“I am so pleased to be here on Halloween! And this place is called The Haunt which makes me so happy… and you sold it out!” beams Freya Ridings as she looks out over the packed venue. Fans are shoved in every nook and cranny, craning to catch a glimpse of the latest darling graduate of the BRIT school, who has been extremely attention-grabbing following the release of her debut single, ‘Blackout’, in spring last year. Just 24 years old and immaculately, radiantly beautiful – tonight sporting a festive cobweb painted on her left cheek – she seems genuinely touched by the electric reaction she gets. Of course, there is still the murmur of some people at the back who prefer to come to a gig to rabbit on to anyone who will listen, but with an emphatic “sssssshhhhhh” coming from the more fervent listeners amongst us, the majority of the room falls silent in appropriate reverence.
This being one of the most highly-anticipated gigs of the year, from one of the most important bands of recent times, expectations were understandably elevated tonight, for what had been an immediate sell out when tickets went on sale a few months ago. Idles duly delivered, in what was a riotous celebration of music and communion, led by the exuberant singer/lyricist Joe Talbot.
After three years away, First Aid Kit applied the perfect balm for any troubled souls on a gorgeous night at the Dome. This year’s Ruins was a heartbroken and heartbreaking record, as much about the dissolution of Klara Söderberg’s relationship as it was the sudden geographical distance between her and her sister, Johanna. Through all of the hurt, however, the record contained an ability to turn sadness into joy – a feeling that carried through tonight’s show. First though, a word on The Staves. The Dome is the perfect location for their beautiful harmonies, the room packed with adoring fans to an extent rarely seen for a supposed support act. Each track from the three sisters is met with wild acclaim, a cover of The Waterboys’ ‘Whole Of The Moon’ slotting in perfectly to a set that surely demands a return visit to this venue in their own right.
As I stand alone on the top balcony of The Haunt, listening to trap blasting out of the PA, I look down to a packed-out crowd. I remind myself that everyone here, including myself, has come to see a solo jazz drummer perform live. Yussef Dayes nearly sold-out the gig before dropping his debut release, ‘Love is the Message’, selling out days later with only two tracks to his name.
As a man who defies his critics, I was excited to see Tom Odell for what would be my second time, the last being after the release of his sophomore album, Wrong Crowd, back in 2016. Odell was due to play the Brighton Centre once more, having performed there previously with support from Rag’n’Bone Man, an artist who has achieved monumental success since. Because of this, I was intrigued as to who would be supporting Odell this time around and was a little surprised when the gig was moved to Brighton Dome, although still excited having already witnessed what a great performer he is.
To say it’s been quite a year for Our Girl is rather the understatement. From releasing their debut album, to live sessions on Radio 6 music, European festivals, and finally finishing off the year with a UK headline tour. So, what better way to round up a headline tour than with a homecoming show?
After their triumphant debut Brighton show at The Haunt back in March, and subsequently huge showcase at The Great Escape Festival, we weren’t expecting to see the multi-national collective back in Brighton so soon. Nevertheless, their return at Concorde 2 was another joyous experience with the band and one that further reinforces the magnificent nature of their debut record. Playing every single track from the album, this was a brilliantly bizarre showcase of the eponymous record that wonderfully closed the chapter on their outstanding first period as a band.
The Green Door Store always smells of incense. The quirky venue, all raw brick and uneven flooring, somehow goes hand-in-hand with the bands billed, something cosy and familiar about being in the intimate setting. For a sold out evening mid-week, it’s not too busy when Psychic Markers get going. Apparently they have played a few dates on this tour already and are tired so the quietly judging atmosphere of the audience might be a welcome break or it might be intimidating. It’s hard to tell what they make of it really. Starting with as much energy as they can muster, they look and sound like a seasoned indie-rock band. Singer Stephen Dove has killer cheekbones and cuts a similar figure to the Thin White Duke or even Jarvis Cocker due to his Northern accent, while lead guitarist, Leon, looks appropriately attired with striped top and thick rimmed glasses. Also in the Bella Union stable, their strongest tracks are the newest in the set, such as the experimental ‘Clouds’, though older ones like ‘200 Thousand Years Ago’ and the vastly repetitive ‘Hardly Strangers’ are more than danceable, the chanting vocals of the latter lending a 70s Iggy Pop feel to the occasion. Psychic Markers may be a bit lacklustre during this particular performance – perhaps due to the unexplained absence of their female member – but there remains something intriguing about their musical melting pot that is definitely worthy of attention when they’ve caught up on their beauty sleep.
Music has this tendency to throw up the unexpected. Take Elizabeth Benholz, aka Gazelle Twin, a new mother, and outwardly normal looking. However, when she immerses herself in music, she wholeheartedly takes on a partial alter-ego (part her, part someone else), and makes sounds and sings lyrics utterly at odds with her public persona. Appearances, in her case, can be misleading.
They must be putting something in the water down under. Producing stars in every genre, there’s an exciting feeling happening whenever an Aussie act hits the city. Haiku Hands, without a doubt the buzziest band of the entire Great Escape, made a speedy return to Brighton at Komedia’s Studio Bar. Despite the fact it was on a Monday, the Australian trio still managed to bring the party vibes and continued and defined their reputation as one of the most exciting bands in the world right now. Like their compatriots Confidence Man, Haiku Hands are a fresh, vibrant and exuberant slice of indie-pop and one of the most contagiously captivating live acts.