I’ve just returned from The Great Escape, one of the biggest new music festivals on the planet. It’s compared to SXSW and lauded for the more than 450 bands playing across Brighton all weekend. All you need to know is it involves a lot of walking and the bands playing there will all be huge in a few years time. Here are my highlights…
— Thursday —
I started my Great Escape at Komedia’s Australian music showcase – check out Gordi if you’re interested – and then ran straight down to the bottom of Brighton Pier. Anna of the North makes pretty scandipop with a lot of beautiful harmonies in there. Now aided by a producer, Little Dreamer, her music has a lush haunting element to it, on top of some climatic beats.
Keeping with the Scandinavian theme, EERA opened Amazing Radio’s showcase at Patterns going sparse and delicate. She probably gets her name from the eeriness of her music, though its main strength was in how captivating it came across.
And then a mad dash over to All Saints Church in Hove. Every year the Great Escape has top-up shows and this year Oh Wonder, Mura Masa, and Shura lit up the atmosphere in front of the stained-glass windows.
I can’t think of a more perfect place to see Oh Wonder (sorry, anyone with tickets to see them this autumn), Mura Masa brought out Bonzai who stole the show, but Shura was most interesting for me. Shura’s debut album is due 8th July so with every performance comes a tantilising opportunity to hear how the record is coming along. It’s finished but her Space Tapes EP has shown it could sound completely different from anything we’ve heard from her before. Rewind 2-3 years and this performance would’ve been the talk of the festival.
Also worth a listen – Leif Erikson, Toothless, MiaMigo, Mabel, Spring King.
— Friday —
A nice early lunchtime start down at the seafront for TUSKS – Emily has a gorgeous voice with some beautiful accompanying tunes. Her False EP is due out soon!
The afternoon sunshine was filled with loads of amazing soloists playing the streets near the Corn Exchange. Emmi was incredible – an Australian living in London who performs very much like Lorde. Taylor Swift is a fan and ’60 Minutes’ is a beautiful highlight, overflowing with subtle energy.
Bristol folk singer Fenne Lily then brought a beautiful touch to the Unitarian Church. Her husky voice is so warm and stunning – well deserving of her recent appearance in Annie Mac’s New Names. To round it all off, Bayonne blew the roof off his tent with his unique brand of intricate electronic/pop/alternative set. Roger Sellers comes from Texas and is fascinating to watch perform. I saw him twice in a week and ‘Spectrolite’ is one of my favourite songs of the last six months.
Saturday night featured two of my highlights from The Great Escape as a whole: Tom Misch and Formation. Tom’s Beat Tape and Beat Tape 2 have produced some of the most exciting and forward-thinking music of the last few years, and un-earthed some great, talented musicians in the process. Carmody and Loyle Carner have both come through his patch and his music sounds great for it.
I first watched Formation at one of their first gigs, opening a night at Village Underground. Their attention to rhythm has always been captivating, but after recently working with Leon Vynehall their music and live show has really stepped up a gear. Check out their new single ‘Pleasure’ – an absolute banger with they stormed the start of their set with.
Also worth a listen – ZUZU, Let’s Eat Grandma, SKIES, Amber Arcades.
— Saturday —
The last day kicked off with a scurry for tickets to secret/pop-up shows being announced all over Brighton for that day. First order of business being The Big Moon – a gig that almost ALL the music industry seemed to be at. Keep an eye on these girls, they are going to be HUGE.
After watching The Temper Trap debut new material from their upcoming third album, I raced across Brighton to see ESTRONS play DICE’s party at Bleached. Every part of everything this Cardiff band has put out so far has seriously impressed me – from the content of their lyrics to their raw untampered energy, they play their instruments like they’re constantly on the edge of destroying something. Hopefully not your ear-drums. It was the first of many times I hope to see ESTRONS and they smashed it.
If you still don’t believe me, check out their performance for BBC Introducing at SXSW earlier this year.
I finished my Great Escape at the bottom of Brighton Pier, as the sun set and Day Wave wrapped up the DIY Magazine showcase. They make the most perfect sun-filled beach wave music. Their whole EP ‘Hard to Read’ is five tracks of incredible surf-pop with a sublime chorus. One of their keyboards wasn’t coming through the sound-system until the last few songs but you wouldn’t have noticed or even cared. ‘Gone’ is one of the catchiest, most uplifting songs I’ve heard in a very long time.
Also worth a listen – Yonaka, EKKAH.
So long Great Escape! I’ve walked more than 50 miles over you, and it’s absolutely been worth it.