The Brighton & Hove News Music Team were out in force at The Great Escape New Music Festival. We strived to cover as many new and up-and-coming artists as possible during the event, which took place right across the city of Brighton and Hove at numerous venues of varying sizes on Wednesday 10th to Saturday 13th May.
With an extended team of around a dozen people on The Great Escape case, we were able to witness many exciting new 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 Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th May, along with the venue and planned time of the performance. Part 2 on the acts that performed on Friday 12th May can be found HERE and Part 3 on the acts that performed on Saturday 13th May HERE.
So here goes, sit back and enjoy………………….
WEDNESDAY 10th MAY 2023
TGE BEACH STAGE 7:00pm – 7:30pm
To get things “moo-ving” this evening were COWZ, who are a couple of young singers (they/she) who were accompanied by Joshy on drums and drumpads. They offered the punters bouncy tunes for modern times, inside the relatively packed specially erected tent. The duo sang most of their set in unison, which was rather impressive. They told us that they like to gossip, so the “gossip” on them is that if you are a fan of Girli or Caity Baser, then COWZ are for you! Every tune was like a travelogue of their lives and their set was literally filled with earworms. They ended on a high as their final number was their best of the night. With a simple “OK bye” and they were off after just 25 minutes. It had been a fun filled bubblegum pop set. You can catch COWZ performing live at The Brunswick in Hove on Thursday 25th May, when they support Bumb.
DUKE OF YORK’S PICTUREHOUSE 7:00pm – 9:15pm
Also happening this evening as a Great Escape associated event was an exclusive private screening of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’ at the Duke of York’s Picturehouse on Preston Road, Brighton, which commenced screening from 7pm, followed by a Q&A session hosted by Mixmag’s Ralph Moore with Fatboy Slim and the film’s director, Jak Hutchcraft from 8.30pm to 9.15pm. ‘Right Here, Right Now’ is the feature length documentary about his notorious July 2002 event on Brighton Beach described as the “biggest outdoor party the UK has ever seen”. ‘Right Here, Right Now’ takes the audience back to 2002 and an extraordinary moment in time, when social and cultural history reached a crossroads at The Big Beach Boutique II.
TGE BEACH STAGE 8:00pm – 8:30pm
Next up, it was the turn of WELLY, who this evening were a PE kitted quintet consisting of Welly (himself), along with Hannah, Matt, Jacob and Joe. They stand in a line with no drummer, but do have drumpads and a triggered mechanism on the floor as well as a couple of guitars, a bass, a Korg, cowbells, and tambourine. Welly being the vocalist with the others on backing vocals when required. They entered rather lively to the tune of Madness ‘Our House’, and stated that they had made their way here from just a couple of streets away and also noted how full the venue had become. Mr Welly’s interaction with the crowd is (as always) razor sharp and on the ball and there were many laughs during their funky 1980’s Factory Records style setlist. The best holiday destinations were asked by Welly and incorporated into the lyrics of one of their songs. They played their song about shopping (PE kits no doubt) and ended with ‘Me And Your Mates’. Welly are the best band in the whole of the UK that appear on stage in PE gear! Welly Loyalty Cards were dished out after their performance, as a way of getting people to check them out on one of their handful of performances over the next few days.
NOAH AND THE LONERS
TGE BEACH STAGE 9:00pm – 9:30pm
Brighton based Noah And The Loners comprise Noah Lonergan on vocals and guitar, Amber Welsh on bass, Joseph Boyle on guitar, and Noah Riley (how many Noahs can one band have?!) on drums. They are all aged around 18, and are students at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM). Their music is fast, loud and punky, and their lyrics are furious. Indeed, what band couldn’t be furious in times like these? During the first song, ‘Crash Landing’, drummer Noah breaks a stick. That’s how physically committed this band are. ‘Just Kids’ is dedicated to anyone under the age of 25. “I don’t think there are many of you here” says vocalist Noah, correctly! Most of their songs relate to the more burning issues of these times. ‘You Make Me (Fall Apart)’ is about coercive relationships, whilst ‘Real Boys’ is about toxic masculinity and vocalist Noah’s experiences as a trans man. In terms of lyrical themes, their playing and performance, Noah And The Loners display a degree of maturity way beyond their years. To say that I was impressed doesn’t go anywhere near doing tonight’s performance justice.
TGE BEACH STAGE 10:00pm – 10:30pm
Congratulations are a new band, and the singer tells us that “this (The Great Escape) is good for us”. They’re a four piece, as well as the singer there’s a guitarist, bassist and drummer. They’re a heavy rock band with a groove. There’s a bit of a funky feel to their rock, and they remind me of Led Zeppelin circa the ‘Presence’ album. Everyone sings backing vocals, and all of the band share the stage announcements, so they’re clearly run on democratic lines! At one point the singer asks “shall we have a little dance?” The guitarist puts down his instrument, and the two of them dance energetically whilst the rhythm section continues playing. They play their new single ‘Junk’, and ‘Kryptonite’ features some awesome guitar soloing. They may be new, but they’re clearly very well drilled, and have some killer material. Very much ones to watch.
THURSDAY 11th MAY 2023
THE PRINCE ALBERT 12:00pm – 12:30pm
My first gig of this year’s festival got off to a mellow start on a warm sunny Thursday lunchtime at The Prince Albert. Irish singer songwriter Katie Phelan and her 3 piece band entertained a packed crowd. In parts she reminded me of Lucy Decus, an American singer I really like, a sweet folk/indie sound which the crowd enjoyed. A few technical issues with her acoustic guitar meant that there was a bit of a gap in the early part of the set, which did eventually get sorted, but did slightly spoil the flow of the songs. Highlights of the set were ‘Habits’, a really catchy song and ‘Board Games’ with a lovely chorus. I think Katie Phelan has a big future ahead of her.
ZAHARA 12:15pm – 12:45 pm
My Great Escape adventure for 2023 kicked off at Zahara to see an excellent set of beautifully crafted electronica from 28 year old Lucy Ryan aka Bobbi Lu. The darkness of the room with its contrasting neon lighting and clubby vibe provided the perfect backdrop for layers of synthesised sound with intricate textures, deep bass synths and introspective lyrics all accompanied with her enigmatic emotional vocals. Having moved to Belgium from the UK four years ago, friends and family were in the audience to witness her first performance on UK soil and there is no doubt she did them and herself proud. Bobbi Lu’s debut single ‘Metapwhore’ was released on 15th March 2023 can be found on both Spotify and Bandcamp, it’s well worth a listen.
(Martin J Fuller)
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 12.15pm – 12.40pm
I’m starting the day at the Sounds Australia showcase in the basement at Komedia. Opening the day are C.O.F.F.I.N, or “Children of Norway Fighting in Finland”, if you prefer. They’re a proper Aussie dirty rock band, all hair and beards, and despite the early hour they’re giving it stacks of effort. Ben doesn’t let his duties as lead vocalist interfere with his mission to batter the drum kit to pieces with powerful triplet fills. The music is fast, loud and great, with flurries of hammer-ons and wailing lead guitar. Recent single ‘Cut You Off’ is as catchy as you like. Ben stands up behind the kit to announce, “We celebrate the fact that where we come from, always was, and always will be, aboriginal land!” and they launch into the furious ‘White Dog’. For the slower, heavier ‘Beasts’, the lead guitarist borrows a cigarette lighter from an audience member and casually uses it as an improvised guitar slide, which strikes me as a particularly cool move. We’re back to full tilt for closer ‘Fast Love’, and by the end I’m hot and sweaty with dancing, and it’s not even lunchtime. What a splendid start to the day.
ONE CHURCH 12:30pm – 1:00pm
Edie Bens is appearing at The Great Escape as part of the ‘Showcase Cymru’ initiative. She is a singer/songwriter from Swansea and the majority of her songs appear to be about boys. Her first song today is about “nineteen year old boys whose dads buy them Audi sports cars”. ‘Poster Child’ is about getting together with her ex-boyfriends and then “regretting her life choices”. ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ is about an ex-boyfriend, whilst ‘Given Up Giving You Up’ is about crashing a boy’s car. Fine, but what about the music, you ask? Generally, it’s tuneful but punchy. Edie’s band are very sympathetic to her material. They very much serve the song. ‘Given Up Giving You Up’ has some wonderfully searing lead guitar. As a frontperson, Edie is something of a raconteur. She tells us the story of every song, and that her name is sometimes mispronounced as “Eddie Beans”. She is possessed of a really rather good voice, has material to match, and I sincerely hope that she plays around these parts again before too long.
