The Great Escape Festival – Day 3

May 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm (Gigs, Music)

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Ah, if only more Great Escape venues shared their toilets with two-bit karaoke bars or similarly empty establishments, things would be so much easier. Komedia could be accessed through some organic juice bar, the Brighton Fishing Museum would provide a handy gateway into a number of sea-side clubs, and one could nip into the Mash Tun for a swift pint only to emerge in the spacious Corn Exchange and actually get to see The Maccabees. It would certainly beat all that queuing.

The Veils@Horatios

The Veils@Horatios

Sadly only one venue that I know of offers this particular quirk, but it is a serendipitous discovery that allows us a second view of the excellent Veils ***. Sadly Horatios end of pier charms are no match for the acoustics of the Sallis Benney Theatre, and the sound is too muddy and compressed to really do the band justice. The strength of their arrangements however, ensures they leave a lasting impression on the crowd. Finn Andrew’s voice is rich and powerful enough to fill any venue, and with the lead guitar lines taking on greater prominence the band discard some of the subtleties in favour of a harder, blues orientated set.

The blame for our late arrival at Horatios can be laid at the collective feet of The Levis Store and the Great Escape’s text service, who have conspired to seduce us into believing that tickets for a ‘secret’ Babyshambles gig are available from Churchill Square. Needless to say this information is received just as we are approaching the pier, necessitating a frenzied and ultimately fruitless detour through a packed and muggy town centre.

Luckily for those who have missed out on tickets, the aforementioned gig is to take place on Audio’s outside patio. This leads to hundreds of fans lining the streets outside the venue, leaning precariously out of overlooking balconies, and cramming themselves into the adjacent Amsterdam Bar in the hope of catching a glimpse of their wayward hero. The band are a good hour late, but the waiting hordes are finally rewarded with a short set of fan favourites including ‘Pipedown’ and ‘Fuck Forever’ and get to witness Pete’s footballing ability first hand when he dispatches a football thrown up to him from the crowd with a well placed header.

Thankfully Audio is a little less packed out for the double header of The Soft Pack *** and Hockey ***** later in the evening. Unfortunately for the former, the sound levels within the cramped venue are not what they could be, and the more melodic parts of the band’s set are suffocated in a haze of compressed top-end thrash. As a result, The Soft Pack’s Modern Lovers meets In Utero era Nirvana stylings sound one dimensional and half formed, which is a shame as there is a faintly detectable suggestion of compelling guitar work running underneath it all. At least the guitarist provides some visual amusement, as he continually contorts his face into a passable impersonation of a Care in the Community kid in the midst of visiting his first prostitute.

The Soft Pack - Cum-face guitarist not pictured

The Soft Pack - Cum-face guitarist not pictured

Hockey, on the other hand, have no such problem. Their DFA inspired hyper-funk connects with the audience immediately and by halfway through their second song there is not one stationary set of feet in the whole venue. Smooth bass lines intersect convulsive guitar riffs, while the swirling synths coat the entire set in a soulful warmth that perfectly accompanies singer Benjamin Grubin’s vocals. Tracks like ‘Work’ and ‘Too Fake’ sound instantly familiar, while at the same time lending themselves perfectly to extended improvisations that ramp up the intensity. At this rate, they will be household names within a year.

From here it is straight off to the Concorde2 for a night of live dance music form two of Brighton’s finest. First up is Evil Nine ***** who have gone the whole hog and fully expanded into a four-piece live band, and proceed to take their music far beyond the limitations of their initial break-beat style. Throwing everything from Afro-beat to fuzz-rock into a huge melting pot of invention, they manage to combine dark, sleazy basslines and overdriven guitar with dub vocals and infectious pop hooks, laying them perfectly over incessant beats. The genius of it is that it doesn’t just feel like a pair of DJ’s who have roped in some mates to lend their set an air of heightened musicianship. Instead, they come across as a fully formed and tightly rehearsed band, working as a unit to produce something that is more than the sum of its parts.

Freeland brings the festival to a suitably messy close

Freeland brings the festival to a suitably messy close

Following this, we have Freeland ****, whose set is slightly closer to a conventional live take on his work as a DJ. Again, the line-up is augmented by guitar and drums, with Freeland himself strutting around behind a bank of keyboards like some rockabilly SS commander, and pumping up the crowd with his dance-punk vocal delivery. Whereas Evil Nine win the crowd over with exotic rhythms, panache and band interplay, Freeland elects to simply bludgeon them into submission with intense salvos of dark power, as unrelenting blasts of bass and strobe hammer the crowd into joyful oblivion. There is (slight) respite with a closing ‘We Want Your Soul’, which at least offers a recognisable refrain for the audience to shout back with, but for the most part this is a set done Freeland’s way; dark, dirty and totally unstoppable.

