The Hanging Gardens Of Brighton Review
We headed down to the Old Steine to finish off the festival with three more days of live music. Despite a quiet start, we got the sense the festival could grow into something great. Here’s hoping we’ll get to hang out in the gardens next year.
Friday night at the Hanging Gardens of Brighton kicked off like a slow Monday; the crowd formed like a stalactite for this Fringe Festival send-off – not helped by a downed till at the box-office. The punters dripped in – organically, like the creperie in the main tent – and the atmosphere lifted. Babylonian friezes, paper butterflies, plastic garlands and a punchbowl of humanity added to the carnivalian, surreal theme of the festival.
Alabama 3 took to the stage at 9.30pm, bookended by a variety of musical genres and acts. Silver-haired lead-singer Larry Love announced their arrival with an eloquent “Fuck Austerity”, shouted through cigarette smoke. The band swaggered their way through an eclectic set – a soul/rockabilly/dance hybrid with dub and funk breakdowns. Ever-changing backup singers and borrowed lyrics (from Johnny Cash to the Black Eyed Peas) gave it a collaborative, party feel, reflecting the zeitgeist of the event. Love was almost upstaged by the lead female vocalist: looking like Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman and belting out a voice with a physicality like Bane.
They ended with their most known song – ‘Woke Up This Morning’ – leaving behind an appreciative, swaying audience, who had just bopped and danced their way through 1.5 hours of foot-stomping, mojo-swilling musical entertainment.
From the outside the festival enclosure looked tiny, but there was something of a Tardis effect once you passed through the big blue castle gates. Inside, many punters seemed content to lounge around the fountain, enjoying the blissfully hot day while only a smattering sought out the shade and acoustic sounds of the ‘Temple Tent’.
Meanwhile, over on the main stage, The Destroyers were kicking up a storm with their uptempo big-bang polka. Now, there are plenty of bands in Brighton playing this breed of gypsy and klezmer stuff, but none have it nailed quite like this Brummie lot. Their dramatic finale left people wandering off sweaty and smiling, and it was still only the afternoon.
Things had got a bit busier by the time the Go! Team eventually came onstage, but only a bit. Thus it was a half empty tent that saw the Brighton six-piece launch into an action-packed set of hip hop indie rock. Having dipped off the radar until recently, it was pleasing to find the Go! Team were still as energetic as ever, especially the fabulously frenetic lead singer – the one they call Ninja. While the sound system seemed unable to cope with the band’s multi-layered sample-heavy sound, it was clear that everyone here knew the songs well enough for it not to matter.
Stumbling outside, it became evident where everyone else had got to: the DJ tent was packed with punters getting their Dreadzone fix.
Sunday is one of those days. Everybody is hanging on, or trying to, for that last day of the weekend. People look fragile and tired, but happy to be in the sun.
Luckily there is a cure for this feeling of lethargy: beer and music. Walking into the main stage Carnival Collective kick off, bringing with them some brightly coloured, high energy fun. Everyone is beginning to move and shake off those Sunday blues. The band will prove perfect for the festival circuit, Lovebox and Secret Garden Party agree. After an interval, Ska Cubano take the stage. Ska and Cuba, say no more. The frontman works the crowd with ease and soon everyone is moving their feet and belching out their lungs to ‘Tequila’.
Later in the evening Molotov Jukebox arrive. They sound like they were born in the circus. Trumpeting whirligigs and fanfares. Bright lights and weird tricks. Well worth seeing at Secret Garden Party, Boomtown and Shambala. Walking away from the tent it is the end of Sunday, another weird day over, time to start a strange new week.
Old Steine, Friday 25th – Sunday 27th May
Words by Philip Williams, Ben Bailey and Rebecca Linzey
Photos by Mike Burnell