Rucking / erratic hawks / tears / sharks / Kirsten Dunst / Map
Friday 18th May
As the train flies towards Brighton, the first thing that changes is the sky - what is bold and blue and broken in London is collecting heavy; getting greyer the further we plunge south. My eyes are darker, too – sunk by sickness and the fact that only three of the last 48 hours have been used for sleep.
One of those hours earlier, in the last exam room I'll ever see, my eyelids were dropping to the desk at a rate faster than I could smuggle down Lucozade tablets. Now, that weary fugue has passed on into the familiar after-state that comes with purging rest - all wild-face and steel-head and whistling at the desperation of the situation. I make my way down to the seafront, skipping past the biggest seagull I've ever seen and the wind’s almost blowing me sidelong into traffic.
After London's walls – those that rise at the edges of your vision to tilt your letterbox sight lines sideways – it's a raise to stare out past the beach and remember that there are edges to the world. And even if the waves aren't crystal when they break it's still possible to arrive somewhere other than dirty brick and glass. But enough of this – I meet Sean and Rob and head out onto the pier with its ‘slots and slots and slots’ looking for Foals.
We don't find them – the weather's too blustery for these guerrillas, apparently. So we wander back past the churny struts, west to Regency Square where there's something happening, though I'm still not sure exactly what it was. Cue tape…
Sean Adams: At amiina a girl played music by whirling her finger around a glass.
That pretty much sums it up. The big guitar striptease was easily the most boring thing I saw all weekend - save for the part when Mani emerged from upstairs looking lost and, yeah, the girls started playing wine. None of this was anywhere near as exciting as it sounds.
Things become clearer later, when I get myself drunk at the Fisherman's Rest so the catch of the day doesn’t guild its gills in my stomach. We bowl out after an hour or so, and head up towards the end of the pier - this time we do_ find Foals, and DiS' Tom King and his crew at Horatio's Bar. They play their song; girls with inane grins dance on tables and slap-headed busmen watch it all and all of us through narrow eyes. I’m close enough to read a sticker - _'Math is for Everyone' - and see the salty-looking stains on the synth player’s slacks.
Unbelievably tight, if slightly wet, it was finding Foals at the end of the pier that did it for me. Tight, wet? The drummer’s rhythm is incredible.
Rob Webb: Foals are perhaps one-trick ponies, and I am in great bad joke form.
This noted, we head back to Zap, where DiS is playing chaperone to some real bratty gang of ratbags.
SA: These last-minute super-subs probably had to skive off school to shoot down from Sheffield to play this show with their former (ish) label-mates Gallows. They’re super young but super sophisticated. Think bands as artsy as Sonic Youth / Liars / et al making giant, nay monstrous, synth-diddled ‘n’ riddled _raaaarrgghk that snarls rabidly before dropping to some of the most painfully beautiful soft moments you’ll ever hear. _
With hindsight, I feel like I missed out on a sizeable chunk of what the Great Escape had to offer. As the map tells you, the one venue far flung from the centre of town is the Concorde 2. It also boasts a lot of the best bands, and as my attempts to reach it are thwarted by drunken comrades it begins to assume a Mecca-like status as I gaze longingly into the middle distance down Madeira Drive. The conditions are well sketchy though.
SA: Seagulls are slamming against teashops in the wind.
Rob’s like, "Yeah, givafuck".
The Kissaway Trail
RW: Logic dictated this was not a show to attend. Despite enjoying their record, everybody I'd spoken to who'd seen them before warned me against making the 15-minute walk in blizzard winds to the Concorde 2 - especially wearing just a t-shirt after virtually passing out the previous evening in a packed Komedia. Stubborn bastard that I am, this made me want to go even more - so off I trot, and by the time they light up the entire room with the sublime _'Smother + Evil = Hurt', I feel entirely vindicated._
Later I join Tom King, his brother Pat and friend Pete to climb uphill towards the Corn Exchange, two hours too early for Art Brut. At a loose end, we find a Tesco Metro, then an alleyway, then eight bottles of ‘Hawks View’ white wine between the four of us. There must be some fairly erratic hawks in Britain’s skies - I can still feel the acid lining my gullet as I sit here writing this in the early hours of Tuesday, guts all stung and sallow like the inners of a burst football. But then, elsewhere…
Debbie Gwyther: The Scare and Gallows play our venue – the crowd go mental. We jump in a taxi up to the Concorde 2 and the driver goes similarly mental when I open the door as a car’s going past and fuck up his paintwork.