QUEENS HOTEL 12:30pm – 1:00pm
I’m starting off today at the Queens Hotel which I enter from bright sunlight and descend down the stairs and into the small darkened room, which has a hidden step down and immediately unnervingly jar my back….Oh deep joy! I’m here to witness Lemonade Shoelace aka Ruari Richman, who originally hails from Newcastle in County Down. His ranks today are bolstered by four additional friends from Belfast for their debut live Brighton performance. The equipment of choice being a Nord Stage 2 keyboard plus a Moog and a laptop, two Fender guitars (one of which is played by vocalist Ruari), a Fender bass, and drums. They endeavour to perform a nine tune toe tapping and bobbing head psych tinged set (especially from the Moog) which includes tracks off of the new ‘Do Whatever Makes You Happy’ EP. I was initially slightly taken aback at the unexpectedly high vocal style, which immediately transported me back to a previous set played in this building by Japanese outfit The fin. Thankfully the room is almost full from the outset of the performance, which is encouraging for Lemonade Shoelace. They set off with a drumming led tune and notably the keyboardist closes his eyes as he plays and truly feels the music. The low ceilinged room kept the sound contained and thus it was loud, but still clear. It was an encouraging set to start off the day! I now must ascend back up the stairs with my new bad back….Ouch!
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 12:55pm – 1:20pm
Australian rock band Pacific Avenue played a blinding set at a sweaty and packed Komedia in the heart of North Laine on Gardner Street. The 4 piece band are from Gerringong in New South Wales, Australia and yes I had to look it up, it’s 3 hours south from Sydney on the coast if you’re interested. They have built quite a reputation down under having been championed by Triple J, Australia’s answer to 6Music. They looked the part, with their 70s inspired image, all flares and beads and the Led Zeppelin-esque sounding tunes. I really enjoyed their music, lots of big rock guitar solos and soaring vocals. They released their debut album ‘Flowers’ last week, which I shall be checking out. ‘Give It Up For Yourself’ and ‘Easy Love’, both recent singles, had a big arena sound to them.
BLACK LION 1.00pm – 1.30pm (Unofficial Escape ‘Smithereen Takeover’)
With so many music fans in the city, it’s no surprise that plenty of alternative events spring up around the festival. I’ve dropped into the Black Lion, where the Smithereen Music takeover is underway. Local heroes Monakis, long championed by Brighton & Hove News, are delivering a blistering set to a packed crowd. The familiar trio of James on bass, Aaron on guitar and Joe on drums, generate a righteous howl of intensity, and it’s going down an absolute storm. Most of the songs are familiar, and brilliant, with my personal favourites ‘Driptease’ and ‘Rich’ coming early on.‘War’, ‘Screw Loose’, and ‘White Rabbit’ are all welcome inclusions, and to conclude this ludicrously enjoyable set there’s a brand new number. At the end, I ask James what it’s called, but having only been written last week, it’s as yet unnamed. What a treat!
NOAH AND THE LONERS
EAST STREET TAP 1:00pm – 1:20pm
We caught up with Noah And The Loaners for their Marshall showcase at East Street Tap. This is a band who are currently hot property – evidenced by the queue around the block trying to squeeze into a venue the size of a postage stamp. Their sound is teen-punk energy at its best. Fronted by 18-year-old Noah Longergan on guitar, Amber Welsh on bass, Joseph Boyle on guitar and Noah Riley on drums, it’s all about loud, sweaty, snarly vocals sizzling with hormonal rage, but at the same time laced heavily with fun. Lyrically however, this is not a band who simply tell tales of teenage angst…this is a band with something to say and that resonates in the now – from climate change to racism. Today’s short showcase set gave us a taste of bigger things to come for this young band. It’s lively and fierce and definitely one to watch out for.
TGE BEACH STAGE 1:05pm – 1:30pm
Saint Harison is a singer-songwriter born in Southampton, he is the eldest of three brothers and grew up very close to his mother. Along with his mother and siblings, he left home in search of a better life. This lunchtime he offers up sugary sweet tunes that are full of high-register soul. Saint Harison is a big guy who aches off frailty. Backed by three talented vocalists who could probably each hold an audience in the palm of their hand, he delivers a powerful pop punch that will find a happy home at Pride festivals or club parties any day of the week… a family favourite in the making.
PATTERNS UPSTAIRS 1:15pm – 1:45 pm
Lining up alongside her three band members on guitars and drums was Verona based Italian-Nigerian singer-songwriter Anna Bassy who served us up a deliciously soulful set with elements of R&B, soul, pop and gospel in her music, each track gently washing over the hushed Patterns crowd like a warm tide on a sun-kissed beach. My stand-out song of the set ‘Monsters’ from her 2021 EP of the same name can be found on Spotify or Bandcamp and will give you a great introduction to her talents.
(Martin J Fuller)
THE HOPE AND RUIN 1:25pm – 1:45pm
London based hidden gem Freddy Merkky kicked things off on Thursday afternoon with a jam-packed twenty minute set at The Hope And Ruin, which he filled wall to wall. Freddy Merkky and his four piece band seized the stage at 1:25pm, ready to deliver their upbeat, oftentimes politically driven, “pogo punk” set list and did not miss a beat. Freddy boasts an indescribable ability to capture audiences at all times, holding them in the palm of his hand from the offset. Festival-goers in the venue that afternoon were treated to a performance of his debut single ‘The West’ as Merkky ripped clothes from his convulsing body and charged around the stage, mic stand in hand. As expected, this was another unforgettable performance from dark horse Freddy Merkky and he is undoubtedly one to watch.
DYLAN JOHN THOMAS
HORATIOS 1:30pm – 2:00pm
As part of the Scottish showcase which was held at Horatios bar at the end of the Palace Pier for this year’s Great Escape, the upcoming singer stemming from Glasgow was Dylan John Thomas. This lunchtime he was entertaining the punters by playing some masterful guitar ballads and mesmerising pop songs with hearty lyrics together with his backing band. Coming from a busking background, in his early career he had already sold out the iconic hometown Borrowland last year. In his set he included a rowdy Glaswegian’s take on Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’. The packed in audience at Horatios were certainly engaged with his songwriting material.
WATERBEAR VENUE 1:30pm – 2:00pm
FRUM (yes another shouty capitalised name) is the creation of Faroe-islander Jenný Kragesteen, who creates a “beautiful upbeat landscape of serene beauty” (we’re sure that’s a description that must already have been used elsewhere, hence the quotes). It’s Bjork with an added spoonful of sugar but lacking the Sugarcubes. She’s been doing her thing for a good few years now and certainly has a talent for impassioned vocal gymnastics… definitely one to file under introspective. Today’s performance is enigmatic and mesmerizing. The hushed audience stand captivated, lost in the music until the final notes are struck and a hearty applause breaks the trance.
THE MVT STAGE 1:30pm – 2:00pm
Lots of things are going on with London-based outfit KIDS. Dealing with early breakups and growing up in the capital, KIDS’ music tells the story of band leaders Beau Blaise and Alex Harvey, life-long friends who have written their debut EP ‘Love And The City 1’ out of their own stories of growth. Having already established a devout fanbase from a string of live performances including supporting Gang of Youths, and appearance at Leopallooza. They are gathering support from the BBC with plays on Radio 1 and ‘Introducing’ by Nels Hylton and Jess Iszatt, KIDS are keen to get their music out into the world. Their music slips and slides from mainstream pop to deep indie realms laced with punk and reggae. If you follow the Hastings scene you’ll spot similarities to Buddha Triangle (why they are not playing this year’s TGE baffles us) – and that is a VERY GOOD THING. This is lovely uplifting music perfectly suited to the laid-back shingle-floored beach they are performing on this afternoon, and anyone hosting a stage that needs uplifting vibes from a charming new band could do a whole lot worse.
