‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’ – ‘2 3 4 FEST’, GREEN DOOR STORE, BRIGHTON 23-24.9.23
‘2 3 4 Fest’ is an established annual showcase of emerging local talent, arranged and hosted by the Green Door Store, a grassroots music venue located at numbers 2, 3 and 4 Trafalgar Arches, underneath Brighton railway station. It’s a free entry event held over two days, with twenty acts, each performing a 30 minute set.
Most play in the 170-capacity live room, a former goods store with an uneven stone floor that adds a frisson of excitement to any moshing or stage diving that might occur. Each day, one band gets to play in the smaller bar area, which is usually the confluence of foot traffic through the venue, so that set tends to be watched by a particularly tightly packed audience.
There’s a large outside area for smoking and socialising, partly covered by a gazebo, and a food stall for sustenance. Being free entry, the event is always well attended so there’s a real buzz outside during the changeovers.
On the third weekend of September, ‘2 3 4 Fest’ is very much the place to be. Naturally, the Brighton and Hove News team are here in numbers, as we were in 2022 and 2021. Here’s our account of the Saturday.
Saturday 23rd September:
Soft Top (2pm)
Opening proceedings are Soft Top, a six-piece who include cello and clarinet amongst the more traditional guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. I recognise guitarist Austin from the band Tinman, and I think drummer Owen and bassist Charlie were here last year with Sad Dads. Soft Top are based around the songwriting of Miles Goodall, who stands front and centre, singing lead vocals and playing a Nord Electro 3 stage piano. Whilst his look is pure 1980s, with a spectacular mullet, the music would be more at home on American radio in the mid 1970s. If you wait long enough, everything will come back eventually, even yacht rock, and here we are.
It’s very nicely done, and the band are clearly all accomplished musicians. Piano-led opener ‘Not Enough’ is a gentle start, with lush harmonies backing the high vocal line. A languid beat kicks in, with Oakley on cello and Bobby on clarinet adding smooth orchestration. Austin embellishes the second verse with some tremolo strumming. ‘Your Aching Words’ is comparatively upbeat and a catchy tune, reminding me of the more commercially-oriented output of Todd Rundgren. Miles explains that these songs are from a forthcoming concept album, imagining an alternative outcome from a near-miss road accident. I think I’m on my own ‘Sliding Doors’ trip, in some weird alternate reality where punk never happened. ‘Layla’s House’ includes an interesting half-speed section and some dreamy cello and clarinet. The stabs and pushes of ‘Gathering Dust’ lead to a big reverb-drenched guitar break, and ‘Paving Stones’ has a beautifully lilting rhythm driven along by the bass and cello. Bobby puts down his clarinet to focus on adding harmonies to closing number ‘Run Away’, another slow and vibey piece that rounds off the journey in a satisfying way. I found Soft Top interesting, my admiration for the songwriting and musicianship matched by incredulity that there are young people who want to play this style of music.
Miles – vocals and keyboards
Owen – drums
Oakley – cello
Austin – guitar, vocals
Bobby – clarinet, vocals
Charlie – bass, vocals
Coco And The Lost (3pm)
Second on stage were exciting new local outfit Coco And The Lost. The three-piece band upped the tempo of the afternoon with their lively, indie pop sound. Coco And The Lost opened their set with ‘What’s Your Take On It’, a very catchy song with a very fresh Britpop sound. On the next tune, ‘Everything Is Fine!’, Coco’s vocals had hints of Toyah on ‘Thunder In The Mountains’. The next song ‘Something’s Going On Here’ included a synth part, and had a dance feel about it. One of the key features of Coco And The Lost’s set was the range and variety of Coco’s vocals. On ‘Crying In The Bathroom’, a lively pop song, she added emotional vulnerability to her powerful vocals. During ‘Oh What A Curse It Is (To Be In Love)’ it was as if she was pouring out her heart in her lyrics and adding a more distraught tone. By contrast ‘One Last Thing’ started with a spoken word narrative.
Coco was well supported by her band. Charlie’s guitar and Connor’s drums allowed Coco to take centre stage with her theatrical stage presence. I’ve seen them a few times, and now they appear more as a band than as a solo artist. As well as tracks from their debut EP ‘I’ve Got Nothing John’, they played some from their second EP ‘Moonbird’, which is due out on 4th October. Those new tracks had a more sophisticated sound without losing those catchy hooks, showing the progression in their sound. Coco dedicated their final song ‘I’ve Got Nothing John’ to anybody in the audience called John. This upbeat tune was a perfect close to a very varied entertaining set, (not just for people called John). Based on their performance at ‘2 3 4 Fest’ and the reception from the audience, they have a bright future and will soon have a higher billing.
