The Brighton & Hove News Music Team were out in force at The Great Escape New Musical Festival. We strived to cover as many new and up-and-coming artists as possible during the three day event, which took place at many right across the city of Brighton and Hove at numerous venues of varying sizes on Thursday 12th, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May.
With an extended team of a dozen people on The Great Escape case, we were able to witness many up-and-coming acts from numerous different genres from right across the globe. It was hard work and we have the blisters to prove it from running all around the city, but was it worth it? Hell yeah!
There are far too many acts to cover in just one article, so we have split them up in date order. This article refers to artists that the Brighton & Hove News team covered only on Thursday 12th May, along with the venue and planned time of the performance. View Part 2 on the acts performing on Friday 13th May HERE and Part 3 on the acts performing on Saturday 14th May HERE.
So here goes, sit back and enjoy………………….
THURSDAY 12th MAY 2022
ROSSI BAR (The Alt-Alt Escape event) 11:20am – 11:50am
I’m starting Thursday at a Music Venues Trust event in the basement of The Rossi Bar. After some inspiring speeches detailing a whole heap of funding for the Trust’s excellent work supporting grassroots venues, we’re treated to a set from Brighton-based punk duo SNAYX. The room is rammed with industry types, heavily laden with massive laminated passes on lanyards. It’s a little over thirteen hours since I last saw SNAYX performing and they’ve lost none of their power. In fact they’re looking remarkably chipper for the time of day. Bassist Ollie is a densely packed bundle of fast-twitch muscle, fixing the great and good with his famously hypnotic snake-eyed stare. His four strings launch a furiously epic cacophony, modified by a glowering bank of pedals and embellished by samples. Vocalist Charlie has eschewed his usual guitar and is concentrating on forays onto the bass bins and deep into the audience. As ever, the pair are supported by a live drummer, and today the kit pounding duties fall to Lainey, who is doing a fine job at breakneck speed.
They rattle through a powerful set of live favourites including the insanely catchy ‘Cigarette’, though I’ve a feeling ‘Deranged’ might be my ear worm for the day, and there are stunningly effective changes of rhythm through the lilting ‘Body Language’. Charlie reveals the secret to being this energetic in the morning by pulling out a bottle of tonic wine. The industry people are drinking Bloody Marys. Well, this is as good a band as you’re likely to see anywhere. Anyone fancy signing them up?
KATY J PEARSON (UK)
SHORTT’S BAR (Alt Escape) 12:00pm – 12:30pm
Lunchtime on a Thursday and a great way to start my Great Escape with the sunny indie pop vibes of Bristol based Katy J Pearson who wowed the crowd with her catchy songs.
Recent single ‘Take Back The Radio’ sounding especially fresh, accompanied by her 4 piece band. I expect big things in the future for her.
QUEENS HOTEL 12:15pm – 12:45pm
Fräulein are a grungy duo from Bristol comprising Joni Samuels on guitar and vocals, and Karsten Van Der Tol on drums. As a bass player it pains me to say this, but Joni’s playing on her Squier Super-Sonic ensures that the bass is not missed. The two musicians interact in an almost telepathic manner. Karsten has great feel, and uses rimshots a lot. The material is loud and quiet in time-honoured fashion, but that doesn’t detract from its excitement.
They play a few new songs today. Three is particularly impressive, with quite a few minor chords thrown in. Whilst Joni retunes, Karsten takes a drum solo. Not a minute of Fräulein’s set is wasted. They have a new EP coming out in the next few weeks, and today they play all the songs from it, and they sound pretty good! They have a launch gig at the Shacklewell Arms in London on Tuesday 7th June. Should be an excellent night!
KOMEDIA STUDIO 12:20pm – 12:50pm
It felt amazing to be back at the Great Escape after the pandemic-enforced hiatus. I had a slight feeling of Déjà vu as I began this year’s event in the same room as I did in 2019 as part of the Australian Music stage with the same compère. The only difference is that I was here to see Melbourne based Telenova and they certainly didn’t disappoint as the opening act.
Formed in 2020, the three-piece consists of lead vocalist and writer Angeline Armstrong and her multi-instrumental band-mates (mainly electric guitar) Edward Quinn and Joshua Moriaty. Clearly word had got out about their talents as the room was at capacity. They went on to deliver an impressively polished set of compositions with Angeline’s vocals sounding perfectly complementary. There are lots of influences in the music but it can’t be pigeon holed. Trip hop, dream pop, indie easy listening – it combines them all. Check out the track ‘Bones’ which was their debut release with its dreamy vocals and the one that stood out for me was current single ‘Why Do I Keep You’ released last month. A band who are attracting some mainstream airplay and starting to make headway on to bigger stages.
(Martin J Fuller)
BAD WAITRESS (CANADA)
TGE BEACH STAGE 12:30pm – 1:00pm
Bad Waitress are a punky four-piece from Toronto. I catch them at the Beach Stage in a large marquee, which has been nicely decked out inside with black star curtain. The music is loud, bouncy and fun, and the band are lively, animated and colourfully clad. On lead vocals and guitar is Kail-Ann, spitting the lyrics with passionate fury. Guitarist Katelyn has an overtly punk look going on with red eye makeup, mullet and tartan trousers, and she’s flicking her tongue provocatively. In contrast, bassist Nicole rocks long hair and bright yellow loon pants. Behind the kit, blue-haired Eva maintains an insistent beat nicely punctuated with stops, stabs and fills.
It’s urgent and passionate, but it’s not all bluster. There are plenty of interesting digressions and contrasts. ‘Manners’ builds from a relatively delicate intro to a powerful roar. The angular rhythm and riffing of ‘Strawberry Milkshake’ likewise leads to an intense flurry of passionate vocals. I really like the lyrical conceit of ‘Live In Reverse’, and the expansive instrumental section sounds almost psychedelic. ‘Delusions Of Grandeur’ is another cracking number, full of contrasting flourishes, whilst closer ‘What I Want’ is a full-on punky climax to an excellent set.
GRANDMA’S HOUSE (UK)
THE MVT STAGE 12:30pm – 1:00pm
Grandma’s House, an all-girl punk band from Bristol, are Yasmin Berndt (lead vocalist and guitar), Zoë Zinsmeister (bass) and Poppy Dodgson (drummer and vocals). Singer Yasmin has described the band’s sound as “very loud, very angry, very sweaty”. It is based around great guitar riffs and basslines with aggressive drums.
Once the practicalities of playing an open-air set on Brighton beach (setlists blowing over) were overcome, Grandma’s House’s no messing, snarling punk music was a lively start to my Great Escape Festival. The back-and-forth vocals between Yasmin and Poppy on some tracks worked well. It was a varied set with one song sung in French (Yasmin grew up in Belgium). The last song, with just the bass and drums accompanying Yasmin in vocals, showcased Zoë’s bass playing.
NAYA ALI (CANADA)
PATTERNS DOWNSTAIRS 12:30pm – 1:00pm
Naya Ali is a Canadian rapper based in Montreal, Quebec. She released the first half of her debut album, ‘Godspeed: Baptism’ in 2020. This lunchtime downstairs at Patterns she gave a lively performance to a crowd that at first seemed more interested in eating the free sandwiches being handed out than listening to her fast paced rap.
An engaging performer, she eventually worked the crowd and got them moving. This is not really the sort of stuff I usually listen to, but having said that I did rather enjoy her performance and she certainly has talent.
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 12:40pm – 1:05pm
This outfit was introduced as being called HighSchool as one word as opposed to their Great Escape High School listing. We learned that they formed during Covid and although the unit hail from Melbourne, Australia, they are now based here in the UK and have never actually as yet played a single gig in their homeland. They are listed as a Goth-pop band consisting of vocalist/songwriter Rory Trobbiani, his sister, keyboardist Lilli and bassist Luke Scott.
