The obvious advantage of having a press pass delegates’ lanyard for The Great Escape is getting into gigs slightly quicker, usually, than merely sporting a standard wristband (trust us, we’ve done both). This doesn’t hold true or as any entry guarantee for every show but it does help.
One (admittedly minor) disadvantage is you may end up in a slightly more smug queue. Hence, last night, we earwigged on more than one conversation like this. “Are you sticking around for Saturday?” “Oh no, there’s NOTHING going on tomorrow.”
While the nothing summary isn’t exactly accurate, it’s true that this year’s Saturday at The Great Escape was rather like Sunday at Glastonbury. You know there’s decent acts playing but they’re often already familiar and won’t necessarily prevent the audience from starting their journey home. Still, we saw some good stuff.
Abrasive Leeds and Wakefield trio Drahla start our day off back in Horatio’s with a set of scratchy, deadpan post-punk grind. Luciel Brown has a dry but poetic manner akin to quietly influential Life Without Buildings’ vocalist Sue Tompkins, her co-vocalist Rob Riggs yelps his lines with suave seriousness. Despite their intensity, Drahla don’t add much new to their home towns’ post-punk story but at least they scour our brains clean ready for the evening ahead.
The Magic Gang, Beach Club
Not that anyone ever asks us but if there’s one message we’d like the music industry to take from us at The Great Escape it would be, hurry the fuck up. Like fellow 2018 TGE performers Dream Wife, it feels like it’s taken years for amiable slackers The Magic Gang to get their debut album out. Such slowness, combined with the pull of the industry’s London centre, is inhibiting local scenes (including our own) from breaking through nationally, and, again like Dream Wife, The Magic Gang have already left town (“We don’t spend much time in Brighton,” they admit on stage. “We don’t live here anymore”). Anyway, if speed is essential it isn’t something the leisurely Weezer-isms of The Magic Gang’s songs understand. They pull a huge crowd and are undoubtedly lovely chaps but do with a fresh dose of fuel rather than simply this nod-along appreciation.
Honey Lung, Green Door Store
As the fan who jumps on stage to blow kissed at singer Jamie Batten understands, London power-gazers Honey Lung have some seriously golden tunes. Possessed of the molten guitar spirit of pedal abusing forebears such as My Bloody Valentine and, especially, Swervedriver, the best of Honey Lung’s songs (‘Oh So Real’, ‘Sophomore’) shower slow-motion waves of six-string glitter on the crowd. Honey Lung probably deserve more than their recurring support band billing but, so long as the bands they’re supporting including the widely condemned likes of Moose Blood, that’s unlikely to happen.
Sons Of Kemet, Patterns
Using our strangely enormous lanyard to beat the impressive queue outside Patterns (ahead even, it appears, of straggling members of the band’s own team) we squeeze downstairs for this weekend’s most keenly anticipated instrumental jazz group. Sons Of Kemet are more fierce than almost everyone on tonight’s bill, their double percussion, saxophone and tuba line-up blasting non-stop through powerful tracks from uncompromising new album ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’. Appearing alongside an often lily-livered line-up this evening, it’s no wonder Sons Of Kemet pulled the keenest crowd.
Ten Fé, Prince Albert
Realising that luminous Londoners Ten Fé were making their headline Great Escape return merely a few hundred yards from our longed-for front door, we finish our festival adventures upstairs in the familiar snugness of the Albert. Like a hypnobeat Magic Numbers, the lustrously hairy Ten Fé draw out a gorgeous, harmonic five-song set, stretching languidly from ‘Make Me Better’, via their best song ‘Elodie’ to the final ‘Single, No Return’, about the most fitting tune a band could play within sight of Brighton Station itself (“Thanks a lot for staying and missing your trains,” says co-frontman Leo Duncan in his broad West Midlands accent, “We’d do the same for you”). A low-key final pleasure.
Words and, we do apologise, terrible phone photos (The Magic Gang and Ten Fé) by Stuart Huggett, who will not be giving up the day job.