Final Thoughts

As we stagger out into the night and begin to contemplate a return to our bleak non-festival existence, there are a few additional observations which warrant a mention. These are:

1)      Honourable mentions to a couple of bands I missed for one reason or another. Including The Temper Trap (everyone I know who saw them said they were excellent), The Bombay Bicycle Club (constantly clashed with other gigs), The Big Pink (who cancelled), and Casiokids.

2)      Drinks prices. £3.60 for a small plastic bottle of Carlsberg? Really? I know you’re not making much on the door, but there was an occasion where we elected to go to a pub for a drink rather than watch some random band at Komedia as we simply couldn’t afford to drink there. We’re not all industry insiders you know.

3)      The organisation was, I think, better again this year. The head honchos seem to have realised that it’s probably best getting some of the bigger, headlining acts into the Corn Exchange, as it’s massive. Yes, there were still queues, but other than putting the band on the beach and the audience in the sea, there’s not much else that could have been done.

4)      There were some slight odd bits of scheduling however. Hockey played twice at two of the smallest venues in the festival despite being one of the more hotly tipped acts to appear, and separately ticketed bands should not be classed as part of the festival. Making people pay twice to go and see Kasabian may seem like poetic justice for having no taste, but it still seems a bit unfair.

5)      More bands in the daytime next time please. We like bands, and we like drinking in the day.

First published at TheBrightonMagazine.com

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The Great Escape Festival – Day 2

May 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm (Gigs, Health) ()

Holy Fuck

Holy Fuck

Day 2 of the Great Escape and it’s an early-ish start at the King and Queen for an afternoon that kicks off with Guilford’s Tommy Monroe **. Looking like the freshly exhumed corpse of a 1970’s Bowie impersonator dug up and reanimated in Shoreditch, his vocal histrionics cut cleanly enough through thrashed acoustic guitar, but the substance fails to truly captivate. His repertoire does include a song entitled ‘Giraffes’ which is a good thing. The following number entitled ‘Lah Di Dah’, less so.

3 Seeds in Paris

3 Seeds in Paris

Tommy is followed by Three Seeds in Paris *** who own the relatively small stage with all the panache of seasoned performers, and you expect, require a wheel barrow to transport their collective bollocks from gig to gig. Even the most cursory scan of their lyrics is pretty inadvisable however, and the whole thing veers dangerously toward style over substance pub rock, but they are tight enough and cocky enough to invite further interest. If they can stop shunting their lead guitarist to the back of the stage and the depths of the mix, they could be an exciting proposition.

This is more than can be said for Sheffield’s Spires **. Other than a monster of a drummer who comes off as half club bouncer and half school bully, the only part of their show to create any interest at all is the stuffed owl that adorns the front of the stage, and when you’re being overshadowed by taxidermy you know you’re in trouble.

Spires, essentially

Spires, essentially

After a short break to re-fuel, it’s off into the squalling rain to the Sallis Benney Theatre for New Zealand’s Veils **** for which there is a massive queue. With the delegates pass finally coming into its own, I am granted entrance to a truly mesmerising show as lead singer Finn Andrews unleashes his incredible verbal assault into the intimate, scarlet-tinged auditorium. Backed by what appear to be an angel, a surly schoolgirl bassist, and a lead guitarist that is somehow both bitingly sharp and warmly resonant, the group receive a rapturous reception. The one slight nagging doubt is Andrews’ uncanny vocal similarity to Jeff Buckley, which is eerily spot on, but with songs this good I’m past caring.

The Veils

The Veils

Next up on a quite excellent bill for the theatre is hotly tipped Micachu and the Shapes ***. Having seen their performance at the Concorde2 supporting Late of the Pier last February, I failed to see what all the fuss was about, but on today’s showing the hype is beginning to seem justified. At times coming across like a deranged skiffle band, their low-fi ethos extends to the keyboardist using upturned wine bottles for percussion, while even the drummer, who is working with a full kit, sounds like a toddler smashing away at a selection of his mother’s saucepans. Underneath this fuzzy chaos however lurks a creative mind with the complexity to work through several time signatures per song, and produce a wildly disparate selection of sounds from just three band members, while still fitting in killer pop hooks. Like a small child harbouring a terrible secret, Micachu is at once cute, beguiling, precocious and terrifying and only a series of technical difficulties prevents this show from being an unadulterated triumph.

