The Great Escape celebrated its 10th birthday this year with its biggest festival yet and we were in Brighton to get our first taste of the party! You’ll struggle to find a festival that offers as much live music as The Great Escape, over twenty thousand people attending over thirty five venues to watch over four hundred acts play. Our live music marathon began with a band who suffered beyond marathon miles to be there. Neon Waltz, the pride of John O’Groats, took to the Brighthelm Centre stage following a 1 in 1 out performance from Glasgow newcomers, WHITE. The Brighthelm centre encapsulated how TGE capitalises on every venue in the city. A church come community centre hosted the Scotsmen who played a journey of a set. Hits from their debut EP release ‘First Light’ toyed with emotions. Songs to steal your attention and set your heart racing combined with songs to send your mind somewhere green and cloudless. Neon Waltz have all the potential to be Scotland’s next big export.
The Great Escape can promise a weekend of non-stop music, but only if well prepared. This year’s line up featured every band that every blog has told you that you need to see and that meant queues were at their peak. Shout out to The Great Escape text service who kept you well informed and saved a lot of miles. The next highlight of the festival was a real, ‘we were there’ moment when Tobias Jesso Jr. graced the Dome Studio. The Canadian took to the grandest of pianos to pour out tales from debut record ‘Goon’. Between songs the man is a joker, he knows his music will take you to lows you didn’t expect after several vodka red bulls. But he picks you up with quips and unpleasentarys towards his stand in, out of tune, guitar. But back to the piano and he crooned through hits such as ‘Hollywood’ accompanied with a mouth trumpet solo, and ultimate tear jerker ‘Without You’. Tobias takes you into his world, tells you harrowing stories of relationship toil and then somehow manages to smile afterwards. Maybe that’s the most impressive thing. The man is a master of his craft and you’ll be lucky to find just him and his piano again as his show has ‘Big Band’ written all over it.
The Great Escape weekend also means that a weekend of Alternative Escape shows were taking place. Venues that aren’t on the official event hosted a weekend of impressive shows that were mostly free to all, even those without a wristband. Stage of the year went to venue, Bleach. Hosting The Magic Gang and many more for a night which rained sweat. We took a trip to Bleach to catch current darlings of Radio 1, VANT. 3pm and verging on a full house, VANT had a chance to prove the hype with rumours of a big record deal in the air. Beatles-esque backing vocals and soulful rasps from front man Mattie, Vant proved why there’s all the potential for a large VANT shaped presence in our lives.
Back to the official event and we tactically set up camp at The Corn Exchange. The home to some of the most exciting new bands, for a few hours anyway. Bad Breeding were next on our hit list. The four piece from Stevenage have always been ones to do things in as unconventional ways as possible. Refusing to give in to label pressures in order to be heard. You were once more likely to find their vinyl on eBay and Alibaba over Rough Trade…and that was their choice. Anyway back to their live show. The most intense and harrowing 30 minutes of the festival. The band were angry but wanted to entertain. The intensity is the focal point of front man Christopher Dodd spending half the set crawling around the floor in a disturbing tirade. Don’t be fooled, Bad Breeding were enjoying themselves, wiping smiles from their mouths as they look to each other between songs. ‘Age of Nothing’ the track and lyric on loop defines the band and where they stand in this world. Belief in progress is low and they’ll shout until they see otherwise.
Rough Trade’s latest signing Girl Band continued the noise in an electric set, with singles ‘De Bom Bom’ and ‘Lawman’ providing raucous memories. This proved to be the stretch and warm up The Corn Exchange needed before the venue’s kings arrived. Slaves, the two-piece hailing from Kent have been gracing stages up and down the UK in recent weeks for their UK tour and it’s clear to see that they’ve become a headline band. Despite sitting in second spot at The Corn Exchange, Slaves flexed their headline muscles for an unforgettable show. A Slaves show is never just song after song and so forth. You get the chat, the stories of the Sasquatch and the humour that soothes the penetrating anger that lies beneath their songs. Singles such as ‘Hey’, ‘Feed The Mantaray’ and old favourite ‘Wheres your car Debbie?!?’ sent Brighton into a frenzy, the room was bouncing and by the end, the crowd was creating a floor of arms for Laurie and Isaac to walk across. The Slaves walking crowd surf is something to be admired and is testament to the fact that they do feel like a band for the people. What’s your favourite biscuit?
Topping off our night was a band we used to know as a dream pop group, hyped to the hills and hailing from Birmingham. Swim Deep have taken a leap of faith this year, “making the music we feel we always wanted to make”. As Cavan explained. The Birmingham five piece have slipped off their tumblr teen music shackles and stepped into a world where pop meets psychedelic EDM. With only two of these new ones available right now, the set featured plenty an oldie with a new hint of maturity which sent the Great Escape youth posse into party mode. But it was new tracks ‘To My Brother’ and ‘One Great Song (and I could change the world)’, which were most impressive. Turning the Corn Exchange into their own pop hacienda they warped all visions of a pop band and we came through preaching of a new age for Swim Deep and long may it continue.