Festival Review: The Great Escape 2018

The Great Escape 2018

Words & Photos: Elena Katrina

The Great Escape and I have had a whirlwind romance and I’m pleased to say, unlike most whirlwind romances, it’s not ended bitterly. Quite the opposite in fact. It might be over but I’m already looking forward to doing it all over again in 2019.  The last time I was at TGE I was there as an artist (of sorts), to entertain the masses, with a somewhat large record collection in tow. This time it was my ears and my trusty camera roaming (running) the streets of Brighton chasing down some of the hottest new and emerging music around. After all, that’s the whole point of The Great Escape.

Running the streets is a tough task when you aren’t familiar with the surroundings, and when your phone tells you a five-minute walk turns out to take half an hour because often around a corner lies a face you know. It’s a great chance to meet up with acquaintances, to set meetings, to interview bands and to laugh and enjoy everything that this festival has to offer. Well, everything except the conference, which I managed to miss entirely, as I had FOMO with the number of bands playing in every nook and cranny of the wonderful City of Brighton.

Five festivals into my year and as yet not a drop has fallen from the sky. It’s been quite the start to the festival season and Brighton didn’t want to miss out. Stomping through the crazy Jubilee square my first port of call to collect my pass, amidst the heaving throng of industry and the general public, I escaped and headed for the pier. I mean, who wouldn’t. What I found when I got there was a storming line-up at Horatio’s, curated by Creative Scotland. Of course, all the way to the South from the North, to find bands who are probably closer to me where I live. But I couldn’t resist the allure of The Vegan Leather, Lucia and The Ninth Wave.  Three bands who have been on our radar and pretty sure our man up in Glasgow, Gary Feeney, will have seen untold times, but all new to me, in terms of live. If this is a showcase of what’s blowing up in Scotland I’m booking my train tickets to The Tenement Trial! Fast-paced, passionate, stylish and occasionally sewn up with a snarl. Thanks, Scotland – we’ll be seeing you again for sure.

In fact, off the back of that little jaunt, I ended up at a Scottish Party where I got to chin wag with all kinds of people and witness people eating the famous deep fried Mars Bar. Oh yes. It’s a real thing, even on the streets of Brighton. I needed more live music after spending a little too long chatting and it was off to meet our mate Matt from  Fond of Rudy to take in a band neither of us had seen before: Sea Girls. To say I was a happy bunny during this show is a slight exaggeration. I love when bands can deliver a live set that not only mirrors their recorded music but brings it alive and Sea Girls delivered. My hips, sore from the ups and downs of the streets and lanes, took in some extra movement and my throat, dry from all the chat, still managed to sing along. They’re a gloriously good band with a live show that really entertains.

One of my highlights of the weekend was to catch the end of Whyte Horses perform for BBC 6 Music. The 12 strong band was fronted by 3 women, whose vocals could possibly bring back the dead, for they were so beautifully haunting. This band was obviously a popular choice if the queues outside were anything to go by and the crowds inside. With a lighting show as part of their psychedelic performance, it was more than just an aural pleasure. I can’t urge you enough to see this band if you haven’t as yet.

I made a pact with myself not to see any bands I’d already seen. By the end of day it was one I’d already broken. To make things worse, not only have I seen them loads, but I’ve put them on. Queue the sweaty storming show from Marsicans at Sticky Mike’s. This band though – really, they never fail to make my day. I guess that’s how I ended up there because soon they will be off on their merry way, playing the bigger stages where I can’t get near.

The weekend threw up many challenges, from deciding who to see to spending lots of time waiting to get in. The worst was taking unwell on Saturday meaning after catching the end of the wonderful Wyldest and chatting to our friends Saltwater Sun at the Hand In Hive showcase I ended up needing to take myself off for some care. A little group hug from Queen Zee and those gorgeous Sasstones as I headed out of Brighton, took the edge off.

