Saturday begins not so much where Friday left off, as in the excrement of the day’s overindulgence as talk of hangovers, hangups, comedowns and all other manner of ill ensures the day can be acutely equated to a more conventional festival malarkey. And Blue Hawaii transpire to be a refreshing tonic to all that inanity, Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alex “Agor” Cowan putting in an accelerant set on next to no sleep. It begins with perfect respite provided by a gloopy Follow drenched in dark, and the duo sound as though they’ve come to terms with their live performance in only a week. It’s a marked, and even monumental improvement on their UK début only a short while ago as vocally, musically, and most pertinently harmoniously they’ve bettered themselves and their every facet. The set itself is thorough, and yet remains fluid with Standell-Preston looking, and likewise sounding considerably more composed. And that, despite In Two II being snapped into smithereens when a dicky mic lead brings things to an abrupt halt. But we’re all onside even after a couple songs, a sweltering Paganini Ballroom gaining a glimpse into the songstrel’s vulnerable side as she stutters, only slowly again finding a foothold although from here on it’s onwards and ever upwards: with the sound otherwise spot on and the acoustics of this elaborately embellished hotel ballroom highly accommodating, shimmering flickers of touring pals Purity Ring glint in a scintillating newbie while Sweet Tooth this afternoon feasts on the unity shared between artist and audience.
It’s of course discombobulating to see them perform such a hefty electro set at such a premature scheduling, not least as they’re nocturnal creatures far better suited to half two in the morning than to the early afternoon but so symbiotic are they in their nature that they could pull off their transcendent shtick moments after arising and they’d get by alright. For they’ve pinpointed that precise, and at times apparently precarious balance between electronic music and a more organic approach with Standell-Preston’s forever otherworldly vocal the ethereal sheen coating such a singular conflation. It’s a transporting mélange which is nigh on altogether devoid of time anyhow, and there’s an inert sense of nothingness to the show as such. By the time they come in to land in gloriously turbulent fashion, they’re quite literally bouncing off one another. Thus although it’s a mildly odd one which is, by Raphaelle’s own admission, a little “sketchy” in places it was in many ways enlightening to witness them tugged out of their comfort zone, and to revel in the odd juxtaposition of darkness onstage and beams streaming through clammy windows. And naff as it doubtless sounds, we beam right back at them together as one.
The local blokes and lass of Kins then clog a Green Door Store looking rather worse for wear already and, although unsighted throughout from the back, they perfume the venue with a palatable, if spasmodically pedestrian and mildly angular brand of indie winsome enough for it to feasibly be some gaggle of rather more international stature up there. Aimless sounds purposeful and absolutely direct – akin to kinsmen The Electric Soft Parade’s The American Adventure hooked up on an intravenous drip. And like moules-frites in an otherwise irrelevant Belgium or indeed battered bits and bobs on this here seafront, I feel as though I’ve done my bit in dipping a toe or two into Kins though it’s been so much more refreshing than anticipated and with uncountable hordes spewing out the door, there’s a real sense of every one of ‘em being onto something quietly special.
Downtown, a blob of teen hysteria seems to have stuck itself to something equivalently treasurable in the ludicrously coiffured form of Dan Smith, a glimpse of a couple Midnight Beasts only contributing to the alarming delirium unfolding some hours ahead of BΔSTILLE later on this evening.
And later, if not exactly late is where we encounter Kilimanjaro-born although explicitly Geordie-bred belter Lulu James. “Fook it, let’s just get on with it! You’ve got places to go; people to see” she snarls as an ostensible nightmare unravels around her, although the show in fact runs like a runny, honeyed dream as the 21st century soulstress quite literally lets her hair down to the eternally superb Closer. A long fifteen minutes then ensues in anticipation of Copenhagen’s Karen Marie Ørsted. More commonly known of course as Mø, her second of two shows in town is one heck of a hot ticket – not least now that news of yesterday’s barnstorming showing at the Queens Hotel has filtered through fully. Though with every second she’s delayed, the metronomic drip of gunky liquid which falls from the ceiling with irksome irregularity becomes increasingly infuriating. That which follows, alas, does little to allay that exasperation: from the almost satirical flash-in-the-pan pop of Pilgrim to the soulless bellowing of Glass, for a performance that’s so outwardly impassioned it’s nigh on impossible to feel all that passionate about the music itself. For nigh on exclusively electronic, it’s all too dislocated and disassociated from human sensation and in fact for what she’s up to, there are so many far preferable alternatives around contemporarily that her rampant successes seem that bit more bewildering still. Moreover, few could feasibly be any more excruciatingly bass-hefty as the PA properly clobbers your eardrums while monochromic art house reels flood the liquefied insides of your eyeballs. It’s about the most engaging aspect on display, no matter how vigorously she may flick that plait in what looks a prepubescent impression of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. It’s all a bit Battlekat as a consequence, and therefore already somewhat passé and while I’m not necessarily looking for conflict in blunting the edges of the incisive hype about Ørsted, the live show is certainly something of an ordeal this evening…
However there’s one thing Karen Marie succeeds in doing, then it’s the vindication of my inebriated scribblings of there being ‘so many sodding samplers’ dotted about Brighton this week. It’s a seismic shift in attitude that’s about as subtle as an aftershock, though one rather more inevitable exhibition of our recalcitrant musical digestion is the sodding fickle capriciousness with which we approach it: having been among those more lukewarm of nonliteral tickets some 24 hours previous, Coalition is tonight scantily clad for Californian quartet Allah-Las’ impromptu second showing. For every action there’s a reaction, and to combat the influx of electronic gadgetry here comes a plush gust of guitar-based resurgence: Catamaran’s a blithe delight, its highly relatable lyrics of amorous trepidation whipping up a storm and, although about as bleeding edge as a razor left to fester in stone cold bathwater for a festival season, there’s an immediate listenability to it. The Morricone-esque instrumental pearlers are just about the best, although what with Saturday this week becoming the new Sunday there’s a lethargy to it which, well, it takes the edge off, really. And though Miles Michaud might contend to time flying “when you’re having fun” during Sandy, it’s a bit of a drag in truth. As is an unnecessarily scratchy half-hour from fuzzy L.A. scruffs White Fence who, in wallowing in low fidelity production values, compromise on all forms of ingenuity in favour of a tedious stridency. This one-two wallop of disappointment serves to accentuate just how indispensable Parquet Courts are to modern-day guitar music. They’re currently playing opposite the pier to what I don’t doubt to be a swelling, and so too fortunate sea of flesh.
And so it’s on this cacophonous note of mild dismay that we escape Brighton feeling only a little more enlightened, if a lot better entertained. As a vehicle constructed for the purpose of the acceleration of musical discovery, I’m left feeling somewhat unconvinced of The Great Escape’s capacity to uncover and inform although when it comes to rounding up the violently hankered for, if less than readily witnessed buzz band brigade, well, nobody does it better. Not Carly Simon, nor Steve McQueen. ‘Cause while multitudinous festivals all around us continue to sink without trace, The Great Escape should only be buoyed by the incontestable successes of the 2013 edition.