Uncut reports from day two of Brighton's new music festival

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There’s No Escaping The Great Escape

Hello from an incredibly windswept Brighton. Uncut is back for more musical action on the seafront. Feeling rather frazzled from the late night yesterday, I think I have pulled myself together enough to pound the streets for one more night.

Tonight I desperately want to see Gallows after missing the dangerous scrum that ensued last night – guitarist Steph Carter had “his head sliced open from his own guitar” after opening track “In The Belly Of A Shark”, as his brother and band vocalist Frank so aptly put it. We hear that Steph has been carted (boom tish) off to hospital, and has had five stitches. I want to see him play with what I can only imagine is a very sore head, but alas no, tight timings again mean that there’s no way I’ll be able to get down to the Zap club in time for kick off at 9 o’clock.

The Uncut stage at the Red Roaster is bustling with anticipation tonight, queues are forming well before doors open at 8pm, and for good reason. We are hosting an XL Recordings night – label home to the White Stripes amongst others, and tonight will see the buzz boy of the night Jack Penate headline. Simply everyone in Brighton wants to see him play. We can’t wait. The Red Roaster will also see singers Elvis Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins, and Kid Harpoon play. But before they do, I have just enough time, according to the festival timetable, to catch some bands down on the beach.

The Beach Club is a wicked venue, and obviously usually more akin to hosting raves. And so first things first; the piles of glo-sticks that line the column edges swiftly line the inside of my handbag. The neon multicoloured glow that now emanates means I’ll be able to find my pen quickly in any dark venue tonight. A girl’s gotta be prepared!

And so, attention is diverted slightly by The Midway State, an emotive, piano-led, softly softly rock group hailing from Toronto, Canada. The four-piece have hugely soulful vocals, but the two songs I hear seem lacking in something. The single “Unaware”, as heard on US teen soap The O.C., is good but bland. Their set closer “What You Need Is Love” is an ’80s style power-ballad with high pitched vocals. But the midtempo-ness of it all is not what we need to kick off the night. We decline the offer of drinks with the band – we are here to see bands, afterall!

Next up is Oh No Ono – I know I saw them yesterday. But as they are due on next, I want to hang around, to see if what I witnessed yesterday was actually what they are like! And hang around I do, the longest set-up and testing of mics I have had to endure in quite some time. The bassist is wearing a clown style jester’s jacket, and their hair is still big, and they are still very handsome Danish boys, so I wait…

The missing lead on the mixing desk is found by glo-stick torchlight and the show is on – the first song is like some kind of futuristic but retro synth pop with Japanese-style wailing vocals. Very bizarre. They then do The Beatles cover again – and in this venue it simply doesn’t convey the same. And so to next door, Arc, where Help She Can’t Swim are on.

The performance area is up a steep flight of stairs and in what can only be described as a tunnel. A long strip of space in a arch, with the band at one end and a rectangular mass of bodies that stretches back into darkness.

We squeeze into the back, and can only see the tips of their heads, singer Tom Denney has his dark hair flopped over one eye in traditional punk-style school way. They are halfway through the brilliantly poppy punk track “Ferme La Bouche” and I like it. The energy is radiant and I feel like pogoing, but it’s still early. The Brighton band finish on a high with new single “Hospital Drama”, and I’m now ready to go see if I can catch a bit of Elvis Perkins.

Crossing over the roundabout opposite the Pier, I overhear a festival-goer exclaiming down her mobile that there’s no way in to the Red Roaster. Uh oh, better hurry up and go see what the fuss is about.

The queue is staggered all the way up the street with people literally attempting to claw their way in. I panic, then realise I have a magic pass that I can wave to get in. The boos are incredible, the girls at the front of the queue hiss ‘it’s one in one out.’ But still I’m in, Kid Harpoon is whipping up the crowd into a well-behaved frenzy. Compared to the hush and quiet of the artists yesterday, today is positively noisy. There are whoops and clapping, in time with a piano romp through real uptempo, saloon style bar tunes.

Before sitting down at the “cool as fuck” piano, the from-Medway kid declared that he was once told “people don’t want to be annoyed with guitars any more, so I thought fuck it I’ll learn to play the piano then”. The room erupted with laughter – he’s a confident sassy performer and put on a great show.

Whilst enjoying the feeling of sitting cross-legged at the front of the room, I’m thinking about the next couple of bands and how to plot my route around with the most efficiency. I work out that I can get up to the Corn Exchange and catch buzz band The Heights, maybe a bit of Art Brut, before going to see hyped rockers Electric City over at Hector’s House, possibly swinging by The Ocean Rooms to see Johnny Panic.

