It’s testament to the power of the Brighton scene that it feels like every week a local band is making the step up to headline a venue they’ve once played first support in to a couple of friends. This is true for Brighton quartet Twilight Driving, who played to a packed out Hope & Ruin in aid of their brilliant new single ‘Dangerous’ – which we called a, “Hook-heavy, synth-laden call-to-arms” on its release. No doubt one of, if not the, greatest showcase of the band thus far in their short careers, Twilight Driving owned the stage from start to finish, exhibiting their stadium-ready pop-rock to their passionate crowd.
While 2018 has, largely, seen the rise in raucous, politically-charged anthems take the limelight – with the likes of Shame and Idles producing incredible moments both on record and in the live sphere – and capturing the imaginations of wild, youthful audiences, there’s also been a quieter, more reflective style sending adolescent music fans into raptures. One such artist is Matt Maltese, who released his debut album, Bad Contestant, in the summer, and celebrated his fantastic year with a lowkey show at The Haunt.
Florence Welch has been there and done that in her (relatively) short career. She’s won an Ivor Novello award, she’s headlined Glastonbury festival, and she’s toured arenas consistently for the last five years, so you’d forgive her for phoning it in on one of her smallest dates on the High as Hope tour in Brighton. Never one to not put in 100%, however, she provided her adoring fans with an iconic greatest hits display and, in the process, showcased her beautiful, heart-rendering vocals and magnetic stage presence.
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.
The noise levels surrounding this gig is the only thing that comes close to the volume on the night. Amongst a certain scene, the only question on anyone’s lips is, “Are you going to Pigs?” Over and over. It’s no surprise that a show at The Haunt early next year has already been announced, such is the anticipation tonight.
Voodoo and the Crypts have been impressing us for a while now, with excellent live shows across the city, and three excellent singles detailing their baggy outlook on indie-rock. Their show at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, their biggest ever headline show, was just another step in the rise of the band and felt like a genuinely special occasion with an excellent line-up and a beautiful cover from the band.
It’s been quite the year for Jade Bird. The unmistakeable noise of hype has surrounded the diminutive singer from Hexham all through 2018, boosted initially by word-of-mouth before reaching fever pitch after an appearance on Later With Jools and a multitude of festival slots. Packing a Brighton venue for the second time in a year, The Haunt was a sizeable upgrade tonight from March’s Green Door Store show. With her debut album wrapped only days before and being prepped for a 2019 release, tonight was a chance to prove that the initial excitement is now capable of bearing real fruit.
I have a friend who, over the last ten years or so, asks me at least once a year, “Have you seen Afro Celt Sound System live?” to which I answer “no” and he tells me I really must. So when I saw they were playing the Dome it seemed like a good chance to see what he was on about. The band do not have a support as they play from 8pm till they are kicked off stage with a short 20 minute break in the middle. So for the first set they come on to the stage with a droney sound playing and kick things off with an African female singing solo before the rest of the band join in. More and more layers are added until it’s in full swing with all the ten members playing an eclectic mix of instruments and sounds.
Four years ago, Courtney Barnett turned up for The Great Escape, playing well past midnight. For me, it was the highlight of the festival, her infectious exuberance matched by the quality of songs at her disposal. Then, although very much the singing frontwoman, she was on the left of the stage, part of a threesome that literally rocked. Tonight, she’s very much centre stage, an acknowledgment that, even though she has the same bassist and drummer (along with fourth member Katie Harkin), she is now the star of the show.
Despite her public persona that comes across as a little bit frustrated and disinterested with the attention she’s been getting these last few years, on stage she has no qualms. It’s the music after all, and more than most indie stars, she really does seem to revel in playing in front of people.
As time goes by, its becoming easy to forget just how bloody massive Britpop was before it all imploded as dramatically as it burst into the mainstream. Not just in the music charts, which were dominated by it in all its various strands from Blur to Robbie, Union Jack flags printed on both dresses and guitars, its stars adorning the front pages and the gossip pages. Sleeper were right in the thick of it, Louise Wener an inescapable presence in the charts alongside her band (affectionately known at the time as the ‘Sleeperblokes’). Last year saw them return to the fray for the first time in 22 years with a show at The Haunt that showed that none of the affection that they were held in had faded. That lit the spark that sees them return as a touring band proper, with new songs to boot. On tonight’s showing, they won’t be going away again for a good while yet.