Written and Photographed by Archie Sagers
The event started with a cold walk through the autumnal afternoon. Cars locked together in the post-work traffic made for easier negotiation of the roads than usual. The bright grey sky illuminated the path towards Green Door Store. I had never seen the venue so packed; people were spilling out of both exits, heads jutted forward and back with the rhythm of the music. As I squeezed my way into the entrance and past the toilets, I found that getting a drink would be difficult as a guitarist was strolling across the bar; erratically moving forward and back, sticking out their tongue at random intervals. Congratulations, a Brighton-based self-proclaimed “eclectic quartet,” were in the middle of their ear-pounding set in the bar area. Distorted bass lines gave way to shifting drums, screeching guitar, and harmonising vocals while the population of the bar area nodded in sync with the bass drum and grinned up at the bar straddler.
Once the energetic onslaught of Congratulations’ harmonising vocals subsided, I pushed towards the doorway for a perfect view of the next set. ELLiS·D started with the powerful drum and guitar intro to their track “Homecoming Queen.” Immediately captivating their audience with his powerful voice, Ellis moved with purpose and commanded attention. The band promptly shifted onto newer, distorted music, propelling the angular guitar riffs of confidence into the densely packed crowd. Sammy Lee’s bass encompassed the room, bouncing off the uneven cobbled floor, and combined with Jed Johnson’s ruthless, exact drumming, created an unstoppable rhythmic bed. The set culminated with a confrontational performance of their newest single, “Sleeping Sun.” Ellis, removing the microphone from its stand, waded into the crowd and, with his emotive, wailing voice, confronted audience members with increasingly unhinged behaviour; only to jump back on stage for the distorted chorus that weaved its way into a krautrock-inspired breakdown, before returning to the noisy verse. Finishing with their epic seven-minute track “Drifting,” the band veered between psychedelic jangling guitars and charged post-punk attack with an ever-present, awe-inspiring vocal performance courtesy of Ellis.
Fresh off the high of the brilliant set from ELLiS·D and their wonderful cohort, I made my way to the bar where a drink was bought for me by a friendly man called Guy, who had turned out to be a Wiltshire farmer down for the weekend after participating in the Worth Forest Mass Trespass. My excitement at discovering another person from my small hometown soon subsided when a man walked up to both of us and proceeded to stare blankly and offer the phrase “Fight or Fuck.” I awkwardly replied: “Neither?” He strolled off but not before comparing me to a “skinny Richard Dawson.” Guy resumed telling me that he intended to spend the night in his van parked outside Preston Park. I headed through the doorway with my newfound crop enthusiast, and we placed ourselves near the back of the room to witness the psychedelic soundscape of HotWax that was soon to unfold.
I was immediately struck by the swirling, melodic bass flowing out of the black Rickenbaker on the right side of the stage. Crashing cymbals and screamed vocals filled the air while the video feedback display behind the band flashed vibrant magenta, emerald, and cyan. With only three members, the band made enough sound for double their number. As the second track began and the crushing guitar revved into life, their influences came to light: Sleater-Kinney, Mudhoney, and Jimi Hendrix. HotWax controlled the crowd with pulsating energy and electric performance that had three separate people tap me on the shoulder to ask their name. At the peak of their show, they played their latest single, “Barbie (Not Yours),” featuring a walking bassline and shifting drums that catapulted itself into a frenzied chorus with the impassioned members chanting, “I am not your Barbie.”
Retiring to the bar to prepare for the next set by Porchlight, I complimented the barman’s drumming in the previous ELLiS·D set as Jed was now behind the bar serving me the two Carlsbergs I had ordered for myself and my farm-based friend. Wrestling a drink and a heavy camera, I worked back into the venue to hear the twitching opening guitar notes of “Silver Spoon.” As sound enveloped the room, I witnessed the suit jacket adorned lead singer clutch two drumsticks, entering into a Christ-like pose. With the psychedelic display projected onto the wall entering into a nauseated fever pitch, the band closed out the track and began a sombre bass riff that sounded eerily familiar. Their 2021 single “Drywall,” which had earned them the majority of their Spotify streams, immediately had the crowd swaying in time as the tension built with increasingly erratic instrumentation reaching its peak and jumping back into the melodic verse. After Porchlight, I called it a night, as subsisting on two slices of toast for a day had suddenly become impossible.
Returning to the fest the next day at two, I arrived in time to see a spectacular performance from Maximilian. Slowly shifting visuals occupied the back wall and made the whole stage appear as if inside a crystal with red and blue light bouncing across every surface. Max fluctuated between dissonance and harmony, using his Telecaster to inject a twang into melancholic ballads that slowly rose into a crushing climax. After debuting a new track, Max introduced the band and spoke directly to the audience on Platform B radio, where the festival was live-streamed. As with most Brighton bands, I recognised a few familiar faces. Maximilian had also played in ELLiS·D’s band along with Sammy. I had also seen the man behind the drums, Jamie, play with SLANT, Caramel, and Gobstoppers. With such a talented roster, Maximilian slid effortlessly through tunes “Red Wine,” “Matchsticks,” and “Ghost” and ebbed softly to an end; where the audience erupted into cheers breaking the gentle silence that had fallen inside the dark room.
Withdrawing to the smoking area under the white tarpaulin structure, I sat with Ellis and Sammy and talked about our time at the End of the Road festival: which we had both attended earlier in the month. Later joined by Max, I ventured back into the venue to witness what would be my last band of the weekend, Harper. Combining guitars dripping in reverb with soft vocals, shuffling drums, and an ever-present warm bassline, Harper crafted music with a gentle and earnest hook. After stopping mid-set to tell the audience a shark fact, the lead singer performed a delicate Fleetwood Mac cover; before launching back with another track showcasing epic surf rock and shoegaze-inspired guitar licks punctuated by silver-toned vocal harmonies. Despite the plethora of other talented bands performing that day, I had to head back to previous commitments.
Upon leaving Green Door Store, a man with a thick French accent who proclaimed that he was poisoned blocked my way home: two disappointed-looking paramedics stood above him. As I turned in the opposite direction, I thought back to the six excellent bands I had seen for free over the past two days and the incredible video feedback display by Innerstrings backdropping the event. 234 Fest by Green Door Store was another resounding success, with the highest concentration of talented underground artists per square foot of any venue I had ever visited. Green Door continues to excel at introducing new artists to the Brighton scene with their year-long free shows. I would suggest you visit this independent venue and support local DIY.
Archie Sagers is a musician and photographer living in Brighton (U.K.). He has also run the record label Crafting Room Recordings since 2019.