Micachu and the Shapes

Micachu and the Shapes

The dismay engendered by the size of the queue for Casiokids at PoNaNa’s is topped only by the disturbing revelation that both The Golden Silvers and The Big Pink’s shows have been cancelled at Komedia. With precious little time to get anywhere and back in time for Holy Fuck ***** at 10.15, we decamp to the William 4th for a pint in preparation for the coming onslaught. And what an onslaught it is too. On the surface, Holy Fuck come across as four of your coolest mates who’ve been mainlining Neu, The Chemical Brothers and science textbooks on synaesthesia for a few years and then brought their esoteric collection of vintage analogue equipment round to yours for a jam. This spirit of experimentalism provides the perfect spark of creativity to ensure the band’s songs never outstay their welcome, while the musicianship and drive of the live bass and percussion keeps everything taught and focussed. The perfect band for the moment, and a great example of key elements including lighting, sound setup and venue converging to create a wonderful whole.

It’s hard to see what could top them in all honesty, and any band playing the Corn Exchange at midnight this year seem to be encumbered with the elevated expectations of a crowd who have queued for over an hour in the cold to be granted access. The scenes at the door and in the snaking shivering queue verge on the ridiculous as the patience of punters is tested by the weather, their bladders and people attempting to push in. Under the circumstances it’s hard to see how any band could live up to this kind of build up, but Metronomy *** give it a good go.

Bolstered by the addition of a full live band, Joseph Mount’s electro pop is easily meaty enough to fill the venue to the rafters, and each song is delivered with technical panache and infectious energy. If anything the live set is almost too perfect a reproduction of the band’s recorded work to truly thrill the crowd, but for the most part they are eagerly receptive. Arms are raised aloft in joyous salute, hair flails around to frenetic beats, and lyrics are shouted back with vengeance, which for a size of crowd this big is an achievement in itself. There’s even a pretty large and totally unexpected mosh circle near the front that sucks in innocent bystanders and churns out goggled eyed, sharp elbowed whirling dervishes which probably says more about the barely contained frustration of the queues, than the band themselves.

Holy Fuck pop in to spin some tunes afterwards, but for the majority it’s off into the night for further adventures and the promise of more to come tomorrow.

First published ay TheBrightonMagazine.com

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The Great Escape Festival – Day 1

May 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm (Gigs, Music) ()

Check shirts and day-glo sunglasses? Sticky, sweaty half naked throngs of kids eagerly vying for position? Relentless drizzle?

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It must be the start of the great British festival season. And what better way to ease yourself in than a 3 day jaunt around your home town complete with a seemingly endless supply of beer in plastic glasses, more hot new bands than you can shake a stick, at and your own (or someone else’s) warm bed to crawl home to at the end of the night.

Now in its 4th year, Brighton’s Great Escape festival has evolved into Europe’s top showcase for new musical talent, and sees industry insiders and fans alike partake on a mad dash around the city’s pubs and clubs in the hope of catching the next big thing, or for some inexplicable reason, The Charlatans. The myriad complexities of the events timetabling (some bands playing more than once, last minute cancellations, secret gigs etc) causes plans to be made and then hastily scrapped and re-arranged at a moment’s notice, lending the festival a surreal, madcap edge.It is somewhat akin to attempting an orienteering course combined with a pub-crawl, with an A&R man in one ear and Zane Lowe’s mp3 player in the other.

Zane Lowe in one ear, an A&R man in the other

Zane Lowe in one ear, an A&R man in the other

We begin our evening at Audio to check out the rather dubious sounding Video Nasties ** who actually sound quite promising in the first couple of minutes, all sea shanty organ sounds and building atmospheric guitars. However said keyboards are promptly obliterated by the time that their first proper song announces itself through a medley of wild curly hair, intense vocals and crashing drums. The band do show signs of inventiveness in the numerous breakdowns that pepper each track, but the hardcore thrashing around in-between starts to get stale before their half hour slot is up. They do have a bassist who looks like one of the Goth kids from South Park however, so all is not lost.

'Goth Kids dance to express pain and suffering'

'Goth Kids dance to express pain and suffering'

Next it’s off to the Honeyclub for a horribly under-promoted Maps***, who play to a fairly bemused crowd, half of whom are expecting someone else entirely. Those that are here to see James Chapman’s live ensemble are equally bemused, mostly as he appears to have done away with all that lush, sweeping electronic loveliness, and appears to be trying to cave their heads in with some sort of warped hardcore techno. Traces of well loved songs such as ‘Back+Forth’ and ‘It Will Find You’ are still vaguely present, but they are now beefed up almost beyond recognition with chest rattling drum beats and a cacophonic wall of synthesisers. It’s actually pretty impressive, but for the time of day and size of venue, it fails to really engage the crowd in the way that perhaps a more accurate representation of his work on record may have.