Coco And The Lost:
Coco – vocals
Charlie – guitar and synth
Connor – drums
Austen Showers (4pm)
Hot-footing back from the centre of the Universe (oh OK Northampton then!) to be with us this afternoon were Austen Showers who are a genre-fluid four-piece from Brighton led by the very charismatic vocalist Charlie (she, her). Also on board are bassist Robin (he, him), guitarist Luca (he, him) and drummer Steph (they, them). Described aptly as a “70s mushroom punk fantasy” Austen Showers combined several musical genres, from the 60’s and 70’s through to post-punk.
Charlie says “bonjour!” over the mic and they are away as Luca’s twangy Epiphone guitar set about it’s business ably assisted by Robin’s bass and Steph’s drumkit. After today’s first two opening acts it was time to get down and dirty with Austin Showers for their take on ska influenced proto funk punk tunes. Think the bastard son of The Rolling Stones and Austin Showers will fit the bill and oblige you with their tunes. Tune three I think was called ‘Sunshine Initially’ and slowed the pace down somewhat. After which we had the first crowd dancing of the day to their Haircut 100 ‘Favourite Shirts’ guitar riff meets Happy Mondays style tune, where Charlie came and joined us mere mortals standing on the cobbled floor (which in days gone by was a horse stable) for some social interaction. After which, we all had to get down on the floor, which we obligingly did and then had to say our “hays” and “yays” when instructed. It’s fair to say that the crowd loved them, although there was one casualty, the centre front stage speaker, which toppled off the stage onto the floor. Thankfully it didn’t land on anyone’s toes and was hoisted back to its rightful position without any loss of sound…Phew!
Charlie – vocals
Robin – bass
Luca – guitar
Steph – drums
Jar Of Blind Flies (5pm)
Next up are Jar Of Blind Flies, a grungy alt-rock three-piece with guitar, bass and drums. They go big early, with ‘Not Your Baby’, drummer Marley’s powerful hits coming down from some considerable altitude, and his long hair flailing wildly. Lead vocalist Maddy, clad in white with long bleached hair tied in bunches, coaxes a fuzzy thrash from a Gretsch semi-acoustic, and bassist Jake chugs an Epiphone Thunderbird. Some of the band’s following have clearly followed them here, and for the more urgent ‘Crawl Back Inside’ the windmilling arms and fists of a few whirling dervish dancers have opened a wide cleft in the crowd.
As is common with this style of music, the loud/quiet trick is frequently used. Maddie’s voice glowers over the quieter moments before soaring impressively, whilst Marley accentuates the more frenetic sections with doom-metal style backing vocals in a roared growl. I particularly like ‘Playground King’, launched with sliding bass chords in the style of ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ that lead to a very tasty arpeggio hook. The anthemic chorus gives way to shrill screams and more thunderous drum fills. The scudding beat of ‘Plastic Boy’ inspires a fine display of synchronised head banging from the faithful. Concluding number, ‘Far From Land’ has a steady start but soon gets very lively indeed, with our unimpressed editor part of the collateral damage as the over-zealous mosh spills into the wider audience. It’s been a solid and energetic performance from the band, and if this sounds like your thing, their album ‘Míà’ is available to check out on all the usual platforms.
Jar Of Blind Flies:
Maddy – vocals, guitar
Marley – drums, vocals
Jake – bass
Epsom Salts (5:35pm)
In addition to the main stage, ‘2 3 4 Fest’ has one band playing in the bar area, where the merch stall usually is situated. So, it was a quick changeover from Jar Of Blind Flies on the main stage to the next band, Epsom Salts in the bar area.
The four-piece noise-rock outfit from Brighton started their set with noise frenzy, setting the tone of what was to follow, before Shea joined in with his no-nonsense shouted lyrics. Their fast and furious sound, which was impossible to ignore (and why would you want to), was a mix of punk and thrash metal. It was held together by some impressive solid drumming by Robin and bass from Kristian. At the start, drummer Robin wore a red balaclava. Not surprisingly with the intense energetic performance, this was discarded as early as the second song. The balaclava wasn’t the only thing that didn’t last the set, as mid-set Robin’s snare drum had to be replaced. Later Jake decided that he’d play guitar standing on the bar. This has become a tradition at ‘2 3 4 Fest’ for bands playing the bar area. He wasn’t the only band member to visit the bar during the set. During an instrumental section of their last song, singer Shea decided to get a cider. Great service from the Green Door Store bar staff, meant that there was no interruption to the momentum of the band’s set. Those looking in from the outside terrace may not have been able to see all the band, but they appeared to enjoy the sound, as much as those inside in the packed bar area.
