Triptych, a three-day festival courtesy of Love Thy Neighbour, has seen such an amazingly eclectic mix of Brighton’s favourite artists play, that it is vital to providing a platform for up-and-coming talent. Winter Gardens are determined to use the opportunity wisely. Touting themselves as ‘dream punks’, the quartet amalgamate everything that was glorious about bygone days of 4AD and Creation to produce a melodic, synth-driven journey through time that definitely gets the crowd’s attention. Singer Ananda is confident in her performance and she is ably accompanied by the rest of the band. Latest single ‘Coral Bells’ means WG are definitely of note on the East Sussex scene and one of their next appearances is at Austerity Records’ Hastings launch party in February, where Idles are doing a DJ set, no less.
The Twilight Sad are known for their highly dramatic, visceral indie-rock but even these are somewhat lazy labels that make them sound more mundane than they are. Though there are a lot of acts favouring a similar style (and some from several decades ago), there remains something unique about this group of Scotsmen. They are young, passionate and Robert Smith loves them, so just over a decade of hard graft now seems to be paying off as they prepare to release their fifth studio album on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records. The question is: has it changed them now the world seems to be becoming their oyster?
Phoenix is the first album from Seattle’s Pedro The Lion in 15 years. It is, therefore, obvious that it should be named after the mythical creature that symbolises a rebirth of sorts, a new beginning, which is definitely indicative of David Bazan’s creative process after such a long hiatus. Central figurehead for the outfit, Bazan found himself in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, when touring the US alone a few years ago, stopping off at his grandparents’ house. The breakthrough that followed also inspired a visit to the house he grew up in, undoubtedly resulting in the nostalgia that is the dominant theme throughout his new material.
A performer at ease with his audience, Ben Ottewell is truly superb, frankly far superior live than on record, if that can be believed.
The most highly anticipated show the city’s LGBTQ festival has possibly ever seen, it was as crazy as it was wonderful. Britters in a corset and suspenders, lip-syncing to her biggest hits, in front of an ‘up for it’ crowd, on a balmy summer’s evening after one of the best days in BN1’s calendar. So what if Southern Fail cocked up the end of the evening in the most spectacular fashion? Ms Spears had us partying on the beach for at least a few days afterwards, right?
Brighton’s The Academy of Sun were surely born to play this gig. Theatrical, meaningful and shambolically dramatic, TAOS are led by a tall creature called Nick Hudson, who magnificently snarls his way through a set that is much more illustrious than might be expected for a Sunday night from a first support act. Self-labelled, “Queer, gnostic post-punk”, the group bow to Nick Cave and Morrissey on some tracks and it is fairly obvious why Julian Cope is counted as one of their admirers on others. Part crooner, part diva, for all of his influences, Hudson is entirely unique as a frontman, which makes TAOS a band to be intrigued by on the local scene and, given the waves they appear to be making, further afield.
Canadian Rose Cousins has the voice of an angel, so the Unitarian Church is the perfect venue for her. Her vocal fills the room as does her personality. Between songs she holds conversation comfortably about herself and her music. She also asks where she can get the best Full English breakfast in Brighton before inviting the audience to ask questions in return. Someone wants to know who inspires her musically? The reply is, not surprisingly, Patty Griffin and Joni Mitchell “and many others”. The likeness is uncanny due to Rose’s own emotional honesty and vulnerability and soaring use of melody – using piano, then guitar, then ukulele to accompany her traditional songwriting. Borrowing from the best of America’s folk/country sirens, she brings a reverence to the Unitarian Church but also a homeliness. She talks about her choice not to have kids and laughs at the delighted shouts that acknowledge this announcement, then encourages a backing choir from the crowd and graciously thanks tonight’s headliner by admiring his “strong head of hair”. Playing many tracks from her 2017 Grammy-nominated album Natural Conclusion, you can see her in her own show on 1st April next year at The Greys. It will be worth the wait.
There is hardly anyone in the room to watch opening act, Brighton-based duo, Instant Bin. With foundations firmly in punk-rock, they deliver a short, fast-paced set that seems to please the few people watching. Drummer, Liv, and bassist, Harry, seem sweet and what they lack in musical diversity they make up for with a natural ease with the audience that makes them memorable. Most of their songs are between one and two minutes long and, while they do seem a little under-rehearsed, the nature of what the band are doing means it doesn’t really matter that much. Tracks like ‘Eggshells’ and ‘Bin Day’ champion shouty vocals and chugging rhythm so if that’s your sort of thing, you could do worse than check out Instant Bin next time they play.
The Dome must be the only Brighton venue that doesn’t have a mirrorball. Thankfully, this doesn’t detract from the wildly beautiful country-blues of Prinz Grizzley, aka Christopher Comper, and his three-piece band, His Beargaroos. They are slowly winning the audience over. There is barely anyone watching at first but it is probably the power behind the quartet that draw people in from the bar. Live, he is so much better than on record, a slide guitar sounding more desolate in the high ceiling above us. Comper’s voice is distinctive but comparable to Caleb Followill in range and intensity, howling at the moon from his trailer park or, at least, a remote farm somewhere in his native Austria. Going back to a time where music was a simpler beast, he pens love songs that are best listened to up a mountain wearing a cowboy hat. Prinz Grizzley and co are uncomplicated boys from “A little village in Europe” and, by the end of their set, I just want to hop in the back seat of their Americana-fuelled pick up and listen to them round the campfire every night. A big, big sound.
What else to do when the rain is lashing down and the wind is whipping you in the face but go and stand in a hushed room, watching two men perform some experimental music? Watching Group Listening could only be described as a ‘what the f*ck’ moment. As in, no one really knows what’s going on but at the same time want to know more about this peculiar duo, who seem awkward faced with the polite applause of a rather bemused Brighton. Their debut album, Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works Vol. 1 features ambient works from the likes of Brian Eno and Robert Wyatt – Welshman Stephen Black, on clarinet, is best known as Sweet Baboo (who has previously collaborated with Gruff) and pianist Paul is acclaimed in the genre of jazz and noise improv. Both are undoubtedly talented, using their instruments, cassette recordings and other manipulative techniques to create atmospheric instrumentals. However, it appears that the crowd was not expecting something so, well, weird because few seem to get it; amazing given that we are in a city named this year as the hipster capital of the world, surely a place that this sort of thing was invented for.