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Day Three: Saturday
Words & Pictures by Ben GC
So, Great Escape’s final curtain, the third day, was upon us. By this time (if you’ve been doing the Escape proper) the fact that its only Saturday morning is quite weird as seeing 20 to 30 bands already would lead you to believe that the weekend would be nearly over. But alas, non! To the rest of mankind, well at least Brighton, the weekend was just beginning and to add excellence to everything the sun was still beating down hard on our beautiful seasidey place. The Saturday Escape experience seems a little more laid back, it’s not a school day for a start, and the delegate/industry crew who are still in town are soaking up some of the weekend sunny vibes – mainly outside the Mash Tun of course!
After having already previously turned my attentions to the programme at Coalition and Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, I decided to opt for The Hope on this day. A strange choice perhaps as previously there’d been a lot of hard rock and we all know my general feelings about hard rock – but you’ve got to give everything a try Ben – Come on!
As I entered the venue shortly after noon (always a bizarre time to go to a festival gig), I had my usual 5 minutes of explaining to the bouncers (who I had already met about 10 times in the last 2 days) that I was (still) shooting the Great Escape. The Hope is one of Brighton’s truly great small venues in my opinion. A good set-up with tonnes of volume, barely even a stage – so ‘intimacy’ is not the word, you can feel like you’re part of the band if you want to and on top of that, it sells beer. Great stuff. You have the windy staircase, more often than not containing a snakelike queue, brimming with anticipation and intrigue – particularly so at the Great Escape when on the whole most of the crowd will be seeing, or indeed hearing, a band for the very first time, with no idea of whether they are any good. Then you enter the room and usually stand shoulder to shoulder with about 150 others until you can be bothered to barge through to the bar. My only criticism of the place would be that it is hot, and I don’t mean slightly warm, I mean HOT. As a frequent photographer over the past 3 days I had already come to learn that letting my lenses acclimatise for a good 15 minutes was a necessity if the condensation was to clear in time for the gigs. That hot! I was reliably told that the air con was about as non-existent as it can be. However, lenses, personal hygiene and sweaty faces aside, it’s not a huge moan and the heat does certainly work for gigs, that intimate, slightly sweaty, everyone rocking out sensation is an integral part of the live music experience, surely!
First up were The Crookes. These guys did text-book, mainstream, fun, shake-yourself-about a-bit indie very, very well and this was an awesome start to everyone’s day. And I say everyone, the place was packed to the rafters, much to the surprise of the band who probably thought they’d got stitched up with the midday slot “thank you, I really can’t believe how many of you there are here – you must’ve drunk as much as we have this morning!” With plenty of side partings, shirts tucked in and a large amount of humble gratefulness this band endeared themselves to the masses in no time, aided by catchy tunes and a lead singer who could really sing. Considering this kid threw himself around a lot he still managed to bring one tune in, late on, with a minute of accappella which proved undoubtedly that he had the vocal skills to take these guys places.
The Crookes were even gracious enough to thank the band who were playing next and implore that people stay to watch them. I love a recommendation me, so I waited for The Big Sleep to get things going.
The Big Sleep
A stateside act with 3 very unlikely unmatched members, but The Big Sleep sounded awesome. They played a brilliant almost experimental mix of sounds which captivated the audience and led to rapturous applause. Between the three of them they managed to play a variety of keyboards and organs, bass guitar, lead guitar, drums, our old friend the MPC was probably about somewhere and two of them sang (the huge Soprano’s-esque drummer just drummed!).
The Big Sleep
And, following on from The Big Sleep were Cheveu. A brilliantly programmed afternoon, with once again a shift in the music (and still no proper, full-on hard rock thankfully for me), Cheveu were a French trio who were still on the experiemental tip like the previous band, but this time a curious form of electro-grunge (I made that up). These 3 gallic fellows had a look of music nerd as they came out and set up an array of synths, sequencers and keyboards, with one particularly oddball Billy Crystal lookalike playing the guitar. One could imagine them living in rural France, doing nothing but creating obscure electronica and getting stoned a lot. The lead singer had 3 mics set up with different effects and screamed and shouted (all in French) into them with great control whilst also looking a touch maniac. Even Billy Crystal and his conservative clarks-like middle aged shoes went more than a touch crazy. These guys were doing something a bit different and I loved it.
