The Cribs, Slow Club, For a Minor Reflection, Gabby Young & Other Animals, Joe Worricker - The Great Escape 2010

Alisha Ahmed 07/06/2010

I'd been counting the days to the 13th of May since last year. I don't remember much about last year's return journey from The Great Escape… which is just one more thing to prove how truly amazing the 2009 edition had been. As soon as I got back to London then, it had become my priority to get there again this year, and I have not stopped until I was there again for the fifth edition of The Great Escape in Brighton.

I'm really not exaggerating when I said last year was a life-changing experience, I literally could not stop running from a venue to another, and that way I discovered not only some of the best bands that populated last year's music scene -and who are still strongly out and about- but also some of the bands who have now become my favourite of all time. I did not realise this could've set me up for disappointment. Not necessarily because this year's was any less worth being there, but admittedly, managing to feature, in the same 3-day festival, from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to the XX was quite a hard thing to replicate. Moreover, the delegate's area being moved away from its natural environment -the seaside Queen's Hotel- made it somehow less cohesive and apparently, I wasn't the only one to notice how queues tended to be longer and sometimes poorly managed this year. So yeah, starting with the overall feeling, something was a bit off this year if you have to compare it to what the Great Escape has truly the potential to be. Again, that does not mean this is enough for me to change my mind from the idea that The Great Escape is still the best festival around and the only one I'd go if I had to chose. With The Great escape, the concept of Boutique Festival gets developed to its highest potential, where you get to see even the biggest band on the bill in a venue with a maximum capacity of less than 500 people, believe me… it does not get more intimate and exclusive than this.

Thursday 13th of May

Then again, sometimes it gets so intimate that my inauguration gig on Thursday by Little Comets at Life, had to be skipped, cause as much as the glimpses of sound were good… Life is quite the labyrinth where I still have to figure out where you actually need to be too in order to see the bands (no kidding in fact, you had to follow the "Bands this way" signs around different floors and stairs). I won't complain about that much because both the Little Comets and I got a real good second chance, as they got to headline at the Concorde 2 that same night -due to The Walkmen pulling out, stuck somewhere by the still infamous ash cloud-, and as Life had not been quite welcoming to me, I got to see part of the set by Joe Worricker at Komedia on the Mojo stage. Now, as much as I trust implicitly anything signed by Rough Trade I must admit this kid would've impressed me either way. For some inexplicable reason beyond natural rules, I just could not match the maturity and depth of his voice to his young boyish looks, which is just a hint of how peculiar and interesting this guy is.

Just after him, came label-mate Rox, who I already had a soft spot for. This lovely lady has some kind of rhythm infusion flowing through her veins and when she is on stage no one can really deny she seems to have been born and bred specifically to do that, that's the kind of stage animal she is. I was really sorry to leave her before he performance was actually over, but my resolution was prized nonetheless, as there was something that turned out to me more than worth of my attention at the Queen's Hotel with Gabby Young & Other Animals.

That's what happens at The Great Escape by the way, so many acts and venues, so little time, you'll jump and run from a venue to another (which in most cases will be within actual foot reach… if you don't die to see anything on at either Concorde 2 or The Hope) and you might end up catching two acts in within the official time slot of one, if you can endure seeing the beginning of one and the ending of another (with a healthy jog in between).

After mine (healthy Jog, that is), I got to the Queens just in time to catch Miss Young and actually just one Animal, performing an outstanding set! I had the pleasure to see Gabby quite some time ago, which allowed me to appreciate not only her amazing performance, but her obvious development as an artist as well. I honestly pity the ones who cannot get past the fact that Gabby and Florence Welch share the same hair colour but are we so naive to believe that can be the beginning of a comparison? Please remember that even if we've been driven to believe the opposite lately, a *female* singer is the definition of a gender, not a genre. Moreover, I guess Florence could only wish to actually have a real voice like Gabby, she literally made the walls and floor tremble due to the amazing high notes she can hit -and hold!-

While considering the options to fill the next time slot with, somehow my absence from Brighton since the year before made me actually forget how far exactly the Concorde 2 was from the rest of the venues, so that I managed to get there just by the time Pulled Apart By Horses were done with their set (which I've only heard great things about though). Another stroll to the northern lanes and I made the acquaintance of the first signing of Kaiser Chief's label "Chewing Gum Records" with 4-piece from Hull The Neat, at The Basement.

Next on the bill was spent just queuing for the unofficial headliner of the night: The Cribs at The Corn Exchange. Delegates, regulars, priorities, everybody's, the queue was just unbelievably long and there were definitely more than the 1200 people which could fit within the Exchange. Even photographers had to queue for a slot in the overcrowded pit, where Channel 4 had priority to film the entire performance by the Jarman brothers and the epic guitar sound of Mr Johnny Marr. Blessed with "the best seat of the venue" I got to see the whole gig from the wings, and I guess the look on my face was pretty self-explanatory while I was having this surreal experience, and that might be why at some point, I saw the purpose of most of my life fulfilled when Mr Johnny Marr looked backstage and pointed his guitar, violin-style to me.

After so many emotions and quite the fan-girl grin stamped on my face, I had to call it a night for the first day.

