Leaving the busy city life of London behind for even busier music shenanigans turned out to be the greatest seaside escape to be had in a long time, as two thirds of the core Alt Scribe team (Editor and Brighton native Amy Jo and myself) hit the streets of Brighton in search of exciting new talent at the annual Great Escape festival and boy, did we find some!
Following delays caused by a forgotten ticket, we delved into the music hub of the city centre and its various pubs and venues. Representing Wales, Tibet and Danielle Lewis both turned out to be a pleasant surprise to start with, and Lewis left us in awe with the last song of her set, sung in Welsh, where the true potential of her angelic voice really shone through. First days of festivals are usually spent adjusting and learning what’s on the line-up so it was nice to catch the familiar faces of TRANSVIOLET again after having seen them support The 1975 earlier this year.
Blossoms at the Concorde 2. Photo by Dóra Udvardi.
I have never been more upset about missing out on a gig, with long-time Alt Scribe-favourites Oh Wonder playing a spotlight show that sold out before I could buy a ticket. How they have become so popular is beyond my understanding but Amy Jo has all the details on their performance. However, missing their show meant I could see Blossoms. Although I’ve fallen out with indie music lately, Blossoms completely stole mha hart mah sole with their heavily synth driven tunes (my new found love) and live performance. Bohemian romanticism is a perfect term to describe this band. Unlike many bigger names within the indie genre from up North of the UK, they look cool without overplaying the role … and much friendlier as well! Quite frankly, it’s nice to see excitement on musicians’ faces when they’re up on that stage. This was the second best gig of the weekend, and they wear the crown for “the strongest hair-game distribution within a band”.
Desert Planes at The Mesmerist. Photo by Dóra Udvardi.
The early hours of day two caught us in a tiny pub where the duo of Desert Planes flew us to Tarantino-esque Wild West territories with their dreamy country-meets-rock sound, while Callum Beattie later brought uplifting folk vibes to a church (highly recommended venue for great acoustics) and Middlemist Red showcased how Hungarians do indie in a way they would perfectly fit into the UK scene.
Middlemist Red at The Marlborough Theatre. Photo by Dóra Udvardi.
Our big mission to unveil a secret Craig David performance failed yet we got to somewhat see the second biggest name of the line-up: Jake Bugg. Queuing one hour to only hear him play a surprise acoustic “gig” of just 3 songs from the car park turned out to be a big mistake though. He sounded great but I cannot shake off the impression of his rather grumpy self off-stage.
A new generation of punks is on the rise: the ones that are humble and surprisingly politely at pushing through the crowd of the tiny pub they’re about to play, yet later command a room of mostly industry professionals to do the wall-of-death as they perform easily the highest energy gig of the entire festival line-up. They are SWMRS, and personally, my favourite concert of the Great Escape. They are bound to be huge within the genre, with a melodic edge that could make punk reach a wider audience as well.
SWMRS at The Hope & Ruin. Photo by Dóra Udvardi.
No UK music festival is complete without rain which arrived on time by the last day. Sheltering from the occasional showers, our day started rather sophisticatedly considering our usual listener habits; watching Bulgarian Ruth Koleva perform brilliant jazz-funk songs in a circus tent. If you need a band to fill the void that the current absence of Vampire Weekend and MGMT has left, Carnival Youth are highly recommended. Who would’ve thought Latvia’s music scene has way more to offer indie-wise than their latest Eurovision contestant? And if you’re in search of a cool new soul artist, Mahalia is your girl: her unique voice and catchy melodies could be great extension to anyone’s music library. We also stumbled upon WHITE who are the most fabulous band with their very 80s glam-pop style; think Depeche Mode with a little more glitter.
When choosing who to see on a fairly unknown line-up, one way to go is to read artist descriptions and look at the photos (as it is nearly impossible to get familiar with all the music in time). They mostly give a correct idea of what the act is actually like, with a few surprising examples like Clean Cut Kid and Boy Jumps Ship. Both names suggest a pop-punk band; Clean Cut Kid even have the looks for it yet they play some of the catchiest and happiest guitar music I’ve heard in a long time! Boy Jumps Ship, on the other hand, have a well-polished look that suggest they’re about to enter the mainstream, then you literally get punched in the face with the heaviness and blasting energy of pure rock music. Very impressive on both sides!
St. Lucia at Coalition. Photo by Dóra Udvardi.
Having heard lots of great things about St. Lucia from our friends over at The Daily Listening, we had to see what all the fuss is about. And what a great way to end our TGE16 experience it was! You know you are up to great fun when the lead singer drops to the floor by the first song, then the madness continues with him getting down to sing in the audience, and more crazy, fun dancing up on stage. The amount of various instruments used by all the members throughout the performance also gave a great extension to the show elements.
The Great Escape is anyone’s best chance for finding up and coming artists of various genres from all around the world. I have definitely come out of it more inspired, and excited about new music. And most importantly, I am ready to throw an Eighties-themed party where Blossoms, St. Lucia, and WHITE are performing – imagine this line-up on tour together…
Header photo by Dóra Udvardi.
Read Amy Jo’s opinion of The Great Escape here.