Alt-Escape – 3 Days at Bleach Brighton

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I awoke in darkness, in my windowless room, to the sound of rain drops on the roof above me. Obviously it was raining on the day everyone was going to the beach. Cameras locked and loaded, Bells and Bison for the road, I ran through Victoria Station to catch my train to B-Town.

I stepped off the train to welcome my usual feeling of release and freedom that washes over me every time I have no plans, no money and there are babes in bands on every corner. Today was the first day of The Great Escape Festival, a showcase of new and old bands from the UK and abroad, with no assigned genre ; kind of like a massive live radio station pick and mix. Obviously, being me, I hadn’t put much effort in to getting a press pass but decided to blag it and go to Brighton anyway.

Cold winds bounced of my cloak of smiles, my body warmed in my favourite whiskey bar as I rendezvoused with Charles Howl ahead of his set at The Hope and Ruin that evening. I snuck through the Great Escape guards carrying Kit’s synth and bagged myself a band pass that I would never use. With all intentions of heading back for Charles Howl, I got caught up in the energy at Bleach. The line-up for the evening included my favourite Brighton bands Morning Smoke and Theo Verney, as well as GANG who I had never heard before, plus a bunch of bands I missed. Morning Smoke were great as usual ; their dark, dreamy air filled the room. Solemn and melancholic, Milo’s voice cuts through intricate drum beats leaving an ache in my heart. Morning Smoke will be headlining at the Lock Tavern on the 11th of June.

Anticipation was running through my veins. I was not used to musicians looking forward to watching other musicians, it was exciting to hear what the boys were saying about GANG who were up next. A three piece originating from Canterbury who are now residing in Brighton. Voices of the brothers drone over heavy bass and haunting riffs. Gloom and doom, a muddled reminiscence of eyehategod and Electric Wizard, Gang is my new favourite band fyi. So good that I cant even talk about it.

Theo Verney came on to stage next. Theo makes me think of cowboys, grungy cowboys, or like a tough guy in a dingy bar in the desert, in a good way, though that’s not what he sounds like or even looks like. His rugged vocals overlay fuzzed guitar and pounding drums. Theo Verney comes into his element during a live performance, its, like, good garage rock and roll that you actually wanna jump around to. None of this feigned psych garage stuff that sounds like all the bands currently out on Burger Records. An honest expression of passion in his voice, carried by his prolific knowledge of music and artistic conviction. Theo will be releasing his new EP soon so keep an ear out.

I had consumed sufficient beer by this point and found the boys downstairs eating burritos. I spent 4.95 on a pint of blue moon, which decided that I had to party in order to justify my spending. We headed up to the green room, I sat on a maroon leather couch watching intently at a girl opposite me as she swayed and slurred. She looked about 18 or like, 12. Facing away to chat to Eric of Gang, we heard a splash and turned to see projectile vomit escaping her mouth, headed straight for Eric’s guitar. It was well funny, and also really not. Nose scrunched but still grinning, I folded paper towel and ran it under the strings. It was a weird watery brown colour, I think someone took her home. The night proceeded up the street, up a hill, into a house, down some stairs and into a basement lounge where we sat all snug and watched WWE on TV. It was good weird.

After coffee and kale for breakfast, it was back to Bleach ! Tonight was a Great Escape showcase by DIY and Echochamp featuring Fallow Deer, Manuka Honeys, Tusks, Abbotoir Blues and The Magic Gang. We were headed down for Fallow Deer, and Keirans debut ! He was well nervous. This was my first time seeing Fallow Deer with their new drummer and bassist after Meg and Connor left to focus on Uni. It was strange standing next to Connor watching his old band play.

Fallow Deer is a four piece, a hectic mystery you have to see to hear. George stands dauntless, staring out beyond the crowd he cries out to, and through, us. I really think you need to see them.

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We ran from Bleach to this weird venue closer to the beach called Light Rooms or something, to see Tiger Cub and Demob Happy . The basement room was packed all the way up the stairs, I wriggled my way through to the front where I stood looking up at Tiger Cub vocalist Jamie as he towered above me. The last time I saw Tiger Cub it was cramped and dark at The Social London, I felt there was less energy on the sparse well lit stage, subdued except for sparatic screams of girls in the crowd. As I entered for the second time I was blocked in the stairwell by the tightly packed trendies there to watch Brighton based boys Demob Happy.

I awoke to the sun finally shining down on my weekend. Milo, George and I headed towards the beach to see Tom’s band Mono Polys perform as part of an Alt-Escape alldayer at Bar Rogue on the sea-front. Mono Polys have been recording and touring since 2012, forming the original four piece when they were in college. I hadn’t heard them before now as the stood backlit by bay windows that looked out to the ocean. It was a shy and intimate space ; as I listened, their music sounded like a combination of DIIV and The Clash, shoe-gazy guitar sounds with half spoken vocals that carried a punky undertone. I left to go buy a shirt to wear, it was no longer turtle neck and duffel coat weather.

