The Great Escape 2016 – Day Three: Saturday




Elifantree at Patterns:


Incomprehensible (sometimes Finnish) vocals: Check.

Discordant but brilliant jazz saxophone: Check.

Live broken drum-and-bass-and-jazz-inspired beats: Check.

Sudden unexpected screams, yelps and electronic howls thrown in to add confusion: Yup.

Don’t know why this is a checklist exactly, but these seem to be things I like. I can feel boxes I didn’t know I had being ticked. They all seem to be in a filing cabinet marked “barely-contained madness”.

I caught a lyric! “…shit myself / In time / What have we become?”

At one point the singer/screamer/keyboardist seems to be crying quite a lot, and explains how marvellous and shitty humankind can be. Fuck yeah!

Silly, serious, sublime.



Ary at Patterns:


Ok, so first things first: Ary looks ridiculously like a girl in my year-7 tutor group. Shouldn’t really bother anyone else hopefully.

Comparisons with Bjork are perhaps inevitable, although both Norwegians and Icelanders would probably call me racist for such a superficial observation. Still, I care so little about cultural appropriation that I once ate spaghetti while wearing a beret, so don’t listen to me!

The beats and instrumentation are complex yet accessible. Very pop-y, but still mature.

Each track stops suddenly. Not sure if that’s because these guys only write perfect 2-3-minute pop songs, or because they’re rushing through their content. They seem to fit a lot in.

With music and stage presence like this, Ary has star written all over her.

You’ll be hearing this name again.


Jones at the Wagner Hall:

Each venue seems to have its own character, with the acts all being very roughly similar. The Wagner Hall is sponsored by Vevo – a name I only know as accompanying more populist searches on YouTube.

Jones seems a tiny bit too beautiful, but I suppose she can’t really help that. Still, it fits with her chart-friendly music. This is the second gig I’ve seen here. Both were billed as acoustic and both weren’t. Strange.

Anyway, it’s also the second one I’m leaving early. Sorry Jones!


To run to catch the end of…


Theo Bard on Jubilee Street.


Which was also genre-bound, but bound in a genre (acoustic folk) which I like. He’s got a kick-drum pedal on his stomp box, and a tambourine on his shoe, and he sings in his own accent. Lovely! Would like to hear him play in a sunny field rather than a rain-soaked street.


Sticking with the venue theory, I return to Patterns for…


Aldous Harding.


Incredibly gentle, soothing plucked guitar, heartfelt lyrics and soulful vocals reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.

She does a good line in crazed looks, particularly during “What if Birds Aren’t Singing They’re Screaming?”, when she stands up and we can see her properly.

Horizon is the last track, and it continues the chilled-out/difficult theme.

I’m pretty sure she’s mad, but that’s cool with me.


Rozi Plain at the Paganini Ballroom.


There was a series of dramatic-sounding pops / minor explosions and then half an hour of frustrated silence while the band and the technicians struggled furiously to get a sound out. But win they did, and the crowd waited patiently.

Finally, we were treated to a melodic blend of laid-back indie rock with a crisp sugar shell of electronica. Personally I would have lost the electronica.

At one point it reminded me of Mazzy Star, but not for long enough. The bassist made some really crazy faces!


Pollyanna at the Queen’s Hotel.


Appalling, lifeless venue, which was almost completely empty, having sucked all the joie-de-vive from the surrounding area.

The drummer immediately became my friend by playing a bowl, a bunch of keys, and a very large spanner.

Really lovely folk music. This is what I want to be playing in a warm pub with good people around.

The singer mentions that the size of the band varies from one to six “sometimes with strings”. I think that would be worth seeing.



Anna Meredith at Paganini Ballroom:

Starts with a weird rising tone on the cello, which honestly makes me nauseous.

This was followed by repetitive, discordant, droning. People seem happy, but I honestly can’t tell why.

If you’ve got a cello AND a tuba, you really should be able to do better than this.

Left for…


The Ramona Flowers at Sticky Mike’s.

Sort of like if Foals teamed up with Tears for Fears.

I didn’t hate it, but I almost certainly will never listen to them again.



And the final leg…



DMAs at The Corn Exchange:

The Oasis tribute band that the world wasn’t waiting for.

I did this in 1995, when I got run over in the car park of the Sheffield Arena after watching the Gallaghers.

I’m not saying that this is worse than getting run over exactly. But it’s pretty boring.



Jagwar Ma at the Corn Exchange:


I have a friend who claims that this is the best live band around today. And the festival organisers clearly agree, at least to some extent, as they’ve crammed us all in here to close the festival. So I was looking forward to seeing this. Here are my thoughts, as I entered them into my phone:

The Orb?

Primal Scream?



Nah, it’s Underworld. But, tellingly, it’s very very early-nineties.

The rest of my group were off their respective tits at this stage, and aren’t as grumpy as me to start with, so they were more impressed than I was. Anyway, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it. I certainly did, and I did do enthusiastic, earnest dancing, so that says a lot!

Made me feel fifteen again. Fuck I was cool back then!



Elifantree! What a glorious, mad, brilliant display! If jazz went mad and invented a new kind of cake, this would be it. I smiled all the way through!


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