The Great Escape Festival, 2017
- tips for Brighton's annual new music bonanza -
introduction by trevor elkin
For over 10 years Great Escape has provided rich fare to those hungry for new music. That’s kinda GFP’s mission too, so while it would perhaps be a bit odd for us not to provide you with some sort of recommendation, we have to say this post nearly didn’t happen at all.
Lists are, after all, reductive and we will always miss something, given that over the site’s 7 years we’ve featured many (FYI, we’ve checked) of the 400 or so acts that will be pounding the streets of Brighton this time around. Sigrid, Julie Byrne, Aldous Harding, Alex Cameron, Jay Som, The Parrots, Blood Red Shoes and Luxury Death are just some of those names (and whom we’d also recommend you arrive early for).
Some of the most precious moments at any festival are unplanned, stumbled-upon magical shows, creating memories that stay with you for years. We’ve picked out a few artists, in that spirit, to hopefully make the spontaneity, or choice, a little easier…
Queens Hotel | Thursday, 18th May 13:30
The Arch | Thursday, 18th May 23:30
Modest and insanely talented New Zealander Fazerdaze, aka Amelia Murray, “delivers a distinctly nostalgia-tinged sound heightened by her hazy, resonant vocals that soar through the warm layers of lo-fi noise”. She’s just released debut album Morningside and her festival appearance cuts across a number of UK headline shows.
Queens Hotel | Thursday, 18th May 14:30
Komedia | Friday, 19th May 13:30
We recently featured Dutch songwriter Kim Janssen in a live-video for his latest track, “Cousin”. A fine pinnacle of achievement for an artist who has evolved over the last three years, travelling and meditating, moving his musical inclinations away from traditional folk to something akin to the National, Majical Cloudz or a Self-Titled-Era Bon Iver.
BLEACH | Thursday, 18th May 20:00
One Church | Friday, 20th May 14:15
Strang’s second album, ‘Two Hearts and No Brain’, is due out this summer and it promises sharp, retro styled production to match the cutting wit of his lyrics while counterbalancing his langurous, almost indifferent vocal lilting. Like a prism separating colours from light, Strang extracts catchy pop musicality from the odd combinations of instruments at his command.
Green Door Store | Thursday, 18th May 20:15
Switzerland is this year’s focus country at The Great Escape and their away team, including Buvette and Sophie Hunger, are a very strong bunch indeed. One of the most intriguing acts among them is Hyperculte, Geneva duo Vincent Bertholet (upright bass/voice) and Simone Aubert (percussion/voice). They manipulate the organic vibrations of their respective instruments through effects and loops, acting as one to create incredible motorik rhythms and drones. These provide a backdrop to their sometimes spoken, sometimes chanted lyrical spells they incant with a bow or drumstick in hand like a wand, embracing the experimentation and playfulness of Arthur Russell while summoning the spirit of Krautrock.
One sentence. supervisor
Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar | Thursday, 18th May 22:30
Komedia Studio | Friday, 19th May 12:30
Another of the Swiss visitors, One Sentence. Supervisor (note the essential, but aberrant full stop) won Indie Suisse album of the year 2016 with ‘Temporär Musik 1-13’. They twist choppy guitars and hypnotic, arcane atmospherics around urgent, post-punk beats, then sprinkle the whole lot with pop glitter, distant vocals. If that sounds a bit messy, or irregular, it isn’t – OSS simply just don’t play by the usual rules.
Brighthelm Centre | Friday, 19th May 15:15
Jubilee Square | Friday, 19th May 21:30
As GFP’s Ross Jones put it so well, these “Glaswegians have a fondness for not only assessing but avidly sharing their own self-deprecating thoughts and perceptions through cuddling hooks and doses of effecting sorrow”. Even their name evokes a sense of incompleteness, of being suspended hopelessly on the whim of chance. Like a love letter to Galaxie 500, tightly wound choruses unravel with the gentlest of tugs on the heart. An apt pick, perhaps one that might change your fortunes forever?
East Street Tap | Friday, 19th May 18.50-19.20 (Alt Escape)
Pip Hall writes from the heart with an engaging, emotional depth that normally only comes with experience. ‘Devil You Don’t’, a catchy breakthrough track caught our attention earlier this year. Her most recent single though, ‘James’, a song about her late father who passed when she was young is possibly one of the saddest, gut-wrenchingly honest and innocent tracks of 2017 and sets Pip Hall out as one of this year’s most exciting rising stars. Catch her performance at the tiny East Street Tap, but you might have to keep it to yourself…
Dog In The Snow / Tiger Lion / Mother Me
Battle Worldwide Showcase, The Windmill | Friday, 19th May from 20:00 – 23:00 (Alt Escape)
We’re cheating a little with this one, as this is three recommendations in one. If you haven’t got a wristband and still want to feel the magic of Great Escape for free, the Alternative Escape organise shows all weekend across a network of venues. As part of this, local label Battle Worldwide are hosting a rather excellent showcase featuring GFP faves Helen Ganya-Brown aka Dog In The Snow, Tiger Lion and Mother Me. If you want an evening with some of the best of Brighton’s diverse music scene, look no further.
Being blessed with a voice that commands silence and stillness, Tom Adams’ appearance in the intimate setting of the Unitarian Church promises one of the most beautiful moments of the festival. A composer and electronic musician, he scored the 2014 film ‘The Knife That Killed Me’ – the end titles embraced in heartache by his song ‘All Is Lost’. Drawing inevitable comparisons to Peter Silberman and Jeff Buckley, his debut album, ‘Silence’ is a confident, outreaching hand towards a brighter light.
Cafe Plenty | Saturday, 20th May 16:15
Looking for something a little different and diverting on a (possibly rainy) Saturday afternoon? London-based psych folk revivalist Max Kinghorn-Mills aka Hollow Hand gave us one of our favourite albums of 2015, ‘Ancestral Lands’. His music is crafted from the same visceral, inchoate energy as 70’s progressive and psychedelic folk acts like Comus, Epitaph and Pentangle yet, like all time travellers, somehow he adopts a contemporary feel.
The Haunt | Saturday, 20th May 19:30
Hype and rumour are fuel for certain artists, and we believe Miya Folick will live up to that noise where others fall flat. Folick grabbed our attention in early 2016 with ‘Strange Darling’, an EP which was perfect in form and figure, yet curiously hinted it was just the beginning for this Californian DIY artist. Expect glam swoons and high energy thrills from the off.
The Fiction Aisle
St Mary’s Church, Kemptown | Saturday, 20th May 21:30 (Alt Escape)
This pop/ambient ensemble is led by the familiar Thomas White, formerly of The Electric Soft Parade and Brakes. We can’t imagine a better setting for their enthralling and achingly beautiful music than the gothic ambience of St Mary’s. Get there early to hunker down on the front pews for a mellow, soft landing to the festival!