Menace Beach are potent. All scuzzed-up guitars paired with infectious melodies, the ‘Ratworld’ quintet may still be in the early throes of their career but they’re still taking on the world and winning. With tracks like set opener ‘Tennis Court’ - with its balance of satisfying crunch and gorgeous pop hooks - it’s no surprise really. Another show down, another crowd converted - they’re a highlight on DIY’s stage at The Arch.
It’s the surest test yet of Girl Band’s potential over at the Corn Exchange. For years now, the Dublin group have been circuiting small venues and bit-by-bit building their rep. But the precise, hypnotising sound they sport has always been destined to floor crowds in the thousands. Tonight’s flat, wide open space plays into their hands. What’s usually razor-sharp and calculated feels even more bold in this kind of setting, and a thirty-minute set races by in what feels like mere seconds. That’s largely down to Dara Kiely, whose pendulum swing from pensive to maddened remains a unique sight. He’ll pull his hair out, tug at a stripy tee, eyeball the grand arched ceilings looking for some kind of escape. It’s like watching someone lose their mind without warning, and it’s magnetic. His bandmates play a crucial role, executing every blast of noise with the kind of control you’d expect from scientists. This is a remarkable band - there’s nobody else remotely like them.
Photos: Crows and Menace Beach.
What would The Great Escape be without stumbling across the occasional surprise gem? Performing the second of two sets this weekend, The Xcerts may not be on the official line-up this year, but that’s not stopping them. In fact, they’ve managed to draw quite the crowd on the final evening, as they perform at the Fiddler’s Elbow Street Party under a shaky-looking gazebo. Plowing through a full-throttle set of mostly new material - including ‘I Don’t Care’, ‘Pop Song’ and ‘Shaking In The Water’ - their blend of grunged-up pop rock proves to be the perfect unexpected treat.
When it comes to putting on a show, look no further than Spector. As stage entrances at The Great Escape go, theirs is brilliant: while the full band take to the stage to begin their intro, in struts frontman Fred MacPherson, from the front door of the venue before meandering his way through the crowd to join them. Tonight there’s no doubting the four-piece are going to have some fun.
Whether it’s during their bombastic renditions of old favourites ‘Celestine’ and ‘Chevy Thunder’, the smooth crooning of new cuts ‘Don’t Make Me Try’ and ‘All The Sad Young Men’ or simply just MacPherson’s witty onstage commentary, there’s very little here not to love.
In the space of a couple of hours, Gengahr play two different shows on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The first sees them showcasing debut album ‘A Dream Outside’ at The Haunt, blending ravaged solos with a tightly-wound sense of control. But everything’s out of their hands by the time they wheel their instruments over to the other side of town for an impromptu house party. Any ability to set the agenda is far gone now, as they haphazardly start playing in near pitch black darkness. But chaos serves Gengahr well. They might be about precision on record, but in circumstances completely out of their comfort zone, they find another level. These guys have already played The O2, so you wouldn’t imagine this to be a test: But in the comfy, chaotic confines of a stranger’s house, they buzz off a nervous energy and produce the goods.
In the same cardboard-covered space - Sellotape plasters the front room window to read “SORRY FOR THE NOISE” to any passers by - London trio Yak are ready to break the doors down. Packed together like choked commuters on a tube, they huddle up and stretch psych and noise in every direction imaginable. They essentially play until the speakers break. Oliver Burslem crowds over an organ and barely looks up for a moment’s pause, and within an extensive set they only deliver a couple of actual songs - the rest is noise. And it’s the kind of momentum-building, forceful sound that’s allowed Yak to stand out in a pack of chancers. They’re the real package, and they could go on forever if they fancied.
Photos: Meat Wave and Oscar.
All photos: Emma Swann / DIY. Words: Sarah Jamieson and Jamie Milton.