The Komedia Basement is rammed and clearly after a three year absence The Great Escape is back with a bang! Lilli is in charge of the Korg, Rory on vocals and Fender Jaguar, Luke is on bass, and there’s a second guitarist here with them. Note no drummer. The backbeat was taken care of by pre-sets and overall there was a New Order guitar sound mixed with The Killers and The Cure as well as at times The Smiths in vocal tones. They played two new tracks, ‘Third Place’ and ‘The World Is Small’ and concluded their 25 minute set with ‘Only A Dream’ which they informed us should be out soon. This was a very enjoyable set!
BLAIR DAVIE (UK)
ONE CHURCH 1:00pm – 1:30pm
We briskly walked from the Komedia to the nearby One Church, where we encountered singer/songwriter Blaire Davie who was entertaining the parishioners with his second composition of the afternoon that was filling the rafters. He hails from Perth and recorded his first ever record at the tender age of twelve.
The format was one guy one guitar and would suit fans of Ed Sheeran. Blair performed his new single ‘Platform 10’ which he divulged had dropped the previous week. It was penned as a result of his close friend moving from Perth to London. He informed us that he came out as bisexual last year and wrote a song in the dark about it. He added that his friends elated that it was his best composition to date. You could have heard a pin drop as he performed tune tune and the rest of his set. The venue was not full, but those present appreciated his material. Clearly The Great Escape organisers rightly felt that Blair’s compositions would be best enjoyed within the sacred walls of churches, as his second concert later tonight at teatime will take place in the Unitarian Church.
ALICE PISANO (ITALY)
PATTERNS UPSTAIRS 1:15pm – 1:45pm
Which Alice to choose – Alice Pisano or Alice Ivy? Both playing at the same time, both on my long-list of artists to see. I opt for Pisano as I like the mellow vibe upstairs in Patterns.
Fresh off a support slot with The Boo Radleys, she takes to the stage with her guitar to deliver a showcase that highlights her soaring vocals. Italian, but living in London for the past six years, her catchy songs frequently document her self-confessed awkward dating life. ‘Pretty Girls’ and ‘Birthday’ are particular standouts from this intimate set.
ALICE IVY (AUSTRALIA)
REVENGE 1:20pm – 1:40pm
I had come to Club Revenge to see Kill Strings, but after encountering some of the most personally invasive security I have ever encountered, I gained access to the venue only to discover that they were running hopelessly late, and the next act onstage was to be Alice Ivy. Alice is known as an electro musician and producer, and today was playing as part of a duo with a drummer.
In contrast to Fräulein, another duo that I had seen earlier, Alice Ivy also made use of a synth/sampler and syndrums. They themselves were late starting due to their dissatisfaction with the sound in their in-ear monitors. I was tempted to bellow “if it’s too loud you’re too old”, but bearing in mind that they were clearly being careful with their hearing, I thought that this would be churlish. I must confess that the music was too dancey for my personal taste, and there were too many instruments on their backing track, which is a particular bugbear of mine: live music should be ‘live’ after all. It was good club music though, and after all, they were performing in a club, so it was kind of fitting.
GUS ENGLEHORN (CANADA)
PATTERNS DOWNSTAIRS 1:30pm – 2:00pm
Canadian singer Gus, sporting the double denim look and a rather fetching hat delivered a rather quirky and off quilter set with just drums and guitar. It was slightly disjointed although to be fair the songs still sounded good. ‘Exercise My Demons’ being my favourite. He reminded me a little bit of the band Television. He finished the set with a song called ‘Tarantula’ which I think was about the said arachnids.
ULTRA Q (USA)
TGE BEACH STAGE 1:30pm – 2:00pm
Ultra Q are a four-piece from Oakland, California playing lively poppy rock. This is their first show in the UK. My first thought is that the vocals have a quality reminiscent of Green Day. A quick look online reveals that this is no coincidence as Jakob on lead vocals and guitar is the son of Billie Joe Armstrong. The band are fairly static on stage, but playing hard. Bassist Kevin exudes a surfer vibe with a cascade of blonde hair, whilst Enzo on lead rocks a rakish ‘tash and drummer Chris sports a trucker’s cap.
It’s fairly straight punky pop-rock for the most part, with atmospheric guitar and that familiar vocal sound, although they do mix things up a bit. ‘Redwood’ stands out with a manically intense hardcore beat, which gives way to a closing section of jangly guitar. ‘Handheld’, from a recent EP, starts with delightful guitar harmonics and picks up nicely from there. ‘Pupkin’ is soaringly atmospheric with a slightly post-punk feel to conclude the set.
UNBARRED BREWERY (JOY RSVP event) 2:00pm – 2:30pm
Irish/Dutch duo Fräulein are Joni Samuels on vocals and guitar and Karsten van der Tol on drums. Originally from the Bristol area, before moving to London. Their 90’s flavoured alt rock sound shows influences by the likes of The Breeders and PJ Harvey.
I recently saw Fräulein supporting The Mysterines on tour and was impressed. The band’s set at Unbarred Brewery was another accomplished performance. As well as Joni’s strong and confident vocal performance, the set also included a very impressive drum solo. Drummer Karsten told me they include this so when Joni has to retune her guitar, there aren’t any gaps in the set and it keeps the audiences engaged. With the quality of vocals and musicianship along with this attention to detail, this group could have a good future.
ONE CHURCH 2:00pm – 2:30pm
Glasgow duo Memes formed back in 2019. Now with a debut EP now in the bag, this was to be my second live encounter with these energetic lads. The first was late last year in the basement of The Brunswick in Hove. That was a compact venue that certainly kept the sound up close and personal, unlike today’s appearance at One Church.
Last time the duo donned white boiler suits and today’s choice was the same but in black. Clearly word is getting out on these as the venue was packed. The Fender Jazz Master guitar and Fender bass were certainly given a good seeing to this afternoon. The drums are taken care of via an iPad setup. The gauntlet was thrown down from the off. “This one’s for your grandad” was bellowed at us and off we went into the punk world. The set featured some frantic guitar playing a la punk with a slight surf twang and the vocals were delivered with a big venomous Scottish f*ck off mentality. The acoustics for this act was a bit tricky as sounds go up in the rafters, but they were sounding great to me. It was a very good set.
DEA MATRONA (UK)
QUEENS HOTEL 2:15pm – 2:45pm
Dea Matrona are a rock trio from Belfast who formed in 2018, their mutual love of classic rock and bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, sparked a musical chemistry between the three that continues to blossom into their own originals. The group have an incredible audience and community on YouTube and Facebook, stemming from their breath-taking renditions of classic rock covers while busking on the streets of Belfast.
These rockers played to a packed Queens Hotel. Friends Mollie McGinn and Orlaith Forsythe plus I think a stand-in drummer looked and sounded great. Sadly I only managed to witness a trio of compositions including a Led Zep cover of ‘Rock And Roll’ but that went down a storm with the crowd.
PATTERNS UPSTAIRS 2:15pm – 2:45pm
Being a lovely sunny day in Brighton and getting the chance to head out early for a late lunchtime slot, we made our way to Patterns, which is located a short distance from Brighton Pier. Instead of descending down through the gates into the cavernous interior as we normally do for concerts, this performance by Peaks! was taking place upstairs amidst the bright sunlight beaming in through the windows.
Peaks! (with an exclamation mark at the end) are a Power Pop duo hailing from Italy. The band seem to have a Killers feel to them, with guitar riffs and banging drums. Peaks! have recently released a single which was penned during lockdown, it’s called ‘Dead‘ and you would seriously want to turn up the volume for full appreciation! Today’s set was more the same and filled with anthem laden songs accompanied by powerful shouty vocals. Their previous singles have had wide support across Europe on various stream platforms.
BRATŘI (CZECH REPUBLIC)
THREE WISE CATS (CASABLANCA) 2:30pm – 3:00pm
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Bratři presented a powerful set of techno and dance bangers to a packed room of electronica fans. Twins Jifi and Ondrej impressed with their technical abilities on the array of synths, drums and mixers. All songs build to a crescendo and this set had everyone bopping around to ensure there was no post-lunchtime slump. Their enthusiasm for what they do really shines through.
Sadly, the set was dogged with some intermittent issues with the venue’s sound system, but like true pros they carried on regardless until the sound cut out completely. Having waited patiently for the sound technician to fix the issue, the duo duly completed the final minute or so of their set. If you are into techno and electronic music, Bratři could well be a great discovery for you.
(Martin J Fuller)
KILLS BIRDS (USA)
TGE BEACH STAGE 2:30pm – 3:00pm
Kills Birds are from Los Angeles, California and consist of Bosnian-Croatian film-maker Nina Ljeti on vocals, guitarist Jacob Loeb, bassist Fielder Thomas and drummer Bosh Rothman. They already have two albums under their belts: ‘Kills Birds’ (2019) and 2021’s ‘Married’. That notwithstanding, and bearing in mind that The Great Escape is primarily a new music festival, I suspect that Kills Birds’ music will be new to most people in attendance.
They clearly owe a significant debt to both Nirvana and The Cure. Nina Ljeti is a very charismatic frontperson and screams more than Robert Smith could ever dream of. Kurt would be a different matter however. They are a great band with memorable material and are probably the best band so far today. That being said, the later Horatios performance from 9:15pm to 9:45pm was simply incandescent.
THE K’S (UK)
THE MVT STAGE 2:30pm – 3:00pm
The K’s formed in Earlestown (a suburb directly in between Manchester and Liverpool) in late 2017 by four school friends who have now become impossible to ignore. With just six singles released, their streaming numbers are comfortably in the millions, with 37,310 monthly Spotify listeners and self released debut single ‘Sarajevo’ notching 2.2 million streams.
You can’t beat a bit of lad indie rock on a sunny Thursday afternoon on Brighton Beach and this is what the Earlestown boys served up. Think The Sherlocks with a bit of added Oasis and you won’t be far away. Each song is a banger and they even managed to add a bit of ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ and ‘Dirty Old Town’ into the mix.
UNBARRED BREWERY (JOY RSVP event) 3:00pm – 3:30pm
Momma, from Brooklyn, were on my “must see list” and didn’t disappoint. Momma consists of Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten on vocals and guitars. They were joined for their live shows at The Great Escape by an additional bassist and drummer. Etta and Allegra, who have been friends since meeting at school in Los Angeles, are unashamedly proud of their 90’s influences and love of Nirvana. Their sound combines the ferocity of grunge with melodic guitar pop. Etta and Allegra vocal style switches effortlessly between angry, harsh noise and more laid-back reflective melodies from song to song. Think shoegaze meets grunge and you won’t be far off.
This was Momma’s first-time playing Brighton. So keen to perform, they finished their sound check with ten minutes to spare, and wanted to start their set straight away. They genuinely looked disappointed, when they were told they’d have to await their allotted time. Their recent singles ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Speeding 72’, ahead of their forthcoming album, ‘Household Name’ were highlights of their outstanding set.
ENOLA GAY (NORTHERN IRELAND)
QUEENS HOTEL 3.15pm – 3.45pm
There’s quite a crowd in the thickly carpeted basement room of The Queens Hotel to see Belfast-based punk 4-piece Enola Gay. There’s no raised stage, and a functional but annoying section of ventilation trunking is constraining the available view, but I can just about see the band. Vocalist Fionn has cropped hair and a thin ‘tash, and is asking for more reverb on everything in his Irish brogue. Guitarist Joe sports a Dead Kennedys shirt and clearly has an enormous array of effects at his disposal. Bassist Adam has a loud shirt and flat cap, whilst drummer Stevie is shaggy-haired and shirtless.
They set out their political stall with opener ‘Salt’. It starts with a recording of Margaret Thatcher quoting St Francis of Assisi, cheekily edited to be less ironic: “Where there is harmony, may we bring discord.” Nice one. Thundering toms and bouncing bass usher in Fionn’s urgently rapped vocal. It’s absolutely drenched in reverb and delay, hopefully to his taste, and the overall effect manages to be hardcore and atmospheric at the same time. The impressive set continues, showcasing a stunning variety of effects-laden guitar tricks, from juddering vibrato to swirling phase. If you imagine variations on the intro to ‘Big’ by Fontaines D.C. then add hardcore and hip-hop elements and some skilful rapping, you won’t be far off. I loved it, and would definitely want to see this band again.
JOE & THE SHITBOYS (FAROE ISLANDS)
WATERBEAR 3:15pm – 3:45pm
Let’s face it, it’s not every day that you get to see a bisexual vegan punk band from the Faroe Islands is it? I had broken my Joe & The Shitboys duck last September when I saw them plough through 29 tunes in 41 minutes at The Hope & Ruin. Some of these shitpunk tunes were less than a minute in length. I was there with my partner Jordan Mooney (RIP) and she, like myself, loved them. Would today’s appearance at the WaterBear on the seafront be able to match that?
From the off Joe stepped off the stage and joined us eager punters for some intense interaction. We had ‘Pull The Trigger’ which sounds like ‘No Survivors’ by GBH, ‘Drugs R’4 Kidz’ reminds me of ‘Barbie’s Dead’ by the UK Subs and ‘The Reson For Hardcore Vibes’ has a feel of the Dead Kennedys about it. They brought a smile to my face for the whole of the set and was to that point the best act I had seen at TGE. They were even better than last time. It ended up being my 4th best out of all the bands that I saw. Joe & The Shitboys are my favourite band from The Faroe Islands.
THE HOPE & RUIN 3:30pm – 3:50pm
With the queuing system already in full swing with the barriers in place with everyone neatly lining up in the afternoon air on the street outside The Hope & Ruin on Queens Road, we all set our sites on successfully getting into the building on time, so that we can catch the energetic set by Brighton’s own ARXX. The punters were primed and ready for a hot and busy set from Hanni Pidduck (lead vocals and guitar) and Clara Townsend (drums) who reference themselves as a “Queer Alt- Rock Gal Pal Duo”.
Their set was short (unusually clocking in at just 20 minutes instead of the mainly allotted half hour), but sweet but with powerful vocals. ARXX are about to release a new single called ‘Couldn’t Help Myself’, which is more on the catchy and very danceable side of their repertoire. This afternoon the duo came across as comfortable on stage. One to watch out for! ARXX setlist: ‘Not Alone’, ‘Couldn’t Help Myself’, ‘Call Me Crazy’, ‘Ride Or Die’, ‘Deep’.
THREE WISE CATS (CASABLANCA) 3:30pm – 4:00pm
Four piece Mörk hail from Hungary and offered a pleasant fusion of funk and soul based music sometimes infused with subtle psychedelic and jazz overtones. There was even a hint of Jay Kay in some of charismatic lead singer Mark Zentai’s impressive vocals. Having made a name for themselves in their home country, they found themselves playing to a very appreciative Brighton audience. Mark told us how much they loved the friendly city vibe and the fish and chips and how much they had looked forward to this event. Absolutely on-point, they dedicated their song ‘If Our Love’ to world peace.
What struck me about this set was how much they enjoy playing to a live audience and this really came across with the friendly crowd interaction. This is pleasant, easy-listening and if you like that style, you’ll definitely enjoy Mörk who you can check out on Spotify and Soundcloud.
(Martin J Fuller)
MUMBLE TIDE (UK)
THE HOPE & RUIN DOWNSTAIRS (UNOFFICIAL ALTERNATIVE ESCAPE) 3:30pm – 4:00pm
Bristol based couple and musical duo Mumble Tide performed downstairs at The Hope & Ruin on Thursday afternoon to a large crowd. With Gina Leonard on guitar and Ryan Rogers on guitar and keyboards the indie pop duo produced a 30 minute set of lovely sunshine pop that replicated the weather in Brighton at the time.
