Added to the fact that the venue is, to put it succinctly, a shit hole. The Hydrant as a venue that might be okay to watch rock music by night but doesn't immediately appeal for a full afternoon's worth of folk. The mood is hardly helped by there being an abysmal selection of beers and the room being almost pitch black (hence a lack of photos). Still, I carry on regardless...
First up is Redwood Red, backed by Emma Gatrill on clarinet (who probably thinks I'm her stalker by now), her guitar plucks are delicate and fragile and her voice is rich and beautiful, the vocal harmonies extraordinary. It's a fine start to the day. We're even treated to a bit of tap-dancing / unorthodox beats at one point, if only there were some seats or light.
Like Spinning is next, I've waxed lyrical about Kari's music on numerous occasions, so unless you are new here you've probably got the picture by now but her vocals are so gorgeous and soothing that I forget about the environment for a while. Backed by Anna's equally beguiling voice there's even a recent cover in the set, a wonderful version of Hannah Cohen's "Child Bride". Like Spinning deserve all the praise that comes their way.
After whichever random drink I decide is best of a bad bunch Laish take to the tall stage and I'm re-encountered with Emma and Martha Rose who plays violin in the folk-rock posse, their sweeping tracks are harmonious and dripped in luscious instrumentation, I find myself wishing their were some candles in the room, anything to bring some light or feeling to the venue. Did I mention there was one toilet. A venue that can hold about 200/250 people has one gentlemen's room. Good luck with that...
I quickly disappear for a coffee which turns out to be an ale because there wasn't any coffee and see some of Karima Francis, the venue gets suddenly busy. I think it's because Karima was the only act on the bill who made it on the iPhone. Although it seems Karima didn't look at that as she mentions not knowing about the show until half an hour before playing, you wouldn't have guessed as she bellows out her soul-pop tracks that will no doubt be troubling the charts before summer is over.
Slightly delayed it's Emily and the Woods up next, the sound where I was sitting (my legs had given up by this point and I made do with the hard, dirty floor) means I hear probably slightly more guitar than I should and not enough of Emily's soft, sweet vocals. There is a lot of new material and it's safe to say I'm excited to hear it properly. Emily is another well documented love of mine and her way with the crowd will no doubt have found her more friends.
My eyes decide they want some sunlight after over four hours in predominately the same rectangle shaped room so I decide to get some food and drop off my bag before heading out for the evening shift. I see Stealing Sheep as I exit and have a tangle of guilt but I saw them a few weeks ago and think I've made the right decision. A little rest later and expecting Audio to be busy I head there just as the doors open, the good news is they are handing out drink tokens for free Red Stripe - free and alcohol when used together are two words never to be sniffed at.
Novella come on stage and they are as good as ever, sugary vocals buried in a see of hazy, grunge guitars and battering drums equally powerful and beautiful, not ones for audience interaction, Novella are still one of the best 90's influenced band in London today. My pre-gig expectations for the next band Fanzine are pretty low, it turns out of I've got them confused with another band and I quite enjoy them, their dreamy, slacker-pop sounds more American than London, their set soon flies by.
HAIM take to the stage, there is a notable air of expectancy, I'm not sure what to expect, it doesn't take very long into their set for me to soon decide they are amazing. Actually amazing. They swear too much in-between songs but musically they are brilliant, three sisters aged between 19 and 24 with a drummer who seems the butt of their jokes.
They are not a thing like their pre-show billing of R&B meets folk, Haim are 70's rock meets Fleetwood Mac. The harmonies are to-die-for, the guitars loud and the drumming intense. I said in my preview this could be a moment like Warpaint's show a couple of years ago and it turns out that I was right. Haim will be back in the UK soon and before the year is out they'll be on the lips of thousands of cooler people than I.
Lucy Rose is next at Blind Tiger, I'm soon beyond infuriated. I know it's quite late (about half ten) but if you come to watch a gig by a singer-songwriter surely etiquette dictates that you shut the fuck up. Perhaps not at a new music festival when there is every chance most of the crowd has been out enjoying the springs' sun for the best part of the day, after five or six songs I've had enough and decide to save Lucy's beautiful voice for a time when I can enjoy it without thoughts of cutting off a lot of people's tongues!
Instead I head to the sanctuary of the Pav Tav, I'm going to guess that is the only time this place has ever been called a sanctuary, it's a typical student filled hole, but at least you know what you are getting beforehand and I sample a few poor quality EPA's, though priced at £2.50 I can't complain.
It does leave a sour end to the weekend but one that looking back was filled with a lot of quality acts and a lot of value of the £40 ticket (super early bird and fees). I've talked about a couple of niggling points throughout my rambling reviews, still The Great Escape is still one of my favourite festivals of the year and I'm already looking forward to 2013's.