As the previous post said, I’m going back to writing a bit about the music I’ve seen lately and a few weeks ago was The Great Escape Festival, an annual event held in Brighton as part of the much wider Brighton Fringe Festival. WARNING: This post contains bad photography.

After the great Darjeeling debacle I eventually arrived in Brighton at about half past 12. It was cold and wet, and it was blowing a hoolie, with the sort of drizzly rain more akin to mid October than to May. I buttoned myself up and marched on the wristband collection point, bag in one hand and trying to hold my hat on my head with the other.

I have been to the festival a few times before and every other year there has been a caravan by the library. I knew that it had changed this year to a grassy area near the Pavillion. When I arrived it was all different, I had expected it to be a similar set-up to what was about last year, they have jumped forward with their ambitions this year. Previously a few small caravans and a gazebo selling cans of beer. This year, two full stages, one of which was in a very hippy tent and the other in a long marquee with a proper bar inside (it even served local real ales!). Next to these two were lots of other little temporary pop up structures, a few food serving caravans, a vinyl shop, a box office, wristband exchange, toilets and another bar, Heineken branded. They had set up a small village for all the audiophiles to shelter from the rain.

I stood in the almost deserted main bar after I had gotten my wristband. I stood at the bar and ordered my first pint of the weekend, a Summer Session by Laine Brewing, brewed in a pub which I must have walked past a dozen times over the weekend, but alas, had no time to pop in.

Doomsquad at Blind Tiger

Doomsquad at Blind Tiger

First band was down the road in Blind Tiger, I managed to catch the end of the set. Doomsquad were a bit electro, and a bit hippy at the same time. Out there… Man. A band that has to be played with the bass up high. I would love to hear their recorded stuff played on a proper vinyl turntable.

HSY at Blind Tiger

HSY at Blind Tiger

My hostel wasn’t allowing check in until two o’clock but it was only round the corner, so instead of marching off to some distant corner of the city I decided to take a punt on whatever was up next. All I knew was that they would be Canadian, I had already surmised that Blind Tiger would be showcasing Canadian music all weekend by the big Canadian music posters everywhere. I was glad I stayed. HSY were to my mind what you would call a stoner-rock band with a bit of nirvana style grunge thrown in. Their facebook description just says “loud, blood thinning, temper temper, sludge, crash.”. I shall always remember this band as the one with the girl who looked so “herbally relaxed” that she might fall over.

Hannah Georgas at Blind Tiger

Hannah Georgas at Blind Tiger

Check in – dump bag – walk out into the storm now rattling round Brighton, trying to claim my hat at every possible opportunity. Just to avoid the weather I jumped straight back into Blind Tiger. I managed to get back before the next band even finished tuning up, which was a result because they (or should I say she) were pretty good to. Her name was Hannah Georgas. She was a breath of slightly moody fresh air, that doesn’t make sense does it? Think something along the lines of a Canadian more pop version of Daughter and you might be half way there.

Courtney Barnett at Komedia

Courtney Barnett at Komedia

Looking at the time I thought I’d better make myself scarce. I really wanted to see Courtney Barnett and, realising that so would quite a few other people, I thought I’d better get there early. It was a good job that I did.  There was a bit of a queue but I thought that would be alright, the previous band would finish and some people must leave, right? After ten minutes and the queue hadn’t moved and a bouncer called that it was one-in-one-out. I was disappointed, but I knew that she would be playing later on and so I contemplated moving on. The people in front of me decided to see a German nad at the Green Door Store, an indescribably unique venue underneath Brighton train station. I thought about doing the same but then, just as I was about to move on, the crowd shifted forward as a few dribs and drabs also decided to leave. The next thing I knew I was in by the skin of my teeth. The crowd got stopped as soon as I had passed. It was rammed inside but the huge crowd produce a great atmosphere for the solo acoustic set. I love the double EP, a sea of split peas, by Courtney and it was great to hear a different version of the songs which, with all the radio play, I knew pretty well. The set was over too quick.

