The Great Escape Clockwatch: Friday, May 14th
00:10: Better late than never, MAY68 take to the stage at Coalition (which thankfully fills up dramatically ten minutes before the Mancunian fivepiece take to the stage), and, as always, they’re in party mood. The Duke Is Dead’s slick beats are excellent, Last Mile is as great as always, and current single My Ways kind of bursts into a fantastic extended electro medley which generates a lot of dancing at the front, as well as sporadic shape-throwing (for the less cool/drunk) and head-nodding (industry/shrinking violets).
One young man on the front row is so terribly excited by the whole affair that he keeps flinging his jumper up around his armpits, proudly showing us all his bare chest whilst still managing to dance along. Vocalist Judy Wainwright is a good sport, jumping up and down on the spot with a punter’s novelty sponge Wacaday-style hammer and drawing further energy from the crowd - even if she has to gently chide them a couple of times for making her laugh too much.
00.40: Home James, and don’t spare the horses! Kemp Town is strangely still for this relatively early hour – apart from the odd giant seagull walking down the middle of the main shopping street like they own the place. Seriously, they are all about the same size as Harry, the Fugitive Motel cat, and he’s pretty big for a domestic shorthair.
13.00: One delicious, filling pasty later (as recommended by the security guard on duty at the Shipbuilder’s Yard, so thanks to her for that), it’s time for The Miserable Rich – who, unbelievably, I’m only just seeing for the first time today. “Most of our songs are about substance abuse,” chirps James de Malplaquet, although he does note that one is about “the best yummy mummy in Brighton”.
Any evidence of audience satisfaction is, obviously, totally different to the frenzied dancing at MAY68 last night; there’s gentle swaying, broad smiles, nods of appreciation. A lady cradling a bunch of bluebells at the head of the crowd beams like the sunshine, (which, incidentally, finally decides to show its face later in the afternoon).
What makes The Miserable Rich such a joy to listen to is the richness and warmth of their string section – it’s the kind of quality that gives you the shivers all over, not just down your spine. All are versatile players – Will Calderbank on cello can even do a perfect impression of an ambulance siren, complete with Doppler effect. And they get bonus points for writing a song that is very obviously in 6/8 time.
14.10: Although they may still give you free teabags with your CDs (I still treasure both my copy of the Stepping Stones EP and its accompanying teabag from the Fugitive Motel’s ‘Opening Night’ in 2007), a lot has changed in the world of Tim And Sam’s Tim And The Sam Band With Tim And Sam. Playing at Latest Music Bar, the room slowly and silently fills as their set progresses.
Clad all in blue and expanded to a five-piece, the addition of vocals on tracks like Finders Keepers is tasteful. Although their slight shift in sound does take some getting used to, thankfully, the intricacy of their quintessentially English melodies isn’t lost on electric instruments. However, it’s acoustically where the band still really excel – Join The Dots, with its haunting guitar hook, is just as beautiful as the day it was born.
15.00: It’s off to David Quantick’s pop quiz, hastily moved to The Black Lion, a hospitable if small venue tucked away in The Lanes. Motel compadre Andy has joined a crack squad containing Dom and Dan from Drowned In Sound, and Ian (aka Willy) – combined, the three are like a Wikipedia of music. In what is perhaps a topical reference, the team dubs itself ‘Forest/County Coalition Failures.’
15.04: Apparently none of the answers are ‘The Pussycat Dolls’.
15.45: Christ, this quiz is fiendishly hard. I’m beginning to think I needed to be born before, not after, 1980 to get *any* of the answers. My personal contribution to Team FCCF’s efforts has, sadly, so far, been minimal to say the least.
16:10: During an audio round, one gentleman shouts “IT’S ROBIN HOOD” at the top of his voice as the PA is treated to an extract of Everything I Do (I Do It For You) by Bryan Adams. Cue the first uncontrollable outbreak of giggles this weekend from your editor. Surely, dear readers, whilst you all know that Adams’ implausibly popular first-dance-at-a-wedding song was number 1 in the UK for 2 and a half years*, you probably do not know that lower-case-happy songster kd lang apparently turned down this song. We certainly didn’t ‘til the answers were read out.
*(Mild exaggeration – it was 16 weeks, of course.)
16:30: My sole contribution to the team’s efforts has been “Ricky Martin”, in a ‘guess who the famous person in this band was’ round. I’m guessing the lack of Indie Points in this answer means that it doesn’t even count as a valid answer, even though it was right.