Shea Harding – vocals
Kristian Floate – bass
Robin Marsh – drums
Jake Reid – guitar
After the Epsom Salts performance in the bar concluded, we are immediately off again in the main concert room with the powerful indie rock duo Fräulein, consisting of Joni Samuels on Gretsch guitar and vocals, plus Karsten Van der Tol on drums. It’s not our first encounter with the duo and it’s not going to be the last either if this afternoon’s performance is anything to go by! It’s fair to say that they both knew that they had smashed it, as they both shook hands on completion of their half hour set.
Joni informed us that they were trying out some new material on us, and we didn’t mind one iota. As usual they tear it up like nobody’s business. They generate an incredibly full sound between the two of them. Whilst there’s a very definite grunge influence here, it’s not all thunder, as there’s rock blues well embedded into this set. Joni’s vocal range is rather impressive, whether it be the quiet moments or the blood curdling screams, which she’s an expert at. Overall their music works on various levels whether it be the quieter moments or the full out rockin ‘epics. Mid set Karsten offloaded a drum solo whilst Joni tuned her guitar. Despite only being a twosome there is a fine sense of dynamics with Fräulein and this includes their final two numbers which are from their new EP. So in summing up in just three words…“They nailed it!”.
Joni Samuels – guitar, vocals
Karsten Van der Tol – drums
Plantoid have generated a buzz with their proggy jazz-psych, and have recently signed to Bella Union. The live room is full in anticipation of their set, but the bass player and drummer have been delayed en route. They arrive looking flustered, but set up very quickly and we’re ready to go just five minutes late. That’s not an ideal start and I do feel for them, but they’re straight into rhythmically complex opener ‘Pressure’. Guitarist Tom fires off angular flurries of lead whilst lead vocalist Chloë strums an urgent rhythm. Bernardo’s bouncing bass lines are locked in tight as drummer Louis busily accentuates stabs and pushes, linking the different sections with astonishingly fast triplet fills. Chloë’s voice really soars over the top of it all, the vocal melody reminding me a little of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. This impression doesn’t last though, with the next piece utilising a much breathier, distinctly jazzy style.
It’s actually a medley, a jazz odyssey, if you will. The first section, ‘Wonder Wonder’ has the clipped trebly feel of African hi-energy guitar to its angular rhythm, ushered along by delicate rim shots and smooth sustained vocal notes. There’s a guitar digression with much sharper attack, that becomes the busy ‘Insomniac’, followed by the brisk groove of ‘G Y Drift’. We get a bit of showboating along the way, with seriously impressive solos from guitar and drums, and super-tight whole-band fills, stabs and pushes. Louis gets busy on the snare and hi-hat, underpinning the skittering riff of new single ‘Dog’s Life’ while Chloë’s dreamy vocal floats ethereally over the top. Being the supremely confident musicians they are, they finish with a jam of lush chords over a shuffling beat, culminating in a wailing guitar break. Whether you like Plantoid’s music will rather depend on how you get on with prog and jazz, but there seem to be plenty of people here who like it very much indeed.
Chloë – vocals, guitar
Tom – guitar, vocals
Bernado – bass, vocals
Louis – drums
Such is Welly’s growing live reputation, the main stage area at the Green Door Store was packed for their sound check. In their normal clothes, someone in the crowd shouted “Where are your PE kits?”, to which Welly quickly replied “It’s half term”. Their banter with the crowd started before their set had even begun. Onto the proper set, the five-piece band came on in their trademark PE kits to ‘Our House’ by Madness, during which the band did their warm up stretching exercises. Their set contained a few new songs, ‘It’s Not Like This In France’ and another about rich kids on gap years soaking up the culture. In introductions to their songs, Welly asks the audience questions related to the song, and incorporates the replies into the song. When somebody’s answer to where they went on their gap year was “Nowhere”, Welly joked “That’s ruined it.”, before playing the song with its original lyrics.
