Various Venues, Brighton | May 10th-12th
The three-day music convention that is Brighton’s Great Escape is the biggest event of its kind in Europe. With a host of conferences, parties and gigs it’s become a key date for both music industry types and fans.
With wristband in position, we set off into the lively streets of Brighton. The nature of the festival always throws up one big dilemma; whether to stick to trying to see bands you already know, or follow the crowds of A&R men in hope of catching the next big thing? We began with buzz band of the moment, Londoners Palma Violets, recently signed off the back of a handful of low key shows. Spotting Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and New Order’s Stephen Morris in the audience was an impressive commendation in itself, those noted figures appearing fully engaged with the garage rock sounds coming from the four piece.
Producer Dauwd mixes ambient electronica with dubbed out bassy textures, a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of sounds which washed over the audience to hypnotising effect. An ill-fated attempt to catch the much-hyped Friends on Brighton Pier merely resulted in a weary glance at vast queues and a series of bouncers operating a one in-one out system. As the first day drew to a close, Mystery Jets performed a set delving into all aspects of their musical history, tracks from new album Radlands receiving an impressive welcome. Highlights came in the form of Two Doors Down and the delicate Take Me Where the Roses Go performed by guitarist Will and his songbird girlfriend Lucy Rose .
Day two began with an unexpected opportunity to right the previous day’s wrongs, thanks to a secret set from Friends. Taking place in the Republic of Music courtyard, a number of lucky people watched while the Brooklyn newcomers performed a short but sweet set of their sassy electronic pop. Heading back into the centre, we stumbled upon the Festival Hub stage, exemplifying the Great Escape ethos with its roster of emerging bands. A clear stand out were Brighton-based The Phantom Runners, performing a number of catchy dream pop numbers. Drawing comparisons from the likes of The Drums and with a smattering of The Cure, these boys are surely destined for bigger stages.
Late afternoon saw handsome Bristol four-piece Seasfire, performing a post ambient, mellow electronic set. Venturing slightly off piste to an Alternative Great Escape show, we were mesmerized by London electronic boy/girl duo Labyrinth Ear, icy disco-style tracks completed by lo-fi vocals from the female half. Seemingly a good night for boy/girl acts, following the trend were bloggers’ favourite, dark industrial pop specialists Curxes, a band who certainly won’t stay unsigned for much longer.
As with any number of this summer’s festivals, the most talked about artist of the weekend had to be Grimes. Come 8 p.m an endless queue snaked down the seafront promenade. Having sneaked through security feeling like we’re in possession of a golden ticket, Grimes totally lived up to expectations with a truly enchanting set.
Knocking back Beroccas and nibbling on bacon sarnies, The Great Escape’s final day was here. Four-piece Finnish band French Filmsblasted away the hangovers with their power pop, 80s post punk sounds, followed up by Londoners Fanzine, pleasing the crowds with their lo-fi grunge pop style.
The evening’s entertainment started in the hands of Africa Express Sound System. The collective bring together some of the world’s finest musicians and those involved in this showcase included rapper M3NSA, Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes, as well as musical director Jesse Hackett from Gorillaz. Skipping around the corner, we caught the last of Solar Bears, an Irish duo who combine spacey retro textures with glimmers of songcraft. Then on to the final leg of the night, an typically invigorating set from seminal live house dons Booka Shade, and then lastly to bounce around to a DJ set from Brighton’s homegrown production wizard Maxxi Soundsystem.
Through securing a superbly on-point combination of the most talked-about young artists around and more celebrated names, this young festival has continued its triumphant upward trajectory for another year. Team Great Escape, we salute you.
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Words: Bee Adamic
Photos: The Great Escape