ONE CHURCH 1:30pm – 2:00pm
We are here at One Church as part of the ‘Showcase Cymru’. Minas is the project of Greek /Welsh producer James Minas alongside the rhythm section of the Davies brothers, one of which, the drummer, is not here with us today due to an upset stomach. Minas informs us that he is Cardiff based and that this is his very first time in Brighton. They will play again at the ungodly hour of 2:15am on Friday at the compact Komedia, thus we select this lunchtime show instead. Today’s setup is Minas on vocals and one of his chums on Native Instruments effects unit with a laptop, and Alex Davies is using a 5-string bass guitar. Minas jogged and bounced throughout the set and added in jerky movements as he rapped to (dance orientated) tunes that sounded like the story of his life and his struggles. This was a full-on experience and Minas jumped off the stage to walk among us, which raised the tempo. The tunes were delivered with full on aggression as though he was gonna burst some blood vessels. We were instructed to get down on the floor and pop up again. We obliged and James was thrilled by this, so much so we had to do it again later. Minas is outside what I normally listen to, but that is the whole point of The Great Escape, and as a reward this was actually fabulous. The highlight being the penultimate number with the screamed repeated vocal delivery of “And I wanna die next”, which we learn is currently unreleased. For the final number, we all certainly go for it. Nice work!
QUEENS HOTEL 1.30pm – 2.00pm
The Queens Hotel is at capacity when I arrive, so I miss the start of The Florentinas’ set. Making my way to the hotel basement, I find a large crowd very much appreciating their effects-laden indie rock. They are a four-piece from Bangor, near Belfast. Frontman Paddy Boyd is clad in an impressively voluminous pair of flared jeans and playing rhythm guitar through a cloud of effects. His board, however, is dwarfed by that of lead guitarist Luke, who is slowly draining the national grid, 9 volts at a time. There’s a beautifully clipped guitar screech on ‘Ghost’, which alternates loud and quiet sections to good effect. For ‘Porcelain’, the guitar effects merge into one giant sonic whirlpool. On bass, Jacob looks he’s having a whale of a time, pulling shapes and grinning wildly, and drummer Jakob keeps it lively and solid. Recent single ‘Weatherman’ is a great tune, and I’m glad I caught this band.
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 1:35pm – 2:00pm
Mia Wray is a pop singer from Melbourne, Australia, although the pop singer description doesn’t do her justice. She gave a very powerful vocal performance at her first show at The Great Escape. For her live set at the Komedia, Mia Wray was joined on stage by a band including a keyboard player, drummer, guitarist and bassist. On up-tempo songs, which were most of her set, she belted out the songs with one of strongest voices I heard over the weekend. On the few slower numbers, her vocals were just as good, especially on one song where she just had a low-key keyboard accompaniment. Mia Wray gave a strong performance, in which she gave her all. From what I saw at The Great Escape, and the crowd’s reaction, it was clear to see why she is championed by Australian radio station triple j and seen as one of Australia’s most highly acclaimed emerging artists.
BLACK LION 2:00pm – 2:30pm (Unofficial Escape ‘Smithereen Takeover’)
With so much going on over The Great Escape, you’d think there wasn’t enough time to catch some of the fringe acts playing for free as part of the Alt Escape and the unofficial Escape, but the Black Lion had such a stellar lineup of local talent that it was a hard one to resist. After catching a mighty set by Monakis, I thought I’d hang out for the next band, Currls. It’s a name I’d never seen, but I’m so glad I did today. This Brighton-based trio, boasting the fiery talents of Holly Blake, Jack Smith, and Hannah Websdale, turned heads and set pulses racing with their animated 30-minute set, a whirlwind tour of garage rock, punk, and pop. Their opener ‘Honey’ was a riotous testament to their chemistry, blending fast riffs, tight drumming, and distinctive bass work into a genuinely electrifying concoction. Holly’s versatile vocal prowess, capable of both spitfire energy and intimate sweetness, was a compelling thread through their 8-song set, while Jack’s dynamic bass performance and Hannah’s precision drumming provided a solid backbone to their sound. The slower, hypnotic closer ‘April Fool’ showcased their knack for a catchy melody, leaving an indelible impression. Will I see these again? Hell yeah!
THE NEW CUT
THE HOPE AND RUIN 2:00pm – 2:20pm
The New Cut are a four piece from Bristol, and the unreleased opening song ‘Overpass’ seems to be a bit of a grunge throwback. However, they quickly prove that their music is rather more varied than that. Power pop seems to be the most prevalent of a number of different influences on display. ‘The Family Business’ is from their recent EP ‘Merrywood’. They tell us it’s their “best song”. Well, maybe. It’s certainly very good, but there’s a lot of competition from the other songs that they play today! It seems to be about the evils of corporate greed, which is a more than justifiable target. Another song, ‘Reclamation’ is about phones and social media. There are slight hints of early Radiohead here. Not everything is serious though. One song proclaims “Stephen Gerrard is my dad!” Nothing’s impossible I suppose. Apparently all of this band are still students. They haven’t been together for that long, and if they’re already producing material and live performances of this calibre, I really look forward to seeing what they’re doing in two or three years time!
WATERBEAR VENUE 2:30pm – 3:00pm
Aggrasoppar (æðrasoppar) the Faroe island supergroup, did a bit of a name-change to make themselves a bit more friendly in Google searches as the original æðrasoppar moniker would have left them in an Internet wilderness outside of Denmark. Described (probably by themselves) as flower-punk, their biography promised one helluva party – and to be honest they totally didn’t fail to deliver. Their bitches brew is a heady mixture of pop and playful punk… and all points in-between. Actually it’s a complete mesh of genres – to the point where words fail and you just have to dive right in to experience it for yourself. Crammed into the Waterbear, the band overflowed from the stage and the band and crowd become one. The show is highly entertaining and chaotic, there’s even a quick gym push up session – just what we need for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Don’t take them too seriously though. They certainly don’t.
QUEENS HOTEL 2.30pm – 3.00pm
Down in the basement of the Queens Hotel, Amy Montgomery cuts a striking figure in a patterned bodysuit and thigh-length boots. She has a black stripe drawn across her face, like Adam Ant gone over to the dark side. She’s a charismatic performer, getting the crowd clapping along from the start. The music is seriously powerful and impressive, with a three piece backing band of Nolan, Danny and Michael on guitar, bass and drums respectively. Recent single ‘Change Change’ stands out, with a guitar motif that reminds me of U2. ‘Away For Free’ has a staccato intro groove, then goes up several gears to really soar, with a sustained vocal roar of ferocious power. Amy straps on a guitar and Danny and Nolan swap instruments for ‘Constitution’, which is driven along by a gorgeously growling Big Muff fuzz bass riff. There’s a pretty widespread take up by the audience for a call-and-response singalong section. A furiously energetic cover of The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ somehow manages to segue into Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, which I can confidently say I’ve never heard done before. This surprisingly enjoyable set concludes with a monstrously deep synth bass-driven chunk of disco rock called ‘Meet You In The Sun’.
LATEST MUSIC BAR 2:30pm – 3:00pm
I ventured from North Laine down to Manchester Street next, in order to catch a half hour showcase set from Good Wilson, who hail from Vienna in Austria. This 6 piece indie band was a real treat. They offered up a melodic guitar based sound with lovely sunny catchy songs that the packed basement bar crowd loved, and a lot of the crowd seemed to know all the words to every song. Did a lot of their fans make the trip from Vienna? They reminded me a bit of Kings Of Convenience crossed with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever with an added country rock edge. ‘Till We Meet Again’ and ‘Divine’ were the standout songs and they are a band I will certainly be checking out again.
HORATIOS 2:30pm – 3:00pm
We hotfooted it from a Welsh showcase event to a ‘Scotland at The Great Escape’ in order to catch Edinburgh based (via Dundee) rising stars Redolent, who I saw last year at ‘Mutations Festival’. They are fronted by brothers Robin (vocals) and Danny Herbert (synths), alongside drummer Andrew Turnbull, bassist Robbie White, Alice Hancock on live samplers, and a guy on keys. Today on Brighton Pier the sextet and are using a Arturia KeyLab 61 MIDI Controller, an Akai MPK249 MIDI Keyboard Controller, Akai professional drumpads plus laptop, Roland drumpads and drums, Ableton presets, alternating Fender guitars and finally shakers. We learn that they are working on their debut album, which I for one, certainly want to have a listen to. They are offering something memorable and different for the punters, including the use of two LED displays in front of the band which scroll the lyrics across the screens for all to read. Robin’s vocal delivery reminded me of a combination of Martin Doherty (CHVRCHES) and Robert Smith (The Cure). Andrew Turnball metronomic drumming was the backbone of their sound and certainly had me nodding away throughout the whole bouncy beat set, although they seemed heavier this time around. ‘Don’t Cry’ (Scottish spelling) was a highlight as was the final number about hating work “5 days until the weekend”, scrolled across the LED signs.