Billy Leeson: It’s brilliant to see Kid Harpoon without a band again, the way he should be seen. Playing rhythm and lead guitar simultaneously, he leaves everyone with their mouths open.
_ After this I was drunk, a lot. I remember though, at some point, two chavs trying to start a fight with me. In the state I was in I was quite ready to batter or be battered, so to speak – but as Jack Penate held me off, the two chavs ripped the pass from my neck. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the pass hadn’t contained the pills I take to stop me having epileptic fits. Jack being the calm influence he is (like Switzerland, only cooler), was ready with the bullshit: “Look boys, take the pass but my mate is ill. He isn’t long for this world – please give him his pills back.” After returning the pills and running off, they came back and chucked the pass at me. Thanks for the bullshit, Mr Penate._
Predictably, Pete, the brothers King and I are lean by now, but we still manage to bump into Joe Fox, a friend of the others who'd wandered off lost the night before. He and his acoustic guitar will feature more prominently tomorrow night - for now we pile into the Corn Exchange for Art Brut.
Dalston Argos is a hellmouth. Tonight, Eddie's darling rock 'n' roll band are sucked into the vortex of this big, manicured warehouse of a venue; so the charm's lost and all at odds 'cause the personality's skewiff. It's plastic pints and high ceilings that I'll take away from this Exchange.
After chatting drunken idiocy to Charlie Smith, we take him to the Pressure Point for These New Puritans. Rob Webb beats us there though, and ends up losing his heart to Florence and the Machine.
Florence and the Machine
RW: Backed by a former Lude on guitar and delivering songs that seem, for the most part, to be just plain lewd, Florence simmers on stage like Alison from The Kills but vocally she's more like Regina Spektor if she'd been into Viz instead of Vivaldi. Love's a strong word, but I'm pretty much head over heels by the end of the first song.
So, TNP - it's looking rammed and the manager's panicking. The chaos gets to Tom and he throws up in the queue, and so has to stay outside with his brother.
These New Puritans
The rest of us clamber upstairs and watch Puritans deliver a set that, while not being the best they've ever played, is still the musical highlight of the weekend. Talking circles and sermons, the band sound like clarity and grime all at once; a silver machine rising up through the mud. That they’re not at their best is redundant - today, Jack Barnett’s pack are one of only a handful of anyones worth caring about. Mercurial.
DG: Back at the Concorde, and after waiting an hour and a half after a delayed Rakes set, the crowd are getting bored, angry and ready for something a bit more upbeat than Mechanical Bride. Alas, they get booed offstage and pelted with drinks, leaving the singer in tears and the audience frustrated. Well done, Transgressive.
After reconvening outside the Pressure Point with a healthier Tom King we stride down beneath the streetlights to one of the bars on the beachfront to dubstep. The queue is long and Charlie heads home - we wait, and pay a tenner for the privilege, apart from Pete the sneak.
We dance how drunk white people dance to dubstep, until someone pushes me from behind and grabs at my hood. Turning round, I'm shown a pair of glassless sunglasses and angry eyes before someone rips off the press pass hanging from my neck and grasps my gold chain. I push him away before the wolves can close in, and slink off to the back with my pack and the type of arrogance that fills ready beer bottles after all the drink has leaked out. The fight from the glass is flowing up my arm, to the point where I think it's gonna burst in my hand. But, thankfully for me, the weekend and the bottle, the night subsides back into relative peace.
DG: I’m sitting backstage at the Concorde, trying to keep my eyes open but failing miserably. Dyan from the Blood Arm is here with Eddie Argos – are they a couple? I’ll be woken up later by Sean and Kev, who return to the hotel giggling and looking deliriously happy.
Walking back to town, I find Sean drinking alcohol paid for by “festival promoters and a Dutch girl who looks just like Kirsten Dunst”, and can't see any reason not to join him. I sit sullen, letting more idiocy pour from my mouth - Agent Blue were "fucking incredible" live; I'm moving to Brighton next year; the industry is "full of sharks". At 6am, the sun's coming up and it's definitely time for the hotel and bed. I sleep for five hours in the gap between the bathroom and the front door. My ‘bed’ is a towel.
For Thursday's review click HERE
For Saturday's review click HERE
Banner photo by Phil Shaw; Foals shot by www.TimothyCochrane.com; Hawks View photographed by Peter Barlow; These New Puritans shot by Sonia Melot (MTV2 Gonzo On Tour)