Walking past the Pavillion, the queue is immense, Willy Mason is playing there in an hour’s time, wow that’s a long wait for those fans if they get into the venue! I make it to the Corn Exchange, but the band onstage in the cavernously huge place don’t resemble the rock outfit I’ve been led to believe. Not least the fact that they are from Wales, and not Canada, I don’t know how I confused that one! I thought they would be a bit rocker than they are, the guitars and music is good, but the songs just don’t fill me up. Perhaps it was the venue that was just too big. I’ll try and see them another time, they have potential, I think. Pop fact; The Heights have played more Barfly shows around the country than any other band.

The Corn Exchange is filling up with Art Brut fans, girls outnumber boys about six to one, bizarre.

I go and see what’s happening down at the Red Roaster – I have already heard that it’s going mental, and that the desire to see Jack Penate is causing fights outside the venue! Not even my magic pass is going to get me into this one. I give it up for a lost cause, safe in the knowledge that Jack’s just announced a full UK tour starting next month. I’ll catch up with him then.

So I trundle off over to Hector’s House to see Electric City. The bluesy bar is a brilliant place-warp, I’m suddenly transported to a bar somewhere at South By Southwest, the Texan equivalent of The Great Escape. Pool tables are slung at the back of the dark wooded bar, and the jukebox is pumping out great tracks like “Tutti Frutti.”

The London four-piece are headlining the Topman New Talent Stage, and the good-looking skinny-jeaned boys take to stage, plug in and just play proper rock riffs with brilliant rock vocals. Think Sabbath meets Kings Of Leon meets Duran Duran meets Muse. And with simultaneous tuning between songs that would make Quo’s Rick Parfitt look on proudly. Singer Andy has a voice that crosses eras, it’s hard to fathom quite how he does it, he sounds far older than his tender age of 21.

They play a short set of six songs to a room filled with music industry types, and even they can feel the rifftastic vibe. Third track “Dark Skies” is pretty proggy but dressed up with pop, like speeded-up Cream. “Devil In My Head,” “Siren” and new single “Sleeping With The Enemy” prove that this band are definitely ones to watch. They sound slick, like they’ve been playing huge concerts and not bars. Did I mention they’re incredibly good looking (said in mock Zoolander accent)? They’re being hounded by fashion labels, and last night they went to a launch for Armani, hence the beautiful black and white top that bassist Jon is wearing, but apparently when they played at the party, they were told off for being too loud! Really! Fashionistas eh?

I attempt to down tools at this point – the night has been long, and I am very tired, and the jukebox is playing some kind of compilation of reggae and soul tunes, feeling relaxed now, and a bottle of beer is thrust in my direction. However just as I’m about to head back down to the media hub bar back at the hotel, I’m convinced that The Airborne Toxic Event are more than worth watching over at Club NME’s Komedia home.

Touted as a cross between Arcade Fire and Franz Ferdinand, the LA based five piece include violins and tambourines amongst their multi-tasking instrumentation. Airborne Toxic whatnot are good staple fare, and are indeed very much like Arcade Fire, and some of the tracks are pretty good. The twiddly musical bits are great, the Pixies-style backing vocals nicely eerie, and there are nice stomping pianos in tracks like “Wishing Well” and “Papillon.” They even come back on for an encore.

The audience is huge, but I think largely because there are very few gigs on this late into the night, a lot of the kids are down at Beach front raves in Brightons neon clubs. I slip away into the fresh air, the night is much cooler than last, and there’s a threat of wetness in the air, but luckily the rain has held off – it’s meant to be sunny tomorrow – woo hoo!

Heard earlier that Yoko Ono is in town? The local paper the Argus said she’s down here checking out bands! See what great company we keep. Also heard that despite what I thought was Happy Mondays on particular;y weirdly normal form yesterday, news reaches me that Bez apparently punched a Channel 4 cameraman before the pier party yesterday. He thought Shaun Ryder was setting him up to be late for the gig, and ended with fisticuffs- apparently Bez was frosty with Ryder at the start of the show – I can’t say I noticed anything amiss though.

Tomorrow seems to be getting closer by the minute – i hope tiredness doesn’t kick in too badly – I gotta be up in time for the Cup Final! More bands ahoy tomorrow night.

Much looking forward to the Neil Young sounding half-Scandinavians Alberta Cross on at 8.45 at the Uncut cafe. And Palladium and Mumm-Ra are the hot-tips too. If you’re in Brighton, come on down.

FARAH ISHAQ