THE HOPE AND RUIN 2:35pm – 2:55pm
Manchester band DEAFDEAFDEAF took the shoegaze style in a totally different direction with their raucous, feedback-laced post-punk twist. DEAFDEAFDEAF are Nathan Hill on vocals, Ellis Whittle on bass, Jack Findlay and Louis Grayson on guitars and Connor Alder on drums. Their opening song ‘Sweet Thing’ started with an almost moody atmospheric sound, but much heavier and industrial than you usually get. That set the scene for the rest of their performance. As well as a good vocal performance, Nathan Hill fronted the band well. He was very animated moving around the stage and throwing his mic stand from side-to-side. There were similarities with The Murder Capital’s James McGovern in his style. There was variety in the DEAFDEAFDEAF set with one song in particular started with just Nathan’s vocals and lone guitar. It wasn’t long before the rest of the band joined the track and the noise kicked in. Their last song ‘Nothingness’ started with a very good bassline, building to the loudest song of their set, with Nathan shouting out the lyrics and impressive fast guitars. It was DEAFDEAFDEAF’s first time playing Brighton. I hope they return to play in the city again soon.
QUEENS HOTEL 3:25pm – 3:55pm
Having met as Film students in Belfast and formed in 2019, Northern Ireland’s post-punk trio Chalk, consisting of Ross Cullen (vocals), Luke Niblock (drums) and Benedict Goddard (keys), were hailed as “the most exciting guitar band from Northern Ireland in years” by BBC Introducing, so as you would expect, there was a great deal of buzz around the assembled crowd which included friends and family of the band. Right from the off, this was a performance of such angry raucous intensity that it permeated every crevice of the compact basement at the Queens Hotel, the uncompromising vocals of singer Ross Cullen pushing through a backdrop of driving industrial synths, wailing guitar and intense drumming. I can’t imagine Chalk playing a venue of this size again (they ironically played the much larger ‘Chalk’ venue the following evening too), so we were privileged to see them perform at such close quarters. Chalk’s debut EP ‘Conditions’ was released on 5th May 2023 across all major online platforms and is well worth checking out.
(Martin J Fuller)
TGE Beach Stage 3:30pm – 3:55pm
There’s a very good reason we put HotWax on our ‘must see’ TGE23 list…and also why we have been championing them as a band to watch for the last year or so. Quite simple they ooze with all the elements that make a great live band…not least that they have a great catalogue of songs already under their belts, so, unlike many new young acts, they can play a 45 minute set with a tonne of killer and very little filler. Today on the TGE Beach Stage they only had a mere 30 minutes to impress the packed-out tent, but that wasn’t hard to do, because being the force of nature they are it’s always just a matter of minutes before they have any crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. We love the fact that this isn’t just a raw, shouty, pop-punk trio. This is a shouty pop-punk trio with genuine musical talent that holds their music together in a far more refined way than you might at first realise. We have a feeling that as time goes by their sound will diversify and we are looking forward to that really difficult fifth album where they turn a corner and bring us something challenging and unexpected.
THE MVT STAGE 3.31pm – 4.01pm
I’ve made my way to the MVT Stage on the beach to catch Deadletter at the very precise time of 3.31pm. A six-piece playing an angular sort of post-punk agit-pop, they are originally from Yorkshire and now based in London. Their recent ’Heat’ EP made quite a splash, and they have drawn a very large crowd in the warm spring sunshine. Vocalist Zac’s heavy leather coat is discarded by the second number, recent single ‘The Snitching Hour’. His shirt follows suit. He looks pretty lean and wiry, suggesting a level of fitness and agility that is confirmed by a deft leap over the tubular barrier to return from a foray into the crowd during new number ‘Deus’. Back on stage the band are brewing up a storm, with guitarists Will and James, bassist George, drummer Alfie, and Poppy alternating sax and percussion. There’s a massive air-punching chantalong to the rabble-rousing ‘Fit For Work’, an acerbic critique of the uncaring attitudes of government departments and their contracted-out henchmen. Recent single ‘Binge’ is insanely catchy, and the set concludes with the magnificent ‘Zeitgeist’. “A storm is coming,” goes the doomsaying lyric, and with another athletic leap of the barrier, Zac is taking his message to the people, as far as his mic cable will allow. A superb set, doubtless a contender for my favourite of the festival, and it’s only Thursday afternoon.
UNBARRED BREWERY 4:00pm – 4:30pm (Unofficial Escape ‘Unbarred Brewery x JOY RSVP Party’)
London-based Modern Woman began as the song writing project of Sophie Harris. She was later joined by David Denyer. For their line up at Unbarred Brewery, Modern Woman consisted of Sophie Harris (vocals and guitar), David Denyer (percussion, tape and violin), and fellow band members Juan Brint Guiterrez (bass) and Adam Blackhurst (drums). Although it was the fairly standard four-piece line up, Modern Woman’s sound wasn’t. They had a very experimental feel and varied set. Added to that David Denyer even played percussion on what looked like a colander. There were many wide-ranging influences in their sound from post-punk and 60s folk music to free-jazz and noise. On some songs there were similarities to The Monochrome Set. The diversity of styles worked well within Modern Woman’s set and didn’t leave the audience confused, as some cross genre sets can. Sophie Harris’s singing shone both in quality and variety throughout Modern Woman’s set. There was staccato singing, haunting and ethereal vocals as well as folk country styles. There was even a theatrical side to her vocals. This wasn’t just for effect, but fitted the music and mood perfectly. Modern Woman were one of my Great Escape highlights.
THE MVT STAGE 4:31pm – 5:01pm
The sun came out at the converted Airstream caravan that was the outside MVT stage which played host to Coach Party, four rising stars from the Isle of Wight who are making waves on the indie rock scene. We were treated to an energetic performance of their catchy tunes played on their Fender guitars with more than a touch of humour in their lyrics, many with a cathartic relationship reference. There have been comparisons with Wolf Alice, and it’s easy to see why. This was their first performance of three across the Great Escape festival and this charismatic band delighted the crowd at the beach. As an introduction to their music, I’d highly suggest you check out their 2021 singles ‘FLAG’ and ‘Everyone Hates Me’, the latter of which has racked-up almost 1.5m Spotify plays.
(Martin J Fuller)
UNBARRED BREWERY 5:00pm – 5:30pm (Unofficial Escape ‘Unbarred Brewery x JOY RSVP Party’)
HEIGHTS is a self-produced indie dream-pop artist originally from Manchester and now based in Brighton. HEIGHTS (real name Chelsie) was joined for her live performance by Kieran on drums and Jamie on bass and synth. The two musicians gave space for HEIGHTS’ vocals to shine. HEIGHTS put a lot of emotion into her singing, as her songs were often about very personal issues such as the highs and lows of new love, navigating changing friendships, deteriorating mental health, and losing grip on once-important lifelines. We were treated to an exclusive first play of a new unreleased song. ‘Dreaming Of You’ which was an upbeat song with a catchy tune you can’t help but move to. Other highlights were ‘Metchu’ and ‘Glow’ from the recent EP ‘Glow’. There was a change in style when the two musicians left the stage and HEIGHTS performed solo playing keyboards. This was more of a ballad. The other two returned for two more sumptuous electronic-pop songs to close an impressive set. HEIGHTS was recently named one of Soundcloud’s Artists to Watch; based on her performance at Unbarred Brewery it’s easy to see why.
THE MVT STAGE 5:30pm – 6:00pm
Fauna are a four piece from Manchester consisting of brothers Danny (vocals and guitar) and Adam (guitar), Tom (drums) and Charlie (bass) and they specialise in sunny sounding music, so are quite fitting considering today’s weather. They are purveyors of funky West Coast rock with the occasional side helping of salsa thrown in. There is a brass section on the backing track, but we can forgive them for that. ‘Take Time’ shows that they can rock out pretty efficiently too. The stage faces the sun and by the end of their set the band are looking pretty sunburnt. They have possibly forgotten to apply their factor 50. I’m not entirely sure what accent the singer is trying to sing in, but it certainly isn’t Mancunian. It rather takes me back to ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10CC, which results in points being deducted. However, all in all what they do is very entertaining on a sunny afternoon.
