make it up to everyone next time we come through.

Finbarr Bermingham said...

Hi Mark. I agree. I think that unless they market the festival differently (i.e. each band plays a cosy pub gig, in which the sound isn't so important), then they need to get their act together.

The sound was pretty bad in the Speigeltent as well. I was surprised it was so poor in the Prince Albert, as it regularly hosts gigs.

I could see you guys were pretty frustrated, look forward to seeing you next time you play!