Armed with a 10 kilo backpack, two cans of Bison, one pair of undies and no toothbrush for a four-day misguided festival adventure.
Though the cold wind cut through my three jumpers, everything was dazzling. It has been almost a year since I was last in Brighton, and I had forgotten how much I love it there.
My feeble sense of direction led me down the dark streets to some guys with long hair and a One-Piece jumper to direct me to my first stop, Sticky Mike's to pick up my wrist bands. My plan for the evening was to start off at The Haunt; first up was Brighton based band Bad For Lazarus. A band I had heard of many times but never listened to. They burst onto the stage in a whirlwind of long hair and bare chests. Cavorting about in staggers and trusts. Glam reminiscent riffs, formidable drum beats and guttural vocals that surge from low verse to high pitch wails, storm alongside almost elated keys.
Daisy, of Pink Lizards, graced the stage with sultry sways and husky vocals that pierced through the room. The finale came with the drummer getting smashed in the face with a guitar. Rock n Roll.
Next up were Telegram, a band I have seen a bunch of times from back when they were playing their first few shows at the Shack last year. Tonight's set would be the last part of their UK tour supporting The Wytches. After a slight hiccup at the beginning, Matt Saunders was on form with his always dark and haunting vocals. Deep and strange, like he’s from the past. Telegram create an encompassing atmosphere in the room, a drum beat held by thin pale arms that pounds into your chest, smoke fills the air through red light that carries a stringent lead riff.
Having launched into tours and support slots off the bat with bands like Toy, The Horrors and now The Wytches, I feel Telegram have come to hold their own.
I dashed off in the hope of catching Wire’s first set of the festival before rushing back to see The Wytches. I managed to get lost as soon as I left The Haunt; standard procedure. I was walking in the complete wrong direction before turning and stumbling, luckily, into the Brenner Theatre. It was a strange scene to walk in to; a well lit stage before a blue curtained backdrop, surrounded on two levels by a subdued crowd of fans. Wire came out and enticed us into their ambient post punk soundscape.
With my head wrapped in my scarf I walked against the wind back to The Haunt expecting to fight my way through the crowd for The Wytches. Playing back on their home turf after back to back tours throughout Europe and the US, tonight was the last set of their UK tour, where they were supported by Telegram and fellow Brightonians Claw Marks. Kristian, Gianni and Daniel slipped into sight through green light and wafting smoke that swirled across the stage. I stood at the edge of stage clasping my camera to my chest, full of my usual awe and excitement at seeing The Wytches live. This would be the third time. A smallish stage and darkness partnered with the venue being in their home town; I was anticipating a greater atmosphere than Field Day and The Social. Instead, the crowd was restrained and impassive, bar the babes at the front bounding about in fur collars. I adore The Wytches, but I felt like they had been let down somehow by their home and their equipment. The set was still really great though, because it's them.
After The Wytches played I wandered around the venue gathering my resolve to sleep on the streets somewhere that evening. It didnt seem awfully appealing. I stood chatting to the lovely boy at the door, Connor, who offered his couch to me for the night if I couldn't find somewhere to party 'till the morning light. Can in hand I jumped into Telegrams' van and headed to meet up with the boys from Young Husband, I had missed their set earlier in the evening and was excited to hear how it went. Euan said they sounded great and they had a great light show… We sat at the Albert, the boys with Guinness in hand, me still without a plan. I declined the offers to ride back to London and headed off to find Connor's house, having been pointed in the right direction by Theo Verney, after he said I couldn't come stay at his because he lives with his mum.
It was cold and dreary when I awoke on a couch draped in a curtain on Friday morning. I shivered my way back through the town centre 'till I found myself a corner at the Victory. It wasn't very warm but they let me stay there for four hours with the same drink, stealing internet and electricity. It was going to be a good evening - I was excited for Bad Breeding, Savages, TOY and Krautrock Karaoke... Then my boss rang to tell me that when I get back to London I won't have a job because he gave mine to his girlfriend. Rad. Filled with disdain as the sun faded from the window I ventured to Audio to catch the first gig of the evening Bad Breeding. My new friend George, who was also crashing at Connor's, told me a bunch about them and they lived up to the hype. A five-piece from Stevenage, full to the brim with anger and scorn spilled over into heavy threats and lunges from the stage. Lead vocals propelled onto the floor before the crowd, writhing and screaming words against inequality. Proud and disillusioned he stands before the intermission, recorded voices of Stevenage locals in the town centre. Rather than simply playing as a band, it is as if their music is prominently a dais for personal expression of social and political views.
I pushed my way back from the stage to find my camera bag covered in beer; this had been a great day. George and the boys from Morning Smoke were there. I decided, "Fuck it, I'm going to Weatherspoons with these guys before going to see TOY". We sat in the warmth and after numerous £2.50 beers we headed to Sticky Mikes to see TOY with my wrist bands and the hope of blagging the boys in without any. We stood at the back of a massive queue because it was at capacity. Let down, we walked to Hove and drank some wine. Failure Friday.
