Diary of a Great Escape – Day One


UK festival promoters have spent recent years trying to come up with a British counterpart to Austin’s SxSW, but have strangely failed to hit the nail on the head. Camden Crawl, Sauchiehall Crawl, Hinterland, Stag and Dagger et al have all made ripples on the festival calendar, but haven’t quite made the impact you might expect, given Britain’s already thriving pub culture.

The Great Escape’s organisers have gone for an almost wholesale SxSW setup. 300 bands, 34 venues, 3 days, one wristband. So goes the marketing spiel. To complement that, they’ve put on a conference, with speakers ranging through such figures as Colin Greenwood, Peter Jenner and Alexis Petridis scheduled to discuss the future of the music industry.

Frankly, it’s a subject matter I’ve grown tired of. If the future of music is really in doubt, then best make haste and enjoy it while we can, right? Which is what this weekend is going to be about. A line-up that draws a steady, if not spectacular line between fledglings and luminaries should see to that.

Brighton isn’t a big place – about half the size of Edinburgh by my crude estimation, and so getting from venue to venue isn’t a problem. What is an issue, is deciding which bands to see. Things kicked off last night, but the main festivities are left until Friday and Saturday. That said, the first dilemma of the weekend didn’t take too long to emerge.

Evan Dando, he of Lemonheads fame, or The Handsome Family? After taking the time spent queuing for accreditation as an opportunity to thrash out the arguments for and against each, the latter won. For the legendary status Evan Dando and The Lemonheads have acquired in indie circles, I’m still not convinced he’s all that good. Pretty simple then, really.

The Handsome Family were playing on the Mojo Stage in Hove’s Old Market, so you’ll forgive me for being disappointed at the dearth of beards and denim. Not a Saxondale in sight. Phil Alexander was, however, looming large. The Mojo Editor will be compering the stage all weekend and was a little bit pissed.

Snowbird had the duty of warming up the crowd, which they did pretty well. If there’s such thing as a quasi-indie-superduo, then Snowbird is it. They’re made up of The Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde (also the chap behind the marvellous Bella Union Records) and Wisconsin songstress Stephanie Dosen. A Fleet Foxes cover sits nicely in a serene, piano led set.

The Handsome Family completely vindicate my decision to ditch Evan Dando. They bridge the until now undiscovered gap between Brian Blessed and the Silver Jews. And that’s more of a compliment than you might think.

Having trekked all the way out to Hove for the ‘Family, it’s pretty late by the time I make it back into Brighton. The Acorn played Brighton Pavilion Theatre and were a nice way to round off day number one.

The sun is out today and the sizeable Scottish contingent will be on show.

Stay tuned for some feedback…

Pictures to follow…

Written for The Skinny, published periodically through the festival

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