U.K. upstarts Gallows, Foals, and the Enemy duke it out at Brighton's ''Great Escape'' festival. Plus: more 'Sturm und Drang' from Interpol, and the NME's shiny new digs

By Mark Beaumont
May 28, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ashley Maile/Retna Ltd.

Inside U.K.’s biggest new-music fest

Summer in London generally lasts approximately 27.48 minutes (the largest gap between drizzly spells since records began was a whopping 52.1 minutes in Halifax in 1667, when three peasants and a pig, caught outside without shelter, were fatally sunburned), so you have to be pretty on-the-ball to catch it. Luckily, when it hit this week, all of London was already greased up with lard in its horse-drawn beach hut on the road to Brighton for the Great Escape festival — another one of our attempts to re-create SXSW, only this time with pebbles, sticks of rock, and brutal granny-muggings all over the shop.

Unfortunately, by the time they’d reached the beach, summer was over and it was back to horizontal rainstorms and temperatures that could freeze the knackers off an emperor penguin, but luckily the bands stoked up the heat. Kicking the whole caboodle off, punk howlers Gallows wasted no time in slagging off the NME from the stage (we expect nothing less from our future cover stars) while being mercilessly bottled, and what followed over three days was similarly intense. Palace Pier was almost rocked into the sea by a stampede of indie ravers toward the Foals gig in the pub at the end. Rival chart invaders the Enemy and the Macabees decided to settle their differences with their very own five-a-side FA Cup final watched by a horde of enthusiastic pirates. The entire U.K. music industry entered into all-out fistfights over whether AOR up-and-comers Palladium are the future of rock or the sound of lamesters the Feeling puking up UB40’s reggae-lite. And at one point half of the NME’s reporting team found themselves chasing a moving bus along the seafront to catch a band playing on the upper deck called, ahem, Eternal Erection. Apparently they were ”rampant.”

And for those of us stuck back in town, what uplifting, life-affirming band of cheery tunesmiths did you guys send over to help brighten our week with a sing-along glory gig full of sunny pop fluffiness? Interpol. Like, THANKS. Luckily I managed to dodge the gig entirely and just crash the aftershow at the fabulously re-deco’d Proud Gallery (the coolest art gallery/rock venue in London, largely thanks to being the home of my own Year Zero club night), where the outdoor patio area has been done out in an Alice-In-Wonderland theme, complete with giant chess set and plywood beanstalk. Possibly the only bar in town where Carlos D., with his new moustachioed image as an Edwardian card shark, wouldn’t look like a complete circus freak.

And what’s that sound coming from the NME office? That sound of frenzied punk rock, popping corks, and splintering wood? It’s the sound of the world’s greatest rock weekly moving HQs. In the grotty, lived-in old pit we moved out of last Friday there were tearful canapés and champagne, and this correspondent smashing up his desk with a cricket bat to the strains of ”Anarchy In the U.K.” In own new shiny open plan shell, we’ve been unpacking to the sound of the ace new Hard-Fi single and the incredible Stills album that sounds like a brass section has been trained by the U.S. Marine Corp, tooled up with heavy artillery and sent to invade a Shins gig. And selling insurance on Fridays. Now if you’ll excuse us, summer’s making an unprecedented return for the next 10 minutes and we’re setting up a beach volleyball contest on the roof. Margaritas on me!