16.45: Sixth overall isn’t a bad showing. Europa League football next season, then.
19:00: Back into town after a quick snooze at the guest house (a special mention here must go to Roger and his colleagues at Georjan for their excellent hospitality). The sun is coming down, people are flooding out onto the streets and seafront, and Brighton is positively buzzing.
19.35: Queuing for chips, and Darwin Deez is hanging around near the pier again. Maybe he’s going to have a little dance on the seafront.
19:36: Not today...shame. Maybe it’s his day off.
19.40: Today’s pier music of choice is So Young by The Corrs. Let’s party like it’s 1999(!)
19.50: Reminded of an e-mail in the Motel’s virtual pigeonhole in which Malcolm proclaimed Best Coast to be ‘frickin’ awesome,’ a prospect which is far more enticing than a piped daytime commercial radio playlist sample is on the cards. Once again, Horatio’s is absolutely packed out. Sure, it’s not the best performance of the weekend, but their mix of scuzzy grunge guitars and too-cool-for-school West Coast vocals is quaint enough to stimulate the senses for tonight’s entertainment.
20.30: Sun, sea, curry and chips and an imminent performance from Sky Larkin? This is the best day ever!
20.32: Just spilt bright yellow curry sauce all down my favourite skirt – such are the dangers of eating on the move. It’s going to be fun getting the turmeric out of that on Sunday evening. Oh well, at least it wasn’t on someone else. On a more interesting note, the arches down by the seafront are genuinely busy for the first time all weekend.
20.45: Sky Larkin are playing in the tiniest possible space in Life, which is really quite ridiculous given their ardent following and the fact they’ve got an album out already. They delight everyone (apart from fire safety officers, probably, who would immediately clear the place if they saw how full it was). “It’s going to get sweaty,” warns Katie Harkin, playfully jabbing the low ceiling with the top of her guitar whilst ordering the crowd to shuffle over to the far wall so that as many people as possible can see them.
Splitting their time between cuts from their first album The Golden Spike and new material, it’s a joyful occasion which even has the bar staff downstairs dancing. Top-notch renditions of Matador and Beeline remind the listener that they’re two of the very best songs penned in the last decade. If you disagree, then get your ears tested, for pity’s sake. Nestor lives up to his nickname of ‘Duracell-Haschen’ - granted by a German-language fanzine - on drums. The reverberations shake the floor, before halting the incoming tide in its tracks**.
**(Sadly, they actually do just the former. The latter was a figment of my imagination).
21.40: An early trip to Komedia, a pleasant little cabaret’n’comedy venue tucked away in the North Laines, means that I catch the conclusion to a performance from Jessie Murphy In The Woods upstairs (although as she explains, the woods are a bit thin on the ground – she is backed by one lone guitarist tonight).
Jessie isn’t necessarily going to bring about musical regime change with her trad-acoustic tunes, but she does have a delicious voice and waxes lyrical about how she wants to grow old and die in Brighton. My experience so far (leaving out the queues) does make this a tempting prospect.
22.20: A slightly delayed hometown performance from Rose Elinor Dougall makes up for her no-show at In The City last year (due to an injured guitarist). Rose mines the same retro-pop reservoir as Those Dancing Days for her hits, best exhibited on recent single Start Stop Synchro (however, it must be said she does have a way to go yet to match the Scandinavian quintet’s precocious brilliance). There are whirls of organ and incredibly precise drums – to Dougall’s credit, she has pulled together a great live band who do justice to her surprisingly rich vocals, especially on Come Away With Me.
23.00: Everything Everything, the true stars of the recent NME Radar Tour, fall victim to another ridiculously long queue at the Corn Exchange – a shame, as they would have been well worth a repeat sitting.
23.20: Outside the Pavilion Theatre, the queue for Wild Beasts is so ridiculous...it’s actually better described as preposterous. There are in fact two queues here – one for delegates with priority wristbands, and one for all those without. However, a good hundred or so are prepared to shiver in the cold for just a sniff of the northern fourpiece – why, you may ask? Well, they’re just so damn bewitching, and the Motel’s rather charming queue buddies, sound engineer Sam and PR/content manager Isil (who’s on her first trip to the UK), certainly agree.
words and pictures: Kate Goodacre