THE BLACK LION 6:00pm – 6:30pm (Unofficial Escape ‘Smithereen Takeover’)
Brighton’s Grit Pop Trio – Snake Eyes start their Great Escape campaign at The Black Lion pub that’s situated near the town with being slap bang in the middle of an excellent line up which includes Feet, SNAYX, Currls and Clt Drp. With a packed venue of hardened music lovers and the odd drinker, Snake Eyes start the show with ‘40 Winks’ and from the get go vocalist Jim Heffy and drummer Thomas Coe Brooker’s punk harmonies hit a heavy punch along with train beats and guitar thrashing. ‘Scuttlebug’s’ baseline was provided by emergency hero and stand-in Sophie Douglas (from Dumfun) as Nicole Gill was unavailable, she did a solid job recreating the backbone of the trio. As the crowd got fuller the mosh-pitter’s became alive and despite being a small venue created a void and exploded inwards without a care in the world, digging both ‘Happy Pills’ and ‘Dig’. ‘Crybaby’ has a great riff throughout and Heffy’s lyrics are upbeat and ironic. ‘Wishbone’ hits you right in the jugular vein that gives the mosh-pitters second wind as they thrash and crash about against Thomas’s awesome power drumming backdrop. Last song ‘Skeletons’ is full of grungy riffs and steady basslines that’s almost Nirvana based – like a Gothic anthem for the counterculture generation. With the last strands of the guitar notes fading away brings along rapturous applause from the new fans they’ve created. Summing up: Fantastic hard hitting set from a relatively new band which we are bound to see climbing the ranks of the UK Rock scene in the future.
TGE BEACH STAGE 6:15pm – 6:45pm
Moreish Idols are a five piece five-piece band founded in Cornwall who recently relocated to London, signing to Speedy Wunderground and releasing an explosive debut EP, ‘Float’. The band comprises the not unusual instrumentation of drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and then one member who plays synth, sax and flute. It’s quite difficult to define their music, so I would plump for prog-indie. The material is relatively complex. There are unexpected tempo changes, and in general the songs don’t always do what you expect them to. During the introduction to one song the electric guitarist plays his guitar with a drumstick before playing a cowbell. Nothing unusual there then. You could spend days trying to define what exactly it is they are doing, but you’d be wiser to just lose yourself within Moreish Idols’ twists and turns. This is a band whose music I’m sure will reward further investigation.
THE HOPE & RUIN DOWNSTAIRS BAR (Unofficial Escape ‘No Friends In The Industry’) 6:30pm – 7:00pm
Recently signed to Brighton based Fat Cat Records, Hanya played a brilliant set to a packed crowd gathered in the bar of The Hope & Ruin in Queens Road. Over the last few years the band’s personnel and equipment has expanded and that now includes a KeyLab Essential 49 MIDI Controller in addition to the Alesis electronic drum pads that go with the drum kit. There’s also the usual Fender Jazz bass and frontperson Heather takes care of vocals and her Fender Mustang guitar. I’ve seen this band countless times and they have received a lot of praise from the team at Brighton And Hove News over the last few years and tonight’s early evening set was as good as ever, and I even think that there were a few new tunes in the set. ‘Houseplants’ sounded fantastic as always and the relatively recent addition of Kit Neary on backing vocals adds an extra depth to the band’s songs. I really hope that the band gets the success they fully deserve.
CHALK 6:30pm – 7:00pm
EmØ is now spelled this way. RØRY is the pseudonym of London-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Roxanne Emery whose second wave came on the back of Tik Tok posts which went nuclear. Super-clean and stylised – you know straight away exactly which bands are responsible for the RØRY catalogue… Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance, and Paramore all feature near the top of the list. In fact, wearing your heart on your sleeve gets taken to a new level with RØRY even having a song entitled ‘My Chemical Romance’! And if that’s your thing, then RØRY is also your thing. RØRY has the looks and the licks (and definitely the voice) and in the right place at the right time (probably early evening on BBC Radio 1, or mid-afternoon at Reading/Leeds) they/she are/is probably the right band/singer. Above said, there is a real individuality in RØRY, which calls to her audiences. Overall a heady mix of pop, emo and punk with hard-hitting lyrics covering abuse, addiction and self-harm – listen to the lyrics and there is a raw and emotional depth.
SHOOSHH 6:32pm – 7:02pm
Having found ourselves in the proximity of the venue with a little time on our hands, my colleague and I decided to pop in and check out the mysterious Polak GBP who takes UK drill and gives his own unique multicultural twist. He covers his face throughout the performances and explains that he is an artist in his own right back home in Poland. He is accompanied by his musical partner who he met at college. His partner takes care of the mixing via a pair of Pioneer decks. Polak GBP’s lyrics are a kaleidoscope of personal reflections, witty self-irony, and a fresh perspective on the world. Drawing from his Slavic roots and embracing his unmistakable Eastern European accent, Polak GBP isn’t afraid to blur the lines between hardcore, street and absurd. Indeed one of his songs was a cover of a Polish rap track called ‘Drugga’. Polak GBP still resides in Poland but hopes to move to England in the future to pursue his musical career and to be with his friends here. This music is not something we’d normally listen to, however I thought that it was a really enjoyable set and actually wished it was longer than the short 15 minutes performance time.
(Martin J Fuller)
VOLKS 7:00pm – 7:30pm
7ebra are a pair of Swedish twins, Inez and Ella Johansson, who are billed as ‘epically minimalist harmonic punk’. Today however they don’t quite live up to the brilliant PR description and seem just a little stranded on a stage they don’t seem able to adequately fill. A shame, as their recorded music is quirky and engaging – they simply don’t come packing much in the way of stage presence. Ella plays keyboards and double-tasks with drum samples played by foot pedals, whilst Inez takes lead vocal and guitar. There is a familiarity and intimacy that can only come from growing up together and playing music. The harmonies are beautiful, the lyrics stark and melodies somewhat simple but beautifully crafted. Overall quite intriguing and something worth a second listen.
THE TEMPEST INN 7:00pm – 7:30pm
For my first ever music performance at The Tempest Inn, which is located on Brighton beach, myself and my colleague took in something a little different for us, in the form of Saloni, who is endeavouring to bridge the gap between her eastern and western world’s. Although born in the UK, Saloni is flying the flag high and proud of that of her parental heritage, which she refers to as “South Asia”, or to be more precise India. Saloni’s native language she informs us is “Belaguru”, but then adds that she can actually sing in “10 different Asian languages”, which was greeted by a sharp intake of breath from the astonished crowd gathered on the first floor of the unusual cave-like building. Saloni is a confident, likeable camera friendly artist, who introduces each composition with a positive explanation behind the work as part of this PA gig (live vocals atop her music via a laptop). Having learned this, it will come as no surprise that her material is a melting pot of Pop, smooth R&B ballads and Bollywood sounds. She sets the tone with opener ‘Legacy’, which is followed by a cover, with her version already gaining half a million streams. Track three, ‘Know About You’, is about a person deciding whether they want to be with that person. It was sung in a mixture of English and Punhabi. Track four, ‘All Mine’, was the decision to stay with the person. ‘People’ was aired for the very first time in public today and was another blend of languages. Saloni has already been flagged up on BBC Asian Network and Rolling Stone and is no stranger to TikTok users. Although not really my bag, it was good to widen my outlook and I’m certain this confident likeable lady will go far.
ONE CHURCH 7.15pm – 7.45pm
We’re in One Church, which is indeed a church, complete with challenging acoustics. There’s a sizeable crowd in for Benefits, and a buzz of anticipation. We’re not disappointed as it quickly becomes apparent that this is a seriously full-on performance. Brothers Hugh and Robbie Major stand at workstations laden with synths, control surfaces and assorted electrical gizmos, and unleash a gut-wrenchingly low synth intro to start the set. Behind a drum kit, Cat Myers unleashes flurries of jolting, angular fills, more to provide dramatic emphasis than a regular beat. Centre stage is vocalist Kingsley Hall, a wiry figure with cropped hair and wild, staring eyes. He’s clad in a black T-shirt, shorts, and Dr Marten boots, and he looks like he means business. He does! It is difficult to convey the level of intensity that his polemical lyrics are delivered with. Imagine Mike Skinner of The Streets channelling the rage and fury of Henry Rollins, and you’re on the way. It’s a poetry recital, delivered like hardcore punk: brutal and uncompromising. He rails against the injustices of society, which provide plenty of material. The rest of the band are giving it their all too, and I’m particularly impressed with Robbie’s operation of a massive board of effects pedals. The stomp boxes are literally stomped on. I’m not familiar with the material, but most of the set comes from the recent album ‘Nails’. I’ll be sure to check that out, and if passionate polemic is your thing, you should too.
