My first experience of queuing at The Great Escape was not too painful, and actually a precursor to what would happen ahead – which is that somehow, apart from briefly on the last day of the festival, I managed to get pretty much straight into every venue I wanted without any delay. Outside Audio on the first evening, the queue snaked around the side of the venue and looked stationary as I approached.
But I spotted a friend, Liliana, and performed a seamless and subtle swerve into the front half of the queue, just in time for the doors to open and the line to inch forward like a caterpillar. The psychology of The Great Escape is really quite strange, because – unless you have to queue a lot – the experience is rapid and urgent, quite different to the ordinary experience of gig going, where you do a lot of standing around in half-empty venues watching supports, the venue slowly filling out around you.
We hit the bottom of the Audio stairs and the cavernous gloom below, and I felt suddenly that I was in one of those high speed stop videos; the venue in a matter of moments was transformed from an empty space, everyone inching forward in the darkness, to an absolutely packed room. The band were on within moments.
Fear of Flying are much hyped, I gather, and probably with good reason – they’re young, handsome, keen and spirited, and their music is bright, aggressive and melodic. A three piece who seem to share a close shared vision, they amused me by trading vocals yet sharing a distinctive drawl – while the music is fast and jerky, their vocals seem almost to be a lagging a note behind, each holding their note longer than usual. I suspect it comes from the same influence that seems to drive their sound, which is an admiration for David Byrne’s Talking Heads, but they reminded me variously of The Smiths, The Young Knives and Blur.
They certainly went down well with the crowd, perhaps as well as anyone else I watched, which is a fine recommendation for a band occupying the 7 o’clock slot. If I were an A&R man, I’d probably think to myself, impressed, that there’s nothing that Fear of Flying do which the majority of their peers do any better, and they look eminently saleable. I wonder if they’ve not come of age (they’re very young) at a time when critical mass for jerky post-punk bands has actually been reached and people will soon be wanting something different, but, all the same, they were a decent young band and doubtless one who’ll be a success.