Before all that I enjoyed some more live music though. Highlights which must include the insanely talented Dermot Kennedy who will forever draw me to his set wherever we’re at the same festival, with a vocal that is easily recognisable as him and so rich it can make your teeth hurt. In fact, I won’t lie, I saw his entire set, only split in two, across two days! I couldn’t resist when the opportunity was there. Another who I will always go to see, and have done now three times in less than 3 months is Sam Fender. A sharp eye for what’s going on in society, his poetic social commentary is set to a soundtrack that is easily accessible, highly enjoyable and god damn smart. His vocal so mature for his years, with only a handful of his tracks available to listen to, live is the only place I can get to grips with more of his material. So you’ll always know where to find me, front and centre.

I counted my lucky stars to wake up feeling better on Sunday so it was back to Brighton with me to hunt down friends and get along to see some shows that were on offer from the Alternative Escape. The open to all part, the newest of the new, the unofficial showcases, all which held immense amounts of talent. I nipped into the Deltasonic showcase and caught God On My Right for the first time: a dark and brooding introduction, but one that impressed none the less. We caught up for a little chat with The Vryll Society, which was lovely as they’ve just released news of their debut album. I don’t think the half hour walk to my next venue can be called hot-footing it, but I did my best. Newcastle babes Vito were thankfully still on when I reached them. The band played for us only a few weeks ago after their Sound City set and before their set at Hit The North. This is a band clocking up some miles and along with it many more fans. Catchy, fast-paced indie that you can just let loose to – these guys know their stuff and I invite you to go and get involved if you see them playing a show near you.

A change of pace, and volume as it was my wonderful TGE room buddies False Advertising showing off just why they’re one of the hottest bands out of the North West as they smashed out tune after tune. Their music growls with every beat, it digs deep and takes no prisoners. I love to watch bands watch other bands and in the crowd was Liverpool band Rival Bones who later told us it was their favourite find of the festival. Let’s hope these bands get to do a show together sometime in the future.

A city festival doesn’t seem to be a city festival at all without me watching a band in a church. This time it began with a surprise when I caught the wonderful Helen Brown, whose project Dog In The Snow, was being brought to life before my eyes.  This was a perfect setting for this gentle unobtrusive music and it was a treat. In a bid to give us all a shake-up, next on was Brighton’s newest must see’s: Thyla. They brought with them quite the crowd of onlookers and rightly so. Fast and furious was the musical slap in the face after Dog In The Snow. Lead vocalist Millie has a vocal which is quite unusual, especially against the rockier musical setting. They follow in the footsteps of the likes of Estrons, Blood Red Shoes, Yonaka and Yassasin and they easily stand up to the hype that’s going to be sure to come their way.

I jumped at the chance to watch Self Esteem and trudged back another half an hour, only to find out that I was not the only one to have jumped at the chance – and that people had better prepared and got to the venue well ahead of time. In fact, there was a couple stood behind me in the line who were in line an hour early to watch the following act, Pip Blom, so I more or less failed. I could hear but I could not see. Self Esteem’s track Your Wife is one of my favourites and so I sang along outside in line, probably much to the annoyance of everyone else around me. I managed, eventually and during the last song, to stick my phone around the door and grab a photo. A memento and reminder to be sure to get their earlier next time. It will be so worth it.

There really are many other moments of The Great Escape that I could talk about but you’d be here all day reading it. What I’ll say is that it was a fantastically put together festival, any cracks in the set up were well hidden from view and all I can really ask for is another two of me to do and see even more. To meet up with all the people I missed, see all the bands I missed – maybe a time machine would help. I feel exhausted but exhilarated. I need The Great Escape in my life always. If ever there was a festival made just for us this is it. It’s grown beyond anything I could have imagined since the last time I was there and it’s a thing of beauty, even the sun beamed down on it in praise.

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  • About Popped Music

    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

    I'm very happy if you love what I've done enough or love the bands I've written about and want to share - go for it, but please be blog friendly and share the link or hit the reblog button. Thank you.

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