In the early evening, whilst taking in some more sunshine and carefree weekend vibes as the Great Escape massive were doing and doing well, I mooched between seafront venues and took in the final few hours of music available.
A trip to Sticky Mike’s saw French Electro synth-meisters Juveniles playing. A slight let down for me as I was expecting something a lot more electronically exciting, possibly veering towards a more housey electronica, alas non, it was a bit stale for my liking, but bless, they did speak very good English. That’s nice.
A short walk down to the Fishbowl, everyone’s favourite small pub in the South Lanes part of town. Considering the size of this venue they have always done a good job of making sure that music, both live and DJed, is easily accessible and commonly found there. Featuring as part of the ‘Alternative’ Escape once again they had bands programmed for the whole day. I caught Skinny Machines, who I’ve seen several times, but with a new front man seem to have taken on a much more rocky attack on the masses. Some sublime guitar solos from Rikki Glover and fierce confidence from the new guy made for an impressive performance.
A hop, skip and a jump back to the seaside and I quickly took in some of Jodie Marie, a petite guitar playing singer songwriter, hotly tipped to follow her equally Welsh compatriot Duffy to success (with a similar style to her indeed).
Then it was back to The Hope for the final act in at my focus venue, The Callas. Hmmm, what can I say, I cannot fault the Hope for my day’s entertainment – all of the previous acts I’d really enjoyed - The Callas didn’t quite put the icing on the cake. They’d already started when I arrived and as it had been for 99% of the whole festival the venue was packed. I can only describe what I was witnessing from this Greek tragedy (two Greek brothers and a lady – origin unknown) was frankly, confusing and definitely awful. Monotonous strumming and some bizarre uncharismatic drumming from the lady. I could sense an air of unbotheredness from the crowd – I think the 3 days of gig shuffling was taking its toll and people were content to just bear it and have a pint. At one point a sound engineer even shouted some instructions over to the band to keep guitar levels down or something... it didn’t really go in I suspect. Nevermind, it had been a great day and I definitely chose the best day for me to spend a lot of time in this venue, I’d like to hope that The Crookes, The Big Sleep and Cheveu all go on to see more interest and appreciation from a wider market. Good luck they.
The night of course was not over for me by any means. I’d keep going ‘til I couldn’t anymore. So, another band at Life - I have no idea who they were - three girls who seemed to be having fun laughing and joking between themselves if nothing else.
Unknown band at Life
Then I went to Coalition for We Are Scientists. I was treating this as quite a big gig as these New Yorkers had some clout about themselves and this was not lost on the Great Escape punters. The queue was going all the way back some 100m to Life and the Fortune of War for this one. The dark side of The Great Escape is always the queuing and the will-I-won’t-I-get-in conundrum. Do I wait? This is all part of the skill though for the average wristband holder – weighing up arrival times for more popular acts with seeing those lesser known but hotly tipped acts. For me, none of this was a problem as I’d long struck up a beneficial relationship with the head of Security at Coalition and walked straight through the door – the joy of a professional looking camera. We are scientists came and went and accounted for themselves adequately.
We Are Scientists
An irony that I didn’t miss was that throughout the interval before We Are Scientists, the venue played an album by a now disbanded Brighton group, in its entirety. That band got so close to ‘making it’ but just never quite did and are now no more. It was funny to watch the place dance enthusiastically and enjoy this music which I’m sure few-to-none of them knew, as it highlighted the pitfalls and the pain of this whole ‘new music’ business which we were all here to witness.
I wound my festival experience up with Shields (good) and Cave Painting (awesome) at Sticky Mike’s and various bits of live electronica, DJ sets, dancing and beer in the seafront venues through into the early hours of the morning and for once did not go to Queen’s Hotel, but merely some late night food horror and home for a cup of tea and reflection. 5am. Bed.
To see all of my photos from Saturday click HERE
Date: Friday 1st June 2012