The Great Escape 2017, day two, and the bloody sun’s out! After the torrential rain hampered the festival’s first night (Thursday 18th), there’s no need for shelter this afternoon, and there’s a buzz around tonight from the moment the doors to Horatio’s are flung open.
Such excitement can be largely attributed to openers Abattoir Blues, who pack out the pub on the pier to its limits, only just past 7pm. The Brighton five-piece have always been a menacing live band, but there’s something about tonight’s show that points the way to even bigger things. Their towering, unpredictable leader Harry Waugh thrashes his way into the front rows of the crowd, inches from the eyeballs of strangers. It’s intense in the extreme, and with a showmanship added to their huge blackened post-punk, everything’s starting to come together for the band. The first of a handful of Great Escape shows, tonight sees Abattoir Blues hurtling themselves forwards, and aiming as big as they can go.
When EAT FAST follow - after seven hours in a van, they point out - there’s the same infectious energy in the air, not least due to the band’s fuzz-drenched noise pop. Everything sits on a blanket of distortion, but when melodies peek their heads above the surface, they stick so forcefully that we catch more than a few punters heading out of Horatio’s whistling the guitar line from ‘Byker Lime Slicer’ to themselves. With a still-full crowd settling themselves in for the night, Sløtface then proceed to blow away any remaining cobwebs from the night before (the band themselves are significantly more sprightly than everyone else who attended their Sløtface-aoke in the early hours of Friday morning).
Previewing their debut album and thrashing through oldies that feel remarkably familiar for how relatively new a band they are, the band’s brutal touring schedule has made them a slick, brilliant live band, even if singer Haley Shea tells us afterwards that Sløtface are currently suffering from communal sore necks from headbanging too much. The necks might need a little rest, but there’s no stopping the Norwegians at the moment, as they race towards album time.
Things get significantly weirder and heavier courtesy of Alcopop! signings Husky Loops, before The Magic Gang provide a lagers-in-the-air singalong that no other band seem to do quite as well as them at the moment. Songs from the recent ‘EP Three’ are already classics, while ‘Feeling Better’ and ‘All This Way’ cause some scuffles with security, with the front rows of Horatio’s becoming a swaying mass of bodies. ‘All That I Want Is You’ closes the set, complete with a manically grinning punter being removed from the venue while still on his friend’s shoulders. The band pack themselves off to an ever later secret show across town, the ceiling’s left beer-stained, and everyone pours out onto the pier to continue the celebrations. It’s as glorious, invigorating and messy as a night at Horatio’s for The Great Escape should be.
Photos: Emma Swann