It is now not only very muggy, but also very wet outside but undeterred, we fight through the feeling of being suffocated by a damp dog and charge ahead to Komedia for a bit of Everything Everything ***. It is probably safe to say that the band have heard the odd Futureheads record, but they also have a way with a tune that belies such lazy comparisons and sets them out as an interesting proposition in their own right. They have the whole jumpy lead vocal call and response trick down pat, and each song rolls along under the momentum of near continual changes in tempo and style. It often sounds as though they are playing 4 different songs at the same time, but for the most part their tightness and timing makes it all work. New single ‘Photoshop Handsome’ showcases their skills perfectly and leaves the crowd both contented, and eager to hear a bit more, which is exactly what you want really.

Fearing the first major queuing experience of the night we rush down to Hector’s House just in time to check out… a really bloody big queue. Sadly there will be no Hockey for us tonight (maybe we’ll have more luck at Audio on Saturday) so it’s off to the nearest venue, The Ocean Rooms to check out The Baddies.

Unfortunately they sound and look rubbish so it’s quickly off to the pitch dark of the Sallis Benny Theatre as we have remembered that the previously clashed with Mirrors**** are now open to our eagle eyed scrutiny. The theatre’s shadowy recesses are perfect for the band’s brooding synth heavy atmospherics. Most of the usual 80’s influences are present, from their regimented Kraftwork-esq stage presence, to the dark pulsating undercurrent of bass that keeps each song ticking over with metronomic precision. Crucially however, they haven’t forgotten to write melodies to weave in and out of such backdrops. The end result pitches up somewhere between Duran Duran on a massive comedown and Cut Copy with stoic British bleakness replacing antipodean sunshine. It gives their performance a sense of beautiful melancholy, and finally settles the question of whether robots have feelings.

Mirrors-001

Mirrors

At this point we decide to attempt the Maccabees homecoming headline slot, and head the short distance to the Corn Exchange with a good 45 minutes to spare. The scene that awaits us is reminiscent of a soup kitchen during the great depression. Tired, sodden queues of people stretch off into the distance, all the way into the Pavilion Gardens, there are heated exchanges at the door, and a general air of hopelessness surrounds the situation.

The delegates queue is almost as bad, so we decide to cut our losses and head for the delights of Filthy Dukes **** at the Ocean Rooms, via a pit stop at the Market Diner. With precious other options available at this time of night, and the Concorde seeming a small eternity away, the Ocean Rooms is packed out with a motley assortment of wastrels, and for those too mashed or disorganised to get to the Maccabees early, the Dukes are just what the doctor ordered.

Some Dukes. Being filthy

Some Dukes. Being filthy

Seemingly intent on cramming every dance sub genre into each of their songs simultaneously, lead singer Tim Lawton soon has the crowd in a delirious frenzy of flailing arms and massive grins. While I’m not entirely sure they that they’re real Dukes (one of them has a baseball cap on), they certainly are filthy. ‘Come on Brighton, this is a nasty one!’ shouts Lawton as the band career into their final tune. The crowd don’t disappoint, and neither, thus far, has the festival.

First published at TheBrightonMagazine.com

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10 Marketing Slogans Lost in Translation

May 11, 2009 at 1:36 pm (Business)

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The advent of mass communication technology has revolutionised the way that companies approach their marketing strategies, and has given even the smallest of businesses a platform to tout their wares to all corners of the globe. It is no longer just the major corporate players that have to think about how their products can be marketed overseas, and as a result, the use of business translation services has skyrocketed.

However, while the decision to expand operations abroad is an exciting one, those wishing to branch out into foreign markets should remember a couple of important points.

Firstly, marketing products or services abroad requires some knowledge of the cultural values of the country you are dealing with, and companies should tailor their strategy accordingly. For example, when BMW and Mercedes started a major drive to break into the Japanese car market, they found that Japanese customers preferred the steering wheel to be located on the left, or wrong side, as it was seen as a status symbol.

Proof, if it were needed, that money cannot buy taste

Proof, if it were needed, that money cannot buy taste

Secondly, it is not simply enough just to use a literal translation of your slogan, or resorting to a phonetic equivalent of your company’s name. Coca Cola tried this approach when marketing their drink in China, choosing Chinese symbols that sounded similar to their brand name. The result, ‘Ke-kou-ke-la’, translates roughly as ‘Bite the wax tadpole’ and resulted in a costly search for a more appetising alternative.

