Part punters’s piss up by the sea, part industry conference, Brighton’s Great Escape festival has established itself as one of the UK’s leading searchlights in the hunt for new talent. True to British seaside tradition, festival-goers can divide their time between arcade games on the pier, ice creams on the pavilion and fish and chips on the beach, or over thirty venues hosting live entertainment from undiscovered and established artists from all over the world. And while the city’s pretty well infested with those carrying ‘delegate’ passes pushing in all the queues (30% of those in attendance are in the business), there’s so much going on that you’d be hard pressed not to discover something special, even if you didn’t quite manage to get into Kasabian.
Brighton welcomes everyone with bad weather on the Thursday, which puts a damper on the trudge between venues. Brighton town proper is relatively small, however, and endowed with a huge number of gig venues all marked on a dummy-proof map, so it’s still fairly simple finding something to suit. Deadpan Londonite Emmy The Great kicks off proceedings at Digital with her delicate mix of acoustics and understatement. While Emmy is as enchanting as ever, the venue is ill-suited to her sound, and songs dissipate in the beery chatter of the crowd, loosing their poignancy somewhat.
Meanwhile down at Concorde 2 youngsters Bombay Bicycle Club have caused a bit of a ruckus in the rain – their gig is heavily oversubscribed and most of the hopeful fans are turned away at the door, left to trudge back down to town and see what else is on offer. A few early gatherers at the Corn Exchange catch noisy Brooklyn duo The Hundred In The Hands, who’ve begun to build a solid reputation from their raucous live performances. Tonight, however, a large proportion of the audience is still sitting in wait for Thursday’s big gig: The Maccabees.
Fresh from a UK tour in which they launched much anticipated new album ‘Wall Of Arms’, Brighton boys The Maccabees are on happiest on home soil, and their set plays out like a huge sweaty homecoming party. There’s the usual favourites from debut ‘Colour It In’, but some of the best received material comes fresh from their more recent release, including a joyous ‘Kiss And Revolve’ that threatens to see the riotous crowd lift off from the floor entirely. It’s a fitting welcome to Brighton – and judging by this reception no one present would be rather be anywhere else.