Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Great Escape - Day One

So seeing as I've done this blog, it would be ridiculous to not write about antics last weekend at what I consider to be the UK's best festival, The Great Escape. Whilst other sites attract massive headliners across sprawling fields full of people hammered on overpriced shitty lager and risking life by eating ecoli-burgers, TGE is proud to proclaim itself as Europe's premium festival for new bands, my favourite sort of band. (You will learn, over time that I am a massive contradiction, the Manics are obviously my favourite band, clearly not new...)

This year was the third time I have been. The first thing to note is that no matter how early I plan on setting off on the 260 mile trip down, it is never early enough, I always miss the first couple of bands. And so it came as no surprise that we finally arrived, checked in and got wristbands in time to see our first band at 15:00, a good few hours after things kicked off.

However, Yukon Blonde at The Hope were a great band to kick things off for us. A Canadian band with a couple of albums under their belt, this hairy bunch got things going in a raucous way. The song "Radio" stuck out with a bit of a sing-a-long chorus. Their set finished with some of the crowd remarking that the festival could only go downhill from there, it really was a strong start and I'll definitely try and see them again.

A quick trip to the oft visited Waggon and Horses to catch up with some late arrivals and a couple of pints of Doom Bar and it was off to The Loft to see Ren Harvieu, or so we thought...

For some reason, two Island acts, Ren and Tribes had been pulled from the festival, a real shame as both had been pencilled in to see on Thursday. We were already in The Loft by now and so continued to watch the end of Savior Adore's set, followed by the lovely Nina Nesbitt. Nina is a young solo singer with a guitar. Really pretty and  a crystal clear voice, another to watch out for and perhaps this years Rachel Sermanni. Check out her song, "The Apple Tree".

A break for a buffet curry, early but justified by our breakfast time departure and on for our first trip to the beach, to the Coalition to see The Skints. Briefly disheartened by the queue outside we soon realised it was as the doors had yet to open! The Skints, we were constantly reminded, are from East London and had had their equipment nicked. With their cobbled together gear they did sound really tight, playing their brand of ska/reggae, which wasn't really for me but sounded accomplished. They did have a really annoying vocal effect which thankfully isn't on their latest album. I do much prefer the record to their live show, "Live East, Die Young" was a highlight on Thursday night. It should be pointed out that Marcia from the band is stunningly beautiful and has a voice to match, I much preferred the songs that she took the lead on.

From The Coalition we had the short walk to the last intact pier, and a hike towards France and Horatio's bar. We arrived as La Femme were playing their set which was clearly well supported as we couldn't get anywhere near the place, being held up in the queue outside until they finished. Thankfully we got in once La Femme's fans had cleared off as two acts followed that I was really looking forward to seeing. Well, I say seeing...Horatio's has tables and chairs down the edges and I was certainly going to take advantage of them! 

Peace have been described by the NME as "The new Maccabees". Thank God, as the current ones aren't that great. I have no doubt that they will be popping up at festivals all over this summer and will be well talked about at the end of the year. They were followed by a  band already being talked about everywhere, Friends, from Brooklyn. If truth be told, I got a little bored of their set, not sure they were justifying the hype. "Friend Crush", however, is a right song.

22:00 on Thursday was a time I wasn't looking forward to as there was a 3 way clash of Ben Kweller, Willy Mason and Hannah Cohen. We got around that clash by not going to any of them and also failing to get in to Gaz Coombes, Blind Tiger having a pretty big queue outside. We learned later that once he started the queue entirely disappeared allowing some lucky punters to wonder in. That could have been down to the Blind Tiger's ace smoking policy, if you go for a fag, you may well not get back in!

And so we strolled up to the Corn Exchange to make sure we got to see Mystery Jets. Unfortunately that meant we had to endure Gross Magic first. Their sound was pretty ropey and that was as good as it got. I tweeted afterwards "A more woeful din you could not wish to hear", which was kindly retweeted by an artist clearly spending too long searching for himself on twitter and not long enough learning how to fucking play. Apparently he'd lost his voice the day before. Sadly, it appears, it wasn't terminal.

On to the final band of the night, The Mystery Jets. 4 albums in to their career now, it kind of feels odd that they are headlining a New Music festival. However they are a really solid band with great singles and albums that I will be revisiting. My highlight was "Two Doors Down". I saw them in 2006 on the NME tour with Maximo Park, We Are Scientists (both, oddly, playing this new music festival...) and the Arctic Monkeys and I was shocked by how Blaine's disability has affected him. He was born with Spina Bifida and understandably was sat down for the gig. I may be wrong but I don't recall him being as bad when I saw them in Edinburgh. Nat was telling me about his insistence on only playing venues that effectively cater for guests with disabilities which is more than worthy. His condition makes the noise he produces all the more incredible, I was always taught to only sing stood up, allowing the lungs to fill properly etc...

It was an uplifting and polished end to day one. Before going back to the hotel I'm pretty sure I had another couple of Doom Bars in the Waggon and Horses, a perfect finish to a long day.

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