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It is worthwhile ensuring that it is the actual message that you are trying to communicate which gets translated, rather than just the individual words. If not, you are almost guaranteed to ensure that your message is lost in translation, and at worst you may well end up confusing or insulting the very people whose business you are trying to attract, as the following examples prove.

1.   Ikea
The Swedish furniture magnate also ran into problems in Germany with its Gutvik bunk beds. While English shoppers have long since been amused by quaint sounding furniture names such as the ‘Toftbo’ bathroom mat or ‘Babord’ shoe rack, the pronunciation in German, ‘Gut Fick’ meaning ‘Good F**k’, had far more sinister undertones for a children’s bed.

The 'Gutvik' bunk-bed. Not for children.

The 'Gutvik' bunk-bed. Not for children.

2. Bacardi
The Cuban company attempted to export some Latin flair to European markets with their fruit based ‘Pavane’ drink. Unfortunately its exotic charms were somewhat lost in Germany where it was easily misheard in busy bars as ‘Pavian’, or ‘baboon’.

3. Colgateimages
The world renowned oral health company caused a minor faux pax in France with the introduction of its new ‘Cue’ toothpaste. In France, the word ‘cul’, or ‘ass’ is pronounced with a silent ‘l’, bringing a whole new meaning to Colgate’s 60’s slogan ‘The Colgate ring of confidence’.

4. EXXON
Oil giant Exxon began life as Standard Oil, and decided upon the abbreviation of ‘ESSO’ (or S.O) for marketing purposes. However a court order ruled that the company had an unfair monopoly on oil production and ordered it to be split into 34 separate entities. Jersey Standard grew the quickest, and eventually needed a new name to reflect its international status. They settled for ENCO, only to find that their new name translated phonetically to ‘stalled car’ in Japanese. The logo was finally changed to EXXON, and has been referred to as ‘The sign of the double-cross’ by environmental activists ever since.

Exxon - The sign of the double-cross. Courtesy of Greenpeace.

Exxon - The sign of the double-cross. Courtesy of Greenpeace.

5.    Honda

The car giant has had to perform a sharp U-turn in 2002 when it sought to export its new ‘Fitta’ vehicle to Europe. Unbeknown to the Japanese, the word ‘Fitta’ is a very old and extremely vulgar term for female genitals in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Thankfully the mistake was rectified and the car renamed the Honda Jazz in Europe. What customers would have made of a car named after a woman’s vagina complete with the tag ‘Small on the outside, but large on the inside’ is anyone’s guess.

6.    Sumitomo/Toyota
Even abbreviations can cause problems for companies looking to go international. Sumitomo’s attempts to market its ‘Sumitomo High Toughness’ range of steel pipes was somewhat hindered by the appearance of the acronym ‘SHT’, which was plastered all over the pipes themselves and related advertising. Similarly, the Toyota MR2 ran into difficulties in France where it was known as the MR Deux or ‘merde’.

The Toyota MR2. One crap car, apparently.

The Toyota MR2. One crap car, apparently.

7.    Locum
Sometimes even the most innocent advertising campaigns can result in trouble. Locum, a Swedish real estate company specialising in healthcare buildings, wanted to wish all their English clients a happy Christmas and so sent out these lovely cards with the ‘o’ of Locum replaced with a heart. As you can see, the ‘L’ quickly becomes an ‘I’ in this instance for anyone with a dirty mind. Imagine hanging that one up at Yule-tide.
ilovecum8.    Pocari Sweat/Coolpis
On a similar theme, two Japanese soft drink companies tried exporting their wares abroad. At least Pocari Sweat fooled some consumers into thinking it was some new-age remedy made from the perspiration of the lesser spotted Japanese Pocari.

orig_coolpis

Thirsty?

9.       Electrolux

While some of the mistakes above may fall into the category of ‘unlucky’, others appear at first sight to be unforgivably stupid. Take Swedish manufacturer Electrolux. Their slogan ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ caused great hilarity when it was used to market Vacuum cleaners in America. However it now appears that the company were fully aware of the double entendre and used it to gain media attention.

10.    And finally….
Just to reiterate the point that context is important, a drug company from the states tried negotiating their way around the translation minefield by simply using pictures to sell its medicine in the Middle East. They tried to simplify their message as much as possible and created three pictures to put their point across. The first showed a man with a headache; the second depicted him taking one of their pills, while the third showed him smiling and apparently better. The only thing they didn’t take into account was that their target audience would read the ad from right to left.

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