One of my favourite bands, Beirut, played to a sell out crowd at Eastbourne's Winter Gardens last night, and it was a very special gig. Being best known for its blue rinses and tea dances, it's rare that Eastbourne attracts such hip artists, unless they have a connection to the town. I've no idea why Melting Vinyl chose the Winter Gardens, perhaps it was cheaper than the Corn Exchange in Brighton (which is probably the equivalent in terms of capacity), or maybe the band fancied doing something a bit different. Either way, they managed to pull it off, drawing fans from all over the country for Beirut's only English gig on this tour.
I've wanted to see Beirut live ever since I was introduced to them back in 2007. They rarely play the UK and I missed their last London gig because I was poorly, so when I read that they were coming to my home town, I was doubly chuffed. I have a strong personal connection to the Winter Gardens - my first ever am-dram show was in the Gold Room, I have sung in many music festivals there and even worked backstage during my time on the Eastbourne Theatres' crew. I was stunned to see a queue snaking around the corner when we arrived last night and even more taken aback when we got inside and it was bursting at the seams with hipsters.
Beirut were on good form, complimenting the 'classy venue' (perhaps they were being sarcastic?) and generally crowd-pleasing with their energetic klezmeriachi (I just made that up). I was plagued with annoying shouty people on all sides, but managed to wangle my way down into a less garrulous section of the audience for the last few songs, even finding enough room for a little waltz with Ant. Afterwards the streets outside were teeming and confused looking drivers struggled to navigate their way past the skinny-jeaned swarm; I'm pretty sure Compton Street has never seen anything like it.