Great Escape 2012: Initial impressions, tips and bands from the first afternoon – 10th May 2012

By on Thursday, 24th May 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

I arrived to the Great Escape 2012 a day early to sort my delegates badge ahead of time – an indubitably good idea, as I could swan in the next day to the press centre and pass the delegates queue – but my introduction to Brighton on Wednesday the 9th was, unfortunately, a wet one. The National Express coach from Heathrow dropped me off at the very wet seafront, with no shelter whatsoever. Let me tell you, dragging a large suitcase while rain and wind is lashing about in every direction is not a fun time. But I was in town for the Great Escape, and you do what you must. Wednesday night was saved as I ‘accidentally’ ran into Mike Bradford, local blogger and of the Recommender fame, and we had a drink in the Prince Albert by the train station. Later on, I got a text from my friends Johnny and Larry from the AU Review (nice chaps I’d met at SXSW) and we had an exceedingly gorgeous Indian near the seafront. So not all was lost. I was just tired of being…damp. I’d left Washington in the middle of a storm. I was aching for sunshine. (Which I later got…)

Thursday proved to be another difficult day weather-wise, as the rain gods appeared unwilling to cooperate. Still, I was determined to make the best of it, even if I kept getting lost in the rambling streets with dead ends all over Brighton. I missed a morning panel session but I think it was fate that I happened to walk by the front of the Corn Exchange just as Zulu Winter, my new band friends from SXSW, pulled up in their van, and they all took turns giving me a hug and asked how things were going. There’s something to be said for being recognised months after you’ve met a group of guys who no doubt meet hundreds of people at gigs every night, and that something is a very nice feeling of validation.

Still, I had yet to get my feet wet (no pun intended) at the Great Escape, so first on my colour-coded schedule was Francois and the Atlas Mountains at the Prince Albert. Thanks to yesterday’s drink with Mike, I knew where I needed to go. I thought okay, it’s Thursday, and it’s early. If I show up 15 minutes ahead of schedule, I’ll be fine, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I made my way up the staircase to the main performance area to find people already jam-packed in front of the stage. I doubt the man who was supposed to be keeping tabs on the number of people allowed up was actually counting, as he kept encouraging women such as myself to squeeze in further. As someone who gets extremely claustrophobic (even on airplanes), this made for a very worrisome situation. Worse, their roadie kept coming through the crowd with the final pieces of their gear (of which they had quite a lot), pushing himself and the gear rather (in)conveniently past me, so I had no choice but to practically squish myself into another woman who’d come upstairs around the same time as I did. This happens all the time to me in airports, train stations, really anywhere there is a massive crowd: I think people must decide, “over there, there’s a small, slight Oriental girl, go round her, she’ll be no problem, that’s the plan!” and trust me, it is not a good feeling. Still looking for that tall, strong English bodyguard boyfriend type if anyone’s offering…

With punters sardined into the small place, the band said hello and started in the 6music-playlisted ‘Les Plus Beaux’, which sounded great. The band even had choreographed arm and hand movements when they weren’t playing their instruments. Bless. It was one of the most adorable moments of my Great Escape. I got through one more song with the Frenchies before deciding I had leave to get some air. Also, I figured it was better to let some desperate music lovers hanging out on the stairs a chance to see some of the action before it was all over. But I would like to see them again sometime. Just without less bodies pushed up against me.

It was time to go back down the hill and head for a venue near the seafront. However, on my way down, I stopped for a time to see Slow Down, Molasses, a Canadian band that by all accounts went down very well with the folks assembled at the Hub, the one large outdoor venue at the Great Escape, sitting squarely in the middle of Jubilee Square. This would be the place where the wristbandless and young parents would bring their sprogs all weekend, and to me embodied the true spirit of the Great Escape: even though I had a badge, I found generally speaking the places where wristband punters and badge holders stood together in harmony were a better experience. Because you shouldn’t have to put a price on music.

The rain continued when I headed down to Volks on Madeira Drive, making an egregious mistake. The showcase had been moved not cancelled, but stupidly the staff at Volks weren’t aware of the change so I just assumed I would not be seeing Savoir Adore or be doing the previously arranged interview with them. (It had moved to the Loft, which in hindsight I probably could have made if I’d organised myself better, but I was too wiped, my phone was giving me trouble, and I was just frustrated with myself and the weather.) By then, jetlag and exhaustion was kicking in and thanks to a jammed O2 network and no service near the water, my mobile battery was dying.

Time to get a mango slushie, eat a salad I’d purchased the day before, rest for a moment and recharge myself and my phone. My phone is the wrong word for the time, as our Gateshead writer Martin had loaned me a spare iPhone of his and never working with one before, there was a steep learning curve, including how to turn off an nonexistent cafe wifi connection. At one point the phone wasn’t responding to any network and I was texting both him and fellow Great Escape fest-goer Braden with a nervous tic because I thought I’d broken it! (The phone eventually righted itself and over the weekend, I became a passable iPhone user, thank goodness.) Note: if you’re supposed to meet anyone in Brighton for the Great Escape, get mobile numbers. You might not be able to check your email at all, depending on where you are. I would have Tweeted far more if my phone didn’t keep doing that circle-y thing in the corner as it tried to reach the Twitter Web site.

I got a frantic text from Johnny of the AU Review, reporting that the rain was chucking it down at the Sounds of Australia stage at the Hub, and that I should probably take my time getting there to see Husky. I’d fallen in love with ‘Forever So’, their debut album on Sub Pop, that I’d organised an interview with them post-gig as well. Eventually I had to leave my dry haven at the café and head up the hill.

Yeah, that hill. No-one tells you how bad this hill can be, if you’re trying to run back and forth between venues. In a way, it’s similar to Roskilde in the sense that you should expect to queue for your favourite – and the more hotly-tipped – acts, and you should never assume there will be room for you. In that respect, the Hub and this Australian showcase – the rain notwithstanding – was a great place to see bands all weekend. Halfway into their set, the rain gods relented, leading to the band to end their set with the truly lovely and evocative ‘The Woods’ (video clip below), followed by ‘History’s Door’ (the latter of which you can download from the widget at the end of this post). Their sound is a thoroughly palatable blend of harmonies ala Fleet Foxes and the nonbluegrassy, too happy, peppy, indie folk elements of Mumford and Sons, you know, before they became megastars.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkWzDt3Wbws[/youtube]

Afterwards, Gideon and Husky himself were kind enough to take time out of their afternoon here in Brighton – which turned out to be the same day they arrived in England! – for a brief chat we had in Jubilee Library about their music and the Melbourne music scene, which you can view here. But by then it was time for a snack, a change of clothes (remember, I’d gotten thoroughly soaked!), and time to refocus for my first night at the Great Escape.

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