The twelfth instalment of The Great Escape blazed its way through Brighton, with the best new bands from around the world setting fires as hot as the sun beating down on the crowds. Check out our photo diary if you missed it.
The Spook School, the Glaswegian indie punk/power pop four-piece sing powerful and infectiously catchy songs about the nonexistence of a gender binary and the importance of mental health awareness, open up the morning at Horatio’s at the end of Brighton Palace Pier with shout-along ‘Still Alive’.
Leeds’ own Team Picture take the newly-established Beach Stage with a bass that literally takes your breath away (honestly – using a tent means you have to compensate, I’m told) and a wall of sound that they maintain for the entire set. Following them are The Orielles (shown in featured image), who entranced the crowd with their swirling garage rock. They even bring back the masterpiece ‘Sugar Tastes Like Salt’, a sprawling trudge through pulsating rhythm. Across the way at Beach Club is an elegant, minimalist showcasing of Lindsay Jordan aka Snail Mail’s songwriting talent, more than ready to present their fuzzy lo-fi dream pop on early single ‘Thinning’ to the more recent ‘Pristine’.
The first Alternative Escape show of the night is that of the Birmingham-born, London-raised rock’n’roll star Harlea, playing Black Lion. Her songs range from her first single, the punchy riff-driven ‘Miss Me’, underplayed by sultry vocals and guitar, to her most recent single to be released, ‘Beautiful Mess’.
Back at the Beach House are the driving guitars and intense vocals of locals Dream Wife. “This song goes out to the bad bitches out there,” says, lead singer Rakel Mjoll introduces of their most powerful songs, the anthem tearing down the walls of objectification, ‘Somebody’. “Gender roles do not exist,” Rakel confirms, “so push them out!”
Following them are the renowned and brooding atmosphere of Idles’ live shows. They sing about the things we hope not to hear about but really do need to in the world we live in: songs dedicated to hard working women (‘Mother’) to anyone who works for the NHS (‘Divide & Conquer’), to the immigrants who they admire for their bravery to move to a new (often unwelcoming) place to start a new life.
The start of Friday means Komedia is packed for the Dutch Impact Party, where Amsterdam four-piece Pip Blom are performing their own scuzzy lo-fi tunes. Their set closes on ‘Pussycat’, their most recent single featuring a groovy driving bassline accented by frantically clashing cymbals and beautifully distorted guitar.
Australian, duo Zack Stephenson and Billy Fleming aka Hockey Dad have been all over the globe in the last couple of years, seemingly constantly on the road, and here they are at the Hope & Ruin, singing about introspective in grungy coastal rock.
Sports Team, with a reputation that precedes them, stemming from the eclectic live performances and glammed-up indie post-punk, could be seen at Horatio’s with lead singer Alex Rice seen shaking hands with the front row and showcasing his famous Jagger-esque dance moves.
The night finishes all the way up at Brighton Electric, at the Queer Escape curated by none other than magnificent seven-piece itoldyouiwouldeatyou. Their brilliantly powerful live shows, brimming on both stage and in front of it, masterfully blend indie, punk and emo in a performance they all dig deep from out of them.
“Someone said to us a minute ago, when we play it sounds like it’s just about to fall apart but doesn’t,” says drummer Danny Grant of London-via-Glasgow band Dama Scout. They’re teetering on the edge, and that’s one of the biggest intrigues, on top of the intimacy that their performance and recording styles play out, with their own spicy blend of genre influences.
St. Mary’s Church is lit by the late afternoon sun streaming through stained glass windows, shining down on Liverpool four-piece Trudy & the Romance are delivering their eccentric mutant pop, full of doo-wop charm and funky basslines.
Down at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar for the Big Scary Monsters showcase, a line snakes its way up the street, where everyone has their eye on Peaness. Drummer Rach is on the banter mic: “Anyone see the royal wedding?” she asks, met by boos from the crowd. “Speaking of waste…” and thus follows the summery tune ‘Ugly Veg’, one of their many powerful songs about being more environmentally ethical. Gender Roles are next on, where they open on ‘Gills’, the short-but-sweet classic punk track jam-packed with sharp upbeat riffs and screamable one-liners to get the crowd going.
Nashville-based grunge band Bully are playing their second set of the day at The Arch. Stripped down and gritty, with powerfully resonant vocals, in both lyrical and sonic value, Bully’s sound may be reminiscent of quintessential nineties bands of the past, but that doesn’t take away from their masterful approach to it.
Recently coming off their sophomore release Everything Dies, the Watford’ Nervus are full of boldness and honesty, with catchy hooks galore. Lead singer/guitarist and founder Em Foster always has the banter on point to boot; whether it be a simple call-and-response of increasingly-louder “YEAHs” or a dig to the delegate-heavy population of the festival, there’s always smiles in the crowd.
Back at Horatio’s, Dutch four-piece Canshaker Pi are showcasing their high-strung intensity complete in a beautiful combo of psych and punk. Having released their second album Naughty Naughty Violence only weeks before the festival, they promise tightly-played yet haphazard driving punk tunes.
The very last set of the marathon of a weekend had to end on a high note, and that’s exactly what LA garage-pop bunch The Regrettes promise. During the definite favorite ‘A Living Human Girl’ – a short-but-punchy song about overcoming body image issues and gender stereotyping – lead singer Lydia Night takes the suggestion of ‘girls to the front’ from a crowd member and invites every woman in the audience to push to the front.
Words and images by Francesca Tirpak