After Day Two‘s late end, some time dozing on Brighton beach was called for. But even though the atrocious weather showed signs of breaking, these were not temperatures to encourage promenade disrobing or quickie dips. Safely ensconced out of the intermittent drizzle with the evening’s schedule, it was immediately clear that Saturday’s line-up did not enjoy the big names – and maddening clashes – of Friday.
The evening got off to a juddery start at the Spiegel Tent as the audience patiently waited for Bat For Lashes to appear. Alas, Natasha Khan had contracted a viral infection, it was said, and wouldn’t be appearing – and by the time we heard this it was too late to rush up to Pressure Point for Shitdisco. There was to be no replacement act for the missing half hour slot. This was a pity – earlier in the afternoon we’d watched a variety of up-and-coming local acts play hopefully to delegates, and perhaps one of these could have been offered the vacant time.
Whatever, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (***), the laptopped superhero otherwise known as Sam Duckworth, opened the evening. With computer FX, guitar and vocals he makes more noise than any one man should be able to, but also pares back to touching quietude, running a gamut of melody and beats that just about defies genrefication. Some bloke with a laptop on a stage does not make for fascinating viewing, however – for all his intriguing compositions, this seemed to be an artist best heard on record.
With the weather worsening again it was a quick hike to Audio for our unsigned guide tips Tapes’n'Tapes (***), who’d been signed to XL Recordings and generated waves of hype since we wrote about them. An unmoving and lengthy queue of punters filed away into the distance to one side of the venue gate; a shorter, slow-moving queue of delegates waited on the other side. On finally entering the venue it was time to see what all the fuss was about – and the Americans were even announced, by a big hairy excitable person.
The band themselves were less communicative, choosing to let the music do the speaking. Their album The Loon, self-released in the USA before they signed, reasonably enough was showcased at what was their second ever UK show (London two nights before being the first). The rammed venue grooved to the freestyle musical interaction this band seem to specialise in and, as we headed for the exit and the rain, we were smiling, despite missing The Futureheads‘ set at the Beach, which had played at the same time.
There was just about time to catch the very end of Brakes‘ set at Zap before doubling back in a vain attempt to see probably the most unfortunately scheduled band of the weekend. Some bright spark had decided to put local heroes The Kooks in the tiny Spiegel Tent’s headline slot. Since that decision was made, the band’s profile has exploded, with their album parking in the UK Top 20 and refusing to budge downwards. Even delegates – and reporters – had no hope of getting in to this gig. A considerable crowd built up to listen to the set from outside the tent.
The flipside of The Kooks’ popularity, for other artists in the same slot, was a lack of audience spread. None of the “competing” acts enjoyed anything like the same profile, even if one of them by now really should have.
Considering how much money has been lavished on them, Kubb (**) playing to a half-empty Komedia was a rather sad sight. In less than a year they had gone from the toast of Later With Jools Holland to a glossily marketed, over-promoted and rather unexciting offering. Harry Collier was soldiering on, playing the same songs he was playing at the London Barfly last August. It seemed as though it’d been longer. Wicked Game vainly attempted to rouse a largely unconvinced crowd in the slot in which, the previous night, had been in thrall to Guillemots. Kubb are a band in need of a rethink – rather like tonight’s scheduling.
Earlier in the evening we’d managed to miss Klaxons (****), whose set at Pressure Point had clashed with Tapes’n'Tapes, but at the after show party in the same venue they were back again. After predictable entry shenanigans we were to witness their energetic blend of rock’n'rave noise that had the small audience bouncing along from the off, the forthcoming single Atlantis To Interzone making clear that here was a band who knew melody and a beat are necessary to make an anthem. The Maccabees (***), as the last act I’d see at the Great Escape, followed later with more bouncey fun, but by this time I’d seen something like 25 bands in around 60 hours – bed was dearly needed…
So the first Great Escape had passed off. A really fine line-up went part of the way to making up for missing Radiohead in London, but there will need to be tweaks for next year if it returns to the same place.
Firstly, the Engine Rooms, the Albert, Concorde 2 and the Hanbury Ballroom in particular were just too far away to make walking between half-hour sets a reasonable prospect – anyone who did would have missed large chunks of an evening in so doing. Secondly, while to an extent organisers’ hands would be tied by band tour schedules, closer attention needed to be paid on spreading out the crowd. Finally, punters who pay for a three day pass must be able to get in to events. Just about all the paying public I spoke to declared themselves thoroughly miffed and told me in no uncertain terms that they wouldn’t be back. It was easy to feel for them, looking at the static queues for so many acts, but even delegates had trouble getting in to venues on the Saturday evening.
Doubtless the organisers will have noted these inaugural teething problems and will fix them for next year. Perhaps they’ll do a sun dance too – no more 65mph seafront gales, please!
The highlights? There were so many. Guillemots, Holy Fuck, The Pipettes, Metric, Martha Wainwright and Howling Bells would be just six of the obvious. But despite all the acts we did see, there were well over a hundred we didn’t, amongst them The Spinto Band, Richard Hawley, British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade, Midlake, Good Shoes, Hot Club de Paris…
Ah well. There’s always next year.