Published Jul 05, 2012Brooklyn disco revivalists Escort had a heavy burden to bear: releasing their debut album in front of tens of thousands of onlookers at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Higher stakes than your average CD release party at a bar down the block surrounded by a few dozen friends eating finger sandwiches and carrot sticks.
But Escort are a band built for festivals because they can't do anything small with their 17-piece lineup. Their recorded history stretches back several years but has only recently culminated in a full-length album. So the task was daunting even for a band dedicated to relentless 4/4 optimism and the mantra of "get on down" to win over huge festival audiences.
The biggest issue they had was to deal with the unfamiliarity of their material. Unlike other bands (such as Arcade Fire and the B-52s) who have played the TD stage, which accommodates up to 100,000 people, Escort had no familiar songs of their own and walked a fine line between insisting on their original material (the raison d'etre of the band in the first place, intended to prove that disco is still a viable form) and the pressure to do covers.
There's a reason their self-titled album is already getting rave reviews -- the bubblegummy songs are much more than simple jams, featuring string and horn arrangements that cascade around with a pleasing balance of ornateness and edge.
However, while all elements were in effect, the little things got lost in the huge venue. The verse and chorus sections "Sailboat in Moonlight," one of their Guy Lombardo big band schmaltz-referencing tunes, failed to make an impact, but the more techno-friendly vamps got several thousand people dancing down in front.
Still, it was the covers that proved to be the right combination of familiarity, songwriting and Adeline Michele's voice; Machine's still-cautionary tale "There But for the Grace of God Go I," Donna Summer's "Bad Girls" and Dillinger's "Cocaine" all drew the biggest cheers.