The Great Escape Festival 2023

The Great Escape, Brighton, 10th-13th May 2023

Every May the streets of Brighton are heaving with creativity as the Festival, Fringe and the biggest showcase of new music in The Great Escape all hit the city. With hundreds of artists playing showcase events at venues big and small, this year brought as eclectic as ever a mix of music from across the world.

Hard to know where to start but the first of three shows from Jessica Winter seemed as good a place as any on Thursday. With the crowd singing and dancing along so early in the day, a lasting impression was made that involved catching two more of her sets across the weekend.

Next up, The Umlauts and I swear each time I see them they try to add more band members onto the stage. Given that the stage at Revenge isn’t that big they did well to reach 9 people not to mention multiple instruments – novel to listen to techno at 3.15 in the afternoon rather than 3.15 in the morning, and a fun time for the crowd.

Following a recommendation to catch New York’s cumgirl8, it seemed the hype was widespread as they filled out not just the main room at Volks, but had probably as many people again watching from the bar. A popular choice for sure.

Another recommendation took us to The Paganini Ballroom for some dreamy shoegaze from Whitelands opening the BBC Introducing stage in style. Some strong choices from Steve Lamacq as they were followed by an accomplished set from Nottingham’s rising stars Divorce.



The next act on stage was the mighty VLURE – the first of two outstanding sets from them over the weekend. To say all I want to say about them would realistically take over the review, so head on over to our separate feature here for more from Glasgow’s finest.


On to Brighthelm for another tightly packed stage with The Joy Hotel and some serious musical talent on display. And for the third Glaswegian act in a row, Dylan John Thomas impressed everyone with some powerful yet understated vocals and melodies to finish the night – definitely one to watch.

The Joy Hotel

Dylan John Thomas

Friday started with a couple of ‘unofficial’ sets, always worth popping into some of the local pubs and breweries to see what’s happening. At Unbarred, Mary of the Junkyard kicked off another busy day with a deft mix of guitar riffs and violin, while The Pipeline opened with the silky vocals of Rosie Alena.

Mary of the Junkyard

Rosie Alena

On to Charles Street Tap and a smoke machine that wouldn’t have been out of place on Stars in Their Eyes. Once the haze cleared, singer-songwriter Childe held a rapt audience, the calm before the inevitable upcoming storm as next up VLURE were back to notch things up several levels with another stand out performance.



Over at Revenge, Jessica Winter finished her excellent run of shows at the Gay Times showcase, GT written on her back in tape in homage. Then over to Komedia Studio for the beautiful soundscape of Pozi, the trio melting together their unique blend of calm and chaos.

Back to the mounds of dried ice at Charles Street Tap for one of the weekend’s most hotly-tipped acts in Heartworms. Some tech issues that seemed to run throughout the set didn’t stop a captivating performance, particularly impressive under the circumstances.


After a full day it’s easy to pack up before the later slots. However, worth the late night, PPJ definitely restarted the party bringing French house (more château than maison), Eurodance and donk to the table; a high energy end to Friday at Komedia.

No let up in the energy stakes on Saturday as Yabba took their hard-hitting, in your face act to the dark sweat box of Volks. Then over at The Hope & Ruin bar, although not technically part of the official TGE line-up, we were introduced to Dutch psych group A Fungus, who warmed things up nicely for the mayhem of Personal Trainer and surely one of the most packed and interactive sets of the day.

A Fungus

Personal Trainer

Continuing the fun at Inn on the Square, bigfatbig’s enthusiasm was infectious and ably backed by the sun streaming through the windows – a sunny day at the seaside finally joining proceedings.

Some much needed relaxation next as Canada’s Ellevator played in the fabulous setting of One Church, delicate tunes sweeping into something bigger and certainly memorable.



With a list of production credits as long as your arm, it was James Ellis Ford’s time to take the spotlight at Chalk performing his own music with backing band. Everything blended well and the music was cleverly put together with a sense that you couldn’t quite put your finger on what some of the exact sounds were, a sax sounding like a synth just one of the many enigmas.

Staying at Chalk, Flossing offered up a confident stage presence and brooding tunes, while the room was unsurprisingly busy for the ever-popular PVA.

A stroll down the pier saw Holiday Ghosts bring their freshly released new album to their adopted home city in a packed out Horatio’s – a no nonsense fun time for all. And the latest incarnation of near locals Traams followed up, now playing their Krautrock inspired sounds as a five piece.

A strong finish from Nuha Ruby Ra at Revenge brought our Great Escape to a close with her traditional double mic set up, lighting befitting of underground nightclub status and an unexpected bugle – a fairly conclusive way to end proceedings.

Nuha Ruby Ra

Another successful year for Brighton’s annual festivities, another bunch of favourite artists revisited and new ones discovered, and now some sleep…

If you’re already thinking about next year’s TGE, earlybird tickets are available here.

Words/photos by Callum/Siobhan

16th May 2023