For the animal noises quiz, someone shouted the punchline to the last one, which Welly quickly retorted “We’ve never had a repeat customer”. Far from the case, as Welly have established a strong local following. Several people I know seeing Welly for the first time at ‘2 3 4 Fest’ have joined that growing number. Welly are about more than just audience banter; they know how to create really catchy tunes. The band were musically very good playing great synth dance and pop songs with flavours of the 1980’s of Madness and Britpop. Before the penultimate song, ‘Home For The Weekend’, Welly reminded people, “It’s our second time playing the 8pm Legends slot at this festival”. The sense of fun at their live shows is becoming legendary on the Brighton music scene. With the packed crowd at the Green Door Store rocking, Welly closed one of the best sets of the weekend with the Blur-like Britpop sounding track ‘Me And Your Mates’, which saw Welly crowd surfing. Such was Welly’s performance, people were still singing their praises the following day.
Welly – vocals and percussion
Jacob – bass
Hanna – synth and percussion
Joe – guitar
Matt – guitar
The Congratulations (stylized with a lowercase ‘c’) set tonight didn’t exactly go as the Brighton quartet had wished from the outset, as it was “missing yellow jumpsuitgate”. Being a colour-coded bunch, they like to perform in their various costumes and drummer James’ one had gone astray! Someone indicated it might be out in the bar and Leah demanded that someone get it. It didn’t arrive, so they had to soldier on nonetheless. It’s fortunate that guitarist Jamie opted for a blue jumpsuit instead of a purple one, as it would be a matter of time before someone would spot that they are wearing the same 4 colours as the Teletubbies.
We have witnessed congratulations several times over the past few years and I must note that after tonight’s set had concluded that they were the best received today thus far. Seems words out on this bunch now, as their intense rap rock style opener, like a dirty version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers went down rather well and the longer they played the more the punters climbed aboard. For the close of their second number, jumpsuitless James gave us an enthusiastic drum solo, and on another number they even got down and funky. Their debut single got an outing and was a jaunty tune with offbeat patterns, with Leah’s powerful vocal delivery atop. Like Welly beforehand, they even lumbered up a little whilst on stage in a keep fit routine. There was even a moshpit for their penultimate number, where the band said “I hope you’ve swapped insurance details” in reference to the enthusiastic mosh pit.
Leah Stanhope – vocals
Jamie Chellar – guitar
Greg Burns – bass
James Gillingham – drums
Closing Saturday night’s great and varied line up was O. Far from the standard line up of singer, guitars, bass and drums, O. are a very unusual band with just a baritone saxophone and drums. The London-based duo are Tash Keary on drums and Joe Henwood on sax. At the start of their set, they announced they’d be “doing a variety of styles”. They certainly delivered on that score. The opening number was a soundscape with a jazz feel, not unexpected from a saxophone, you may think. What followed was. The second song had a real dance feel, whereas the third song ’Moon’ had an atmospheric intro with a thumping bass drum.
Other tracks in the set had a punchier sound like rock music, some were psychedelic dance sounds. One later track wouldn’t have been out of place in a church having a choral feel. Without watching the band, you could be mistaken for thinking Joe had put down his saxophone and picked up other instruments. He somehow managed to blur the lines between instruments so that you could almost be hearing a guitar. Far from simply supporting Joe’s extraordinary sax playing, Tash’s drumming stood on equal footing. Her drumming was both amazing and varied, like the band’s overall sound. She had one cymbal, which was three battered old ones taped together, which had an interesting dead sound to it. With O. even the drum kit wasn’t the standard set up. I’d never seen O. before, and didn’t know what to expect from such an unfamiliar line up. What I saw on Saturday at ‘2 3 4 Fest’ was a genuinely unique sound, which didn’t just rely on being different and interesting, but was totally engaging and real quality. There was plenty of dancing to O.’s varied sounds in their fully instrumental set. O. went down very well as the closing band on Saturday night.
Tash Keary – drums
Joe Henwood – saxophone
Although Day One of the ‘2 3 4 Fest’ had concluded at the Green Door Store, there was (for some) still the matter of the aftershow party which was taking place from 11pm onwards at the nearby Rossi Bar located near Brighton Clocktower on Queens Road. Performing for this free entry event were the excellent Pussyliquor but as we had an early start again tomorrow, we sadly had to swerve this performance, but will be catching the band playing live in the near future.
Ari Black – vocals
Victoria Lewis Piper – drums
Hannah Villanueva – guitar
Tallulah Turner-Fray – bass
JJ Symon – guitar/backing vocals
Reviews of the bands playing on Day Two (Sunday 24th September) of ‘2 3 4 Fest’ can be found HERE.