With lush vocal harmonies of Bedroom pop perfection it is obvious that this band has a strong future ahead.
SHE’S IN PARTIES (UK)
UNBARRED BREWERY (JOY RSVP event) 4:00pm – 4:30pm
She’s In Parties (yes, their name is from the Bauhaus track) are Katie Dillon (singer), Charlie Johnson (bassist), Matt Carman (drummer) and Herbie Wiseman (lead guitar). From Essex, She’s In Parties are a very good guitar band, with hints of The Cocteau Twins and Slowdive. Combining shoegaze and dream pop, they have an effortless haunting sound. While their influences are obvious, their fresh sounding ethereal style is their own.
Singer Katie’s sense of style with elaborately striking eye make-up is more than matched by her sense of fun and enjoyment of performing. This is impossible to ignore and spreads to the audience at Unbarred Brewery. Musically the band are very tight, with special mention of the quality of Charlie’s bass playing and the way Herbie on lead guitar switched the tempo and style between tracks. Their two singles ‘Angelic’ and ‘Mess’ (introduced as “what most people’s lives are”) were the set’s highlights. Difficult to find via search engines, as all searches bring up endless links to Bauhaus, but it’s worth persevering to check out She’s In Parties.
WILD RIVERS (CANADA)
THE GREEN DOOR STORE 4:00pm – 4:30pm
Canadian indie/ folk band Wild Rivers charmed the packed Green Door Store with their sweet harmonies and gave a polished set that the crowd loved. They reminded me a bit of The Shires, but a little less country sounding. The songs ‘Amsterdam’ and ‘Speak To Soon’ I really enjoyed.
JUBILEE SQUARE 4:15pm – 4:45pm
We next headed off to the central hub in Jubilee Square to take in the delights of Flowvers (pronounced FLOW-VERS). The Brighton & Hove News Music Team have previously had a brush with this Brighton and Portsmouth based outfit last December when they played a set to their loyal following at The Green Door Store. They have been together as a band since 2016 when they were just fifteen years old.
This afternoon’s format was the usual two guitars, bass and drums affair. Thus they offered us a selection of guitar driven indie tunes that some are raving about, but to be honest, to me they had an air of still learning their craft and were nothing that special. A factor in this might have been the sound experience of this performance as it was totally different from where we had just been (WaterBear), as here the music here seemed to evaporate into the open air.
SINEAD O’BRIEN (REPUBLIC OF IRELAND)
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 4:15pm – 4:45pm
It was now time for us to check out what was going down on the specially erected beach site area on Brighton Beach not too far from the Concorde 2 music venue. Being more suited for the larger Amazon New Music Stage, with her full band, was Irish Sinead O’Brien, a punk rock musician with a poetic stance to captivate her audience. Sinead originally hails from Limerick and has previously performed with John Cooper Clarke and The Brian Jonestown Massacre at sold out theatres across the UK, so this afternoon’s performance should be a walk in the park for her and her chums.
With some of the more down beat tunes, Sinead speaks softly and poetically into the mic. Songs and lyrics that are more about darker and emotional places one can be in. The stage is used to a full extent for her artistic performance with ample space for her to move around. Sinead most certainly grabbed the attention of everyone watching her performance.
THE MVT STAGE 4:30pm – 5:00pm
South London-based Heartworms are a gothic post-punk band who I have previously seen gracing the stage of The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch back in January. This is the music project of musician and poet Jojo Orme. On that occasion Jojo seemed incredibly serious, barely cracked a smile, and hardly uttered a word to the audience.
What a difference four months makes! This time she remains pretty serious but does smile fairly frequently. The band are punchy, very tight and seems very well drilled. The singer has a strong and pleasantly strident voice when she feels it necessary to increase the volume, however, that doesn’t mean that there is no light and shade. There’s plenty of interesting stuff going on here: lead duties are shared between both guitarists, and a theremin is also employed. Not only do the band sound good but they look so cool as to be on the verge of glacial. One to watch methinks.
LIME GARDEN (UK)
THE HOPE & RUIN DOWNSTAIRS (UNOFFICIAL ALTERNATIVE ESCAPE) 4:30pm – 5:00pm
One of the first bands in The Great Escape diary for ‘bands to see’ for this photographer was Lime Garden, downstairs at The Hope & Ruin. Having missed the Brighton based bands previous gigs in the City this one was not to be missed.
A packed audience saw the band deliver an extremely exciting and fun thirty minute set. This is a band full of confidence and energy that stands them in good stead. Judging by this performance, they will most certainly be playing larger venues very soon. A big thank you must also go to local promoter Love Thy Neighbour who always put on a top lineup of bands over the three day Great Escape.
UNBARRED BREWERY (JOY RSVP event) 5:00pm – 5:30pm
Honeyglaze are Anouska Sokolow (vocals & guitar), Tim Curtis (bass) and Yuri Shibuichi (drums). They’re another band to come through residency at The Windmill in Brixton. With their dreamy shoegaze sound, they’re very different in style from the post-punk noise of several of those bands from that scene.
Honeyglaze probably make some of the most beautiful music around today. Anouska’s vocals were outstanding. She’s one of the best new vocalists in my opinion. Her pure, almost delicate, but assured, voice switched effortlessly between the dreamy songs and the poppier tracks in their set. Her style reminds me in many ways of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. Their songs are mainly about personal issues of growing up, such as low self-esteem on ‘Creative Jealousy’ and finding your own identity in a celebrity culture on ‘Female Lead’. Their set was absolutely superb, and one of my personal highlights over the three days of new music.
IRIS GOLD (DENMARK)
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 5:15pm – 5:45pm
Iris Gold is a rapper/singer based in Copenhagen and London by all accounts. Her real name is Mercedes Seecoomar and she is of Jamaican/Indian heritage. Her nine tune ‘Planet Cool’ album dropped in 2019 and her talent has taken her to over 150 different festivals across Europe, earning herself a Danish Grammy Award for ‘best new live act’ in 2019. At the end of last month she released her latest 12 tune long player ‘Woman’, which gets straight to the point with a running time of under 38 minutes.
The first thing that you can’t help noticing as Iris takes to the Amazon New Music Stage on Brighton Beach is her wonderful locks of hair, quickly followed by her dazzling pink skirt and green bomber jacket. Then her voice kicks in. It’s smooth and silky and a perfect accompaniment for a hot day on the beach with a Piña colada in hand. If you missed this uplifting performance or just fancy seeing her again, then she is set to return to the UK at the height of Summer when she will be entertaining music lovers at Camp Bestival in Lulworth in Dorset.
SARPA SALPA (UK)
CHALK 5:15pm – 5:45pm
It was time to leave the Beach Site for now and head along to Chalk in Pool Valley to check out the unusually named Sarpa Salpa, – it’s a species of sea bream – who formed in Northampton in 2016. The outfit consists of Marcus Marooth (vocals), George Neath (guitar), Ethan Whitby (bass) and Charlie Doe (drums) along with Meg Amirghiasvand (synths) who joined in 2019.They have evolved both physically and musically to achieve their current form. With influences spanning the breadth of the indie spectrum, Sarpa Salpa create a sound that is uniquely their own and has won them a loyal fanbase across the UK.
Sarpa Salpa are emotionally charged with good use of their synthesiser and rolling guitars. The packed audience dance along nicely to their songs. ‘Dreaming’ is the band’s most recent release with catchy sing-along vocals. They certainly are upbeat and fitting right in with the crowd. It’s not surprising to learn that they have already gained support from BBC6 and the like. They would be right at home with their feel good alt-pop on every festival stage during the summer!
THE MVT STAGE 5:30pm – 6:00pm
Glaswegians Voodoos are purveyors of very energetic tuneful indie. They would be utterly brilliant in a small club. Playing in broad daylight is not ideal. However, they give the audience a taste of what they are all about, and I for one am definitely hoping to have the opportunity to see them again.
