What better way to start a Saturday than with a secret fans-only gig by Ben Kweller, in a tent? Gigwise, like most other punters at The Great Escape, heard about this and seemingly hundreds of other gigs throughout the weekend by signing up to an invaluable texting service (though the text-a-minute tip-offs did begin to grate a little towards the end). Never one to disappoint, Kweller took requests from the crowd, encouraging sing-a-long renditions of ‘Penny On A Train Track’ and ‘On My Way’, before trying to flog his new album for a tenner at the end of the set, in true troubadour style. Maccabees brothers-in-arms Felix and Hugo were spotted singing along, word-perfect. “The only person I wanted to see was Ben Kweller!” an overexcited Felix told Gigwise at the end of the set.
Saturday’s big news was the not-so-secret Babyshambles gig, which saw Pete Doherty and co. play a six-songs to hundreds of festival-goers at Audio. Those who wanted to attend had to apply for separate tickets, but even that didn’t stop the waiting crowds from queuing round the block hours before the venue even opened. Pete seemed in reasonably good form considering he’d come straight from an impromptu Libertines reunion in London the night before, even managing to head a football kicked up to him by the crowd mid-set.
That night, in Audio’s basement, Fight Like Apes unleashed ferocious sweaty screamy-pop on an unsuspecting, beer-swilling audience. The programme described them as having spent ‘the majority of the past 12 months ram-raiding their don’t-take-no-for-an-answer songs in people’s ears’, and the ram-raiding continued unabated in Brighton. A short while later, on the same stage, San Diego garage rockers The Soft Pack played their second gig of the weekend. The soundsystem didn’t do them justice, but they impressed nonetheless, imparting fuzzily distorted riffs and disaffected obscured vocals to a rowdy crowd that threatened to erupt into full-on rioting – the gig was a definite Escape highlight.
Night-time revellers were low on the ground for the grand finale, perhaps the result of it being the third night of wind-beaten city trudging, but the cosy upstairs of Ocean Rooms busied slightly with the friendly fans of Post War Years, and their polished, punctuating, bleepy indie. Scheduled entertainment was equally thin on the ground after the midnight hour, but those with the stamina graced a marquee dance tent for Queens Of Noize’s very own cocktail of eighties pop and rock, that veered towards the bland as the night drew to a close. No bother – Great Escape had already re-instated itself as the best of the inner-city festivals. As the Camden Crawl with added seaside and cider, it’s pretty hard to beat.