Friday 14th of May

I got woken up on Friday by a text from The Great Escape itself around noon, telling me to run to the Fortune of War for a secret gig by The Cribs. Yes, they were the last thing I saw the previous day, but I would've gladly woken up to them again as well. Unfortunately this managed to be the lowest point of the festival for me. The queue was totally unmanaged, and it took them almost half an hour to just let us know no delegates priority queue was there (so photographers and press might have as well be gone). Rumours tell me they played just a few songs for MTV, hence probably the lack of interested given to both delegates and regulars of the festival itself. On a side note, just let me say it makes me really sad to see how the "velvet ropes" situations have reached as far as The Great Escape, which I tend to love just exactly because for three days, it is all about music, and nothing about the glitter or supposed glam and cool related to it: just pure simple music to be enjoyed by everyone who is in attendance because of it. Dare I say that might have not been exactly in line with the presence of MTV altogether? Oh well...

Spending my time queuing for nothing at the Fortune of War though, I also missed the matinee gig by General Fiasco, who were one of the really promising bands I was hoping to catch. This actually put me off so much that most of the afternoon was just spent wandering aimlessly around a very sunny -at least- Brighton. On a late lunch on Jubilee Square I also happened to be found by one of the secret gigs around the city, where stage and equipment was popping up in less than 30 minutes, and dismantled right away after the performance was over, courtesy of Relentless. This one was by indie-meets-r&b storyteller Ghostpoet, who had attracted a crowd big enough to fill up the whole square quite quickly. Just to make sure I had it right, the set by Ghostpoet was also the first I caught as the beginning of the second night of my TGE, at The Volks just on the sea side.

Then, my projects for the night got a little out of hand and I found myself at the Hector's House catching the set by Saddle Creek's own Rural Alberta Advantage, so incredibly worth it but alas, this meant missing what I heard was a very fine performance by latest Rough Trade signing Warpaint, the all-girls-4-piece from LA.

My true gem of the day came at 10pm at the Queen's Hotel though, where the limelight was set for 45 minutes on one of my favourite bands of the last couple of years, with the Icelandic post-rock quartet For a Minor Reflection taking the stage and showcasing most of the songs from their forthcoming second album which I've been looking forward to for far too long already.

After that, I wish I could tell many witty stories about how the night went on, but unfortunately, both the acts I still wanted to catch weren't reachable. I had to ditch my attempt to see French duo John & Jehn because they were a) playing at The Hope, so far from anything and anywhere else, and b) The Hope was full anyway before I could even think about getting there. The second act I missed was the showcase of Joe Flory's Primary 1 project, which I've been infatuated with since the first single "the Blues", featuring Nina Persson of The Cardigans and A Camp' fame, was hotly tipped by NME Radio's DJ Jon Hillcock. I still love the single but so far, I haven't managed to proof-experience that, because apparently I am getting old enough not to manage to drag myself at Audio for a set starting at 1.15am.

Just before getting to my room I had a glimpse of a lot of bands and people seemingly having a great time at the (un) official after party which I suspect went on overnight, for most of the night, at the Queen's bar.

Saturday 15th of May

For the third and last day, I was quite defeated in terms of numbers. On the other hand, nothing and no-one really disappointed me in terms of quality, making this probably the best day overall. It all was a late start as my first proper gig was at the Coalition at 7.30pm, with Norwegian, english-singers, all girls, 4-some, : Katzenjammer, which honestly, do not share even the slightest resemblance to their name (which is the German word for "cat's wail", thanks Wikipedia). They were definitely my highlight on Friday for both music and entertainment experience, and I admit their cat-like bass was just the cherry on top for me. Plus, they are very hard to track down to a genre -throw banjos, trumpets and accordions in the same song, and then tell me how you'd define it- which I just love, as words always tend to be quite restrictive to me, when it comes to music -duh!

I could hardly come down from their set but I eventually did stroll my way north to the Unitarian Church to spend the rest of the night in the more than pleasant company of Canadian multi instrumentals and singer-songwriter Basia Bulat, another of my pre-approved acts that actually lived more than up to my expectations -which considering she's Rough Trade material, were quite high anyway-. I've had a soft spot for her since I discovered she was featured in label-mates The Veils' latest album "Sun Gangs", and I believe now more than ever that witnessing the crystal voice she's gifted with is just something to be grateful for.

Before I could check what was coming up next on my schedule, I realised the next set up at the Unitarian Church was by the lovely boy-girl duo Slow Club, who I have been trying to catch live for the whole last year. For some inexplicable reason, my affection for them just grew when they began their set by playing a 4-hands on a piano, in the dark, at the very back of the whole audience -which they cared about throughout the whole set, making sure up until the end that no one had to stay out of the overcrowded church, ending up with people everywhere, but cared for, ain't that so sweet?.

Although, my love for the Sheffield duo made me say goodbye to my last chance to catch General Fiasco, who were supposed to be one of the main reason for me to go at the Great Escape this year, but alas, the powers in charge of the schedules did not decide in favour of our meeting. Nor could I witness any kind of development -if there was any- in the more-popular-by-the-day Marina Diamandis aka Marina & The Diamonds.

Australian siblings Angus & Julia Stone should've been the final cherry on top of my very own personal Great Escape 2010 -which, being dedicated to Australia this year, would've been just been the right thing to do- but an impromptu quasi-jam-session held in my hotel room by bits of Pulled Apart by Horses, Japanese Voyeurs and Telegraphs, had me withdrawing from any other things the festival could've offered… after all who wouldn't want to end the festival on such an Almost Famous note? And now, back to old sweet London, I am once again counting down the days. Yes, it was a few points down compared to the 2009 edition of The Great Escape this year, but that doesn't change the fact that this remains the only festival worth attending for the open-minded fan to find and discover the good music which will define the year.

Check out Alisha's Ahmed's Great Escape photo set here: