The Brighton & Hove News extended music team were so up for this year’s Great Escape new music festival, that on occasions, more than one of us wanted to write certain set reviews. So rather than these falling by the wayside, we thought it would be a great idea for you all to enjoy these 20 unpublished reviews along with unseen photos. Enjoy…
THURSDAY 11th MAY 2023
KOMEDIA BASEMENT 12.15pm – 12.40pm
Unreconstructed pub-rock with an almost Electric Six edge beneath the rough-as-gold-prospector’s-scrotum exterior, C.O.F.F.I.N. are a band who need way too many keystrokes to type their name too often on a phone… Opening the Australian invasion of TGE23 they play to a near-capacity crowd downstairs at Komedia and if you like your riffs heavy, your drums loud and your rock fully rolled this could be your sort of band.
QUEENS HOTEL 1.30pm – 2.00pm
A very hot and sweaty Queens Hotel played host to an afternoon set from Belfast 4-piece indie rockers The Florentinas. They played hook laden indie bangers a plenty and the crowd loved this Northern Irish band. ‘Sandcastles’, ’It’s Not In Vain’ and ‘Weatherman’, all benefited from great catchy guitar riffs and soaring vocals. But to be honest, I don’t think the sound was great and I would have liked to hear them in a bigger venue with better acoustics. They reminded me of The Sherlocks, a band I saw a few years back at The Great Escape, who have gone on to bigger and better things since. There is always a market for boys with guitars and killer anthemic tunes.
QUEENS HOTEL 2:30pm – 3:00pm
Amy Montgomery from Belfast has one helluva voice, and specialises in crunching heavy rock. She is a born performer, and was schooled in the best of classic rock from an early age. She fronts a three piece band here in the basement of the Queens Hotel for eager Great Escape delegates. At least they are a three piece until she picks up a guitar as well! Amy’s material is pretty awesome, with particular standouts being ‘Away Or Free’ and ‘Meet You In The Sun’. She has yet to release an album, but has released a number of singles and EPs. Hopefully she will release an album before too long. I’m sure it will be well worth the wait.
TGE BEACH STAGE 3:30pm – 3:55pm
HotWax are a three piece from Hastings. Bassist Lola Sam has a Rickenbacker 4000 series bass which immediately makes me jealous! They are purveyors of riff-driven rock with more than a hint of glam rock. Lola Sam makes the stage announcements whilst guitarist Tallulah Sim-Savage sings lead. There is plenty of variety in their material, with one song being in 6/8. Meanwhile, ‘I Am Not Your Barbie’ has more of a late 1970s new wave feel. They are a great live band who exude a nonchalant and well-deserved confidence. I am astonished to discover however, that they are all only eighteen years old!!! This band is definitely beyond just promising, and are definitely ones to watch!
THE MVT STAGE 3:31pm – 4:01pm
It’s definitely the season of bands with shouty capital-letter names, and DEADLETTER are following the trend – but at the same time are ploughing their own furious furrow and garnering critical acclaim with each new song they release and show they play. Politics and social commentary intertwine in a post-punk musical melting pot boiled up by these Yorkshire friends who have shifted base to London and begun an assault on the music industry that could well see them riding high in the public consciousness if they can focus their talents and continue to come up with material of the quality they have shown in their first few recordings. There’s no doubt that we’ll be ticking their names on a festival programme or two over the next few seasons as we plan our trips around the fields.
THE MVT STAGE 4:31pm – 5:01pm
Coach Party hail from the Isle Of Wight of all places and consists of Jess Eastwood (vocals/bass), Steph Norris (guitar), Joe Perry (guitar) and Guy Page (drums) and they have previously released two 10” EP’s, 2020’s ‘Party Food’ and 2021’s ‘After Party’, which apparently contain a combined dozen belters. This afternoon at The MVT Stage, which essentially is a specially adapted cool-looking silver airstream caravan, Coach Party’s tools of the trade were a Fender Mustang guitar, a Fender Musicmaster bass, another Fender guitar and drums. The first number was delivered and the lead and backing vocals weren’t audible, which was a shame. We wanted to love Coach Party a lot more than we ended up doing, but that might simply have been because they played alongside HotWax on the adjoining Beach Stage, and as such had a whole lot to live up to by comparison. That said, they undoubtedly deserved their slot on the MVT Stage, and we are determined to give them another try after maybe listening properly to some of their studio recordings like those mentioned above, in order to get us in the zone.
PAGANINI BALLROOM (THE OLD SHIP) 9.15pm – 9.45pm
We’re in the Paganini Ballroom, a large space hosting a bill that’s happening enough for a BBC outside broadcast crew to be in attendance. Glasgow’s Vlure are on next, my editor’s tip for the top. He’s here, but as I’m seeing them for the first time, I’m handed the reviewing duties. I can immediately see what the fuss is about. There’s a long scudding introduction to opening number ‘Heartbeat’ and I get the idea pretty quickly: a winning combination of hard-played guitars and drums, melded with electronic dance beats and synth embellishments. Colleague John Bownas came up with the best summary: imagine Nitzer Ebb fronted by a rabble-rousing Scot in William Wallace mode. They look super-cool too, in stylish black and white outfits. Frontman Hamish and guitarist Conor have short bleached hair. Hamish fixes the audience with an uncompromising stare, while Conor fires off deft scissor-kicks between energetic bounces. I’m mesmerised. Niall on bass, Alex on synths, and Carlo on drums put out some powerful backing. A new single, ‘This Fantasy’, gets an airing, and the frontman’s shirt is off for the big and boisterous synth-led ‘Cut It’. Hamish is working the willing crowd, and almost everyone in the room has their hands in the air for ‘Heaven Sent’. There’s vigorous dancing for ‘Shattered Faith’, and Hamish instigates a get-down-and-jump-back-up move, the first I’ve come across at this year’s festival. “I’m nobody’s son,” is the passionately howled vocal hook. This seriously impressive set concludes, appropriately enough, with ‘This Is Not The End’, and I’m converted.
THE BIG MOON
CHALK 9:30pm – 10:00pm
Anticipation was high at one of Brighton’s larger, not too long ago, revamped Chalk venue (it was previously The Haunt) for the ever so popular indie rock band The Big Moon quartet. The band was formed originally by lead vocalist and guitarist Juliette Jackson back in 2014 and it also features Soph Nathan (guitar, vocals), Celia Archer (bass) and Fern Ford (drums). The girls have previously toured with the likes of ‘The Vaccines’ and ‘the Pixies’. They also toured the UK after the release of their debut album ‘Love In The 4th Dimension’. Tonight’s show felt just as vibrant and raw as usual, and included fan favourite ‘Bonfire’ as part of their short but sweet engaging set. The crowd were certainly bouncing along nicely to the jangly indie pop.
LATEST MUSIC BAR 10:15pm – 10:45pm
Civic (stylized as ‘CIVIC’) are a five piece from Melbourne, Australia consisting of Jim McCullough (vocals), Lewis Hodgson (guitar), Roland Hlavka (bass), Jackson Harry (guitar). Matt Blach (drums). They are fast and punky, and if you need cobwebs blowing away, this is the band to do that for you! They remind me of the original Dead Kennedys. Additionally Henry Rollins (ex-Black Flag vocalist) is a fan. They have two albums out, 2021’s debut ‘Future Forecast’ and the most recent being ‘Taken By Force’ which came out in February this year. They play the Shacklewell Arms in London on 23rd May, together with the Wide Awake Festival in London’s Brockwell Park on 27th May. Should be a riot!
THE GOA EXPRESS
PAGANINI BALLROOM (THE OLD SHIP) 10:15pm – 10:45pm
Teenagehood, brotherhood and a love for an array of alternative music has united Burnley’s THE GOA EXPRESS, who are James Douglas Clarke (guitar/vocals), Joe Clarke (keys), Joey Stein (lead guitar), Naham Muzaffar (bass) and Sam Launder (drums). They are a feel-good band of the type that probably win more live fans than sell records, but overall they all contribute to a fuzzy wall of diverse sound, becoming harder to pin down with their constantly evolving, psych-umbrella’d, rock and roll. They have that summery vibe that any festival booker loves, because whether or not you’ve ever heard them before, it won’t take you long to click into their world if you find yourself sitting on the grass in front of a big stage as they come on to play. With tunes that have a catchy quality and the ability to make you feel they are old friends even on the first listen. We’re sure that they will find a home on the live circuit for as long as they stay together.
FRIDAY 12th MAY 2023
THE MVT STAGE 4:30pm – 5:00pm
Indie band number two today, Modern Love are from Drogheda in Ireland. They are a 4 piece band that sounded OK, but didn’t offer anything I haven’t heard a million times before. ‘Follow You’, a single released last year, was quite anthemic and would be a good fit for backing music on ‘Soccer AM’ and singer Barry Egan had a good voice but disappointingly the band left me very underwhelmed.
SHIPWRIGHTS YARD 4:35pm – 4:55pm (Alternative Escape ‘Republic Of Music presents The Shipwrights Yard Session’)
I personally get rather excited about the prospects of who is going to be appearing at ‘The Shipwrights Yard Session’ during The Great Escape each year. I have previously had the pleasure of standing inches away from Sleeper and BABii whilst they perform their sets in what could be best described as a house’s double garage parking space! One of the picks from this year’s session is the newly expanded SNAYX trio which officially now includes Lainey on drums, as well as the Seaford/Brighton combo of Charlie and Ollie. I was standing literally a few inches away from the band as they stood there in the garage space ready for their set, then it was as though someone had turned the electricity on that ran through the band’s bodies as they within a microsecond sprang into action and they were off with their trademark hell for leather show. The mixed aged punters were lapping up the band’s engaging in-yer-face performance for which SNAYX are becoming famous for. They are a MUST on any festival billing these days! It was scary stuff being at the very front, just inches away from the head of Ollie’s bass as he waved it extremely close to my face. I was almost expecting a split forehead any second, but thankfully Ollie had worked out his equipment dimensions and trajectory, unlike vocalist Charlie, who at one stage chanted right into my face and poked me in the chest with his finger during new single ‘Boys In Blue’. Thrilling stuff! No wonder we have been flagging the band up for quite some time now! Bigger audiences beckon in the near future!
THE MVT STAGE 5:25pm – 5:55pm
London 4 piece Modern Women started life as a songwriting project led by Sophie Harris. She first performed at spoken word nights, before getting a band together and turning to music. Elements of jazz and folk flowed through their songs. They were a little too disjointed for my taste, but at least they were trying something new and how often do you see an old kitchen colander used as a percussion instrument and in parts they did sound a little like early PJ Harvey which is no bad thing.
CHALK 8:30pm – 9:00pm
The Brighton & Hove News Music Team have been on board with ‘The Brinis’ from day one. In fact we were there before then, having reviewed Phoebe and Lilly in their previous Brighton based bands. I have witnessed this outfit a number of times and as time goes on, the boundaries of what you should and shouldn’t do at a gig get pushed just a little further. I was intrigued to see what was going to occur tonight at Chalk post the departure of drummer Catt. In fact I wasn’t even sure who their drummer was going to be! The trio take to the stage earlier than planned as they are obviously keen to get on with it, but have to go backstage again until their allotted 8:30pm slot. I noted Lainey (new SNAYX drummer) adjusting the drum kit, so that’s who they have got for tonight. The time comes and the caged animals burst out of their respective cages and the packed Chalk crowd are in for something very special indeed. Lainey has learned all the tunes and is giving the kit a good seeing too. The previously shy and retiring Lilly is now clearly following Phoebe’s lead and both girls are more or less in their underwear. Phoebe might as well not even have been on the stage as she spent a decent chunk of the time down with her faithful followers. God knows how she managed it, but at some stage during proceedings she had managed (guitar and all) to get herself hoisted up by fans onto their raised hands so that she could almost swing from the gantry above. I had visions of it collapsing onto folk below, but all was well. Their music tonight was better than ever and at the conclusion of the 30 minute set, I turned to my colleagues and uttered that ‘The Brini’s’ have just gone up ten fold! This had been one of the most outstanding performances of the whole festival!
THE MURDER CAPITAL
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 10:15pm – 11:00pm
As one of the most thrilling, chilling and beautiful performances at TGE this year, The Murder Capital most certainly live up to their name. A post-punk five piece originating from Ireland, The Murder Capital have been steadily soaring through stardom since their first release in 2018, earning them over 135,000 monthly Spotify listeners as of May 2023. Against an ominous background of moody yellow lights, the silhouettes of the 5 boys were just about visible as they thrashed through the stage. Emerging from the shadows, frontman James hoisted himself against the barrier to reach forth into the crowd, into clasping hands from devoted audience members chanting lyrics alongside him. The room watched James and his bandmates in awe throughout the entirety of the performance, but the connection James had with those reaching out in front of him was undeniable, with fans hanging on his every word, it was certainly a weekend highlight and a special moment for all.
SATURDAY 13th MAY 2023
TEEN JESUS AND THE JEAN TEASERS
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 12:20pm – 12:50pm
I felt I had to see this band from Canberra in Australia just because of their name. There are not many great names in music these days, but surely this is one of them. Citing riot grrrl bands, Dream Wife and Cherry Glazer amongst others as influences, their fast paced indie punk tunes got the crowd rocking. I loved their energy and enthusiasm and their set was over way too quickly. I even bought a T-shirt from the band as I loved the band name so much. Hopefully they will be back in the UK soon.
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 1:10pm – 1:40pm
Vacations are a 4 piece indie rock band from Newcastle, New South Wales. The announcer at the Sounds Australia Presents events said the band asked to be introduced as ‘Australia’s worst boy band’. Vacations are led by frontman Campbell Burns, and also include Jake Johnson (bass), Nate Delizzotti (lead guitar), and Joseph Van Lier (drums). Vacations’ indie pop sound (described by the band as ‘woozy guitar pop’) was similar to Two Door Cinema Club and Blossoms. Their songs were rather long, allowing plenty of space for instrument breaks. Mixed in with the upbeat pop numbers were a few mellower songs. There were a few people swaying along to the music in the audience and polite applause after the songs. It was a decent, slick performance by Vacations.
TGE BEACH STAGE 2:10pm – 2:35pm
Hailing from Naarm, just outside Melbourne, Blusher are a 3 piece girl pop band. They had plenty of choreographed dance moves and synth heavy pop tunes to keep the crowd entertained on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Their songs were certainly catchy and even I couldn’t help but enjoy their set. I particularly liked the cover they did of my favourite MGMT song ‘Time To Pretend’. I don’t know if it was a lack of original material as they only formed a couple of years ago so maybe they haven’t written many songs yet, it was the only cover version I heard by any of the 30 or so acts I saw in the 3 days of music, but I really did like them. Their recent single ‘Softly Spoken’ went down well, a 70s sounding disco banger with great dance moves from the band to boot.
AMAZON NEW MUSIC STAGE 2:40pm – 3.10pm
Like every artist on The Great Escape bill, I listen to a minimum of one tune prior to deciding whether to endeavour to see them or not. The Big Wett track I had heard was ‘King Dick’ and that bounced along very nicely, thank you. I knew nothing about the artist, but when Big Wett graced the Amazon New Music Stage, it was an overload of pretty pink via a superhero outfit including high boots and an x-ray style visor, and as the performance went on, the more of it would be discarded. The gauntlet was thrown down by the Aussie, who’s first words on the mic to us were “I’ve come here from Australia and I’m here to shock you c*nts”. Some were shocked and many laughed. This was a PA gig, just a live mic with the music on backing mixtape elsewhere. If you are a shrinking violet, then best not see Big Wett live. However, if the music of the ‘Pride’ festival is your bag, then read on. The opening number ‘Number 1 Pussy’ set the tone for the rest of the set, with every track being about sex, with the most used words being “pussy” and “dick”. This reminded me of the many times I had seen Divine in concert, who also did PA gigs with tunes about sex. And yet, the Big Wett music is contemporary, often sounding like fellow Australians Confidence Man. Imagine digging out your old Belgian New Beat albums and playing them at 45RPM, then you are in similar territory. It was a comical set (for most) and Big Wett also brought along her “silicone friend” on tour named ‘Big Dick Willy’, for some action! In conclusion, uncouth Antipodean Sheila delivers a shocking comedy performance to loosen up National Trust Poms!
CHALK 8:30pm – 9:00pm
I first had the pleasure of seeing Ella Harris, Josh Baxter and Louis Satchell, who are PVA, performing live back on 10th June 2021, when they were headlining a showcase event at The Prince Albert. Prior to their eight song set that night, I noted that “Ella brought on her Korg prologue polyphonic analogue synthesizer along with a Roland TR-85 on stage left (our right), and Josh was setting up the ASM Hydrasynth and Roland box, plus guitar on our left, and Louis was doing the drums with Roland pads in the centre. I was certain that I was going to be in for a treat……I wasn’t wrong!”. I was immediately hooked and travelled to Hastings to see them the following night with my partner Jordan Mooney (RIP), but sadly the venue’s soundsystem was pants and PVA didn’t play as a result, but we spoke to the band and hugs were exchanged. So it’s no surprise that I again find myself at the front of another PVA performance, but this time in the larger Chalk venue, which is rammed, clearly word’s out on this South London electronic indie band. At the start, Josh reminded us that they weren’t here for long and encouraged us to dance with them. WE DID! Their ‘Blush’ album cuts were caned as well as ‘Sleek Form’ from the ‘Toner’ EP. Ella was mainly on fully immersive vocal duty and keys, but the differing vocal delivery of Josh was also to be had. The two contrasting styles work well together. This was a truly uplifting set, but my dancing feet had wished that they had been billed a few hours earlier. They are now on par with Working Mens Club, and so both acts are really terrific!
Read our reviews of The Great Escape by clicking the links below:
Wednesday 10th & Thursday 11th May
The Great Escape is set to return on 16th to 18th May 2024. Tickets can be purchased HERE.
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