They have catchy memorable material of which ‘Going South’ is a prime example. They become pleasingly punky during one song, which features the bassist putting his foot on his monitor (hopefully) ironically. This is a band who are certainly worthy of further investigation.
OFFICE FOR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT (UK)
THE BLACK LION (UNOFFICIAL) 6.00pm – 6.30pm
Having taken a break to get some food, I thought I might dip my toe into one of the many unofficial alternative events that inevitably spring up around the festival. In The Black Lion, a pub in The Lanes, promoter Kick Out The Jams and the End Of The Trail label have teamed up to present ‘The Brighton Rock’n’Roll Circus’. I’m keen to catch Office For Personal Development, whom I was impressed by at the Hastings Fat Tuesday Festival recently. Sure enough, here they are, a surreal sight in corporate workwear of double-breasted suits and lime-green ties. More of a concept than a mere three-piece band, they combine retro synth pop with a sinister aesthetic of 1980s corporate culture, and the bizarre language of management speak and motivational training. It’s somehow scary and joyous all at the same time.
Frontman Trevor is referred to as ‘The Director’, whilst keyboard player Del is designated ‘Head of IT’ and fellow operator and vocalist Bellza is the ‘Office Junior’. Their workstations are decorated with pot plants to give an office feel. Anaesthetised by sugary synth pop, I’m easily susceptible to the relentless positivity of ‘You Are In Control’ and ‘Everything Is Going To Be OK’, and I’m genuinely delighted to be handed a laminate on a lanyard with the band’s corporate branding. The crowd are very much on board, and suitably impressed by The Director’s theatrical breakdown during ‘Do It All Over Again’, curled up on the floor in a foetal position, screaming in terror at the workaday horror of it all.
ORIONS BELTE (NORWAY)
THE HOPE & RUIN 6:00pm – 6:30pm
I had specifically made the point to get to The Hope & Ruin nice ‘n’ early to ensure that I would be able to witness a thrilling set from band of the moment ‘DITZ’ who were going to be playing live in the downstairs bar area as part of a lineup of an unofficial Love Thy Neighbour promoters Great Escape event. Once successfully on the premises, it would be rude not to check out the proceedings upstairs, where Norwegian male trio Orions Belte were playing their mainly instrumental compositions.
The upstairs room was heaving and I could barely get in through the door. Word must be out in some quarters about this trio. The format was Fender Mustang bass, guitar and drums with only the occasional words. The capacity crowd certainly appreciated what these guys had to offer, but it was far from what I was looking for. I found them dull and boring, but obviously I was in the minority of one. Back downstairs then…….
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 6:15pm – 6:45pm
Formed in Liverpool in 2018 and now signed to Polydor, four piece Crawlers are making a big impression on the music scene having recently sold out their tour in April. They certainly delivered a great set of alt-rock to get Thursday evening off to a cracking start. The band have many influences such as Muse, Nirvana and Pixies, but their powerful sound and style is very much their own.
Their 2021 single ‘Come Over (Again)’ has attracted almost 30 million plays on Spotify, so this is a band making serious headway in this genre and their live show didn’t disappoint. There were a couple of monitor issues, but you would never have known had charismatic singer and trumpeter Holly Minto not mentioned it. The lyrics tell of many personal stories with themes such as mental health and feminism and the songs themselves are all written and delivered from the heart. Current single ‘I Can’t Drive’ is a great example of this and for me was the best track of the set. Holly’s warm and humorous interaction with the crowd smacked of a band really loving what they do. At one stage they had the crowd (respectfully) on their knees before asking them to jump up, thus cranking up the atmosphere further still. The band announced they will be returning to the city on 1st November to play Patterns. This is sure to be a very hot ticket for indie-rock fans and an opportunity to get up close and personal in such a small venue so grab a ticket while you can, I’m absolutely certain they will be playing some big festival stages in the not-too-distant future.
(Martin J Fuller)
MEDICINE CABINET (UK)
CHALK 6:15pm – 6:45pm
Image and quality go hand in hand with Medicine Cabinet who form part of the Scottish contingent at this year’s Great Escape. The band hail from Glasgow and have very recently dropped their debut single ‘The Signs’.
Despite technical difficulties with the bass meaning no bass on the first few tracks, frontwoman Anna Reeves and fellow band mates offer up an energetic and playful set early Thursday evening at Chalk. Medicine Cabinet have that delightfully jangly sound made infamous by 80s female fronted bands like Transvision Vamp, although, despite the obvious charisma, they are slightly more understated than Wendy James…but only by a little bit. Add in a little flavouring of B52’s and you aren’t far off the mark. We saw just enough to entice us to head over to One Church for a second helping on Friday morning.
THE HOPE & RUIN DOWNSTAIRS (UNOFFICIAL ALTERNATIVE ESCAPE) 6:30pm – 7:00pm
I have had the pleasure of gawping at the terrific DITZ lads (Cal vocals, Anton guitar, Jack guitar, Caleb bass and Sam drums) on a number of enjoyable occasions over the past few years and I swear they (like a fine wine) are getting better with age. I think the defining moment was when Sam took over the stix and the level of buzzsaw energy went through the roof. I can recall first watching vocalist Cal do his thing and he gave an air of ‘can’t be arsed attitude’ as though he was bored and wanted to be off playing football instead. But this is how he rolls, it’s juxtapositions with the band’s in-yer-face delivery. It’s perfect.
I wonder what the passers-by made of Cal as he left the stage area and sung his way to the large open front windows that bordered Queens Road. I could see quite a crowd gathering out there! Job done then! Not quite, as Caleb’s bass string broke during their first number. The DITZ sound is rather reliant on this, a replacement instrument was urgently required. Step forward The Byker Grove Fan Club who were to follow DITZ. As you would expect from a band on the up, The Hope & Ruin bar was packed. Cal frequently joined us eager punters and even climbed atop of the area where the DJ sets come from. This was as ever a blissfully powerful set that culminated with their finest moment at the end of the 30 minute appearance. A band that are out to steal IDLES crown!
BLEACH LAB (UK)
LATEST MUSIC BAR 7:15pm – 7:45pm
South London’s Bleach Lab have fused their own introspective yet emotionally frenetic soundscape. The band released their debut EP ‘A Calm Sense of Surrounding’ in March 2021. They went on to be championed by BBC Radio 6 Music after their single ‘Old Ways’ was featured as Shaun Keaveny’s ‘Track of the Week’ with further support from Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson.
With queues forming around the block, Bleach Lab take the opening evening slot at Latest Music Bar. It’s not surprising to see a Cocteau Twins track lurking in the Bleach Lab catalogue. That influence comes through strongly track after track as Jenna Kyle Julia’s vocals rise and fall across a sonic seascape that pitches and sways with orchestral waves that swell and burst onto pristine beaches rather than crash onto harsh rocks. The crowd watches in complete rapture, simply magical and enchanting.
CHALK 7.15pm – 7.30pm
I’ve found my way to Chalk to catch Gallus, who have a reputation as one of Scotland’s best live acts. As they’re setting up, vocalist Barry is orchestrating conducted cheering from the crowd, which is a good sign. The band are a five-piece, with Eamon and Arion on guitars, Craig on bass, and Paul on drums. Underway, they produce a bouncy and fun sort of good-time rock. It’s pretty lively, and Barry and Arion get a nice bit of synchronised flouncing going. The frontman is soon off stage and onto the barrier, leaning out into the crowd. The XLR connector on his mic comes undone, and an audience member helpfully retrieves the cable for him. Barry is clearly grateful, and comically hushes the crowd to thank his helper. “I’m trying to f*cking talk to this c*nt.” Using the c-expletive as a term of endearment, common in colloquial speech in Scotland and Ireland, makes it even funnier. The punter, whose name ironically is Mike, gets a T-shirt for his trouble.
