Various Venues, Brighton
If anyone had any doubts that The Great Escape is the most important UK music festival for new bands, new trends and making new friends then they most certainly got knocked out of the water this year. 10 years in, and TGE went harder than ever before.
Celebrating its anniversary with secret ingredients in the shape of monster special guests like Mr Paul Weller, this was sprinkled across the huge, mad array of fresh talent from across the globe with flavours of just about every genre your local record shop could care to shake a stick at. It’s sprawling, ambitious and so, so exciting.
We kicked off Thursday at many a TGE stalwart’s favourite venue, Komedia, for Crack cover star and future pop princess Tei Shi, whose sultry dreamery wooed us all, as she asked her mesmerised (and heaving) crowd “Do you like slow dancing? I do” before crooning Go Slow and Bassically from her Verde EP. Star power. We pegged it over to The Green Door Store to check out the buzz surrounding Black Honey and were met with an incredibly sultry four piece purring out surf rock jams. We made sure to catch the end of Matador signees Haelos for some sparkling pop and finished the evening’s escapades with a dance to Mt Wolf before crawling home.
After a few well-earned Bloody Marys for brunch, Friday saw us trundle along to the PRS showcase to see marvellous Manchunians Spring King, whose incredibly talented anti-front man Tarek Musa (playing drums like a mad man and singing like a demi-god) dwarfed all other indie bands of the weekend. Any residual cobwebs were fully blown away by their mega track City. Keeping up the punk pace, we sped over to The Arch where current favourites Meat Wave took out many eardrums. The three piece from Chicago powered through old and new tracks, Brother being a highlight and new single Erased nearly losing us a pint. After a worthwhile but veritable trek up the London Road to indie Mecca Bleach, we had the good fortune of dancing the night away to Wichita Record’s pop wizard Oscar, whose harmonious and joyful tracks Beautiful Words and Daffodils had us twirling like toddlers in tiaras; followed by The Magic Gang, whose homecoming inspired more crowd surfing than I’ve ever seen in my life. Cue more dancing and twirling. Wonderful. Last but by no means least came our discovery of the weekend, Tkay Maizda. She shook the rafters of Brighton super club Coalition with her MIA-influenced turbo-powered rap. Stand out tracks U-huh and Finish Them had jumps high and hands even higher.
To Saturday, where all eyes fell on The Dome; we shined our boots and hit the pit for Stormzy followed by Skepta and JME. Hats off to The Great Escape, recognising Grime wave 2.0 and booking one of the best nights out we’ve had since our Year 11 school disco. Stomrzy reminded his 2,000 strong crowd: “I’m from a little place called South London” before blasting through Know Me From and demanding the sound be cranked up for the wild audience. After a short pause, Skepta and JME took the stage, and on a stage of this magnitude – both physically, and in terms of significance – it became clear that their surge to being household names is real.
“We can’t come and do The Great Escape if we can’t fucking merk it.” Demanding full energy of their audience at all times, they play one another’s hype man powering through Straight Up and That’s Not Me, before Skepta takes a step back to appreciate the crowd, muttering “fucking hell” a few dozen times. The night ends with an absolutely raucous mosh pit for Shut Down and it’s just as well it’s the end of the night, and the weekend, because what could possibly follow this at a festival which strives to prophesise the future of British music? Nothing.