Having found myself an old polo with beachy vibes, I dragged myself and my bags back to Bleach for the final evening of my Alt-Escape adventure. Since Thursday evening I had heard the word that there would be some ‘Super Secret Headliners’ for the Saturday gig at Bleach. This was a secret that everyone actually seemed to know about, but it was announced during the day that tonights line up would include Girl Band and Drenge. Two super great bands of course, but even the non-secret part of the line-up was awesome. Tonight Bleach would play host to so many bands including Vant, Meat Wave, Crows and Bad Breeding.

Vant came on stage in full force at 3.30. An exuberant force on stage, Mattie lunged and fell while sweat ran down his face, howling words of love and politics over punk pop riffs. Even though I know I was stone cold sober, I cant actually recall the order in which I saw the bands on this evening so I’m just going to rattle them off. Chicago three piece Meat Wave started to play, dishing out fervent garage punk, thick and fast. They were over too soon for me and I almost even went up to them to say how much I enjoyed it, their music is good.

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I recall having a lime and soda break at some point and returning into the darkness to catch the end of Bloody Knees set. I kind of stood there in confusion and awe. Its hard to write with my own opinion about this, as it was apparent that people actually do like their music, but the scene felt so contrived. Maybe if my friends liked them then i probably wouldn’t hate them as it is inoffensive radio listening for people who buy jeans with rips already in the knees. There is some serious merit in creating new-wave-post-emo-pop-punk in 2015 and having about 60 people over the age of 14 hurl themselves (non suicidally) off stage screaming along to your lyrics. Technically it was a really great gig.

London babes Crows rock up and out, with their entourage of moshing fans and friends. Raucous drums and jolting guitars hold behind haunting vocals reminiscent of The Cramps or The Birthday Party. Front man James stands on the precipice, looming recklessly over me only to be dragged down by pale arms and beer coated fingers into the messy embrace below.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Bad Breeding would be the last band that I would see that evening. After watching them play as part of Drill Festival last year, I had become a fan of their music, stage presence and the ideas behind their music. During the first songs there were a few problems with the sound, you could see the irritation rise in the strained face of the both guitarist and bassist while their unfazed front man lay curled and wailing against the amps. With the backline back in check, Bad Breeding were in full force, writhing in passion and frustration.

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Although I was well excited to see them play in a venue that seemed more suited to them than Audio, I became far too distracted to watch them properly. Two girls at the front had made themselves inescapable from my gaze. Both displaced, drinking from red stripe cans with straws ; one sat spread legged over the monitor at the front of the stage, flicking her hair back and forth and around. The other was amongst the crowd thrusting against the singer as he crawled below. It was gross and weird, I had to leave.

There was an hour left until Girl Band were set to play, before them Menace beach, and I was sober and exhausted. A combo I don’t usually experience. With the looming reality of waking up at 5am to catch a train back to London and go straight to work for a 9 hour shift at the diner ; tea and biscuits back in Hove sounded like a responsible choice. I ended my Alternate Escape with chocolate covered Hob Nobs and instant coffee watching a BBC Documentary on Million Dollar homes in Britain. Sleep escaped me as 3am brought the return of everyone who hadn’t been lame like me, stumbling into the lounge where I had been resigned to sleep due to my excessive snoring. The sky was gentle and pale, blues and pinks blending between the bright white clouds on my walk to the station. I watched the dominos of lined houses that backed onto the world as they slipped away, I felt the customary pang inside my chest. Why do I always have to leave ? Why don’t I just stay in Brighton forever ?

There was a fervent atmosphere that surrounded the whole weekend for me. It was closely tailed at all times by obsequatious posers, latching tightly onto the glow of humans actually born with talent and intelligence. A sea of the same made it hard to pick apart the bands from the students. There was an exaggerated palisade of screaming girls and swearing boys ; all spilling beer and crowd surfing, but I guess that’s really good right.

I had felt like I was part of a family, a band of brothers, it was really heartening to meet a group of musicians who genuinely care for and respect eachother – personally and artistically without conforming or creating imaginary hierarchies. That’s part of what I found so great about the Alt-Escape as well, venues showcasing and supporting local bands at a time when the town would be full of people who might not have got a chance to see them elsewhere. Providing a platform for musicians to support bands who are considered prominent on other levels. I don’t feel like I had missed out on anything by not getting myself a press pass for Great Escape Festival, except that I didn’t get to catch up with Popstrangers or photograph The Garden. And realistically, the music scene in Brighton is so prominent that there wasn’t much difference between the Alt-Escape and an average weekend or even weekday in the seaside city.

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