I’m particularly taken with ‘Marmalade’, which motors along very nicely with an urgent bass and floor tom groove, overlaid with some great riffing. There are very effective stops for little flurries of bass and guitar. Bassist Craig is flinging himself around with wild abandon. The singer is most insistent that the crowd do a get-down-and-jump-back-up move, something I’ve seen a few times at this festival, but it looks particularly impressive carried out by 800 people in Chalk. I’m thoroughly enjoying the music and the performance, but it’s the funny moments that stand out. Barry goes to throw a T-shirt into the crowd, turning his back in the style of a bride throwing a bouquet. Cool trick, except the garment in question gets stuck on a lighting projector high above anyone’s reach. It’s eventually retrieved by a human pyramid of fans at the end of the set. It’s true, Gallus really are an impressive live act.
SWIM SCHOOL (UK)
HORATIOS 7:15pm – 7:45pm
Swim School, from Edinburgh, are a four-piece, post-punk band made up of Alice Johnson (vocals/guitar), Lewis Bunting (guitar), Matt Mitchell (bass), and Billy McMahon (drums). Swim School’s sound appears to be influenced by a wide variety of artists such as The House of Love, Slowdive, Lush and Wolf Alice. They’ve a heavier sound than their early indie pop, which may be partly due to the arrival of their new drummer, Billy. Yet from their performance at The Great Escape, they still have an upbeat, melodic guitar style.
It was their first visit to Brighton, and the irony of a band called Swim School playing over the sea on Brighton Pier wasn’t lost on lead singer Alice. A very energetic set with 100 mile per hour guitars. There were a few quieter songs such as ‘Everything You Wanted’, which showcased Alice’s vocals and she can handle punkier tracks such as ‘See Red’ as well as slower tunes. I, for one, hope they return to play Brighton again soon.
Revenge 7:30pm – 8:00pm
The Brighton & Hove News Music Team have already witnessed a trio of POZI performances over the past two years, but none of them were by myself, so I had made a specific point not to miss this unique outfit during TGE. The band features drummer/vocalist Toby Burroughs, violinist/vocalist Rosa Brook and bassist/vocalist Tom Jones (no not that one!). They come steeped in the lineage of the very best weirdo British indie pop and have a skittish, restless energy. They say that their influences are the off kilter forward thinking Devo, Wire and Television, but it’s not evident to me in their sound as there are no guitars.
Talking of ‘sound’ and believe you me, I wish I wasn’t, but the sound during the whole set was wrong wrong wrong! I felt so sorry for the band as it wasn’t their fault. This was my first visit to Revenge since the heady days of it being Club Savannah and it’s obviously OK for spinning discs, but certainly not for live bands. I was set to return to Revenge during TGE and things would get worse! Mid-set the cable for Rosa’s violin had to be replaced, which was unfortunate. The whole performance was a stop-start affair, littered with quirky beats and a clash of styles that mingle together in a post punk way although all vocals weren’t loud enough. The shufflely drum sound defines the band’s sound. I need to see them again somewhere else to enjoy what they have to offer.
THE PRINCE ALBERT 7:30pm – 8:00pm
TASH are a London based alt-rock duo blending heavy guitar-driven angst with pop sensibility, fronted by bassist/lead singer Tara Noble and guitarist/producer Robbie Paice, inspired by the likes of Yonaka, Royal Blood and Wolf Alice. The two met at university and ever since have been cooking up a storm with their catchy melodies and razor-sharp riffs.
With less room to swing a cat in, the duo certainly could have done with a bigger stage for the evening slot, rather than upstairs at The Prince Albert. Lead singer Tara bounces about the stage to her heavy guitar laden songs, and gets the whole room moving along! TASH supported Crawlers on tour previously and their lyrics are more on the heavier angst ridden side, with a horror movie feel in parts. I could see them supporting the likes of The Pretty Reckless at a larger venue in the near future.
CRYSTAL MURRAY (FRANCE)
ZAHARA (East Street) 8:00pm – 8:30pm
Next venue on my TGE list was Zahara, but not the one bearing the same name down West Street, this is located in East Street and was previously called Door 77. I wonder how many delegates went to the wrong location? One must be vigilant when entering this establishment as there is a split door entrance and the other leads to what I presume is a gentlemen’s club, titter ye not! I certainly didn’t titter on entering the building, as I was the recipient of the most enthusiastic and vigorous search I’ve had in decades. I hear our reviewer Mark Kelly encountered the same over at Revenge during TGE. I wonder if they use the same security company or whether it was the same fella?
First up of the two acts we were witnessing here tonight was the stunning Crystal Murray who is a French R’N’B singer-songwriter based in Paris. This was her first ever gig in the UK and no doubt there will be many more. In addition to Crystal’s vocals, the instrumentation included guys in charge of drums with Roland drum pads, Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 keys, Fender bass guitar, and best of all the Nord Stage 3 keyboard that played a few decent Numanesque notes during the R’N’B set. Crystal certainly has a great voice as well as Grace Jones attributes, but with a smiley attitude as opposed to a slapping Russell Harty one. She offered sensual lyrics including the earworm “touch my bush and you will be kissing it”. There were some great keyboard moments in this set. (Nick Linazasoro)
SCENE QUEEN (UNITED STATES)
VOLKS 8:00pm – 8:30pm
A huge queue outside the capacity Latest Music Bar means I’m not seeing Bleach Lab / English Teacher, so plan B finds me inside the dark, gloomy confines of the Volks. Scene Queen (real name Hannah Collins) runs on to the stage draped in a pink feather boa along with Smudge (guitars) and Ruben (drums) as ‘Barbie Girl’ blasts out of the speakers. They’re all dressed in shorts having been told they were playing on Brighton beach today. Imagine Alicia Silverstone’s character from Clueless fronting a metal band and you’ll have some idea of their sound.
Playing songs from her ‘Bimbocore’ album plus a cover of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’, Scene Queen’s music does little for me, but her performance is never less than entertaining. At one point she stops the show to invite three girls onto the stage to initiate them into her ‘Bimbo Beta Pi’ sorority. She also jokes that this is the most straight men she’s ever had in her audience, and tells us how her tit fell out when performing the previous week. No such issues in Brighton, she survives her energetic set without any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions.
CHALK 8.15pm – 8.45pm
Next on in Chalk is Cassyette, the stage name of singer-songwriter Cassy Brooking. Apparently she rose to fame via TikTok. How very modern! I’m expecting a set straight out of a laptop, but thankfully there’s a live drummer and a shaven-headed and shirtless guitarist with the kind of Explorer shape guitar beloved of metal players. It’s actually a really impressive performance, and Cassy cuts a particularly striking figure with bleached hair and a PVC outfit. The music seems to have a bit of everything: pop, punk, rock and metal, which figures as younger artists today have grown up accustomed to having instant access to a randomly juxtaposed smorgasbord spanning the history of popular music and culture.
One thing that is certain is that this pick-and-mix pop-metal confection is hugely popular. The crowd are absolutely loving it and a huge circle pit opens, with some very vigorous dancing indeed. I like the loud and quiet contrasts of ‘Petrichor’, and set closer “Prison Purse’ is pretty intense. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may well be the future direction of popular music, and Cassyette is blazing the trail.
KATY J PEARSON (UK)
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 8:15pm – 8:45pm
Until today, apart from her name I was completely unaware of Bristol-based singer-songwriter Katy J Pearson’s work. I must confess that today’s performance was something of a treat. I have seen Katy described as an indie artist, but I would describe her work, based on today’s performance, as surprisingly hard-driven 21st Century folk-rock.
Her current batch of festival dates (she’s playing Glastonbury amongst others) are in support of her forthcoming album ‘Sound Of The Morning’. She also has her own tour in September, so there’s plenty of opportunity to catch her live, something that I would wholeheartedly recommend.
