the opening night of Great Escape is a showcase of established acts

The Great Escape 2011 review

published: Fri 20th May 2011

around the festival site (1)

Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th May 2011
venues in Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9NA, England MAP
£49.50
last updated: Wed 11th May 2011

My plan for Thursday was to have a relatively lazy morning and then a leisurely trip down to Brighton after lunch, arriving mid-afternoonish. This was slightly scuppered, however, when I nodded off around midday and didn't wake up until 6.30pm. In what was possibly the fastest I've ever got up and out of the house, I arrived in Brighton at 8.30, got my pass and then legged it to the seafront to ensure I didn't miss Frank Turner, as I was already more than a little annoyed with myself for missing Fight Like Apes. By this point, Chris (eFest's photographer) had already seen 14 bands and secured himself a ticket for DJ Shadow, much to my chagrin, and I didn't catch up with him until some time later.

Black Lungs were in full flow when I arrived at Coalition, and had I been awake for more than three hours by this point I think I would have enjoyed them far more. They seemed a very odd choice to immediately precede Frank Turner, and not a terribly logical choice to follow Fight Like Apes either, unless the thinking was simply "Fight Like Apes make lots of noise, Black Lungs make lots of noise, that'll work", but they were certainly getting the crowd fired up with their screamed lyrics, on-stage antics and massively overboard strobe lighting.

Part of me was expecting a mass exodus at the end of their set as Coalition was already pretty full, but actually around 90% of the crowd stayed, confirming my suspicions that they'd done the same as me and arrived early to bag a spot (making Black Lungs even more impressive, actually, for getting such a good reception from people who were there to see a man and his guitar). By 9.30, it was utterly impossible to move, although I saw a fair number of die-hard dickheads arriving late and trying to exercise what they must have assumed was a God-given right to be closer to the stage than anyone else. It didn't help that the (wildly inappropriate) background music kept cutting out, causing an anticipatory surge towards the front every time it happened.

When Frank finally came out on stage, he seemed tired, despite the warm reception – unsurprising, though, when he told us he'd woken up that morning in Edinburgh and been travelling all day. Nevertheless, he didn't let it affect his music, launching straight into 'I knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous' with nothing less than his traditional zeal.

Now, I am an unashamedly massive Frank Turner fan. I see him live every chance I get, I buy all his records, I scare him by asking him to sign setlists and Glastonbury programmes and at the moment he generally makes up about 70% of my listening. He's a fantastic performer who has an almost unique ability to have a crowd eating out of his hand before he's even played 2 bars of music. But something wasn't quite gelling, tonight. I'm not sure if it was the sound in the venue or the crowd itself – who seemed to only know the newer singles, weren't that interested in the older pieces, and were downright rude when Frank tried to play a couple of tracks from his upcoming album (cheering indiscriminately when he announced them but talking all over them when it became obvious they weren't 'hits'). People did start to pick up throughout the set, reacting well to 'Long Live The Queen' and although 'I Still Believe' wasn't quite the anthem it usually is, there was at least a singalong. Frank closed the set with 'Photosynthesis' which, thanks to some wonderful banter with the crowd, went down an absolute storm, but it was a shame that it took so long for people to fully engage with the set.

I'm going to go off on a slight tangent here – so please forgive me – but I have to say I was slightly surprised to see Frank Turner on the line-up of what markets itself as "Europe's premier new music festival". Is it really fair to a guy who's sold out Brixton Academy, toured in most of the countries of the world and played 1,000 live solo shows including one at Wembley to lump him in with 300+ other bands under the [find word – spurious? Relative?] heading of 'new music'? Looking through the line-up, I noticed this sort of thing was somewhat prevalent this year. And So I Watch You From Afar, for example, may not be playing stadium shows yet but they're certainly making noise, Fight Like Apes almost always sell out their shows and I'm not sure there's anyone around on the 'music scene' right now who's managed to not hear of The Vaccines or Frankie & The Heartstrings. New music, in my opinion, shouldn't just mean 'not in the Top 40'. It shouldn't have to mean unsigned, but surely it shouldn't include some of the most hyped bands of the moment.

I think it's quite telling that this year, for the first time, the 'Alternative Escape' (which has grown up on the fringes of the main Escape) was made official – times and venues appeared in the main Great Escape programme, Great Escape wristbands would guarantee you entry to these venues. Would this be necessary, if Great Escape itself was genuinely championing new and emerging talent?

Anyhow, I am going off topic, so I shall return to the review. By the time I met up with Chris, who was jealous-makingly enthusiastic about DJ Shadow's set, there wasn't a huge amount still going on. We went to the Ninja Tune / Club Dada night at the loft, but they were running behind time, and the act on stage really wasn't our cup of tea. We checked in on Warpaint at the Corn Exchange, briefly, as the queue to get in was really quite impressive, but the band themselves were distinctly underwhelming and not really suited to midnight on a Friday night, so we decided it was time to call it a day.

around the festival site (1)
review by: Hannah Morgan

photos by: Chris Mathews

Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th May 2011
venues in Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9NA, England MAP
£49.50
last updated: Wed 11th May 2011


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