HORATIOS 7:15pm – 7:45pm
Slaney Bay are from south-west London, and specialise in quite punchy tuneful rock. It feels odd to see them so obviously playing in daylight. They would much better suit a dark club. The singer Caitlin Whitley plays rhythm guitar on a glittering Danelectro. Lead guitarist William Nicola-Thompson plays a green Danelectro. What is it with these Danelectros?!!! The drummer, who’s name I unfortunately didn’t catch, is clearly a wild extrovert and plays like one. Not quite Keith Moon perhaps, but getting there. The third song in the set they’ve never played live before, and Caitlin switches to an acoustic for it. It’s relatively quiet, but the audience is infuriatingly chatty. No matter. William plays some delicious slide which almost drowns out the chat. New single ‘Move On’ has a cracking lead guitar intro. Caitlin has a voice that is powerful without being strident, and this song showcases it beautifully. Another band worthy of further investigation methinks.
PAGANINI BALLROOM (THE OLD SHIP) 7:15pm – 7:45pm
Whitelands are London band who self-describe as “bedroom dreampop and shoegaze by Black dudes.” The group was formed by Etienne and Jagun in 2017, with Vanessa (who also plays in Big Joanie) joining in 2019 and Michael rounding out the lineup in 2021. These lads (and Vanessa) do the shoegaze thing really well, and aren’t afraid to be defined by the genre. It’s a style that some might say burned bright for a time, but has since faded away, however Whitelands embrace the studious guitar style of their musical forebears and make it their own with a contemporary take on what was, after all, an important era in the evolution of pop culture. We admire their art and wish them well on their voyage.
CHALK 7:30pm – 8:00pm
Cucamaras are a Nottingham 4 piece indie-post-punk outfit consisting of frontman Olly Bowley, co vocalist Josh Hart, Dan McGrath on bass and Joe Newton on drums, who slot neatly into our favourite ‘genre with no name’ pigeon hole. Formed in 2019 and spent lockdown reflecting on their sound and evolving into the solid performance we see today. Spoken lyrics abound in that ‘social-commentary-podcast-set-to-music’ style we now recognise so well from bands like Sports Team, Dry Cleaning and Squid – although maybe Idles and Fontaines DC are closer matches for the Cucamaras sound, with a dollop more in the way of indie-guitar influence. Having taken their hometown by storm, they are now dipping their toes further afield and I reckon we will hear far more from this band as they continue to evolve and gain in confidence. There is rawness and energy in their set and the co-vocals add a healthy individual touch. There may be little in the way of lights in Chalk tonight, but sunglasses stay firmly in place as the band rock through their catalogue and the crowd lap it up like a cat who got the cream.
EAT YOUR HEART OUT
PRINCE ALBERT 7:30pm – 8:00pm
Hailing from Newcastle, north of Sydney in Australia, Eat Your Heart Out formed in 2012 and have so far released two albums down under and three EPs, ‘Distance Between Us’ (2015), ‘Carried Away’ (2017), ‘Mind Games’ (2018). Their personnel consists of Caitlin Henry (vocals), Andrew Anderson (guitar), Will Moore (guitar), Dom Cant (bass), and Jake Cronin (drums). Their latest album release is ‘Can’t Stay Forever’ which came out in 2022 on Fearless Records. I must say that I was rather looking forward to hearing this band, but on reflection I was a little underwhelmed by their Emo/rock sound. This 5 piece band sounded a little generic and not very original, think Paramore with a dash of Silverchair and you won’t be too far away from their sound. I did like singer Caitlin Henry’s voice, but I wasn’t not overly impressed with the songs.
GEN AND THE DEGENERATES
REVENGE 7:30pm – 8:00pm
Already well-established rock icons in the Brighton music scene, Gen And The Degenerates left their signature mark on TGE this year after an incredible performance in one of Brighton’s most beloved venues. Celebrating all things queer, loud and outrageous, Revenge was the perfect place to host fellow degenerates from far and wide, reciting Gen’s iconic lyrics and revelling in infectious, rebellious riffs. The band packed their thirty minute set to the brim with fan favourites, not least of all their No. 1 Spotify track, ‘Girl God Gun’ which explores the spectrum of gender and non-binary identities. With beautifully articulate lyrics, immensely sultry bass and Gen’s punchy vocal delivery, it’s no wonder fans gather to hear this one live. With astounding stage presence and a strong message to be heard, Gen And The Degenerates are certainly not ones to mess with, and most definitely ones not to miss.
THE OLD MARKET 7:30pm – 8:00pm
For an early evening show at The Old Market in Hove, the crowds were already queuing early on in order to see a glimpse of Hampshire born London based Marika Hackman. To date, she has released three original full-length albums ‘We Slept at Last’ in 2015, ’I’m Not Your Man’ (2017), and in 2019 ‘Any Human Friend’ followed. As well as these there have been no less than a handful of EP’s including ‘Sugar Blind’, ‘Deaf Heat’ and ‘Wonderland’. Her last release (2020) is ‘Covers’, a ten-track reimagining of some of her favourite songs, including cuts by Radiohead, Beyoncé, Grimes, Elliott Smith, and more. This evening was her first live performance since the tour before the pandemic hit in 2020. Tonight she played a solo acoustic set without her usual upbeat backing band, singing about break ups and post relationships. With a few guitar tuning glitches her usual alt rock tunes played out to melancholic perfection with an intimate style. Her strong lyrics are evident and as fresh as usual!
THE HEAVY HEAVY
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 7:30pm – 8:00pm
The Heavy Heavy are a 5-piece retro inspired rock band from Brighton that are led by Will Turner (guitar and vocals) and Georgie Fuller (vocals, tambourine and keyboard). They also include a drummer, bassist and keyboard player, who also played guitar, in their line-up. The band began life with a shared ambition of “making records that sound like our favourite records ever”. This would explain the nostalgic feel of their set. There was a mix of country, rock, psychedelia and blues influences, including Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, in their songs. The power of Georgie Fuller’s voice was a strong feature throughout The Heavy Heavy’s set. She also shared vocals with Will Turner, which harmonised well. Their set had a jamming session feel about it and many songs included long instrumental sections. As their set progressed Georgie switched tambourine for the keyboard and Will Turner took more of the lead vocal. While not necessarily to my taste, I have to admit that many of those in the Amazon New Music tent seemed to enjoy The Heavy Heavy’s performance.
THE TEMPEST INN 8:00pm – 8:30pm
I last saw Catbear perform live in February and instantly knew that I had to have another dose of their feel-good factor synth-heavy, indie alt pop, courtesy of the very likeable best friends duo of Zoe Konez (lead guitar and vocals) and Sarah Smith (drums and vocals). Last time around they were joined by Marina on three sets of Novation keyboards, but tonight they are back to their normal setup, except that for the very first time Sarah stands by Zoe’s side whilst she plays her electronic drums and Roland drum pads, whilst Zoe tassels with the laptop and Fender Mustang guitar. It’s possible that due to the compactness of the stage area, which backed onto the window facing the sea, that there simply was no room for a third person with a trio of synths, but I honestly feel that it would have been better for them to have been present today. It would have saved the slight delay, courtesy of the laptop. Catbear came about on the account of the duo penning songs out of the conversations they had with best friends and thus turned their deep life-chats into vibrant, upbeat songs. Thus we were served ‘I Choose Love’ (with New Order sounding backbeat), followed by the slightly heavier ‘Only Desire’, the banging beat of ‘Love And War’. Then came ‘Who Are You’ and ‘In The Night’ (about insomnia). Track 6 was the uplifting ‘Beast Of The Night’ which is about getting in your 30s and not wanting to go out at night. They signed off with their brand new synth pop single ‘I’ll Meet You At The End’. Again it was an enjoyable set for all concerned.
BLACK LION 8:00pm – 8:40pm (Unofficial Escape ‘Smithereen Takeover’)
On my way to Ship Street I pass the Black Lion, where the unofficial Smithereen Music takeover continues. One of my favourite bands, local heroes Snayx, are just starting up. I’ve passed the event horizon, and I’m inextricably drawn in. It’s not just packed inside, it’s proper dripping ceiling heaving. Charlie on vocals, Ollie on bass, and Lainey on drums, generate a sublimely awesome high-energy post-punk roar. All the favourites are in there, singles ‘I’m Deranged’ and ‘Cigarette’, and the lilting ‘Body Language’, although newer number ‘Boys In Blue’ gets a particularly impressive bounce going amongst the surging throng. It’s being released as a double A-side single with ‘H.A.N.G.’, which also gets an airing. The set concludes as usual with ‘Fayx’, which inspires a momentous bounce, and the crowd density is sufficient for Ollie to triumphantly crowd surf a lap of the venue. Superb, as ever.
