Ahh the sinfully wasteful decadence of sitting in some dark corner of a dark pub on a sunny day in England. I’m typing this looking out onto clear blue skies over a calm sparkling sea, not hungover, but not not hungover. The city is stumbling with tourists, the sort of weekend that only a very stupid man wouldn’t feel incredibly lucky to live here


It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a gig, and this one was picked pretty much at random, a preseason friendly to get me match fit if you will*. I need to write more, I know, dear reader you miss me, and I miss you too. Although fuck knows if you’ll even see this with social media becoming play to broadcast platforms that nerf posts with links and engage with all sorts of timeline fuckery. If you are reading this please tell me if you liked it. 

Anyway enjoy, it starts, as ever, in a bar


I’m in a bar all art deco, mirrors, and reclaimed chairs. The clientele are children, or maybe I’m reaching the old person horizon where everyone without a zimmer frame looks young enough to eat dirt on a dare. I suppose once I would have called them ‘hipsters’ before the Wheel Of Irony span too fast and the pointer fell off leaving no one really knowing what the fuck is going on. 

It’s The Great Escape weekend, as well as The Brighton Festival, and The Brighton Fringe so the city is a crackle of anticipation and the tills ring with the sweet bells of tourism. The locals dress the same jumble sale cool and this is the south coast so everything is so achingly white. The real difference is that the locals drink cheap, cans of Carlsberg and barely advertised drink offers. Out of owners don’t know the tricks, and fuck it for them this is either a mini break or work trip so they’re on the Expresso Martinis and Pimms cups more ice than drink. 

This is not a Great Escape venue but one of the many semi-official fringe events that will cater to the unwristbanded locals and adventurous industry types willing to safari a couple of doors away. There’s two in the corner, sleeves rolled and immaculately styled messy hair nodding at each other. 

The music stops and the ‘DJs’ in the corner frantically look at their Apple Mac and nervously  laugh in public school. 

“It’s literally beyond my control” one brays at the bartender who narrowly manages not to kill them both using contempt alone

Later the sunsets and the lights here have an orange glow, the crowd becomes dense but transient. The spiral staircase leads to the basement with a stage in the corner. The room holds thirty people comfortably and I count at least fifty in the crowd. Hot Wax are young women black hair, silk black dress and fierce winged eyeliner on vocals, orange hair and baggy band t-shirt on bass, and a constant explosion of blond hair on drums. 

For a band that looks so young they have a full mature sound and seem to be very smart about song structure. They will get inevitable Hole comparisons but while they don’t quite reach Courtney Love smeared lipstick levels of mastery, they’re far more interesting than the other band they’ll inevitably be compared to, Wet Leg. Truth is they’re far better when they transcend these influences, with a musicality, chemistry and energy of performance that set them apart. We’re told this is their third performance of the festival, and have another in the morning but they still got the crowd moving and hooting. Seeing them fresh and rested must be a thing to behold. 

Another quick drink and I fight my way back downstairs for the second performer Antony Szmierek, While tuning up Him and his band, to my eyes, looks like a sexual assault police line up, all mullets, shell suits, and facial hair. 

I haven’t enjoyed a set more in a long time. Antony Szmierek is square between The Streets at his most heartfelt and melodic and Ghostpoet at his most accessible, he raps and sings with a causal connectivity with the audience, his easy charm alone winning everyone in the room. Genuine star quality that makes you feel lucky you got to see him in a small room before he blows up. By the time he wraps up with a Sugerbabes cover the room was in love and dancing. 

Another quick drink and back down to University, a band as willfully unlikable as they are ungooglable. Facing each other with back to the audience trying their hardest to make Psychedelic thrash work. Everyone can find an audience I guess, and the one guy standing on the bench cheering them on was evidence of that. Most other people were looking around at each other wondering why the people on stage hated music so much. I left. I’m too old to finish warm drinks, eat couscous, or watch a band that makes me wish my ears had eyelids to shut. 

As I leave  and walk home I can feel my city purr under my feet, happy for the noise and energy the people bring. Summer is here and me or the city couldn’t be happier. 

*included only because there a number of people in my life that get incredibly uncomfortable when I knowledgeably talk about football

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