Oh we do like to be beside the seaside, oh we do like to be…100 metres out at sea? That’s right, Dear Reader, for this year’s Great Escape we took over Horatio’s, the best (and only) pub at the end of Brighton pier.
The long walk battling high winds and angry seagulls is more than worth it when Swim School step onto the stage. The sunset shining through the pub window provides the kind of light show most bands pay good money for, and they take ample advantage. Woozy guitar anthems are the perfect opener for the weekend and win the crowd over in record time. As the set goes on, things get deceptively heavy and, by the time ‘Let Me Inside Your Head’ is played, well over half the room is singing along.
Next up: Malady. The Londoners burst straight in with ‘Famous Last Words’, the almost dubstep bassline lending a unique flavour that marks them out as more than just another indie band. A pause between songs lets frontman Percy Cobbinah ask the really important question. “Does anyone know the Arsenal Tottenham score?” he shouts with a grin. A crowd member kindly gives a swift rundown of just how badly Arsenal are doing before the band launch back into it. As the songs begin to build into a perfectly constructed wall of noise and the crowd starts moving, it all clicks into place. The whole set is well received, but closer ‘London, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down’ nearly blows the roof off.
From London to LA, Kills Birds aren’t here to mess around. Their tight grunge-revivalism shows the crowd exactly why Dave Grohl and Kim Gordon have both recently stepped forward as celebrity fans (no, neither of them are at the gig, we checked).
As we are on a pier jutting into the English Channel, we’re closer than most to France. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense for French post-punkers Unschooling to pop over for a quick set. Armed with more spiky guitar hooks and jagged instrumentals than you can shake a seagull at, the crowd lap it up and the energy barely drops throughout.
Closing the stage are Glasgow five-piece Vlure. It’s their only show of the weekend and they act like it, swinging shirtless from the ceiling as their synth-heavy bangers shake the walls apart. ‘Show Me How To Love’ gets the crowd pogoing within 30 seconds and the atmosphere is more like an illegal warehouse rave at 2am than a pub with three real ales on tap. It’s 30 minutes of tight, white-knuckle adrenaline, and by the time closing track ‘Euphoria’ rolls around everyone at the venue is sweating more than they have in months.
“We might be the best live band in the country,” they joke towards the end of their set. For our money they might well be telling the truth.