This is why we love The Great Escape Festival. This is also why bands are wise to play at the three day event. Ultimately the weekend is a showcase for emerging bands and finds such as the one we provide for you today are precisely what the event is really all about. Make all the plans and schedules you like for the city festival, but with over 300 bands, at thirty venues, last minute changes and unavoidable queues, it is perhaps advisable for visitors to prepare for the unexpected and assume you’re gonna have to alter your intentions at some point. This chaos often leads people to make plans B and C, walking into shows at times they didn’t expect, in venues they didn’t know existed, regularly resulting in them catching a live performance that can totally side-swipe you unawares. We’re not suggesting that these punts are always winners, but it often enables you to uncover the occasional magical set, from a band you’ve never heard of. Before The Great Escape Festival we’d never heard of Heart-Ships. Now we have. Now you have too. That, in a nutshell, is the festival’s entire purpose.
We remember the heart-warming story of how our step-father saw a relatively unknown band, with a spotty but confident frontman, in a basement, in the 70s, play some new brand of punked indie music whilst stood on a stage made from upturned milk crates. That band are better known to us now as U2. The Great Escape festival is set up to provide plenty of these ‘I-was-there‘ moments. Sometimes the importance of your discovery can only be revealed years later, as you see the band fulfil it’s potential, but in Heart-Ships we think they’ve bottled the kind of rare magical promise that could see them really flourish in due course. This six-strong band, based in Leeds, who started out approximately 18 months ago, are now currently looking at all the offers that sit upon their table and they’ve informed us that they hope to make a decision and have their first big release ready by the end of the summer. Having seen them live last weekend, we’re going to be listening out for that debut album with keen ears.
This is a band who write the kind of rousing, contagious indie music that will no doubt produce a fantastic album, but it’s with their live show that their potent tonic seems to truly grab you. If this were the 1500s then this band would be a group of pirates sailing the high seas, clashing tankards as they sang their stirring tales. It’s with this imagery that we consider the choice of band name to be even better suited, although we’re not sure that was their intention. Either way they’ve nailed the live experience, giving it everything they’ve got, as the frontman, Ryan Cooke, summons a spirited performance, whilst the guitarists are seen to turn and closely play to each other nose to nose behind him. There’s something about the moment at a live show where you notice all of the band members are singing along with the main vocalist, even though they don’t actually have a mic in front of them. It shows how into the music they are, it shows they’re wrapped up in the moment, and it’s impossibly infectious. Arcade Fire do it to brilliant effect as you watch the two violists singing with heads thrown back, entirely un-amplified, at the side of the stage. It’s also something we witnessed at a recent We Are Augustines show. It’s utterly irresistible.
Tracks such as Spraypaint have the kind of emotional call to arms that gets the people at the BBC falling over each other to apply it to a sporting-based television montage. It leaves you breathless, properly breathless, as if you just went ten rounds in a ring you shouldn’t have stepped into. This is emotive indie music that aims straight for your pulse and confidently raises it with every thudding crescendo. It’s more in evidence with their tune, A Lake, which also begins softly with Cooke’s vocals slowly appearing out of the illuminated mist created by the guitars, but before long the tankards are once again crashing. That same ability to triumphantly climb upwards is once again on show with their song, Heart Of A Wrestler, but this time it’s magnified, as it wonderfully breaks at 3 minutes and 45 seconds to a dramatic Adam Ant-like drum slam, before Cooke’s voice begins to break as he calls out. The whole thing reaches it’s peak over the last couple of minutes, as they shout out the appropriate line, “a heart of a wrestler never submits“. This is the kind of extraordinary defiant music that’s played with a metaphorically clenched fist.
The Recommender does it’s best to position itself as part of your music discovery. We want you to genuinely locate at least something on these blog pages that you can take away with you. It’s our altruistic nature, our reason d’etre. At it’s heart, The Great Escape’s magic carries the exact same rewards. With unfortunate queues shutting you out of a popular showcase you’re forced to improvise a plan B and it’s this process that allows the festival to deliver hope at the exact moment when you’d thought it had been taken from you. Heart-Ships are still in the pre-debut album stages and although they’ve been steering themselves into position for over a year, they can be considered as an emerging band, so it’s unlikely that many of the Great Escape festival attendees circled them as one of their ‘must-sees’ as soon as they opened their schedule planners. However, the rewards on offer at the tiny venue showcasing this act were as bountiful as any. The huff and puff of this hard-working band mean they could easily expand the experience into a much larger venue, and if there’s any justice then by the next festival it’s those bigger stages that they’ll be appearing on. You just never know, but there’s a possibility that in years to come we could be regaling anecdotal stories of how we saw Heart-Ships with just forty others in a tiny upstairs bar in Brighton. (MB)
HEART SHIPS – SPRAYPAINT
HEART SHIPS – PINHOLE OF LIGHT