THE LAST DINNER PARTY
CHALK 8:30pm – 9:00pm
This is the first time that I have seen this band since they changed their name from The Dinner Party. Thankfully nothing else has changed, which I’m pleased about as I have enjoyed them a great deal when I’ve seen them before. They are completely unfazed by playing to an utterly rammed Chalk. Mind you, they have previously opened for The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, which must have been absolutely terrifying. Third song ‘Beautiful Boy’ features guitarist Emily playing flute, and vocalist Abigail forcefully yet politely telling the audience to be quiet. Comparisons have been made in terms of the material and in terms of vocalist Abigail in particular, to Kate Bush. I believe that these comparisons are completely valid. The quality of the material, the performance, and the variety of the material warrant it. The Last Dinner Party can do whatever they want musically, and more than have the skills to achieve any artistic targets that they set themselves. They seem to have been on the road forever, and they deserve success.
SHE’S IN PARTIES
THE HOPE AND RUIN 8:45pm – 9:15pm
She’s In Parties were one of my favourite finds of last year’s Alternative Escape. I was pleased to see them move up to the main event this year. Essex based She’s In Parties are Katie Dillon (singer), Charlie Johnson (bassist), Matt Carman (drummer) and Herbie Wiseman (lead guitar). One year on, their live sound has subtly evolved. While still combining shoegaze and dream pop with hints of The Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, they had a harder edge to their music. Charlie Johnson and Herbie Wiseman have improved their haunting guitars, while Matt Carman’s drums seemed to be more prominent in the band’s sound. Katie Dillon’s strong, beautiful ethereal voice was a key feature of the She’s In Parties set and perfectly balanced with the band’s music. She also gave a confident performance as the band’s front person. She’s In Parties played several unreleased new songs, which were very strong and fitted seamlessly into their set alongside their singles ‘I Follow You’ and ‘Cherish’. Definitely a band to watch as She’s In Parties continue to get better each time I see them.
BRIGHTHELM 9:15pm – 9:45pm
After failing to get into see The Last Dinner Party at Chalk and then failing to get into She’s In Parties at The Hope And Ruin, I went to Brighthelm Centre to see American singer Lael Neale, and what a revelation she turned out to be. I noticed she is signed to Sub Pop records which is a great label, so I guessed she must be good and she didn’t disappoint. She played keyboards and her fellow band mate Guy Blakesley played guitar. They made a great sound with a real hypnotic quality to the songs and she reminded me of Julia Holter mixed with a bit of Laura Viers. This is country style electronica laced with lovely vocals. Lael’s new album is called ‘Acquainted With The Night’ and I have been listening to it since this performance. I can assure you that it’s a great listen!
THE BEACH STAGE 9:15pm – 9:45pm
Electrifying two-piece O. – consisting solely of Joe on baritone sax and Tash on drums – took the TGE Beach Stage by storm on Thursday night, drawing in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd under the tent. With performances unlike anything being done in the scene right now, O. are certainly making a name for themselves. After their second ever gig supporting Black Midi in Brixton, O. have released their first single ‘OGO’ which audience members were lucky enough to hear live at The Great Escape. Any fans of funky, experimental instrumental beats and all-round good noises, you will find a great joy getting lost in the all-encompassing soundscape of O. Taking a brief pause from incredibly proficient sax-playing and an impressive demonstration of how to maximise your pedalboard, Joe took a moment to announce the very exciting release of new music in the coming months and to celebrate just how far he and Tash had come since initiating the project during lockdown. There is certainly a lot to look forward to from this power duo, and they’re only just getting started.
PAGANINI BALLROOM (THE OLD SHIP) 9:15pm – 9:45pm
When we last saw VLURE it was just up the road from tonight’s BBC 6Music / BBC Introducing sponsored show. Back then in the depths of winter they were in the gloomy low-ceilinged basement of the Komedia, but tonight we see them in the vaulted and the somewhat grand setting of the Paganini Ballroom. What the shows have in common is that they were both packed out, and each time we walked away breathless from the VLURE experience. Ironically, when we asked the band after the Komedia show whether we’d have the chance of seeing them at any UK festivals this year they said no – just a handful in Europe. But since then of course they haven’t just secured this high-profile show at The Great Escape, they have also been named as one of the three ‘emerging talent’ bands who will get a crack at Glastonbury this year, and they reliably inform us they already have four gigs lined up for their inaugural Glastonbury appearance. What can you expect from a VLURE show? Well strap in and prepare to be blown away if you have any love for industrial electro-guitar rock that echoes from the high-rise highlands of Edinburgh and is redolent of young lives lived hard in a society where you have to fight hard to hold your head up high. Whether on the stage or in the crowd, the band get their hooks under your skin from the very first bars, and once snared you’ll be a convert… trust us, we speak from personal experience. Hats off to The Great Escape for bringing us two of what we believe are three of the best emerging bands in the UK right now, both on the same day.
REVENGE 9:30pm – 10:00pm
Singer Gigi Moss may be the daughter of one of Culture Club – her dad being their drummer Jon Moss, who also played with other bands, including London, the Nips, the Damned and Adam and the Ants – but Gigi’s music is worlds away from the synth-pop her family are most known for. Gigi had released a successful debut EP titled, ‘Too Hard To Love’ and that has impressively amassed close to a cool million streams. Her short-but-sweet set at Club Revenge, which is located in Old Steine, featured soulful takes on pop more closely inspired by Moss’ heroes of Adele and Amy Winehouse. Her approach to songwriting seemed very confessional, with softly spun stories of heartbreak set against spare instrumental backing and cinematic heavy drum hits. However, some neo-soul touches in her chord sequences and her melodies, free-flowing in their little vocal riffs, kept things interesting.
THE BIG MOON
CHALK 9:30pm – 10:00pm
The Big Moon are obviously the big draw at Chalk tonight, as virtually nobody leaves after The Last Dinner Party. To be honest I’m a little surprised that they’re playing at this festival, as they are a well established band three albums into their career. However, they did take a break whilst lead vocalist Juliette Jackson became a mother. It does feel like they’ve hardly been away though, as they went straight on tour when their current album ‘Here Is Everything’ was released. Unfortunately today’s set is only half an hour long, but it does contain three songs from the new album, which sound very good indeed. Juliette dedicates a song to her bandmate’s son, who is just about to turn two. The Big Moon’s punchy tuneful indie is almost beyond criticism. It really is great stuff. They have dates booked through to the end of July, including London Roundhouse on 31st May, and Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion on 24th June. Still tickets available folks!
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 10:15pm – 10:45pm
Blondshell is the alias of LA-based singer/songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum. Tonight she’s treating us to tracks that are mostly from her new, debut self-titled album, which NME have declared as one of the albums of the year so far, and “one to treasure tightly for quite some time”. Tonight’s crowd is made up of those who came specifically for her set, as heard in the pre-show discussions and evident from those singing along to some of the songs. We’re drawn into the emotive lyrics – she’s clearly feeling every word, she occasionally touches the ceiling and at one point lies down on the stage floor – but overall there’s an understated cool to her performance. Her voice is occasionally reminiscent of Kristen Hersh from Throwing Muses, and, like that band, brings us alternative rock brilliance. Absolutely wonderful.
LATEST MUSIC BAR 10.15pm – 10.45pm
It’s pretty warm downstairs in a packed Latest Music Bar for Civic, a four-piece punky rock band from Melbourne. Frontman Jim, who has a striking stare with ice-blue eyes, is clearly used to even warmer temperates down under, and starts the set wearing a tweedy overcoat. Appropriately, the opening number is called ‘Born In The Heat’. Lewis on guitar, Roland on bass, and Matt on drums, provide a high-energy backing. If you need to imagine it, try Chubby and the Gang covering ‘I’m So Bored With The USA’. I love it straight away. Howls of feedback between numbers add to the ambience, though the players don’t seem too impressed. ‘End Of The Line’ is vaguely reminiscent of the UK Subs, cementing the impression of classic old school punk. There’s some particularly tasty guitar work. Jim tells us he likes Brighton’s “flint” beaches, though I suspect there might be a bit of Aussie irony in that. ‘New Vietnam’ is a great riff-led piece. There’s a change of pace for ‘Trick Of The Light’, which has an Iggy Pop vibe, with a snarled vocal and effective use of effects with a big swirl of phased guitar. The screaming solo, emphasised with an expression pedal, is magnificent. The set just keeps getting better. I love the high velocity chord changes on ‘Time Girl’. This excellent set concludes with the stomping beat of ‘Blood Rushes’, and I’ll definitely be adding Civic to my list of new favourite bands.
