The second day at The Great Escape was hailed in with sun rays beaming down over the city. Buzzing with vibrancy, The Great Escape really found its feet after a remarkable opening day that definitely crescendoed rather than burst into life.
Opening with ‘Say What’s on My Mind’, Patterns played host to Emiko, who showcased his wide vocal range moving from lows to falsettos in a true R’n’B and soul fashion. It’s hard not to fall in love with Emiko and his band’s fresh sound as they come up with diverse ways of bringing traditional soul tropes to a fun and new environments. His humbling personality frequently draws the attention to his tight knit band members completing the ensemble with funk piano and guitar accents.
Over at beach site’s The Dive Bar, Rosie Lowe brought her style of electronic R&B that pulls from D’Angelo’s lazy sound and layers it with swells and stabs of synth tones, not too dissimilar to fellow london neo-soul crooner Nao. There’s something a little more sensuous about Lowe, though. She has a quite unique vocal tone that can often sound androgynous and slides easily through off-kilter melodies. She manipulates it adeptly via a small armada of effects pedals and sample pads in front of her. At her best moments, it is an almost beguiling experience. Something isn’t right with the level balance throughout, and the layers can often drown each other out – perhaps an unfortunate pitfall of how fast the turnarounds are here. The same can be said for Halfnoise at the same stage, the musical project of Paramore drummer, Zac Farro.
Seemingly the perfect ‘summer’ band, their mildly psych-influenced pop-rock has that evidently-popular blend of brit-pop chords, shimmering riffs and enough tambourine for a lifetime. Farro, despite being a constant ball of energy, struggles with his vocal performance, and the stage continues to have issues with its sound. Less haste more speed might be best adhered to on this stage next time around.
Other venues saw greater success. There’s something majestic about unapologetically sipping green tea from a flask whilst performing but with a name like Greentea Peng it seems to work. Gracing the stage at Patterns, with husky vocals over reggae and afrobeat undertones the London-based artist didn’t disappoint. With hair in short plaits and clothed in vintage, she brought a time well beyond the present day. Her ineffable stage presence and the way she interacted with the audience broke through what was seen on the surface. As her infectious laughter burst around the room, it was quickly composed with sensual glances over the crowd. Being a woman of true mystery, she gave a bold impression intertwined with intricate details.
Despite the low sound on the vocals, Girl In Red (also known as Marie Ulven) gave a dynamic performance at Komedia, bringing the people back to their rebellious younger years. This was pushed by their alternative-rock sound and love for rock-and-roll. You could sense the nerves bubbling inside her as she spoke about the environmental impact of plastic waste, in between swigging from a can of water. “Have you guys seen the video with the turtle trying to get a plastic straw out of its nose?” She asks moving onto the next song.
Playing a few riffs whilst changing key, she notably coined its similarities to The 1975’s ‘Chocolate’ immediately mocking it with rough deeper vocals that was no match for Matty Healy’s saccharine timbre. You could easily get drawn into Ulven’s fun-loving personality however at times it distracted from the music as the moments between songs were filled with rambling, particularly given the time constraints of her set.
The unity between the band members was amicable with seamless transitions within songs which was particularly evident in ‘watch you sleep’ as they joined Ulven in alliance after her solo to take on the bridge.
Make no mistake, Foals are a huge act for The Great Escape to land as their Spotlight show. A chance to see them in a venue like Concorde 2 is rare, and they rise to the occasion with complete and assured confidence. Hurtling through huge track after track, their older math rock sounds, later stadium rock and now environmental electronic grooves all come together to great effect. As always, their guitars are full and weighty in sound, but light on their feet, propelled by their ever-excellent drummer, Jack Bevan. Yannis Philippakis remains, as always, a compelling and positively vibrating stage presence, conducting the ceremony from start to finish, and completing multiple excursions into the crowd. Almost 14 years since their origin, they might have found their best form.
Images: The Great Escape