HORATIOS 8:15pm – 8:45pm
Malady were sandwiched between the post-punk sets of Swim School and Kills Birds. They were very different with their IDM (Intelligent dance music) sound. One of the benefits of TGE is the mix of different styles, which you may not usually go to see. London four-piece Malady are fronted by Percy Junior Cobbinah (vocals/guitar), who is joined by Charlie Clark (guitar/synth), Ertan Cimen (drums) and Khaleem Mitchell-Patterson (bass).
The band’s material talks about living in London. Their debut single and highlight of their set ‘London, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down’ about many people’s love/hate relationship they may hold for the Big Smoke. Big football fans, they were interested in the score from the North London derby, but disappointed as Arsenal were losing. This didn’t put them off delivering a good set, appreciated by many in the audience.
YOUTH SECTOR (UK)
PAGANINI BALLROOM (THE OLD SHIP) 8:30pm – 9:00pm
Having played around the UK and Europe as well as numerous festivals, it was a major coup to have Youth Sector play at this year’s Great Escape. With elements of funk and groove and a nod to old school art rock bands of the past, they received a rousing reception at the evening’s set at the Paganini Ballroom.
Their music is upbeat, very infectious, full of jerky rhythms and lots of positive energy that got the crowd dancing at this fine venue.
NIXER (REPUBLIC OF IRELAND)
ZAHARA (East Street) 9:00pm – 9:30pm
Following on from Crystal Murray at Zahara and half an hour later than planned were Nixer, who were flying the flag for the Republic of Ireland, although this duo are actually London-based and for live work have today expanded to a trio. Last month they dropped their second single of 2022 in the form of ‘Decisions’, which followed on from previous offerings ‘People Feel’ and ‘Outsider’, which established the band’s frenetic, machine driven, guitar-laden style.
Here is a sound where the echoey Irish brogue vocals overlain with echoey guitar tell a story that is accompanied by hard-hitting and driven electronic drums, dancefloor-enticing basslines and melodic guitar lines. Perfect for clubbers who indulge in electro and cold wave dancey beats of the likes of Sextile, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, DAF, early Soft Cell and Boy Harsher. I was particularly taken with their use of the TC Helicon box with laptop and pre-sets. Loved their second number but failed to get its title. They were on half an hour late, but boy was it worth the wait. Would love to see again!
THE CLOCKWORKS (REPUBLIC OF IRELAND)
THE HOPE & RUIN 9:00pm – 9:30pm
This Galway alt rock band were a revelation! There wasn’t space to breathe in the upstairs room at The Hope, and I loved them. Driving guitars and strong vocals, and most importantly great songs.
I think I may have found my new favourite band. ‘Everything Is Strange’, one of the later songs in the set, was brilliant. Move over The Murder Capital and Fontaines DC.
VOLKS 9:00pm – 9:30pm
Being a big fan of their debut single ‘Another Bish’ early last year, Softcult were one of my must-see artists for this year’s festival. Formed around the core unit of twin-sisters Mercedes (vocals & guitar) and Phoenix (vocals & drums), Softcult take the stage with an additional guitarist and bassist, all dressed head-to-toe in black for their very first show in Brighton.
As you might expect from their appearance, Softcult play a mix of shoegaze/goth music featuring heavy guitars and ethereal vocals. Mercedes says they formed a band as they want to make a difference, and their songs certainly pack a punch focussing on social issues such as gaslighting and consent. Closing track ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ comes with a strong message about the murder of Sarah Everard and how some men place blame on the victims. It’s an angry, powerful climax to a stunning set from the band.
KILLS BIRDS (USA)
HORATIOS 9:15pm – 9:45pm
Kills Birds, a punk band from Los Angeles consisting of singer Nina Ljeti, guitarist Jacob Loeb, bassist Fielder Thomas, and studio-drummer Bosh Rothman. Fans of Nirvana, Kills Birds can name Dave Grohl among their fans. (He invited them to record their album at this studio). Kills Birds seem to be California’s answer to Amyl and the Sniffers.
From start to finish there was an intensity and energy about their set, which never wavered. This spread to the packed crowd in Horatios, resulting in the first mosh pit of The Great Escape that I saw. Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten of Momma (who I saw earlier in the day) were really rocking at the front of the audience for Kills Birds. A great live set from a band committed to giving their all on stage.
JOE AND THE SHITBOYS (FAROE ISLANDS)
THE HOPE AND RUIN (UNOFFICIAL ALTERNATIVE ESCAPE) 9.30pm -10.00pm
Photographer Cris and I have gone off piste and are downstairs in The Hope and Ruin. Promoters Love Thy Neighbour have put on a cracking lineup for an unofficial Alternative Escape, and we’re here for Joe And The Shitboys, who describe themselves as a queer, vegan punk band. They are from The Faroe Islands, which is a tiny archipelago in the North Atlantic. Obviously, I’m intrigued, and my curiosity quickly turns to delight as they turn in a manically raucous and fabulously entertaining set. Unsurprisingly, Joe is the frontman. In his specs and sweatshirt he looks ordinary and unassuming, albeit in a retro way with a pair of those satin running shorts that were popular in the 1980s. In action though, he’s charismatic, outgoing and ludicrously energetic, and if you’re near the front, you’re getting involved too. The band consisted of Ziggy, who played guitar obviously, bassist Ollie, and drummer Johnny. Ramones-style, they all share the same surname, which is Sh*t. For some reason they are dressed like depression-era farmhands in denim dungaree shorts.
The songs are short sharp bursts of rapid-fire punk, each with insanely catchy chanted hooks. There are loads of them flying by in the half-hour set, including “I miss the good old days”, “Macho man Randy Savage”, and “Life is great but you suck”. Joe rushes around in front of the bit of floor designated as the stage, and makes frequent forays into the crowd, getting audience members involved and singing along. Needless to say, there is vigorous and enthusiastic moshing, and it’s utter chaos. Joe is as loud and proud of his sexuality as is reasonably possible. I won’t be taking him up on his frequent exhortations to “eat ass”, although I was impressed by his display of oral prowess, swallowing the microphone at the end of the set. This was an unofficial and unexpected treat.
ABBY ROBERTS (UK)
PATTERNS UPSTAIRS 10:15pm – 10:45pm
“Just to warn you, I’ll be bringing her through to the stage in a moment…” Who is this pop diva with her very own personal escort, is it Beyoncé, Mariah or Madonna? Welcome to the world of Abby Roberts, perhaps best known for her online beauty tips which have gained her a following of 17.2 million fans on TikTok and 2.4 million followers on Instagram; at just 21 years old she is already a social media titan.
Now setting her sights on music, Roberts is currently playing a handful of intimate shows to showcase her debut EP of pop/rock songs. On stage with a three-piece band her impossibly beautiful looks ensure that all eyes are on her, but she has the ability to back up the superficial with some decent tunes too. ‘Band Aid’ and ‘Video Girl’ are the best of the bunch, and she also performs a mashup of The Cardigans ‘Lovefool’ with a new demo called ‘Sleepwalking’. A promising debut and a worthy conclusion to Thursday’s entertainment for me.
GOAT GIRL (UK)
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 10:15pm – 10:45pm
I’ve seen south London based post-punkers Goat Girl (consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Lottie Pendlebury, guitarist Ellie Rose Davies, drummer Rosy Jones and bassist Holly Hole) a couple of times previously so I was very much looking forward to seeing them again tonight. They’ve acquired a (possibly live only) keyboard player since I last saw them. Also they seem funkier and even tighter than before. They’re more powerful too, but that may be purely the result of greater experience than since I last saw them at Rockaway Beach Festival in January 2019.
The material from their most recent album, ‘On All Fours’, sounds less immediate and accessible than their previous material, but that only serves to make it more interesting. There’s a lot going on here. Their pin-sharp three-part harmonies deserve special mention as do Holly Hole’s bass chords. Their music remains seductively atmospheric and it will suck you in no matter how hard you may try to resist it. My only complaint about tonight’s performance is that they are only allotted half an hour and thus are not allowed to play the planned last song of their set. This was intended to be ‘Scum’, which was the B-side of their first single ‘Country Sleaze’. Hopefully there’ll be other occasions when we can hear it.
