In which our hero gets Knocked Down A Peg Or Two, enjoys Yaaks, Dog is Dead and Anna Calvi, but still doesn't like Trophy Wife. Or burgers. That last one isn't a band.
Wooden-mouthed and unsure of step after the previous evening's fun I woozily made for Day 2 and Friday of The Great Escape 2011.
After learning the hard way of the importance of planning at Thursday's borderline wash-out, there was renewed vigour in my studying of the day's programme as I awaited friends on benches outside the Royal Pavillion Gardens. After joining back up with my red-wristbanded minions, I set the course for the Above Audio venue and the delicious line-up of treats promised at the Marine Parade venue in the afternoon session.
As one of the most hotly-tipped acts on the day's bill I'd marked Yaaks with an asterisk denoting 'unmissable', so for the first time broke from the red-wristbands and attempted entry from the opposite queue. Without looking at the doorman, I pulled my sleeve down to reveal my gold wristband – a hand on my shoulder. Perhaps he hadn't seen...
“Oh, I'm a delegate...”
What a misunderstanding,
“Don't care mate, back of the queue”.
Boos and heckles transformed into raucous applause from the 50-odd waiting in the queue. The phrase “delegate-fail” was coined in the crowd and inspired laughter among the bedraggled rabble. Truly, my crown of thorns moment, carrying my cross to the back of the queue to reflect on how much perspective had been lost. Had I not stood with my people before this weekend, before innocence was lost?
Finally I made it in mid-way through Yaaks set, and good thing I did because their white-hot harmonic throes had drawn a deservedly eager crowd as instruments fought for airspace amongst an increasingly sweat-drenched room. Indulging in some abstract memory of Majorca and the first girl who'd taken my eye at 12 years old, before resort-based package holidays became ho-hum, the music quickly eased my “delegate-fail” feelings of self-pity.
Further tonic to failgate came in the guise of industry movers and shakers, Dog is Dead – a kind of folksy indie band from Nottingham whose energetic display had me feeling for burgeoning aches in back and leg. Surprisingly, the hype for once seems to be justified – pending further research - as they rattled through a set, described by the band themselves as “Louis Armstrong lost in disco” - not so sure about that, but enjoyable nonetheless with their more expansive moments recalling Band of Horses at their most lively.
The afternoon pause. This time spent watching a barbecue on Audio's terrace debating the virtues of their burgers, making cases for and against their appearance as punters took advantage of one of Brighton's many short-lived attempts at a sunny day over the course of the weekend. They came in at £3, which we agreed was the ceiling amount we'd been willing to pay. The bravest of my comrades took the plunge and gave the burger a 3/10 score, citing a value supermarket standard beef patty and an 8 for a £1 crusty roll as the guilty parties. Not for the first time that weekend I learned that appearances can be deceptive.
The evening's play began at Horatios, a rather dubious venue on Brighton Pier that resembled a pub that might sell dodgy fags under the bar. A pint was just under £4, something that this Northerner is really struggling not to balk at early on in my Brighton career.
They say that the first bite is with the eye and if that's the case, Tribes started off as a tiramisu with a few of the afore-mentioned dodgy fags stubbed out throughout, with the music providing a worse-still aftertaste, legacy long on the breath. Dressed uniformly in different coloured low V-necked vests (!), their by-numbers Hollywood-like unimagining of 90s grunge-pop was thoroughly tedious and archaic. Alex Winstone was scheduled to follow and having been impressed during research for the festival, I was looking forward to her set. Unfortunately she had pulled out late on, and having being less than enthused by the first song or two of the late replacements, I made for the Komedia for one of the acts I'd most anticipated in the build-up.
Anna Calvi is building up quite the head of steam. With her excellent self-titled début album seemingly destined for the dreaded reissue in time for the bandwagon to catch on, the queue was already stretching down the street ahead of her stage-time of 22:15. Joined by a red-wristbanded friend, I joined the back of the line and watched my fellow gold-wristbanded delegates being granted priority access. Still smarting from earlier in the day and deterred from leaving the slow- moving line by the girl in-front who grew increasingly enraged at the preferential treatment being doled out to the dignitaries, I waited my turn and in doing so, earned my redemption. Though, not without cost.
Calvi was midway through a lean eight song set when I entered, but I was utterly spellbound for the four songs I caught. 'Desire' was a particularly stirring highlight from the singer who has recently recovered from a serious hand injury to be back on guitar playing duty, providing inspired flamenco-inspired flourishes to her otherworldly brand of Banshees-esque goth-pop. Her lips curling around harsh consonants provided subtle breaks to her commanding and powerful vocal, which was offset beautifully against her charmingly dainty asides. Her presence and poise was there for all to see, though this is no idle hype; Calvi will be a real force to reckon with and I await her further output with baited breath.
With a new and sudden lease of life I stumbled to one of Brighton's newest haunts... erm, The Haunt. Just in time for another unexpected slice of Trophy Wife, those Oxford ne'erdowellers whose insipid ditties had so taken the wind from my sails the night before. Determined to give them another chance for winning praise in respected circles, I bought a drink, had a few swigs from it, and deposited it back on the bar to retreat home ahead of Saturday and the final day, my spirits sufficiently sapped.
I'm getting old.
Join me same time tomorrow on Skiddle.com for the final round of ordinations and chastises from The Great Escape 2011, featuring more confessions, an impromptu large-scale throwback to Robot Wars and a comprehensive look at Will Sheff's Texan outfit, Okkervil River.
Words: Mark Booth
Read Mark's review of Day 1 of The Great Escape