Stepping back out from the dark of Komedia’s downstairs stage to the bright light of day time is one of the few times where a cold, drab, drizzly day looks bright and inviting. As soon as my eyes adjusted, I realised that it was as dull as it was when I went down.

PS I Love You at Blind Tiger

PS I Love You at Blind Tiger

PS I Love You was the name of the band who were playing back at Blind Tiger when I got back. I had heard a lot of good things about this band, lots of people muttering about going to see them when I was in the queue for Courtney Barnett. Goes to show that you shouldn’t pay much attention to rumours, especially when you are just overhearing someone else’s conversation. The rock band which you will be hearing on Spotify is not really the same as the band you will hear live. I have my suspicions that the sound man had something to do with it but what ever the problem was, the weedy voice of the guy and the terribly distorted sound was just incomprehensible.

By now it was getting to the point where the daytime events finish and there is a gap before the night time events begin. All that is on are the bands playing back by the wristband exchange, where all the pop up stages are. While I was here, along with the rest of Brighton, I made a point of going to the burger van. This was so good it deserves its own post. I’ll add a link to that post when I write it later.

By the time I had finished feasting Sam Fender had already began his set. This is one of those singer/songwriter solo-bloke-with-a-guitar type of sets that you will always bump into a few of at the Great Escape. There is nothing wrong with them, in deed, Sam was very good, and very entertaining between songs as well as during them. It’s just I’m getting a little bored of the same sort of thing and I’m afraid it went in one ear and out the other a bit. After each day I wrote a few notes about each band. For Sam Fender I wrote one word “Geordie” because that’s all that stood out for me. Sorry Sam.

Eva Stone at the Festival Hub

Eva Stone at the Festival Hub

I had a simple note for the next act as well. I simply wrote “Beautiful Voice” for Eva Stone. She finished her set with an a capella number which blew me away. I remember being in complete awe at her talent and her bravery to sing without back up from any instruments at all. Even with a sea of heads and a view between some peoples shoulders it still managed to draw me in and I was lost in the moment. So much so that I couldn’t even tell you what the song was!

 

RM Hubbert at Concorde 2

RM Hubbert at Concorde 2

RM Hubbert was playing at Concord 2. I was basing my decision entirely on the little one sentence description in the festival guide. I was hoping it would pay off because its a bloody long way to Concorde 2, as anyone from Brighton will testify. All I can say was that it was another great performance, was looking back at the day so far and really only had one bad that I can think of that I wasn’t all that keen on, and that was because of the distortion overpowering the set. As RM Hubbert played he mesmerized the audience with his guitar ability. He amused us and he pulled on our heartstrings with his anecdotes betweens songs, I go like an anecdote between songs. He didn’t sing much, he just left his guitar tell the story.

Deciding to stay was based on the long walk along the sea front. I thought I had better make it worth while and so I took a punt on the next band. XFM were curating this stage and it was obvious from their next choice that they wanted to start pulling in the crowd in time for the nights headliners: Augustines. I’m guessing that’s why the bought in Amber Run. Amber Run were probably quite good, but following on from RM Hubbert my ears couldn’t adjust. I lost interest and started flicking through my festival guide to see what else was on, then I realised that by the time I got back into town from Concorde 2 I would have missed them anyway. I decided to stay and watch the end of the predictably indie rock set which still didn’t grab me. After which I stepped once more into the hoolie on Brighton sea front.

Emilie Nicolas at Komedia

Emilie Nicolas at Komedia

Back up to Komedia to watch Emilie Nicolas, a Norwegian girl with a voice which goes well with the electronic melodies. I don’t know if she sings to fit the music or the music was written to suit her style of singing, whichever way it was, it works. I was slightly distracted with her looking like a friend of mine. I was sorry that I had missed the beginning of the set, but that will happen if you have to walk from Concorde 2, honestly it would be more convenient if it was in Scarborough!

