Bearded’s Guide To… Brighton

The sun is shining, or trying to at least, so Lydia Stockbridge reports on what's happenin' down in the south coast's musical mecca of Brighton.

Aung San Suu Kyi As soon as the daffodils start to pop up, Brighton gears itself up for the festival season. It all gets a bit mad round here come May, with three of the biggest events of the year, Brighton Festival, Brighton Fringe and The Great Escape all happening at the same time. We're not complaining, though, spring is one of the best times to visit and make the most of all those bank holidays.

Brighton Festival, running from 7th-29th May, is being guest directed by Nobel Peace Prize winner and courageous human rights advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, and reflects her interests both musically and literarily. The festival has hints of themes running through different events, focusing on oppression and conflict. But that's not to say it's a sombre affair; now in its' 46th year, the Festival is an international cultural event, with many theatre, dance and musical productions making their world debuts here. Visual arts are also new to the Festival, and V.A artist Kutlug Ataman will be showing a specially-made piece at The Old Market in the opening week. There's so much going on it would be an ordeal to write it all down, so go take a peek at the website here.

Offering up even more culture, The Brighton Fringe is an ever-growing arts festival that takes place 7th-30th May. It's all about new work and fresh talent - anyone can apply to put on a Fringe event. What started off as an extra to Brighton Festival way back in 1967 has now grown into an event in its own right, and one of the biggest arts festivals in England. There's music, comedy, club nights and film nights, dance, theatre, kids shows and cabaret. One of our favourite annual events would have to be the Nice Weather for Airstrikes free mini-fest at The Druids pub on the Level. Four days of post-rock, shoegaze and soundscape joy. Take a look at the full line-up here.

We couldn't leave out The Great Escape out of the guide. The seaside's answer to Camden Crawl but with a heavy Brighton slant, The Great Escape crams 300+ artists into 30 venues around town, plus all the Alternative Escape free parties dotted about too over the 12th - 14th May weekend. In conjunction with the Brighton Festival, DJ Shadow and Sufjan Stevens will be playing Brighton Dome, DJ Shadow will be doing a next-day Q & A session too, if it hasn't sold out already, that is. Brighton lads Hind Ear, Yaaks (well, they're from Eastbourne but it's close enough eh?) and the wonderful Us Baby Bear Bones will all be playing alongside other rad acts; get your earlybird tickets while you can.

There's more musical ammo up our sleeves too. Ex-Freebutt promoter and founder of Southampton's Ejector Seat Festival, Andy Rossiter, is putting together yet more Brighton bands for you to come and check out. The Busk Stop is a free festival trail that sees the Brighton bands of tomorrow singing for their suppers in pubs and venues across town. Check out for more details to be announced.

That's not all, folks, the Brighton-born Playgroup festival is back for a second year this August. Devised by promoters behind the infamous and award-winning Blind Tiger Speakeasy Club, Playgroup have taken their festival-in-a-club ideals and stuck 'em in a field outside Brighton. Again expect a shitload of Brighton bands, DJs, performers and eccentrics to come and entertain you.

Enough about Brighton’s abundance of festivals, London label Moshi Moshi have been putting out challenging, if a little trendy, records for years, with Hot Chip, Architecture in Helsinki and Bloc Party to name-drop a few of the ace artists they've put out. Their Great Escape showcases have always been pretty legendary, and now in an exciting move, offshoot label Tender Age has set up camp in Brighton. Putting on innovative shows and events in London for a year or so, with a mish-mash of bands like Rolo Tomassi and TEETH, Tender Age's Toby Bull intends to bring this musically-passionate party to Brighton; as well as releasing a few bits and bobs too, the first of which is Seattle's hotly-tipped Beat Connection. Their clubnight, The Happiest Place On Earth, has already made its debut at one of Brighton's newest venues, The Green Door Store; setting the gold standard with emerging acts /D/R/U/G/S and Cymbals headlining, and Moshi Moshi DJs getting the crowd in the mood for dancin'; we're looking forward to the next one.

In terms of venues, there's been an influx of hot new ones coming to town, after the summer of discontent which saw the Freebutt, The Engine Rooms and New Hero close their doors. Fans will be pleased to know that The Freebutt is making a comeback, with the original owners, the Joiners venue of Southampton taking over, the building work is going on as we speak. Promises of a new stage, PA and lighting system too, as well as getting rid of the ruddy big pillar slap-bang in the middle of the gig room too. The launch night has been moved back due to some complications and possible altercations with the council, but here's hoping it'll be back guns blazing before too long.

The previously mentioned Green Door Store is an intimate new venue under the arches of Brighton train station. Open for nearly 2 months now, it's fast-becoming a favourite of the local music scene for its' eclectic mixture of nights, Metal Mondays with an old-school slant to it, Brighton doom-mongers Jovian headlined the first of many. There's also TRIIAL, a no-hype night of mystery, the line-up remains a closely-guarded secret until doors, with the only promise being it'll be something you've (probably) never heard before. It'll also make a change from getting a zillion spam messages from over-zealous promoters, too. Brighton acts Fujiya & Miyagi and Sons of Noel and Adrian are booked in for April alongside international hype machines Das Racist, Tuneyards and Thousands.

Brighton's newest club, The Haunt had a memorable launch night earlier this February, with members of the hippest bands around, Romy of the XX, Kim Ann Foxman of Hercules and Love Affair making an appearance, this is just a taster of things to come. Yelle, Mumdance and Joe from Hot Chip are just some of the acts booked in for the coming months. Brighton's biggest eighties night that praises all things pastel and power-dressed It Is Still 1985 is back on at The Haunt too, along with rhythm and blues from the Thursday night Fish Fry too. There're queues all the way to the pier for this place.

We could go on, but that's quite enough to be getting on with for now. Speak soon.