I awoke on Saturday morning at the end of someone's bed, fully clothed and freezing. I flipped out for a second before remembering I was in a house full of babes. Nice one. We left for the walk back to Brighton from Hove, my back arching under the weight of expectations. I followed behind thin legs and Doc Martins, staring vaguely at the back of a hooded head. The sun stumbled down upon us in the city centre as we parted ways and I went off in search of something to wear because I stank. I found myself on the sparse pebbled beach staring out at the slowly setting sun.
I began again at Audio that evening, where I found Connor checking wrist bands at the entrance. Plank were first on the bill, a three-piece of instrumental math rock.
I then headed to The Haunt quick-smart, my plan being to catch Animal House and then run over to Goblin at St Bartholomew's. Animal House are an Australian four-piece with garage punk upbeat indie rock vibes. Loosely reminiscent of early KOL before they got shit. I got nostalgic. There is something about Aussie garage bands that's kind of unique. It's like they are always happy, like it's always sunny. The band recently relocated from boring Brisbane to Brighton, which is totally the right choice. I never liked Brisbane. I'm Australian if you haven't guessed.
Through the barely lit streets I pushed my way to St Bartholomew's Church off London Road before the beginning of Goblin. I found myself blocked by unrelenting security guards just as the film and score were beginning. I persuaded my way to the glass doorway that barred my entry, pressed against the cold barrier I made out the title sequence. A projected screen framed by a 200 year old altar, members of Goblin stood back lit before immense wooden crucifixes held under the arched canopy of the church interior. I almost cried. I had wanted to see Goblin for years, and this performance being partnered with a screening of Susperia would have been a dream. Dario Argento is, like, my favourite director. I waited still with empty hope, as they closed the heavy antique doors in my face. Hoping that six people would leave so it would be my turn to go in. No such luck came my way and I walked off into the night having missed my chance to catch the other bands that evening. I ended up at The Joker with Milo, George, the other guy from the coffee shop, and a can of Tyskie that I poured into a plastic cup in the ladies bathroom. Pink Lizards were playing upstairs beneath an unattractive neon light proclaiming ‘Devil's Disco’ in a flickering red. Daisy Dared me to stay.
Having head back to the boys house we spent a good hour in the stairwell discussing whether we should go out and party, or have a party at home with movies and cups of tea. Obviously we drank tea and watched the Basquiat film curled up on the couch. At 4.30am I awoke to Keiron pointing to a map of Australia before putting on that new war film with Brad Pitt in it and konking out.
Sunday I was all alone again, and I wanted to make up for the gigs that I'd missed, so I went straight to catch Fvnerals at The Albert. I closed the door on sunlight that poured through the windows up the stairs and pushed my way through the sardine crowd. It was an intimate venue, deep haunting vocals bounced off paint stripped walls. Gloom filled the room and I longed for daylight.
Young Fathers were on at The Haunt, following close behind a photographer for The Brighton Source I overheard that she could get up to the upper level the shoot the band. So I snuck my way up there too. There has been a lot of buzz around Young Fathers with their winning the Mercury Prize 2014, but I had yet to hear them. An ‘alternative hip hop band’ from Edinburgh that, when I googled them, Wikipedia calls a ‘psychedelic hip hop boy band’. Intriguing. I guess I got those vibes. There was definitely something really refreshing and raw about their performance. Through a seemingly choreographed presence, it felt as if they were singing about something real I didn't understand, maybe something meaningful. The atmosphere was electric, I watched and listened through my lens waiting for the light to catch the crowd as they looked up in awe.
I headed to Swans super early as there was no way I was going to miss them. An egg and cress eaten around the corner of The Old Market, once inside I made my way through the scattered fans and perched on the edge of the stage complacent in the prime viewing point I had. The room slowly filled with bodies and excitement before the members of Swans emerged onstage. The room began to vibrate as an ambient hum pierced our eardrums getting louder with the seconds that passed before they began. They eased us into a sense of security while slowly whittling away at our minds. Sound filled the space, a raucous ringing that was almost tangible. A barrage of industrial experimental post punk noise and genius that was and will always be, Swans.
I had to leave once the pressure on my ear drums became too much to continue existing. This was the end of my festival adventure, kind of. I had only one chance if I was to return to my bed in London. I kind of didn't want to, but I needed to change my underwear.
I looked back on the weekend as I drew boys initials onto my knee on the boring train ride home. Even though I wasn't able to attend, Connor assures me that Savages were exactly as amazing as they always are, as well as Kagoule (who I am totally bummed I couldn't make it to). It was a really well-curated festival as a whole; an exciting line up of local, London and influential international bands that inspired many of the musicians taking part in the rest of the weekend. I think if there is another DRILL: Festival it will be even better, as some aspects of the one in Brighton didn't translate very well when compared to the previous cities Wire had brought it to. I really admire Wire and One Inch Badge for creating a platform that allowed local and other emerging UK bands to perform on a bill alongside such names as Swans and Wire themselves.
All images by Suzy Creamcheese