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Thursday

I heard a band before I saw one as I sat behind the Jubilee Square enclosure (which seemed to be a delegate-only area, The Great Escape being very industry-orientated) listening to The Brass Funkeys who pretty much did what they said on the tin. I went into the Komedia where the Australian showcase offered up two female-fronted bands, rockers Tired Lion and more indieish Middle Kids.

Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar meanwhile had the German showcase and my favourite new discovery of the day Fuck Art, Let’s Dance: infectiously energising synth/guitar music that really blew the crowd away. They were followed up by perky female punksters Gurr, who unfortunately left me cold. I slipped out to walk along to Hove and check into my hostel, returning in time to have a second look at Slotface, they turned out to be singing in the Wagner Hall courtyard, rather than the hall itself, which was unfortunate because it was now pissing it down and they were doing some weird, short acoustic set which only comprised of four songs, including the same one twice for recording purposes, which seemed to make it hard to get into for band and audience alike.

Being a canny veteran of these things, I started camping out at The Haunt to ensure I was there for the band I really wanted to see, so in the meantime took in ILL, who were five women in sparkly capes (“rage-filled sonic meltdowns, with plenty of personality and politics” as TGE’s write-up pretty neatly summarises their music) and bonkersly brilliant, as well as Flamingods, who originated from Bahrain but seemed to meld a wide-range of global music; they were endearing but the music never quite grabbed me. I was there for Shame, who postured and sweated their way through another great show.

After that I wandered over to the East Wing of the Brighton Centre and managed to see the much-hyped The Amazons, who played some decent straight-down-the line rock. I headed up to Prince Albert and first saw North Downs, whose atmospheric electronica seemed good, although a struggle to focus on whilst trying to accommodate people’s trips to and from the bar at the back of a tightly-packed room; I moved right to the front for October Drift, who had the thrashiest guitars and the sneeriest poses of the festival but not much else.

I ended the day at The Hope & Ruin and caught a couple of bands whose names I’d been seeing around: Broken Witt Rebels, who had a Kings-of-Leonish Southern Rock sound despite being from Birmingham, and Bang Bang Romeo, whose female singer had a belter of a voice. I walked back along the 2am sea-front to Hove and my hostel, which turned out to be pretty quiet, although it was hard to sleep past 6 once the first people started to get up and move around.


Friday

I started Friday with long-time indie favourites Lighthouse (who I keep missing recently) at the East Street Tap, then the geekily lurid Asylums at the Shipwright’s Yard. Next were ME + MARIE at the Komedia Studio who simply described themselves as “European” (to some cheers) and played a kind of soulful blues-rock.

After meeting up with Anna, our first point of call was seeing Leeds rockers Fizzy Blood, downstairs at The Hope & Ruin. We sat in the Shipwright’s Yard, listening to Gulp but were never particularly inspired to get up and watch them and when Magic Gang, who we’d been waiting for, came on, Anna proclaimed them too saccharine; they do certainly have a clean and wholesome kinda thing going on.

We camped back out in The Haunt and saw first of all King Nun, young guitar lads who made a good noise without having any particularly notable songs; Dead Pretties and HMLTD both had an unwholesome, DIY (and, in HMLTD’s case, queer) aesthetic that I really enjoyed but I can’t really remember their music well enough to distinguish them. We were in position for the much-hyped Cabbage, however, whose rough-and-ready, satirical offerings were pretty good fun.

The next place we’d hoped to get into had a queue and Anna decided to call it a night, I started wandering back to the sea-front, checking out a couple of possibilities that I thought may also be over-subscribed on the way but it turned out that getting into Wagner Hall for Rat Boy was pretty easy. He had some technical hitches but once they got going I really enjoyed their indie/hip hop fusion and, unusually for the festival, where many of the bands were new to people and audience ages were quite mixed, the crowd got pretty energetic.


Saturday

I checked out of the hostel in the morning so ended up kicking around central Brighton pretty early: certainly in time to happen upon the international Morris-Dancing Convention that seemed to have descended on the Pavilion Gardens. I eased myself into the day with a very endearing Geordie singer-songwriter called Jake Houlsby at the Komedia.

I met up with Anna, who had been pretty happy to be led by my fairly sketchy research, but her one contribution to our scheduling was to suggest some Korean rock & roll in the form of The Monotones at Latest Music Bar, who were energetic and charming. We moved on to Brighthelm to see young fraternal-duo Cassels (who I think I may have almost seen upstairs at The Garage once), who had a powerful rawness to their songs.

We trekked up out of the centre to Bleach, which had an appealing rock-dive atmosphere but an appalling selection of drinks, to see Apologies, I Have None, who really blew it away: the best set I’ve seen them play and they were Anna’s favourite act of the festival. It was then quite a schlep back down to Patterns on the sea-front to see Yungblud (not Youngblood, who were also at the festival), who I wasn’t sure she’d like so much but luckily she was really impressed by their fusion of styles and energy.

After pausing for dinner, we moved on to see Inheaven in Wagner Hall, they had a clear 90s indie/grunge sound and co-vocalists (1 guy/1 girl), and were perfectly decent. We headed back up to The Hope & Ruin for a final push and queued all the way through a band we weren’t that fussed about (the only serious queueing I had to do all weekend) to get in just in time for locals White Room, whose psychedelic rock has more of a Madchester sound every time I hear it and really energised the packed room. The crowd were no less inspired by The Blinders, whose name I’d been hearing around a lot and didn’t disappoint, their punchy, political songs seeming to wring every ounce of effort from their young bodies. Anna headed off but my festival finished off with The Wholls, who were fine but couldn’t quite sustain the same level of intensity.

I wandered up to the station and shivered outside for a couple of hours (whilst the rain had given way to some pretty scorching weather from about the point Anna had turned up onwards, it was still pretty cold in the middle of the night) until they opened up the gates for the first train to London.
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