The Great Escape Festival, now in its eleventh year is an incredible three-day new music takeover of bustling Brighton. The city’s venues, bars, churches and open spaces turn into showcases for the most exciting and emerging talent from across the globe. This year boasted meteoric performances by heavyweights including Slaves, Kano and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man with The Amazons, The Big Moon, Dagny, Will Joseph Cook, RAYE and hundreds more infiltrating this creative city.
We arrive on Friday with team Atlantic in tow for a packed day of new music. The soulful tones of Xamvolo set us up smoothly for our first day, demonstrating real strength in tone to a packed out Patterns. We enjoy a varied afternoon of sets from Klangstof, Gulp and The Magic Gang each offering their own off obscured view of what pop music can be. The former’s considered tones are blissful for a Friday afternoon as the weather starts to warm while the latter supercharge the Shipyard with punchy melodies and joyous noughties nostalgia. Rhys Lewis played a rousing set in one of the festival’s most impressive of venues, his signature neo-soul reaching the rafters of St. Mary’s Church.
We attempted to see Norwegian pop protégée Sigrid perform her debut EP however it appeared the whole of Brighton had the same idea and we were unable to see this exciting young talent. Fortunately later that evening Dagny sated my desire for Norway power pop with flawless renditions of the ‘Ultraviolet’. The set highlight was a man gleefully twirling a stranger in a circle to ‘Fool’s Gold’, the action perfectly encapsulating the vibe of my first day at TGE. This is where new music obsessives come to indulge in their current favourites and discover more delectable goodies. In stark contrast to the polished pop that begins our evening, our Friday ends in the dank surroundings of The Electric where YONAKA are throwing an impromptu after party with a raucous performance including glitter, stage dives and many a spilt pint.
Scandinavia dominated Brighton in 2017, the hype around Nordic acts like Sigrid, Dagny, Dream Wife and Sløtface was astounding across the weekend. Meanwhile, Skott’s Saturday night appearance at Coalition was a major stand out for everybody on the festival’s final day. ‘Glitter & Gloss’ shook the rafters and the bewitching artist appeared to be summoning the sea during her set which became slightly concerning in the basement of a beach adjacent venue. The British fortunately have one ace card in the game of pop within fast rising Raye. Having penned tracks for supremos including Charli XCX and featured on two chart juggernauts, Raye arrives like a self-formed pop star. Cutting lyricism, intelligent hooks and a merger of rushing 80s power pop with an icy cool 90s R & B edge, this young musician is undoubtedly Britain’s next big female pop export.
The charming Horatio’s situated at the end of Brighton Pier played host to raucous sets across the weekend, The Big Moon closing the venue, unfortunately, couldn’t capturing the fizzing excitement of the likes of Superfood and Sløtface. As the festival winds down quite strangely on a Saturday evening, BBC Sound Of nominee Stefflon Don was prepared to continue the party well into the wee hours with a charged set of her unique hip hop melding influence from a whole variety of genre and countries. ’16 Shots’ sounds bizarrely anthemic when brought out on the live stage while ‘Real Ting’ has a swagger to rival the lady herself.
My first time in Brighton attending TGE was a mind blowing experience, the whole city pulses with an enthusiasm for the new. It is a place where punters open themselves to the emerging, performances feel organic and fluid, it is honestly the most exciting festival in the UK.