Laura Welsh at The Brighthelm Center

Laura Welsh at The Brighthelm Center

I did see the whole set for Laura Welsh. It was the first act of the evening at The Brighthelm center. Usually a church and community center but for this weekend it was a venue with kool bar staff who tell you where to go to get a drink which is cheaper than their own bar (clearly not interested in profits here). Anyway, Laura was even kooler than the bar staff, she had an on stage swagger and confidence that she really backs up with a voice so perfect. Images of New York, god only knows why, filled my head. As my notes said, “So fucking kool”.

I had thought at this point that I’d get in the queue to see Little Dragon. I knew they would be popular being on the radio so much and I thought I’d better get there early. The venue was Coalition, a nightclub under the road on Brighton Seafront. When I got there the crowds had already massed around the door. There was probably more people standing outside than there was space inside anyway, so I abandoned that plan, heading for Audio, mostly to get out of the wind which was still trying to take my hat.

 

WET at Audio

WET at Audio

WET. A band from Brooklyn. Sighhhh. Just thinking about these guys is a bit depressing. I had been having such a good night and then this happened. It’s not that there is something wrong with them, far from it, the singer can sing, and the other people could play all their instruments and it all came together into one into a tune which wasn’t unpleasant. It just didn’t grab me. I watched the whole set trying to like it but, alas, it left me cold.

Woman's Hour at Komedia

Woman’s Hour at Komedia

Nevermind, at least I knew I was going to like the next band. Back up at Komedia and I walked straight in.I was surprised. So far any band that I wanted to see, especially if they had been blessed with frequent radio play were all experiencing massive queues. Not Womans Hour. A band who ooze kool and style had quite an empty room to play to. I say empty, there were a fair few people there, I was expecting it to be heaving is all. I don’t really know what to say about them. Another woman blessed with a voice which sends shiver down your spine and melodies which back it up never overpowering this beautiful center piece to every song. Their cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark was something special. During the set I choked on a crisp (yeah, you needed to know that).

Alice Boman at The Dome Studio

Alice Boman at The Dome Studio

It’s 11p.m. and I’m still very awake. Fortunately as the night time events finish there is another timetable of late night events to carry on partying long into the night. I took a punt on seeing Alice Boman. This was based entirely on the guide saying “Alice sings her beautifully fairytale-like songs with as much force as fragility”. After seeing Woman’s Hour that sounded like the perfect continuation. All i need to say is the guide got it spot on.

After Alice the Dome Studio suddenly started to get really busy. Who is the next band which is causing all this fuss? It was a group called The Hold Steady. I had never heard of them before but clearly they were causing a bit of a commotion. I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Good decision. The crowd was electrified. Everyone came to life. A sort of lively version of the Pixies took to the stage with the charisma of a band as experienced as The Pixies. The crowd were all singing along and even I was joining in by the second chorus, it was infectious. I wish that I hadn’t bought a drink (which is something I don’t say all that often) so I could have got into the middle of the crown and jumped about like an idiot.I could have stayed and listened to them until dawn, unfortunately sets don’t last forever.

The Hold Steady at The Dome Studio

The Hold Steady at The Dome Studio

There were a few more bands which were playing after The Hold Steady at a couple of venues, but by now it was 1 a.m. and I hadn’t eaten since half four. Subway was calling me. Once I had demolished a footlong it really was knocking on and there wasn’t much going on at all. I went back to the hostel. The great thing about Journeys is the bar downstairs. Every year I stay here and every year I spend the early hours of the morning making friends with other guests of the Hostel and their staff. In some ways it is more of a highlight of the festival than the music is. There is always a party that carries on until daylight. The Thursday night party was mostly guests who had been back for a while and they were chilling out. We ended up having long discussions about music and when Queen came on the stereo, which the guests had access to the playlist, the guy behind the bar found an apron and a wig and danced around the bar doing his best Freddy Mercury impression. I cried with laughter, we all did.

My head finally hit the pillow at about half 4.