From May 10th to the 12th, the city of Brighton was overrun with musicians, music lovers, media, managers and mayhem as venues across this happening, English, seaside city came alive with the sounds of The Great Escape Festival.
It's a music industry festival, where bands on their way to stardom (if not already there) from all over the world come to perform. The convention side of the festival required a delegate pass, and catered for the networking, educating and business side of things, whereas most punters simply just attend shows. There are various different showcases presented - the international crème de la crème of artists, from the UK, Europe, America and Australia, with the patriotically themed ‘Aussie BBQ’ showcase. Australia was well represented across the weekend with stellar performances from the folk darlings, Husky, songstress Emma Louise, Ben Salter (of The Gin Club), the lovable and ever so populated, Inland Sea, Wild Jungle Men, Jinja Safari and many more.
The program was seriously packed with great acts so trying to see as much as was physically possible became a matter of scuttling through laneways to catch the tale end of the next gig and flipping a coin to decide when gigs clashed. Many of the bands were only scheduled to perform once, meaning that you had to have your wits about you if you were to catch them play.
A personal highlight was witnessing Mystery Jets (pictured in header) live for the first time, who put on an incredibly catching and energetic show, including crowd favourites ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down’ as well as a generous encore. Grimes was the girl who everyone was talking about, and after being front and centre for her show, I now know why! Grimes is Canada’s Clare Boucher who put on an impressively catchy and energetic show, with her individual style, buzzing energy, frivolous and playful stage persona, solid beats, entrancing vocals and backup dancers.
Canada’s Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers, were another standout, with Ben being one of the most impressive performers I saw over the weekend, with his huge beard, wacky sense of humour, stories, crowd involvement, solid voice and talented and gorgeous ladies on violin and double bass. Alabama Shakes was another name that had everyone talking and due to a gigantic cue I only caught the last three songs but what I witnessed tells me that the hype is well deserved. The lead singer, Brittany Howard has a serious set of lungs on her, with a powerhouse of a voice, guitar skills to boot and a tight band supporting, they are fast on the rise.
Audio feasts occurred late into the evenings, with electronic beats, dubstep, DJs and whatever else you want to get down and dirty on the dance floor to until the wee hours of the morning. Being the sensible lass that I am I tried to send myself to bed at a reasonable hour each evening so as to save my legs, however on the last night I managed to catch the wilder side of the festival. Germany’s Booka Shade performed a pumping set featuring an impressive electronic drum kit and wonderful lighting which went down well in the impressively sized venue, the 'Corn Exchange’ and I boogied until the sparrows sang at the ‘Blind Tiger’ with two DJs spinning old school 50s and 60s tunes.
As far as the downsides of the event, bands often performed in venues with a capacity that didn’t meet the demand, meaning that people sometimes cued for hours and still got turned away. Another point that I struggled with is not so much an attack at the festival itself, but the music industry in general, in that the descriptions of the acts in the program sound identical, so much so that extracting any kind of meaning from one sentence that mentions the terms ‘shoe gaze’, ‘indie’, ‘alternative’ are impossible to decipher.
Overall The Great Escape was a wonderful festival and an exciting taste of industry showcase festivals, whetting my appetite towards attending the even larger scale industry event, held in Texas - SXSW.