The Great Escape - Rated!
Various, Brighton - 14-16 May
Despite their light show, The Maccabees failed to light up The Great Escape
19 May 2009
Over three days in bohemian Brighton, The Great Escape is as cool as Steve McQueen making that motorcycle jump. On offer here is a sense of exhilarating freedom, as fans are able to roam between more venues than you can shake a stick of rock at.
Along with the beach, there are a huge array of pubs, clubs and bars, where you can sample local tipple Tuaca, a cream soda-tasting shot that, like Brighton’s car-sized seagulls, can creep up on you.
The mainly drizzly weather doesn’t dampen spirits in the urban setting of this year’s event, as you don’t need to queue for long to enter most venues. The sun even comes out on Saturday, only to disappear as Babyshambles take to an outdoor stage in front of seafront club Audio, not that the large crowd on the pavement outside seem to be bothered.
Sound systems pogoed between the thunderous and the mute. During Saturday’s Summer of Dub the bass is so heavy it could be felt in your chest, making the stained glass windows of the Corn Exchange shake and your vision blur. Or that could be the beer… but on the same day, Bonne Aparte failed to make an impact on the few people who turned up to see them, due to poor sound.
Getting there and back 9/10
Brighton is accessible by car (being 45 minutes from the M25), train (an hour from London with direct links to most parts of the UK) and by coach. If you couldn’t be bothered to walk around the festival, some of Brighton’s many taxis could ferry you around, but be careful, sometimes that meter can tick perilously high!
The site 8/10
Venues included Hector’s House, the Pavilion Theatre and even the Unitarian Church. These, and bigger settings such as the Brighton Dome, are all spread across the city, so you need your walking boots on as well as a superhuman bladder. There are many hopeful pleas to pub owners from fans wanting to nip in for a pee as well as aching limbs and sore feet thanks to the city’s many hills.
There is staggering diversity in Brighton and everyone always seems friendly; there were indie kids, industry folk, pop stars, punks and the usual pretension. Together with the Brighton Festival, which runs through May, The Great Escape had a carnival atmosphere.
Pulled Apart By Horses 7/10
After screeching brakes, it’s feedback, as Pulled Apart By Horses begin their set at the Sallis Benney Theatre. The band’s ferocious music demands dancing, but the performance is an early one, so they do their best to get most moving. Like his namesake, guitarist James Brown gets up, scaling speakers to play the band’s heavy riffs, then orders the crowd to high five each other before ‘High Five Swan Dive Nose Dive’ and clap along to ‘Meat Balloon’. Charles Manson lookalike Lee Vincent’s frantic drumming in ‘E = MC Hammer’ causes him to lose a stick and for last song, ‘I Punched a Lion in the Throat’, Tom Hudson brings his guitar and mic stand into the crowd. A raucous start, PABH put as much effort into performing as they do coming up with song titles.
Mean Poppa Lean 8/10
In the Prince Albert the rammed audience are treated to the funk hilarity of Mean Poppa Lean. Christian Jennings Barnes’ soulful vocals at times sound like Michael Jackson, while ‘Ginger Assassin’ C-Dogg comedy gurns his way through guitar solos and asks the crowd if they have ever seen a musical instrument played with a live animal. He then proceeds to strum his with a ‘Shark Stimulation’ sign from the wall. During final song ‘Hot Times How Hot’ the crowd answer the call and response chorus and drummer Grills plays a drum solo as Jennings Barnes conducts, saying, “Give me some bacon! Now give me some sausage! And give me some eggs!”
Michachu And The Shapes 8/10
Squinting into the golden light shining onto the stage at Po Na Na, Michachu And The Shapes whizz through their set of abstract art pop, switching between time signatures and sounding like someone falling down the stairs along with their cutlery drawer. They played songs from their debut ‘Jewellery’, including ‘Curly Teeth’, ‘Eat Your Heart’ and ‘Just In Case’.
The Maccabees 6/10
As the crowd crams in the Corn Exchange, The Maccabees open with recent single ‘No Kind Words’. They play an epic sounding ‘Precious Time’, frontman Orlando Weeks strums a guitar for new song, ‘Love You Better’, while guitarist Felix White says that the crowd is the biggest they have played to. The band is obviously overwhelmed as their sensitive sound is lost in the large venue, and like those left outside, this reviewer is left underwhelmed.
British Sea Power 6/10
In the Sallis Benney theatre British Sea Power
play a euphoric set amongst their trademark trees and plants. Performing before a green screen, it seems at any point the
band could suddenly appear to be flying through the clouds. Soaring was the foliage sent into the crowd, along with guitarist
Martin Noble, who, like a lemming, turned his back to the audience and jumped right in, only to be dropped
twice. The band’s sonic palette is bolstered by violin and trumpet, but frontman Yan seems distant.
A hectic Friday evening was spent getting up to Golden Silvers in time, only to find out that they had been cancelled. Nevermind, Mongrel are playing down by the seafront. Oh, they’ve pulled their gig as well? It’s not the organisers’ fault, but wasn’t Mongrel’s guitarist playing bass at a Libertines reunion show in London around the same time?
Fight fight fight
Oh yes, it felt a little like the school days by the beach on Friday: boys (nay, men) in shirts, trousers and shoes fighting on the seafront. They weren’t part of the festival - not even fringe entertainment – just drunk.