LET’S EAT GRANDMA (UK)
THE OLD MARKET 10:15pm – 10:45pm
Next up, it’s a 20 minute hike to a surprisingly quiet Old Market for Let’s Eat Grandma’s headline slot. Let’s Eat Grandma are an interesting proposition and an act who you always feel you ought to love more than maybe you really do. Their first incarnation on the critically lauded ‘I, Gemini’ felt something like a chipmunk remix of some discarded Gong and Captain Beefheart tracks. Not necessarily a bad thing…but an acquired taste.
Tonight we hear more of their latest ‘Two Ribbons’ album which has found them acquire some heavy-duty synth pop production (complete with auto tune). Energy levels are also raised via the synchronised dancing a la school disco which intersperses nearly every track If you have a 13 year old daughter they’ll probably love it.
LUNAR VACATION (USA)
GREEN DOOR STORE 10.15pm -10.45pm
Along with photographer Cris, I’ve now made my way to The Green Door Store. Thankfully there’s no queue when we arrive, but the live room, a former goods yard with a rough floor of stone setts, is absolutely rammed and rapidly approaching sauna temperature. On stage are Lunar Vacation, a five-piece from Atlanta who operate at the shoegazy end of the indie spectrum. Grace is on lead vocals, playing a stylish teardrop guitar. Also on guitar is Maggie, with Matteo on keyboards, John on bass and Connor on drums.
For the most part the music is languidly dreamy indie-pop, with some nice harmonies and synth embellishments. I rather like the whimsical ‘Mold’, and there’s a lovely build in ‘Anemone’. Both tracks are from their album ‘Inside Every Fig Is A Dead Wasp’, which would be worthy of investigation for the title alone.
HAMISH HAWKE (UK)
BRIGHTHELM CENTRE 10:30pm – 11:00pm
Hamish Hawk is rich of voice and even richer of imagination, the singer-songwriter from Edinburgh creates musical pen-portraits as vivid in lyric as they are in melody. In all the wholly best ways, these are chamber pop songs that have swallowed both a dictionary and a compendium of modern urban fairy tales.
I’ve been a big fan of Hamish Hawke for sometime now. ‘The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973’ was one of my favourite singles of last year, and he didn’t disappoint. A bundle of eccentric energy he and the band put on a fantastic show. The above track sounded just as good live and I loved his song ‘The Caterpillar’. I will definitely be checking him out again next time he plays in Brighton.
GREEN DOOR STORE 11.15pm -11.45pm
I’ve stayed in the densely packed Green Door Store for Yorkshire five-piece Priestgate. This band’s trajectory is rising sharply, and I’ll be surprised if I see them in such an intimate setting again. Their soaring dreamy soundscapes that would be almost shoegaze if they weren’t played with such power and passion. Twin guitars are provided by Connor and Isaac, who are both giving it their all with plenty of headstock thrusting and pained expressions. Kai is on bass, wearing a suit with no shirt, and soon no jacket either. Bridie on drums somehow remains cool and elegant whilst dispensing brisk and beautifully fluid rolls around the kit. Frontman Rob is hogging the star quality, and is quite something to behold. He looks like a young Iggy Pop, moves like a tiger on Vaseline, and there’s a hint of Jarvis Cocker in his conspiratorial vocal delivery. Like Alex from Sports Team, he clearly has the unshakeable belief that he should be a star, and I can’t easily see that failing to come to pass. There is not a moment in the set when he is not purposely looking cool.
Second number ‘By The Door’ is introduced with a piercing scream. I have a new favourite band and Rob needs to buy a new white vest, as he takes his off by means of ripping it to shreds. The guitars chime over the driving bass, and launch a soaring instrumental break for further posing opportunities. ‘Eyes Closed For The Winter’, title track of the latest EP, is slightly more reflective but no less intense. Standout track for me is ‘France’, which combines a sense of urgency with the most blissfully ethereal instrumentation, including a superb descending guitar motif. ‘Lay By’ is slower, but builds nicely with thundering drums and more ringing lead. The whole set is an absolute delight, concluding with the excellent ‘Summ(air)’, a single from 2020. Sometimes you see a band, and it immediately seems abundantly clear that they are going all the way to the top. Priestgate are one of those bands. See you at the summit.
HORATIOS 11:20pm – 11:50pm
Post-punk quintet Vlure (stylized as VLURE) formed back in 2018. A trio of them hail from Glasgow (frontman Hamish Hutcheson, bassist Niall Goldie and guitarist Conor Goldie), whereas keyboardist Alex Pearson comes from Reading and drummer Carol Kriekaard originated in The Hague in the Netherlands. Back in January this year, they dropped their 5 track ‘Euphoria’ EP, which took over the mantle from their terrific ‘Shattered Faith’ debut single release, which came out in March 2021.
This evening at Horatios their set commenced with a poem from a colleague of theirs and this set the tone for frontman Hamish’s in-yer-face performance as he too addressed the crowd with his enthusiastic barrage of Glaswegian burrs during their 30 minute set. The format being preacher vox, guitar, bass, drums and two keyboards Thirty minutes being the ideal time in which to lay down the gauntlet and to gain a whole host of new VLURE fans, which surprisingly included my colleague Martin J Fuller, who was instantly hooked and this performance was his favourite of the whole TGE and it was my third favourite as well. I knew exactly what I was going to get, having seen them live two months ago, but Martin hadn’t heard of them before. He asked me what they were like prior to the set was due to start (after a few Prodigy tracks were endeavouring to blow the speakers) and I told him “They will take to the stage and then BANG!” and indeed bang it was! To me, they are a wonderful conglomeration of SCALPING, The Ninth Wave and The Murder Capital rolled into one, with added KLF and mid 1980’s to early 90s synth and an industrial EBM vibe. An energy filled set that pushed it to the max and concluded with ‘Euphoria’, but the highlight was ‘Shattered Faith’.
KOMEDIA STUDIO 12:30am – 1:00am
“Everything’s better when it’s faster”: that’s the ethos of Tel Aviv’s kaleidoscopic acid-techno post-punk rave trio BĘÃTFÓØT. Imagine The Prodigy, Power Rangers and Spice Girls having a baby together and you’ve nailed their hedonistic dark-rave aesthetic. Sonically, fusing hip-hop, big beat and golden-era rap with the no-holds-barred ethos of punk and a raucous 90s spirit, the group’s genre-hopping madcap madness is, among multiple things, an outlet for extrovert bandleader Udi Naor to let loose and freely be himself. Having felt creatively limited with his other projects (Udi is also co-founder and drummer of Israeli electronic duo Red Axes, and a member of folk-rock six-piece theAngelcy), his wacky brainchild began as a private solo passion project. having grown up on a melting pot of influences that range from the Aladdin soundtrack and Backstreet Boys to Metallica and Slipknot.
The above paragraph is from the TGE listing for the band and on reading it I certainly wouldn’t have checked them out as I don’t like most of the bands that were listed. However, their photo immediately caught my attention and before TGE I checked out their self-titled album on the Life And Death label. Oh my word! They were at the very top of my must see list! A band from Israel, who’d thought it. After the VLURE performance beforehand I was convinced that BĘÃTFÓØT were on a hiding to nothing….WRONG! They started with a solo beatbox box hihat tune. It was buttons and bleeps a plenty, so let’s end the day and dance to a continuous megamix of frantic pumping dance choonz interspersed with samples a plenty. It was all very anthemic Scooter meets Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ in a Hi-NRG kinda way. They ended TGE Day 1 with the brilliant ‘??? FUN ???’ tune. They were the best band for me so far and would only be pipped by one other tomorrow………..
The Great Escape will be returning to Brighton on Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th May 2023. Purchase your tickets HERE.