The venture is the brainchild of a group of friends who lived and rocked the 80s in first person, and who are aware that rock icons like Journey, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Queen and others are now taking their rightful place in the history of music.
They say: “We play classics with a twist and want the audience to interact with us: don’t just attend our gigs to listen to us, or to dance to the beat, but also to contribute actively: as showmen, we make sure we dialogue with the floor. We play and sing because we enjoy it, and we want to be infectious to all participants.”
An accomplished classic guitarist since childhood, having been ‘lucky enough to be taught by the late William Gomez’, Manuel Bonavia returns to the local music scene after a thirty-year hiatus. He called upon Jesse De La Rosa, well-known local singer, and bassist Mark Downs, to found a rock’n’roll cover band on a mission to bridge the generational gap, to promote the classic rock revival, and to take veteran revellers on a trip down memory lane together with youngsters on a discovery tour on life before the invention of boy bands.
According to all band members, Manuel is the charismatic figure, the ‘glue’, around whom they gel, because he inspires them to discipline and dedication: “The lead guitarist has the biggest responsibility in a band. If that guitar is out of sync, no other instrument works. Manuel is the eldest and wisest of us keeps us together and makes everyone play better and give 100%. Rock is about structure, not just about party party party,” says Jesse, a few minutes after noting how they are ‘not getting any younger’, and relishing this opportunity to make his lifelong dream of being in a band come true, and finally scream out to the audience, his hand stretched out in the devil’s horns gesture: “Rock’n’roll, b****es!”
“He was in tears. Happy tears.”
Yet, this isn’t just the swan song of a bunch of accomplished musicians who have been treading the boards for decades and entertained generations: beginning as just the acoustic duo project of Manuel the virtuoso guitarist, and Jesse, seasoned soloist with an extensive career at local events and shows, since the age of twelve, including the Lionel Perez’s local production of classic musical Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as an original single released in the UK, this project expanded to power trio with the induction of bassist Mark Downs, fresh from a lengthy experience in Omnibus.
Finally, they realised the possibilities of a full band, and auditioned for a second guitarist and the right drummer to transform them into the noisy band that 80s’ fans would expect, with vocals and strumming loud enough to bring the house down.
Two musicians were added, drummer Martin Figueras of former SuperWookie fame, revving to twirl those sticks again after a long pause, and Nathan Macarthy, the youngest by far, born after the music he plays had hit the charts for the first time, yet a great fan and interpreter on his guitar, which he started learning at a young age.
The next step was finding a catchy name: “When you’re planning to name a band, you need to make sure there aren’t already any others around with the names you have in mind. I googled a few suggestions, which came back as taken. Jesse’s love for Journey gave me the idea of searching in that direction, and I discovered a successful Journey tribute band called Escape, so I thought we could borrow it, as it is applicable to our aim of escaping to an era when rock dominated the music scene. Initially, we decided to style it as Esc4pe, but we later dropped the 4, and returned to the traditional spelling on our posters. You’ll find the 4 still in use for our Facebook page.”
They officially formed last November and in their six-month life, Escape has already enjoyed some high-profile gigs, like a variety charity bash in aid of GibSams, and their solo debut at The Ivy’s in early May when Jesse rocked the packed venue – with more coming up for summer, including a fancy-dress 80s rock night.
Escape hopes to land some gigs in Spain, when there is market for classic soft and hard rock golden age covers attracting a public of all ages. Middle-aged people go because of nostalgia, thirty-somethings because they vaguely remember this being the music playing at home when they were toddlers, or the music their parents fell in love to, while teenagers enjoy the revival and the refreshing change from rap and pop.
“Our music stirs memories – we hope good ones. A chap came to watch us rehearse once, while we played a song he hadn’t heard in twenty-five years: suddenly, it reminded him of his departed mother. He was in tears. Happy tears.”