“The Great Escape celebrates the gig and the incomparable feeling of seeing an artist deliver a show that you will remember forever. But that atmosphere is only half the artist’s responsibility – the rest is up to the audience” – Team TGE
Above are some wise words from the team behind this year’s Great Escape Festival, and after spending two out of the three days in Brighton, it’s difficult not to agree with their statement. Here are 12 highlights from this year’s festival that show how bands and audiences rely on one other to make live music mean something…
FRIDAY 15th MAY
Pins @ Dome Studio
Pins played to a packed venue at TGE on Friday afternoon. The post-punk, Manchester four-piece opened with ‘Get With Me’ (an invitation already accepted by the audience) followed by songs such as ‘Young Girls’, and a ferocious rendition of ‘Too Little Too Late’; full of guts and glitter. After dedicating ‘LuvU4Lyf’ to their manager Lisa, Pins closed their show with ‘Girls Like Us’, an anthem for modern alternative girls everywhere. With exciting, energetic sets like this, it’s easy to see why they’ve been supporting bands like Sleater Kinney, The Savages and Jamie T.
Garbanotas Bosistas @ Unitarian Church
Garbanotas Bosistas are a four-piece, psychedelic rock band from Lithuania. Clearly surprised that they’d pulled such an extensive crowd, Šarukas, Mantas, Kipras, and Jonas performed an intriguing set to the congregation at The Unitarian Church. Their set included creative use of synthesisers, psychadelic guitar riffs, and stunning vocals. The band even invited the audience to stay behind for a chat, and to hand out copies of their latest record.
Kevin Devine @ Unitarian Church
Kevin Devine described his audience at the Unitarian Church as ‘immaculate’ on Friday evening, but their behaviour was only replicating Devine’s performance. The Brooklyn-based musician and social commentator kept his crowd silent with a powerful, acoustic set, including songs like ‘Little Bulldozer’ and the breath-taking ‘Brother’s Blood’. Stepping away from the microphone several times during the set, Devine’s voice echoed celestially around the church walls, proving that his music was built for holy places.
The Big Moon @ The Haunt
The Big Moon, a London based guitar band, played their mix of up-beat, grungy rock to a heaving crowd at The Haunt on Friday. Opening with ‘Eureka Moment’, the girls powered through an impressive backlog of their own songs, as well as an expert cover of Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’. There were a few technical issues (an amp blew, a ponytail got stuck in the drums), but the girls of The Big Moon nailed their show by the seaside.
Rat Boy @ The Haunt
Rat Boy (aka Jordan Cardy) is 19 year old from Chelmsford, Essex, who knocked the crowd senseless with his social-commentator-style lyrics, and energetic guitar playing this weekend. Some of the band’s instruments were emblazoned with ‘FUCK UKIP’, which gave Rat Boy’s songs ‘Sign On’ and ‘Stick Up Kids’, an extra significance, and kept the audience buzzing with energy. With one member of the band scaling a metal pillar to throw out merchandise and CDs, Rat Boy showed just how loudly new music can speak to a crowd (and just how far recording music in your bedroom can take you.)
The Vaccines @ The Haunt
Having previously played TGE in 2012, The Vaccines returned to Brighton this weekend to close the second day of the festival with a secret set at The Haunt. Opening with ‘Teenage Icon’, and following it up with the infectious ‘Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’, the crowd writhed with joy as frontman Justin Young jumped around, laid on the floor, and soaked up the surplus energy of the audience. They played new track ‘Want You So Bad’, as well as old favourites: ‘Wetsuit’, ‘Blow It Up, ‘If You Wanna’, ‘Post Break-up Sex’ and ‘Norgaard’. The crowd and the band were sweating with satisfaction by the end of the set.
SATURDAY 16th MAY
36? @ Green Door Store
One of the many bands playing at the Canadian Blast showcase this weekend, 36? played their ‘part pop, part art-rock, part psych-jazz’ to an intrigued crowd at Green Door Store on Saturday afternoon. Front man Taylor Cochrane threw himself around the stage, wild-eyed, often stopping to graze the microphone up and down the neck of his guitar, keeping the audience’s attention on him at all times. ‘Beauty/Strong – The Man at The Door’ was the highlight of the set, with powerful vocals and memorable guitar riffs.
Young Benjamins @ Green Door Store
Canadian band Young Benjamins brought their mix of indie/folk music to Brighton this weekend. Embracing the ever- rising temperature in the venue, Neusha Mofazzali, Veronique Poulin and Brynn Krysa, diaplyed their excellent musical timing with tracks like ‘To Stay Here’, one of the many songs in the thirty-minute set that raised cheers and applause from an appreciative audience.
The Lytics @ Green Door Store, Brighton
The Lytics cheerfully contradicted their managers description of their ‘up-beat hip hop’ as they took to the stage on Saturday afternoon. The band joked that their music would make the crowd ‘very angry’ and ‘hopefully ruin’ their day, but The Lytics excellent sense of humour, and infectious hip-hop beats achieved the opposite of this. It was blinding sunshine outside, but inside The Green Door Store it felt like a midnight rave in the band’s hometown of Winnipeg. Stand out track was ‘Voices’, in which the crowd gladly participated in screaming after the lyrics: ‘can you scream?’
Slaves @ Corn Exchange, Brighton
Opening their set with the lyric: ‘If you live like an animal, chances are, you’ll die like one too’, Slaves were guaranteed to be the untameable, crowd-pleasing beasts this weekend in Brighton. Isaac and Laurie had an excellent rapport with the audience, asking for the lights to be turned up so they could find out what Brighton’s favourite variety of biscuit was (Hobnob, in case you’re wondering). The topless twosome thrashed their way through ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’, ‘The Hunter’ and new single ‘Cheer Up London’, before unleashing a man in a mantaray suit on to the crowd for the duration of ‘Feed the Mantaray’. Laurie teased the crowd with a joke about covering Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’, before they finished their set with ‘Hey’, and some serious crowd-surfing.
Swim Deep @ Corn Exchange, Brighton
Swim Deep returned to this year’s Great Escape after supporting the Klaxons at TGE 2013.The Birmingham-based band opened with the melodic ‘King City’, before debuting a new track ‘One Great Song and I Could Change the World’. The band danced their way through familiar tracks ‘Honey’ and ‘She Changes The Weather’, spreading their feel-good vibes throughout the crowd.
The Maccabees @ Corn Exchange, Brighton
To celebrate TGE’s 10th birthday, The Maccabees returned to Brighton to close the weekend’s celebrations. The band played old favourites ‘Latchmere’ and ‘X-Ray’, from first album Colour It In, as well as several tracks from second album Wall of Arms, including; ‘Wall of Arms’, ‘Can You Give It?’, ‘Young Lions’ and ‘No Kind Words’. The highlight of the night however, was a faultless rendition of ‘Love You Better’; the musical timing and vocals were spot on. The band also treated the audience to a preview of new artwork, and several new tracks from upcoming album Marks to Prove It. They closed their set with Given to the Wild favourite ‘Pelican’.
Photo © Carolina Faruolo