Friday @ The Great Escape

Mr Popper stays well away from sharks, but still went to see Jaws...
Mr Popper stays well away from sharks

On reflection, it was a day for the Celts at the Great Escape, and the Aussies, and even the Argentinians…

We kicked off the day with a set from New Desert Blues, whose mix of folk, country and indie rock has graced previous posts here on MM. They have a debut album in the pipeline and happily the songs they showcased from this stood up well, particularly set-opener Milk And Honey, which is a hypnotically powerful guitar stomper and we’d go as far as to say the best thing we’ve heard from them to date.

As Mr Popper went off to catch the laid back indie jangle of Jaws, I caught the end of a fine set of haunting folk from Ireland’s I Have A Tribe, which had more than an echo of Bonnie “Prince” Billy about it, and then an excellent set of noisy, garage pop from Dublin’s September Girls where motorik rhythms and fuzzy guitars collided to almighty good effect.

A quick trip to see Night Engine, who were new to me, was rewarded with an experience like stepping back into late 1970s New York where funky guitars and tribal drumming recalled early Talking Heads, art punk and classic disco. It was in stark contrast to the sombre, dense guitar patterns of Scottish duo Honeyblood who had drawn a big crowd, but seemed to struggle to distinguish their combination of shoegazing guitar and drums into anything more than one-dimensional noise pop.

Las KelliesThe evening saw a trip to the Fire Records showcase, part of the Alternative Escape schedule and when we eventually found the venue, via numerous trips up and down the beach, we were treated to a short but highly energetic of ramshackle garage punk and irreverent wordplay from the antipodean Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, finishing with recent album standout Jackie Boy.

Next up, all the way from Argentina, were three-piece Las Kellies who brought a dose of much needed sunshine to the town with a fizzing set of bubblegum pop, punk rock and slashing guitars. Forty minutes, seventeen songs, and not a duff note to be heard.

Suitably revved up and having learnt from the previous evening, we headed up to the Hope pub, where thirty minutes of queuing was to prove more than worth it as long-standing MM faves The Dune Rats shambled on stage to provide one of the highlights of the festival so far.

Dune RatsThe three lads from Brisbane were clearly here for a good time and despite it being possibly the hottest venue I have ever been in, proceeded to tear up the stage with a mix of skate punk surf rock, and stoner pop. Joyfully idiotic banter “we gave up smoking this morning, but started again this afternoon“, and songs about dope, wanking, lying around, and more dope set the tone. And frankly, any band that can happily roar their way through a repeated chorus of “Dalai Llama, Big Banana, Marijuana” have got to be doing something right in my book.

So the stage was set for headliners the Amazing Snakeheads, a Scottish band whose fearsome live performance has been receiving rave reviews up and down the country with their brutal mix of rockabilly, junkyard punk, swamp blues and voodoo rhythms.

Stalking the stage like some kind of demented boxer, frontman Dale Barclay bristles with menace and palpable violence, attacking his guitar with a savagery I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed before. While the band create tribal, hypnotic swathes of rhythm behind him he howls, shudders, beseeches, and threatens in equal measure, his face set in a series of rictus grimaces.  Songs like I’m A Vampire, Here It Comes Again, and Where Is My Knife are given a white-hot, blistering intensity that is impossible to resist.

Building the tension and the potency of the show with every song, the set finishes in a cacophony of impossibly heated percussion and driving guitars ended abruptly by Barclay as he uses his guitar to drive a route through the dripping crowd and out through the exit.

God knows where he is now…

Possibly the best live performance I’ve seen for years and years.












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