The Great Escape, Brighton, 12th-14th May 2022
After three long years, The Great Escape returned to Brighton, a showcase for new music like no other as every corner of the city is only a pebble’s throw from the next venue. With hundreds of artists playing daily, it’s impossible to capture more than a fraction of the festival. Given that its whole ethos is about discovering new music of every kind from the local, national and international scene, and that we’re always looking to do the same, we’re bringing you our highlights and putting the spotlight on five featured artists from varying genres who we feel deserve to be shouted about. Inevitably there are others we would’ve liked to meet and feature too, but there’s always another time.
So, 3 days of sunshine, over 450 artists on the line-up (not even counting all the Alt Escape shows), 54,842 steps walked, and it all kicked off with the chance at last to catch Fräulein play one of their many sets of the weekend at Queen’s Hotel. An assured start to the day, and already bumping into friends old and new.
The variety of what was available to see on both the main and Alt stages didn’t take long to surface as we caught new to us She’s in Parties (Unbarred) and Tony Njoku (Shortt’s Bar), then later the awesome Pozi, who received loads of support from the crowd as they deftly tried to battle through really painful sound issues at Revenge.
Across the course of the weekend there were some incredible solo artists to witness too; on point electronica from Michael Georgian at The Pipeline, a heart-warming set in the gorgeous surroundings of St Mary’s Church from Douglas Dare, and a slick prowl around the Coalition basement with Sinead O’Brien.
Always bringing a bit of fun to the table, excellent stuff as expected from The Bug Club at Brighthelm, and if there’s a vest to be ripped you can rely on Priestgate to do the honours, frantic as ever in their animated performance at Unbarred.
Medicine Cabinet made their mark with a strong set, a big crowd and a plastic sword that can only ever add value at One Church, and the wonderful Audio Books once again gave a masterclass in playing live at Horatio’s Bar.
Well, we promised you featured artists and here they are. In no particular order, we think there’s something here for everyone. Check them out if you haven’t already and let the memories of the weekend soak away the blisters on your feet ( a beautiful picture to paint I know, you’re welcome).
Intriguing, enchanting and with stabbing riffs that demand a space to stay rent-free inside your head, London based deep tan are amassing a following and lots of media interest, but are still way less exposed than they deserve to be. Not surprising that those who were watching for the first time immediately asked when they could see them again, and those who weren’t present at Shortt’s Bar who I spoke to later in day were genuinely annoyed that they’d missed them.
There are bands that sound good on record and there are bands that hit the nail on the head when they play live. A thing of joy when the two collide, deep tan do both consistently and faultlessly. Their latest EP diamond horsetail is out now – dip in and be prepared to stay for a long swim.
Hailing from Luxembourg, C’est Karma offers up a heady mix of electronic music coupled with vocals that range at times from frenetic to blissfully peaceful, a touch reminiscent of Sugarcubes era Björk, updated to reflect the skills of an artist who can grab your attention with just themselves and a table of tech onstage.
Addressing the gender gap and the joy that comes from a bowl of pasta (two pretty serious issues, let’s be honest), Karma seems wise beyond her years. With a calm and unassuming presence, she comes to life on stage at Brighthelm and is definitely one to watch. New EP Amuse-Bouche has just been released, get ready to be impressed.
On their first trip to Brighton, Dutch four-piece Banji are here to provide a big old dose of indie, tinged with a soulful undertone and the energy of a freshly opened can of summertime. The breezy exterior belies some deeper lyrics though, as they sing about the pressures of existence amidst pop art style explosions of samples and Devo-esque production.
Their debut album Freshcakes is due for release via PIAS Recordings in October and, judging by the reaction from the crowd at Latest Music Bar, they’ll be very welcome back for their second visit to the city to play it, whenever that may be.
Managing to combine an incredibly accomplished sound with a clear enjoyment of what they do, South London trio Honeyglaze are not only riding the crest of a wave of super talented breakthrough artists, they’re sitting right up there taking the reins. There are sprinklings of spoken word in their tracks but without the reliance so many bands hold to this, Anouska’s vocals are more than able to command the spotlight, a pure sounding hybrid of Alvvays and The Long Blondes with the class of both.
Their set at Unbarred was seamless, their self-titled album is out now and frankly, it’s just really, really good. Absolutely would recommend and it feels like this is just the beginning of something that will only get better and better. A happy discovery.
It likely won’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who knows me who our last featured artist is. Dispelling the theory that you can have too much of a good thing, I headed down the pier to catch up with the inimitable VLURE before their set at Horatio’s Bar.
Confirming that they would only be playing one set at TGE “to keep it special”, we talked about the huge wave of musical talent coming out of Glasgow, something it’s always been famous for but seems right now to be unstoppable. “It’s a comparatively small city so it’s easy to get involved” they tell me, noting that lots of the current legion of bands all practice at Axiom and all support each other with lots of “healthy competition” (they’re heading to see their friends in Medicine Cabinet over the weekend). Then there’s a wealth of local venues to take your first steps in – Broadcast, The Hug and Pint and Nice N Sleazy to name a few.
Their previous visits to Brighton have undoubtedly been memorable for anyone attending their gigs but what’s their impression? With reference points ranging from Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth to how cold the floor is at Green Door, it’s good to know we’re not just known for Quadrophenia Alley and sticks of rock. Hopefully, the weekend will treat them well enough that they’ll want to come back soon. Check out their aptly named Euphoria EP.
The venue is justifiably rammed as they finally come on stage. It’s late, it’s hot, the performance is once again vehement in its total commitment to make sure each and every person in the crowd is immersed in a feeling of complete elation. No blood to my knowledge but certainly plenty of sweat and tears.
I asked them how they do it, how they make every show more of an event than the last and there’s a fairly simple answer. “It’s just the way we do things, that’s who we are. That’s what it’s all about – just getting in front of people and giving it everything we have every single time, we can’t do it any other way”.
In an industry that encourages artists to saturate the market as they blindly covet the momentary rush of a top three chart position, it’s easy to forget that music is about more than just money or status. It’s about what it means to people, how it makes you feel, how it cuts into your heart and lets you forget about everything else just for a few minutes. In a world of fakery and pretence, this is what matters, this is real… this is VLURE.
To all at The Great Escape, to all the artists featured and to everyone we met along the way, thank you for the past few days – see you next year, go get some sleep now.
Words and photos by Siobhan
16th May 2022