If you’re in ‘the biz’ and live in the UK, chances are you’ve either been to, or have been meaning to attend The Great Escape in Brighton.
Self-proclaiming itself as Europe’s answer to SXSW, it differs from most festivals in that it feels like hundreds of showcases, rather than stages. It’s a melting pot of undiscovered talent, labels looking to show off their latest projects and hundreds of music industry bods there to drink and maybe do a bit of networking. If they have time. Now a worldwide brand, one of the beautiful things about TGE is the stages and houses hosted by countries and organisations in other territories. There was a German show with free Bratwursts and beer, a French cheese and wine showcase, and the unmissable caribou burger at the annual Canadian BBQ.
The music takes centre stage, but the weekend is an event not to be missed for a host of reasons. That said, after a lot of running around town, and plenty of Ubers, here’s our pick of the bunch.
The first act on the Thursday at Komedia and for many, the first bit of live music of the weekend fresh from running around collecting passes, food and a cheeky beer. The Melbourne songwriter was exactly what was needed. Smooth, thoughtful and outstanding songwriting from the other side of the globe.
Opening St. Mary’s Church, Kemptown on the Friday for their The Great Escape debut, Tors couldn’t have been better placed to suit their vocalcentric songwriting. The acoustics of the venue made the three-piece’s emotive tones reverberate around the pew-seated crowd, complimenting their arrangements limitlessly. At one point towards the end of the set, the group took from the stage and sung a totally acoustic set, free of mics and using only one guitar – this was a special moment of TGE 2018.
Not the first time catching the London songwriter in action, but it’s just not something that ever gets old. In the basement of a cafe somewhere near the lanes, River showcased one of the strongest vocals at the festival for me. Stunning songwriting that ranged from soul to Americana & folk.
FREE LOVE (fka Happy Meals)
If there’s one criticism I have for The Great Escape, it would be the lack of electronic music. However, there’s always one or two gems if you know where to look (Rival Consoles and Mmoths have been previous highlights). I didn’t know much about these guys before I arrived, but I know a lot now. Twisted, eccentric acid basslines and dancing on the bar. I’m all about that.
Headlining The Line of Best Fit stage on Thursday night, this is another show that was stumbled upon by accident. Surprised at even getting in, it was the perfect setting for the bands soft, ethereal synth-led indie-pop.