TGE BEACH STAGE 10:15pm – 10:45pm
Goth inspired post-punk drew the festival crowds to this late set at the TGE Beach Stage tent, which is one of two such structures specifically erected on the beach stones as part of The Great Escape. Festival goers were here to be totally absorbed into the world of Heartworms lead singer Jojo Orme. Prior to the festival there has been quite a buzz about this act and I’m sure that the project is now being flagged by many more after the intense, screaming vocals with explosive 80’s goth inspired guitar riffs that were on offer tonight. Heartworms have been signed to the in-the-know Speedy Wunderground record label. Jojo has come from a self-taught background in guitar playing. ‘A Comforting Notion’ EP is her recent release and this features ‘Consistent Dedication’, ‘Retributions Of An Awful Life’, ‘A Comforting Notion’ and ‘24 Hours’. The Heartworms set tonight was dabbling in reverb and transistor effects and also playing Sisters of Mercy cover ‘Domination’ / ‘Mother Russia’ to nicely round off the set!
THE JOY HOTEL
BRIGHTHELM 10:15pm – 10:45pm
My last gig of the Thursday night was to head on over to the Brighthelm centre in order to witness Glasgow 7-piece band The Joy Hotel showing the punters exactly what they can do. Suffice to say they were another brilliant act. The Joy Hotel consists of Emme, Luke, Juan, Jenny, Scott, Jack and another Jack, and to be honest their sound was a bit hard to pigeonhole, alt rock with a country element is how I think I can best describe their sound. They are a versatile lot as the band members swapped instruments throughout the set. Singer Morgan Woods had a raspy voice that fitted the songs well and the tracks kind of blended into one another without any gaps, making it almost like one long song, but I loved the sound they made and will definitely see them live next time they play in Brighton.
THE GOA EXPRESS
PAGANINI BALLROOM (THE OLD SHIP) 10:15pm – 10:45pm
Burnley’s THE GOA EXPRESS are James Douglas Clarke (guitar and vocals), Joe Clarke (keyboards), Joey Stein (lead guitar), Naham Muzaffar (bass) and Sam Launder (drums). With Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq welcoming THE GOA EXPRESS on stage with a few words of praise, James Douglas Clarke simply said “We don’t need to introduce ourselves”. So, the band went straight into their song with their fast indie guitar music. There was little let-up in the intensity or tempo of the set, as THE GOA EXPRESS often went nonstop from one song to the next. Naham Muzaffar on bass more than matched the speed of Joey Stein and James Douglas Clarke on their guitars. Scattered among the very fast songs, there were few slower sections, such as when James Douglas Clarke started one song as solo with just his guitar, before the rest of the band joined the track and normal service resumed. There was a nostalgic feel and familiarity about THE GOA EXPRESS going back to earlier indie guitar bands of the late 1980’s and 1990’s, yet their sharp sound was fresh and modern. THE GOA EXPRESS announced a new album that will hopefully be released later this year. From the reaction of the audience at Paganini Ballroom, I expect many will be looking forward to its release.
REVENGE 10:30pm – 11:00pm
Headlining Club Revenge on the second day of The Great Escape was London-born neo-soul star JGrrey. The last time I came across her in Brighton was an intimate show at the Green Door Store, but it was clear she’s truly mastered her live persona since then. Like the giant felted earrings she rocked onstage, Lambeth born JGrrey brought a lot of softness to the stage, but that didn’t stop her from making a statement. Though the breathiness in her voice did lend itself well to quieter ballads, she wasn’t afraid to stun the crowd with her belting abilities, as the videos floating around on socials from her set can attest to! With JGrrey’s deliberate choice to not use specific pronouns in many of her love songs meant that anyone in the crowd could channel her lyrics of optimism and promise.
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 10:30pm – 11:00pm
To round off the day at the Amazon New Music Stage was Sorry, whose ranks bolster Asha Lorenz, Louis O’Bryen, Campbell Baum, Marco Pini and Lincoln Barrett. They have been making music together since their teens, and have released a couple of acclaimed albums as well as a batch of singles. Sorry’s latest release was last years ‘Anywhere But Here’ album. The outfit in the early stage had kickstarted their career at the infamous Brixton Windmill. Tonight they played a less traditional indie style of songs set which drew from a wide range of influences. They also added samples and cutups as sound effects within their songs. There was an eerie absence of audience interaction with lead singer Asha Lorenz hiding under her large Soviet fur hat and all felt a bit subdued. Sadly the set was cut short and the pug pulled due to the strict curfew down the beach.
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 11:15pm – 11:45pm
Enumclaw arrived onto the Komedia stage with tons of confidence and charisma and were clearly determined to put every ounce of their energy into this Great Escape show. The band hail from Tacoma, Washington in the US. You can hear influence from 90s lo-fi and grunge bands in their sound (I suspect that being near Seattle may account for this), but tonight they showed that they certainly don’t need to rely on the legacy of that scene to generate interest in the band. There were a few sound issues, but they were so energetic and un-phased, they managed to overcome this, and they raced through their brilliant 10-song set, which included cuts from last October’s ‘Save The Baby’ album, such as the title track plus ‘Cowboy Bepop’, ‘Blue Iris’, and ‘Jimmy Neutron’. Their half hour set was pure exhilarating fun!
LATEST MUSIC BAR 11:15pm – 11:45pm
For my final concert of the day, I headed off to the Latest Music Bar to take in the delights of Ghost Woman, which is the brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Evan Uschenko, who is joined for live work by his partner Ille van Dessel (of duo Poolface) on drums. There’s a queue outside and once in the venue is rammed full and the music is loud. It’s the perfect way to send you off into the night with your ears ringing. The ‘Anne, If’ album dropped back in January and would certainly be of interest to fans of Moon Duo, Hawkwind and the like. The first thing I noticed this evening is Evan’s wicked Guyon metal guitar, it’s a beast to look at and can’t be tamed when played. The pseudo-psych rock numbers flow one into another with no introductions and Ille shows off her skills at one point by playing the drums left-handed whilst waving shakers in her right. I’m standing right by her and she plays drums like a metronomic robot. Evan’s vocal delivery is slow as a juxtaposition with the hard n fast beat and it works rather well. Half way through the set Evan asked for the lights to be turned off and so they and we are only lit by the light from the rear stage screen saying ‘Latest Music Bar’, atmospheric moody stuff indeed.
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 12:15am – 12:45am (Friday morning)
Sadly due to venue capacity having been reached by the time of my arrival, I was only able to catch a few songs of the ‘Deadletter’ set, which were enough to demonstrate to me that I’d missed out by not arriving earlier! This Yorkshire native six-piece are now based in London and showcased their expansive and infectious funky post-punk sound. I could hear trace elements of The Fall, The1975 and The Cure in their music although they have their own harder identity. Powerful guitar riffs, energetic drums and the inclusion of a saxophonist in their line up makes for an interesting addition and gave the songs an extra dimension as did the gritty social commentary within the lyrics spewed forth by bare-chested singer Zac Lawrence. Despite appearing chaotic, this is a band who very much perform as a coordinated unit, feeding off the energy of the crowd and vice-versa. For a good introduction to their music, check out their 2022 EP release ‘Heat!’ which includes the catchy single release ‘Binge’, the audience doing the honours tonight on hollering back as they danced along.
(Martin J Fuller)
The Great Escape will be returning to Brighton on Thursday 16th to Saturday 18th May 2024. Purchase your tickets HERE.
Nick Linazasoro, Martin J Fuller, Richie Nice, John Bownas, Sara-Louise Bowrey, Cris Watkins, Mark Kelly, Peter Greenfield, Richard Warran, Phil Newton, Stephen Willcox, Emma Austin, Teddy Webb, David McLean, David McMaster, Cherie Elody, Christian Le Surf, Michael Hundertmark, Moe Noble, Mike Burnell
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