Reviews of artists at The Great Escape 2010

Egyptian Hip Hop

Egyptian Hip Hop are anything but what the name implies. In fact, for a band that sounds interesting and unique, they are actually infinitely dull and standard. Take any four band members from any modern run-of-the-mill band out there, clad them in skinny jeans, snip and dye their hair into something trendy and extravagant and voila! There you have your Egyptian Hip Hop. Although I may be being harsh here, the band failed to captivate any sense of wonder or engage with the crowd, as each song blandly blurred into the next.

Admittedly, Horatio’s on the pier is a fascinatingly odd and surreal venue; a weird, scummy function room complete with fake stained-glass, thick, garish carpets and a cheap polished wooden decor, but the place was still full to capacity at the start of the gig. The end of the gig however, was another matter, with only around 50% of the initial turnout still absent-mindedly bobbing along to the songs. While Egyptian Hip Hop were by no means a bad band, or indeed did they give a bad performance – it’s just there was absolutely nothing remarkable about either their stage presence, appearance or the music itself. I suppose it goes someway into explaining why they chose such a mysterious name: to mask the mediocrity of this uninteresting Mancunian musical four-piece.


 

Gold Panda

East London DJ Gold Panda has a small but dedicated following, whose ranks are slowly growing with every gig he performs. It seems the organiser’s faith in Life providing an adequate venue for this early evening set was misplaced, as although the location is fine for traditional clubbing scenarios, the back room allocated to Gold Panda’s gig was far too small and claustrophobic.


Swathes of fans piled into the boiling room, packing it so densely that dozens had to make do with simply listening from the adjacent hall, as the only room affording a visual on Gold Panda was at capacity. Nevertheless, those that made it in were rewarded with the DJ’s trademark tunes, which pounded through the speakers with deliberate distortion and digital noise. Despite the high quality of the music, it should be noted that he is not a natural performer, rather he fits into the ‘hood-up, head-down’ mould of DJs, which is disappointing considering not only the modern trend to perform but also that many of the tunes would be well-suited to some DJ-audience interaction. Gold Panda’s awesomely sampled songs were truly fantastic, ranging from joy-filled melodies to dirtier, heavier bass-led beats. The songs invited the crowd to dance; the compulsion to nod your head in time to the music was almost irresistible – it’s just a shame that the place was too fucking full to do so.

DJ Shadow

There was a slight change in the Great Escape format to last year. This year, wristbanded people who had forked out their cash to attend the festival were expected to pay an extra charge to see some acts, including all the headliners, as places at those gigs were offered to the unwristbanded public as well. I thought it was a pretty terrible thing to do actually.Regardless, I headed to the DJ Shadow set on the Thursday night with the ring of acclaim sounding through my skull, as the iconic Shadowsphere tour is drenched in critical fluid. I was not disappointed. The basic premise for the show is that there is a giant orb on the stage, which looked rather splendid in the opulent Brighton Dome setting. Projected upon a screen that fills the entire backdrop of the stage are a series of images and videos, which feature all manner of interesting settings and set-pieces.

A second projector illuminates the sphere itself, which is designed with the backdrop in mind. The end result is a brilliant experimentation of shape, perception and depth, with highlights such as the earth spinning in space and a factory producing a metal ball proving quite spectacular. These impressive visuals are all perfectly synchronised with the music too.

Of course, no gig review would be complete without a mention of the setlist, which was exemplary. Twisting old Shadow classics into contemporary beats; morphing sombre trip hop tunes into floor-filling anthems, Shadow had the enthusiastic, but largely immobile, crowd wrapped around his finger.

The icing on the cake was the moments when Shadow revealed himself from the orb, first with silhouetted teasers, then a wave from the roof, before finally spinning the whole sphere 180 degrees to complete the set facing the audience. The cherry on that icing was the 25 minute encore, comprised almost entirely of unusual songs, from classical jazz to recent hip hop hits. Great Job.


The Big Pink

The Big Pink enjoyed a headline slot at what is one the best venues on the seafront – Digital. Starting late, the band was forced to cut their set short which displeased both them and the fans. Digital is perfectly set-up for gigs of this scale; the sound system and light set-ups are certainly superior to most of the other Great Escape locations. The gig was powerful and intense, with the slow, drums-driven ‘Too Young To Love’ opening the band’s setlist, which gradually intensified throughout before climaxing in the fan-favourite ‘Dominoes’, provoking a fun and wild sing-a-long from the crowd at the end. Disappointingly however, was The Big Pink’s heavy reliance on synthesised and pre-recorded sounds. The drummer, while surely talented, often only played half of the beat, leaving the more complex rhythms to the electronic drum machine. Similarly, fabricated vocal tracks were used in place of a female singer. These small issues coupled with a short 30 minute set may have left many somewhat let down, though as long as ‘not enough music’ is one of the complaints aimed at them, I’m sure The Big Pink will be happy.


Delphic

Delphic held the privilege of headlining The Great Escape’s Friday night at The Corn Exchange, an honour shared with the festival’s main act the following evening, Groove Armada. So what makes Delphic so worthy of basking in the same level of exposure as that seasoned and unquestionably talented duo? At their best, Delphic really do invoke a sense of awe, marrying the two holy disciplines of guitar music and dance music in perfect harmony, in a blending of genres that so many bands attempt but ultimately fail to achieve. In the way that previously ‘innovative’ acts like the Klaxons, Hadouken and Bloc Party have made indie music a digital and dancey experience appropriate to play in clubs, Delphic played some tunes that elicited not only the karaoke-type crowd response usually found at The Kooks gigs, but also the shape-making, dance-inspiring beats of a Digitalism or Simian Mobile Disco set – a pretty tough, yet potent combination. When the marriage worked, things were beautiful: just enough lyrics to avoid dull repetition but also a filthy bassline and beat, which is all anyone really wants. In moments like this, it is clear that Delphic love making music and know exactly what they’re doing; making it unfortunate that at times they seemed totally lost.

These genuine sparks of innovation and immaculate production only lasted to the mid-point of the performance – the end of the 45 minute gig was actually quite boring. So many of the songs simply failed to capture that spark that made the first few songs work so well, as it became clear that with even the smallest of imbalances (too many vocals, not enough bass), the aforementioned marriage began to fail miserably. For all the band’s skill and talent, it was evident that if you took away the strobe lights and huge crowd you would have a very ordinary band that only hinted at glimmers of excellence. They certainly have the ability it seems; sustaining across a full set is the problem.