At The Edge Of The Sea – Concorde 2, Brighton – 11th August 2018

Photo by Jonski Mason

This year is the 10th anniversary of the At The Edge Of The Sea (ATEOTS) festival and this is my fourth time covering it for Brightonsfinest. When I first discovered the festival five years ago I did not know much about The Wedding Present, except that their fans are the sort of people who would see The Wedding Present headline their own festival every year. It’s a very clever festival really. Firstly, the title is perfect as it’s hosted at the Concorde 2 venue, right at the edge of the sea. Also, a few of the bands have joked it should be At The Gedge Of The Sea, as the festival is put together by David Gedage, the frontman for The Wedding Present.

The bands on the bill each year are a mixture of groups with ex-Wedding Present members (and there are quite a few of them!), some bands The Wedding Present have toured with in the past and some bands that have just caught the attention of Mr Gedge. The main bar at Concorde 2 has a stage set up for the day and the music kicks off the second the doors open. So as you enter the venue there is a band playing in the bar. This is followed by David Gedge’s other band Cinerama on the main stage. These two things get the crowds there early and some drift off over the day to get food but an impressive number of people hang around all day.

Now the bands on the bill can be anything. Pop, rock, funny, dark, pure pop, folk, electro – think about absolutely any style possible, and that style has probably been covered at some point over the last 10 years. So there is a chance you may not like everything on the bill, however, as everyone gets a strict 30 minute slot, it’s not too long to wait till the next one comes on. Most people give each band a couple of songs to see what they are like then drift off till the next one if it’s not their thing. The music is non-stop bouncing between the bar and main venue until you get a little break before The Wedding Present have their full headline set of eclectic songs from their archive. Often with previews of new songs, some that have not been played for years, along with a few that have never been played before. It’s The Wedding Present’s chance to have a bit of fun and for the die hard fans to have a little treat.

CineramaSo no two years are the same and there are enough of the classic songs sprinkled into the set to give you the well known songs too. Alongside this it’s become a bit of a tradition, unwritten law even, that most of the bands slip in a Wedding Present cover into their set. Even David Gedge slipped in a Wedding Present cover into the Cinerama set this year, which was bizarre seeing someone cover their own song! That’s just the kind of amazing thing you can see at this festival and why there are a large number of people who come back year after year. It’s like one big happy family and a lot of the bands who hang around for the day, are happy to talk to the fans, check out the other bands playing and sometime pop up as a guest performer in other bands.

This year I got delayed going to the venue and missed the first band Amelia Coburn and arrived just as Cinerama were starting their first song. I love the Cinerama songs, they are all really epic and, as if led by the band name, seem to have a real cinematic feel to them. The set started off with some of the more mellow songs and gradually ramped up the intensity. David Gedge mentioned he had a soft spot for the song ‘Manhattan’ as it was the first single on his own label Scopitones. Gedge also uses this time to highlight the bands coming up throughout the day and announces this year’s raffle prizes, another ATEOTS tradition.

Oliver Elf ArmyAmerican band Oliver Elf Army were up next on the stage in the bar. A drummer and guitar two piece with them both on vocals. Mostly it was nice easy listening American rock but every now and then they would ramp it up and do something mentally heavy. It was a really enjoyable show where it looked like they were having fun and they took the crowd with them.

Terry de CastroTerry de Castro is well known within The Wedding Present fanbase as she used to be in the band and in fact performed with them at the first ever ATEOTS event. She also performed with both The Wedding Present and Cinerama today. For her set she was joined on stage by TWP bass player Danielle Wadey. It was an entertaining performance of her beautiful songs along with some entertaining banter between songs about her career and time spent with David Gedge. The last song they performed was really epic, leaving you wanting more.

All Flags Are GreyI’m not quite sure how to describe All Flags Are Grey. It was certainly very theatrical with the singer having the longest pair of platform boots I’ve seen in ages and bright red 70s bell bottom trousers on. Accompanied by the guitarist, who also triggered a few backing tracks, the music was a simple but effective backdrop. It was the singer that stole the show with a very gothic theatrical performance and amazing vocal range.

Helen And The HornsI saw Helen McCookerybook perform here last year on the small stage and this year she was back as Helen And The Horns. The songs took on a whole new vibe with the three-piece brass section accompanying her on the main stage. As she said she doesn’t play live very much it has been a real treat to see her twice over the last two festivals especially as they were such different performances.

Vinny Peculiar!Back again to the bar and a very pub-gig vibe from Vinny Peculiar!, a one man singer/songwriter affair. With all the right amount of jokes and stories between songs and the usual quirky world view you always seem to get with a solo acoustic guitar singer. Another highly entertaining show and someone you could quite easily listen to for hours in a real pub gig.

SaladSalad were a very interesting band. I’d not heard of them before but they seem to be one of those bands that got a small but reasonable following back in the 90s before disbanding… Only to get back together about 10 years later. Frontwoman Marijne is forever bouncing around the stage, engaging with the audience and occasionally throwing a pose Kate Bush would be proud of. With such a great set of songs you can see how they got that following back in the 90s and hopefully there is more to come as it was pure entertainment.

Jetstream PonyAnother band that were hard to describe is Jetstream Pony, if shoegazing punk is not a genre then this band may have invented it. With the four of them on stage there was not much space to move but I’m not sure they are the bouncing around on stage type anyway. The music was solid and I especially like the dirty-fuzzy bass sound and I’m certainly tempted to check them out again at one of their own gigs.

Young RomanceYoung Romance seem to be the latest in a long line of power pop-rock duos; with Claire on drums and vocals while Paolo takes care of the guitars. They made their name supporting bigger bands and you can see that in their performance. It’s very well polished and has got enough dynamics to capture – rather than keep – your attention. This is definitely a band I think we will be hearing a lot about in the future.

The Catenary WiresTo wrap up the ‘other bands’ on the bill were The Catenary Wires, usually a two-piece but apparently Gedge said they would only be allowed to play if they had three. Something that often happens here, Gedge seems to like to challenge the bands to do something a little different. So they added a keyboard player, who also did a bit of percussion. David was probably right too, the extra melodies probably helped them stand out and keep our interest as it was coming to the end of a full day of music.

The Wedding PresentSo on to The Wedding Present. As it was a sold out event the place was packed by the time they came on. If you were there to just see one of their gigs, then you are probably better at one of their more usual shows. This is really the fans’ special treat show. With an eclectic mix of track spanning the whole of their catalogue and some track that have not been played by David for years, or even decades. He blames the drummer for the songs as he put together the set list. It’s another fun performance and you can tell the Gedge really likes putting on these shows for the fans.

Congratulations to David Gedge for putting together such a unique festival every year and keeping it running for 10 years. Let’s hope there is many more to come.

Jonski Mason