The Great Escape 2012

Before heading out on day two, Sam whipped up some chilli and nachos for lunch. We didn’t want to be starving in the middle of a set again. The sun also decided to make an appearance. The foggy overcast scenes of Thursday were replaced with fluffy clouds and blue skies, for the first time in weeks.

Husky, Duologue, Swiss Lips

We wandered down Queen Street and West Street, following the signs for The Warren, a small venue tucked in behind Churchill Square and a multi-storey car park. But through the entrance lay a sunny garden and outdoor bar, in the midst of a church spire. Decorated with Lewis Carroll paraphernalia, it was a hidden little wonderland. With drinks, we sat on beer kegs waiting for the next act, we just missed the end of Dante.

The reason we were here was Husky, a band Mark had heard recently on 6music. The Paul Simon parallels in the programme drew us in further. An Australian blend of folk, classic pop, soft harmonies and the occasional keyboard solo made for a charming set. The venue was so quiet, everyone in the room was here to see them, if only all settings were as harmonious.

Up next on The Guardian’s “new band of the day” stage, were a London act called Duologue. Four guys, without their bassist, but a violinist, sampler, singer and guitarist. With a sparse electronic rhythm, deep bass, crisp male vocals and the crescendos of violin and guitar, this experimental rock band created something lovely. They played songs from their EP “A - B”.

Duologue by Andy Wright
Duologue by Andy Wright

The final act of this session at The Warren were the clean cut Swiss Lips, with their own brand of 90s dance-pop. I can’t say I enjoyed this set, and put my earplugs in to numb the noise.


With the sun out, we spent an hour or so on the pebbly beach, letting the time whisk by, waiting until we were hungry for dinner. We threw pebbles at beer cans but never hit them. Just around the corner we repeated last year’s proceedings with dinner at Pho, specialising in vietnamese street food. A baby at the table opposite stared at us, as Mark tried his Weasel coffee.

Converses on the beach
Converses on the beach

Grimes, YACHT, My Best Fiend, Half Moon Run

Not wanting to miss out on Grimes, we got to Digital on the sea front before it opened. A short queue formed, but we guaranteed ourselves a great spot inside. Upstairs, an orange seated area looks out on the sea from one direction, and out across the venue from the other, with a perfect unhindered view of the stage. Before the first act had started a large queue had formed outside, and the venue was packed.

I was quite excited about My Best Fiend, I’d starred their opening track “Higher Palms” on Spotify, it was a stand out track from the Great Escape playlist. With atmospheric keyboards, gritty guitars and emotional alt-rock male vocals, this should have been fantastic. But the set was a little flat, the beautiful lyrics washed away with heavy bass.

My Best Fiend by Chiaki Karasawa
My Best Fiend by Chiaki Karasawa

Canadian trio Half Moon Run were next, a technically awesome indie rock band with an incredible drummer; with one hand and foot he played drums, with another he played the keyboard, and then he sung at the same time. Mind blowing talent, Sam was so impressed she bought the CD and asked about his musical training. The crowd were loving them, and they played a killer set. When it was cut short, even with Grimes coming up next, there were boos, everyone wanting more. But Digital were keeping to a strict schedule, no doubt to finish in time for a Friday night club night.

Half Moon Run by Chiaki Karasawa
Half Moon Run by Chiaki Karasawa

And now the big act, the one we’d all been wanting to see at this festival, GRIMES! A one woman act with samplers, a keyboard and a microphone. Claire Boucher in a t-shirt bearing the anarchy symbol and sporting a pink fringe, played her dark and dreamy Visions album. Two amateurish arm waving dancers set the scene on stage and there were roars of delight when the intro to “Oblivion” began.

Grimes by Rob Ball
Grimes by Rob Ball
Grimes
Grimes
Grimes
Grimes

The only downside to this performance is that it wasn’t longer, a light 30 minutes, an hour would have been more suiting. We all wanted more. At the end, Digital emptied, the place deserted, but reaching full again by the time YACHT turned up.

I’d seen YACHT before at Hoxton Bar, and I ranked it as one of the best gigs I’d ever been to. YACHT’s music is good on record, but it really comes alive when performed, enhanced by the energy and antics of the band members. They’re electro dystopian disco is matched with flying microphones, odd dance moves and a singer that likes to tie herself up in cables. Aye-ye-aye-ye-aye-ya, “Psychic City”, was the highlight, with its singable chorus and party-starting lyrics. “We’re having fun now, aren’t we?”, singer Claire Evans asks. We agreed, the set was brilliant.

YACHT by Tim Boddy
YACHT by Tim Boddy

Blanck Mass, Forest Swords

Still raring to go, we marched over to Pavilion Theatre for a very different experience: Blanck Mass. A 45 minute non-stop set of complex atmospherics and ambient electronics, themed on cerebral hypoxia. One man act, Ben Power, stood centre stage and barely moved as strong green lights shone from behind, creating a silhouette amidst the smoke machines. Whirls of smoke and patterns of light accompanied slow changing drone layers, the occasional hidden rhythm emerging from the noise, and disappearing again. Exhausted I shut my eyes and rested with Sam, embracing the wall of sound. It was excellent, all we lacked was a sofa or bed.

Blanck Mass
Blanck Mass

Forest Swords were on a midnight. An hour long set of disparate spectral techno accompanied with a video. By now we were too tired for this, and a drunken heckler shouting “sea bass, kick him in the ass” destroyed any atmosphere we could’ve absorbed. Leaving early, I ate my pain au chocolat saved from lunch time and we headed home.

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