Live at The Great Escape 2012
The Great Escape 2012

Last year at The Great Escape, the Alcopop!/Big Scary Monsters all-dayer at the less than salubrious Pavillion Tavern – a pub known for its insanely cheap drinks – ended in carnage. With a capital CARNAGE. The headliners – Scottish noiseniks The Xcerts – and, before them quirky indie-popsters Stagecoach, turned the whole pub into a raucous, ridiculous moshpit – bodies were flying everywhere, bouncers were throttling people, light bulbs and glasses were smashed, spectacles were dropped and trampled on, the promoter was nearly kicked out of his own gig and a chandelier was pulled off the ceiling and carried out by one supremely cheeky member of the crowd. There’s a video of it on YouTube that’s well worth watching.

It was somewhat surprising, then, that the venue asked the two labels back to curate again this year. That said, the gig achieved such notoriety that they’d have been idiots not to – it was, truly, the stuff of legends. This year, amid ridiculous drinks offers – five Jagerbombs for a tenner means nothing is going to end well – and a host of awesome bands playing throughout the day, it’s up to Johnny Foreigner and headliners Tall Ships to finish the party and reach the ridiculous heights of the previous May.

By the time Johnny Foreigner arrive onstage – on a stage that’s level with the floor, just a few security guards separating them from the hyperactive and enthusiastic crowd – the mood of the whole place is ecstatic and ebullient. Sure, partly that’s due to the abundance of inexpensive booze, but it’s as much to do with the band’s playing too. And Johnny Foreigner bring the party vibe up about five notches with their exuberant, quirky and explosive pop. They take to the stage just before midnight and, first serenading the crowd with lullaby-esque poignancy of ‘Johnny Foreigner Vs. You’ before the blistering, jerkiness of ‘Feels Like Summer’ tears the contemplative mood of the room in two, while ‘Salt, Peppa and Spinderella’ is equally exciting and infectious. They finish, breathless and sweaty – because, by fuck, is it hot in here – with the triumphant flourish of ‘The Swell/Like Neverwhere’ – and deservedly so.

It’s after 1am when Tall Ships begin their set. There’s a huge amount of equipment crammed on the tiny stage, and no room in the crowd whatsoever, but it feels far from claustrophobic. If anything, ‘Plate Tectonics’ and ‘T = 0’ infusing the crowd with an otherworldly energy that takes over the room. There’s just three of them, but theirs is a sound that is so complex it seems impossible that there’s not five others hiding behind the amps and the equipment. At the same time, though, it’s music that cuts straight to the heart with a devastating, beautiful simplicity – and no more so than on this Friday at The Great Escape, in the early hours at the end of a phenomenal, booze-filled and fuelled day. It’s not quite as rowdy as the previous year, but it’s a performance - and, in fact, a whole day – that reaches the same dizzying heights that Alcopop! and BSM – and, of course, the bands they chose – set in 2011. Roll on 2013!

Words by Mischa Pearlman
Photo by Elinor Jones

Follow these links for photo galleries of Thursday, Friday and Saturday at The Great Escape.

Follow Clash: