Two weekend's ago (18th-20th May) Drowned In Sound's intrepid festival team - that's Nick Roseblade (NR) and Dom Gourlay (DG) - hit the streets of Brighton for the 11th edition of The Great Escape. Here's the great, the good and the occasionally downright awful of what we saw on our three-day adventure around London-by-the-Sea.
T is for...
The Great Escape
This might seem like a non-brainer, but a lot of punters miss the overall point of the festival. It’s about getting off the beaten track and experiencing something new and exciting, rather than checking out the existing/big named headliners. Yes it might have been fun to stand on the end of the pier in the rain and watch Slaves almost get blown into the channel, but it’s more exciting to watch a brand new band like Method Actress in a small, dank basement of a dive bar and be blown away by their broody intensity and power. (NR)
The Big Moon
While their kookie, good-time indie pop won't keep chin stroking musos entertained very long, it provided the perfect Saturday night finale to a long and heavy weekend here. Plus, 'Cupid' is such a TUNE! (DG)
H is for...
This year one of the most consistent venues, next to Patterns, was Horatio’s. Located at the end of the pier the walk there and back put a lot of people off, but once you got there, and stepped inside, you knew it was worth the effort. Superfood, Abattoir Blues, Husky Loops and Childhood put on incendiary shows. Childhood’s brand of Motown Indie was the perfect soundtrack for sitting on outside and catching the sun while contemplating who to see next. (NR)
Haircut One Hundred
You know, the band from the early 1980s that wore Aran sweaters and had massive hits with 'Love Plus One', 'Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)' and 'Fantastic Day'. You don't? Ask your folks. Anyway, their former lead singer Nick Heyward just happened to be playing a mid-afternoon solo show in The Black Lion. Having reinvented himself as a singer/songwriter of some distinction, his half hour long set of mostly brand new compositions was one of the finest we heard all weekend and with a new album due in the autumn, his second coming is imminent. (DG)
E is for...
Eat Fast is a name to remember. Last year Brighton label Cannibal Hymns were relatively unknown, but that had changed after 2016’s festival. This year they put on one of the most talked about and hyped shows. The line-up featured Our Girl, Dream Wife and The Magic Gang, but it was the opening band Eat Fast that stole the show with their high intensity, ear ringing inducing raucous fuzz garage rock. Remember the name, as you’ll be hearing a lot from this lot for the rest of the year! (NR)
End Of An Era
This weekend saw Bleach open its doors for the final time. A long standing and much loved touring staple of the "toilet circuit", its setting on the outskirts of the city centre didn't detract large audiences attracted by the likes of excellent New Zealand surf gazers Kane Strang and American noise outfit Froth among others. Probably the only thing that won't be missed is the one in, one out toilet situation but aside from that, we're sad to witness the closure of yet another independent venue. (DG)
G is for...
Gallops make the kind of mind melting electronic psych that, regardless of the time of day, makes you want to start dancing like a kid on too much pop. They were, and are, one of the most awe-inspiring and delectable moments of the festival. (NR)
Getting To As Many Showcases As Possible
While some delegates might spend all day and night attending as many free bars and parties as possible (no names mentioned), Team DiS managed to attend over 100 shows between us. Which I guess either qualifies us as dedicated or insane. However, with over 400 acts to choose from in nearly 70 locations including The Alternative Escape, getting to see everything was nigh on impossible. (DG)
R is for...
What festival would be complete without a downpour? All through Thursday it spat, drizzled, chucked it down and was generally wet. This, however, did have its plus sides. Due to the near constant deluge you had to pick your moment to dash to the next venue. This meant getting to venues earlier, leaving later and seeing acts that weren’t originally on your list like Stevie Parker, The Goon Sax, and Yung Blud. (NR)
Brighton's current musical export seems to appear at random intervals wherever we happen to be. Not that we're actively stalking him. Far from it in fact, and his cringeworthy appearance on the 6Music Stage in the delegate area actually culminated in a rush for the exits from some members of Team DiS and their associates. (DG)
E is for...
This quartet makes the kind of music that makes you smile. Imagine a slower, heavier, more melodic version of Weezer’s ‘Sweater Song’, but played with a total disregard for the audience and their eardrums. Rumour has it that they are working on a long player, and if its half as good as their set, and that hardcore Beasite Boys cover, it’ll definitely be worth the wait! (NR)
Once upon a time, we'd call it hype, but now its just expectation. Expectation that most of those heavily tipped and backed by major labels will sound like inferior versions of what's gone before. Expectation that disappointment will prevail over genuine satisfaction, where every overplugged artist is concerned and by close of play Thursday it's clear to see which artists' ambition is to soundtrack the next Made In Chelsea cliffhanger and which ones want to make challenging, innovative music. (DG)
A is for...
The Alternative Escape just gets better and better with each year. This year’s Alternative Escape was no exception as it was rammed full of brilliant up and coming bands that, with a bit of luck, will be part of the official programming next year. Just look at FUR. Last year they played the back room of a pub, this year they opened the festival at Jubilee Square on Wednesday night! (NR)
Which takes place every night in the notorious Queens Hotel bar, where the entire London branch of the music industry appears to be camped til the early hours every morning. While we're not ones to tell tales of rock star debauchery and such like, we soon realise that holding our bladders tightly is probably a safer option than venturing near the toilets and make our way back to the hotel instead. (DG)
T is for...
The Hundredth Anniversary
What is the best way to celebrate releasing not only your debut album, but one of the albums of the year thus far? That’s right, performing three barnstorming sets at a festival in your home town. This is exactly what local three-piece The Hundredth Anniversary did. Each one was filled with a visceral energy and ephemeral introspective lyrics that have made them diamond in Brighton’s live scene. (NR)
Whose "have stage will play" mentality and work ethic is a delight to encounter in an industry dominated by middlemen more concerned with finance than music. Playing an incredible four shows in three days, our personal favourite being Thursday's riotous headline slot at the aforementioned Bleach. They're coming to a festival near you very soon. Be sure not to miss them! (DG)
E is for...
One thing that TGE exceeds at is excitement. The thought of witnessing Aldous Harding at the Paganini Ballroom or Parekh & Singh upstairs at Patterns is enough to make you wake with a smile and start counting down the minutes until show time. Then there are those moments when you start talking to either a friend or stranger and they tell you about something you missed on your day planner but have a chance to see and you can feel your grin widening. (NR)
...And all the other bands we miss because the queue outside the venue is ridiculously long only to find when we finally do gain admittance it's less than 2/3 full. Frustrating isn't the word... (DG)
S is for...
Every year the festival features artists from around the globe along with a featured country. Switzerland was this year’s chosen nation, with nine acts on the line-up. The most talked about Swiss act was Zeal and Ardor. This Black Metal Gospel group brought Patterns to its knees with their unrelenting bass, blast beats, and gruff recitations. Holland was also represented with electronic artist Jameszoo. His set was complex, fun, and compelling as he fused contemporary electronica with jazz influences. (NR)
While sampling deep fried Mars bars and various types of haggis at their early afternoon reception on Thursday was a culinary delight, it was the music on offer that really stole the show. Like Glaswegian five-piece Spinning Coin, whose delicately esoteric mix of wistfulness and bliss are a throwback to Teenage Fanclub, Orange Juice, and The Pastels who stood out from the crowd on more than one occasion. (DG)
C is for...
One of the best things about this year’s line-up was how fun a lot of the bands were. One band that looked like they were having more fun than the audience was Confidence Man. This Australian art-pop quartet not only stood out from their peers with their look, but they also had the tunes to back it up. Recent singles ‘Bubblegum’ and Boyfriend (Repeat)’ stood out in a set that made them sound like a camp disco-funk LCD Soundsystem. This is a band you need to see. (NR)
With the number of international artists plying their wares here on the increase year upon year, The Great Escape has truly become arguably the finest global event of its kind. The aforementioned Swiss and Dutch acts brightened up Komedia on a rainy Friday afternoon, while Canadian hip hop duo DGS Samurai Champs tore Shoosh a new backside on Saturday evening. Elsewhere, Austrian shoegazers Molly, sophisticated Portuguese outfit The Gift, New Zealand's Kane Strang, and American alt-country singer Colter Wall all did their respective nations proud, putting on glowing performances that will live long in the memory. (DG)
A is for...
One of the most exciting, jaw-dropping, and generally fun shows of the festival was by French Urban Pop trio Las Aves. Their set upstairs at The Hope and Ruin was heaving for their Hip-Pop hybrid. When their monster single ‘N.E.M.’ started it officially kicked off and the room was filled with a wild abandon that was not witnessed again during the rest of the festival. Gig of the weekend? Very probably. (NR)
Of the booking kind. Lots of them. Everywhere. Particularly where there's free booze. Did I just say that..? (DG)
P is for...
Since last year’s festival, local heroes Post-Heather have been busy writing and recording new songs. And these songs are the difference between these two shows. Their brand of textured shoegazing music with introspective Riot Grrrl lyrics give their shows a dichotomy that makes you want to jump around, but also be reflective. Their debut album is meant to be out before the year ends and this should help them make the jump from the Alternate stages to the main one! (NR)
Psych Rock All Dayers
Acid Box Promotions' excellent annual Kemptown All Day Massacre in the Brighton Youth Centre once again proved to be a riveting showcase of talent from both home and abroad. With no licensed bar on site and a bring your own beer policy instead, everyone present was there to watch the bands rather than mingle and network which made a refreshing change from many shows DiS attended. Psych grunge trio Crosa Rosa kicked off proceedings with an explosive set that brought back memories of Mudhoney in their embryonic phase while Melbourne's Flyying Colours demonstrated why they're one of the shoegaze scene's most innovative acts. Birmingham garage punks Table Scraps also kept the party going into the evening when some around us were flagging and while the event still forms part of the unofficial/Alternative Escape, let's hope Acid Box give us more of the same next year. (DG)
E is for...
As you woke up bleary-eyed on Sunday there was a pang of sadness because deep down you knew it was all over for another year. Yes, you’d got wet on Thursday and sunburnt on Friday and Saturday, but you’d witnessed some performances the like of which you won’t see for a while. At times it felt like a war of attrition due to long walks between venues and never ending clashes, but you’d had possibly the best weekend of the year. The only downside is waiting 365 days for it to start again. So same again next year TGE, yeah? (NR)
Which is what The Great Escape strives for and by and large, with the odd notable exception, this year's event managed to achieve on an incredibly consistent basis. Here's to 2018! (DG)
For more information on The Great Escape visit their official website.