#TGE16

Blaenavon and Willie J. Healey shine a light for gloomy guitar-work at The Great Escape

Two of British indie’s most promising prospects take massive steps up at the Brighton bash.

The gloomy arches of Coalition feel like home for Blaenavon. Not many bands this weekend could spin a hook out of the line “Let’s pray, let’s pray, let’s pray for death”, much less follow it up with “maybe I hate you cause you’re just like me and still have it feel like a lipstick kiss on a love letter. It’s that dark romanticism that’s the London lot’s calling card.

Debuting tracks from an incoming debut album, Blaenavon prove there’s far more to them than tender ages and fresh-out-the-printer A-Level certificates. ‘Hell Is My Head’ from last year’s ‘Miss World’ EP was the first hint at their gothier side, and ‘Orthodox Man’ from that aforementioned full length proves they’ve done well to succumb to the smoke. “It’s about being a slave to someone you luuuuurrrve,” jokes frontman Ben Gregory, that gloomy take on love once again proving to be the secret to their signature.

Older material on the other hand, feels lacking in that identity. There’s evidence in every step tonight that Blaenavon are ready to graduate into the big leagues, though. Their fanbase is undeniable – ‘Into The Night’ dedicated to “all the absolute legends in the front that I see about fifty times a year” – and new single and set closer ‘I Will Be The World’ is the secret weapon that should see it swell. Billowing and blossoming like a mushroom cloud on the not-so-distant horizon, with every surge forth, ‘I Will Be The World’ finds Blaenavon finally exorcising their growing pains to dazzling effect.

Blaenavon and Willie J. Healey shine a light for gloomy guitar-work at The Great Escape Blaenavon and Willie J. Healey shine a light for gloomy guitar-work at The Great Escape Blaenavon and Willie J. Healey shine a light for gloomy guitar-work at The Great Escape Blaenavon and Willie J. Healey shine a light for gloomy guitar-work at The Great Escape

Willie J. Healey playing DIY's Hello 2016 earlier this year.

Round the corner later that evening, Willie J. Healey proves Gregory’s not the only baritone, guitar-clad crooner worth a turn of the head. Impossibly tight, Healey and band do their utmost to shake off the sogginess of a typical day down the British seaside.

Every bit the class clown, it’s impossible not to warm to him, despite the downpour. “This one’s called ‘Subterranean’, it starts slow and it ends… slow,” he smirks, “so enjoy that.” Pairing scratchy, bluesy guitar solos with a beach-rock swagger, he takes the promise showcased at January’s Hello 2016 show and amps everything up a million times over. At the rate Willie J. Healey’s evolving and improving, he’ll be topping big bills in no time.

Tags: Blaenavon, Willie J Healey, The Great Escape, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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