Alt Alt Escape: Cubzoa @ St Nicholas Church, Brighton, UK, May 17, 2024 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, June 25th, 2024  


Cubzoa, Ducks Ltd., Maximillian, Ebbb

Alt Alt Escape: Cubzoa @ St Nicholas Church, Brighton, UK, May 17, 2024,

May 22, 2024 Web Exclusive
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The circus has come to town for another year. I don’t mean Zippo’s with the big top, the jugglers and acrobats, I mean The Great Escape with all its hundreds of bands, their managers, liggers, free riders and lanyard wankers. It also means that the Alternative Escape is here. As is The Fake Escape and the Alt Alt Escape. This year the desire to play in town during this four-day gig-a-thon was somewhat muted by Barclays sponsorship of the event. This piece isn’t to throw shade at those who performed and applaud those who didn’t, but it should be mentioned that hundreds of bands didn’t show up.

My first port of call was St Nicholas Church. My original plan was to stick around there all evening until Cubzoa came on at 10pm. But the beauty of The Great Escape is the ability to see someone you’ve never heard of, and, if they don’t take your fancy, leaving after a song for pastures greener. Soft Top were the ideal first band to watch. Their music was catchy, with good vocals and clever melodies. But it didn’t make me want to see more than a song. I would like to catch their full set in the future as I’m intrigued how it would all pan out if they were in control of the crowd, but the night was young and there were more bands to see. Next on my list was The Hope and Ruin for Maximillian. The Hope was split. Upstairs was wrist banded and downstairs was free for anyone. Downstairs I went. The weekend was programmed by Love Thy Neighbour, an institution on Brighton’s live scene. I’ve been going to their gigs for about a decade and haven’t had a bad time at one of their nights. Maximillian had slacker Radiohead vibes. I liked it. They didn’t blow me away but, as with Soft Top, I’d be interested to see them again.

Next stop was The Folklore Rooms, upstairs at The Quadrant, for Ebbb. I walked in halfway through a song. I love doing this, as you know immediately if you like the band or not. I did. Ebbb are a trio making delicious alt-electro pop. Falsetto vocals. Big beats. Chonky basslines and inventive use of looped vocals to create killer harmonies. The downside to Ebbb’s set was I walked in near the end and only got to catch a few songs. Luckily their debut EP is out on Ninja Tune next month. So far, the two tracks released have got me savouring all around the face for more. Then just as I’d got into it, their set was over. As I walked outside, past the self-congratulatory lanyard wankers swilling pints and huffing down vape outside I was reminded how a lot of the best performances aren’t seen as people are outside venues. Oh well…

After seeing three bands in an hour, I needed to regroup and plan out my next few moves. I headed to The Rossi bar. I sat in the window studying the form guide, drinking a well-made tea, and lusting after a Yeastie Bois slice of pizza, my plan of action was complete. Walking outside I made my way back up to St Nicholas Church for Night House. A few years ago, Night House were one of my TGE highlights, but I hadn’t really seen them since. Would they live up my originally preconceived ideas? In short, yes. Their sound had evolved since I last saw them. They had added a double bassist and cellist. The keyboards also had a more cinematic, no not the right word, epic, not quite right, massive, closer, basically it sounded a bit like if Drew Neumann’s score to MTVs Aeon Flux animated series was turned into pop music. Lily Wolter, from Penelope Isles, was in attendance and seemed to dig it too. So far, my night consisted of, slightly, laidback alt-pop. I wanted something more raucous. SO back to The Hope and Ruin I went.

As I approached The Hope the queue to get in stretched past the junction to Church Street. As I approached the doorman the person at the front of the line was giving me “Don’t you DARE get in before me. Don’t you dare mate !”. As it turned out I could get in as the queue was for TGE upstairs, whereas what I wanted was the Alt Alt Escape downstairs. As I walked in, Ducks Ltd. were just sound checking and getting ready to go. As luck would have it, I bumped into some old friends and pulled up a chair with them and settled down for the show. Ducks Ltd rambunctious power pop was just what I needed. Full of energy, catchy choruses that made the crowd turn into a frenetic mob. When walking back from the bar with a Lucky Saint I spied Anton Mocock, from DITZ, was in attendance. Up next at The Hope were Home Counties. I could make a connection between the disappointment of the bar not having Guinness 0% and having to settle with something else. After the fun of Ducks Ltd Home Counties didn’t quite cut it. Their brand of synth pop was fine, but a bit generic. Also, at this time, more people with wristbands started to pour in. The circle jerk began. People were gloating to their friends outside with Ricky Gervaise, as Dave Brent, levels of obnoxiousness. After a few songs I said goodbye to my pals and headed off for the main event of the day. Cubzoa.


As I reached St Nicholas Church the atmosphere changed. Of course this might have to do with the surroundings, a 14th century church has a different feel to it than a bar full of smashed music fans. Saying that beer was available at the back of the church and people were tucking in, so it wasn’t exactly sober, but there was a reverence. This might be because Jake Wolter, Cubzoa himself, was hanging a sheet for his projections. Simon Raymonde, Wolter’s Penelope Isles boss, was in attendance. Always a good sign. The gig started with field recordings of water, or the sea, and a short video of a small grassy island. After this intro the gig started. Vocal samples. Stuttering drum machines were the order of the day. Previously Cubzoa was a more lo-fi guitar project, but Wolter has beefed up the sound a tad. There were electronic motifs throughout. Some of the bass was brutal in places and the beats wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the small room of a grimy club, but what made those original three EPs a delight was still there. Wolter’s voice soared and growled. His guitar work was intricate and hypnotic when coupled with the visuals. Throughout the set Wolter was joined by the woodwind lovebirds backing his songs of self-introspection. These analogue sounds, coupled with Wolter’s guitar, next to the slightly abrasive beats, really worked well and shows that the project has stepped up a gear during Penelope Isles’ brief hiatus since their last album. As the set progressed the images changed from geometric shapes projected over geometric shapes to footage from 1950s housekeeping films, new broadcasts about fairies, Men in Black, and 1970s American football. Near the end of the set Wolter played quite a twangy guitar. This was juxtaposed by him diving under some waves in a wetsuit with a Go-Pro, flowers blooming next to a static shot, a video of someone running after the camera on a beach but never getting closer. What did it mean? Was the song about how we need space to grow as people? Was it about how to be healthy we need nature to offset our bad funks? Was it about America itself? It’s hard to know, but what was evident was that these collections of songs offer no quick fixes and require repeated visits. This is exactly what I want from my music, and live shows.

Then it was over and time to head back into the fray of Brighton. Town was incredibly pissed when I went for the bus home. It wasn’t lairy and people weren’t fighting, but you could tell it had a skin full. As I walked home, I considered the future of The Great Escape, its corporate partners and wondered what next year will bring. I’d seen seven bands in a few hours, so I don’t see the need to go full delegate next year. The Alt Alt Escape is so strong and vibrant. Avalanche Party had played at The Font while I was in The Hope, sadly. Yumi and the Weather were also playing the next day at St Nicholas. The fact that bands like them, and Cubzoa, are playing alternative shows means the quality of people wanting to play is still as good as it ever was. And overall, that’s the point, right? It’s a showcase for new bands and exciting bands. I’d argue everyone I saw met that brief. Viva la Alt Alt Escape.


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