REVIEW: The Great Escape pulls it off again!

Pic: Michael Burnell

In Brighton for another year of discovering the hottest new artists shaping up the musical landscape. After a two year hiatus The Great Escape returns for 2022, with over 400+ bands across 35 stages. The festival gets bigger every year as it begins to sprawl out from Brighton to Hove and even Kemptown. The genre offering is ever expanding from jazz fusion, indie-pop, pop, electronic, grime, rock, alt. rock and lots more.


Arriving early we catch a few artists on the Wednesday evening, a beautiful summer’s twilight at Jubilee Square, kicking off with EVA, Kaisha,and the wonderful R’n’B, hip hop and jazz fusion of Illajoy on Brighton’s Platform Radio stage – a perfect start to the weekend. As the light turns to dusk, an essential warm-up to a weekend of diverse offerings, from the Cult Deap Records Art Collective to the post-punk riot grrrl mayhem of the hotly tipped Lambrini Girls.


Performances that stood out this year span indie, pop, rock, post-punk, electronic and leftfield leanings. We are immediately struck by the skilful and well-crafted performance of rising artist M Field, with his intricate precision guitar, where musical etchings are interwoven with vivid storytelling, it’s not often you see guitar playing this good. 


We pick up a snippet of Max Pope who lets us in on more of the underlying lyrical process to his cathartic songwriting, he explains he wrote ‘Man on a Wire’, about overcoming life’s hindrances. His vocal a husky whispered tone echoes the likes of Fats Domino or would you believe Bille Holliday. Introducing the track ‘Hologram’ he explains it was written when he felt like ‘a bit of a ghost,’ you can really feel the jazz influences shifting to the surface.

While these jazzy inflections emerge throughout the festival, we stumble across the infectious uplifting grooves of Sugarcane. Brazilian and Latin sounds meet to create a smouldering and seductive drizzling of summer rays and samba beats are injected with an altogether more British indie style of song-writing.

Rising indie-pop star Natalie Shay offers a mesmerising and arresting performance, both visceral and emotional as she brings her songs to life, almost reliving moments, complete with musical punctuation jump backs, hip thrusts, key eye changes, as she hyphenates the composition.  Shay owns the stage, taking to the mic defiantly, she talks directly to the protagonist in each song exploring self-discovery, friendship and romantic encounters.


Avant-Punk Arrows of Love luminary Nuha Ruby Ra stands out at the awesome Republic of Music stage at Shipwrights Yard. Nuha herself talks about dance as a way to freedom and discovery in her recent EP ‘Move Your Body.’  Today like a musical instrument she internalises the sounds, her vocals layered and looped back to form part of the instrumentation. Backing tracks and effects form forest beats, bewildering screams and discordant symphonies accompany the two mics and vocalisation perfectly interwoven into the beats.


We are reminded of original goth punks Wasted Youth, as we catch a glimpse of Priestgate, treating us to 80s gothic trash psychedelia, complete with full make-up. Angst ridden, idiosyncratic and visceral, they bring to mind Happy Science who we catch later, with their fuzz-fuelled psych drenched atmospherics complete with spoken word.


Snippets of Finn Foxell bring the dancefloor to life at the Komedia. The West London rapper melds jazz, grime and hip hop, plus and a smattering of indie at the end of the set, as if The Jam or The Specials just stepped in for a pint. The genre-defying influences and layered beats get the crowd moving into a groove, while his direct and honest vocals capture our attention.


Diving in and out between shows we caught a few alternative performances while out and about from the grassroots offerings of the Great Escape. Up and coming artists we spotted on our journey include pop diva Sabrina Kennedy who takes you on a journey of feminist discovery, inspiring a prism of perspectives captured within a smooth soulful vocal that will melt any audience. Kaiyra’s infectious dance-pop performance is effervescent and uplifting, Rainn Byrns charms us with his jaunty, jangly lo-fi organic surf-rock. The hotly tipped Vanity Fairy performance impresses in vintage white lace dress, with half cut boa hat decorated with flowers – you get the impression she is taking a break from a bit of gardening, before her Kate Bush vocals electrify, accompanied by an array of hypnotic disco beats, samples and backing tracks. Priincess Kemz reflects and rhymes on the changing times and landscape, Niall the Urchin recite poetic-punk beats over deep bass loops in these tales of modern living. 

Hotwax are a blistering new 3-piece from Hastings, they take us back to Deap Valley, in this psych-rock happening. Guitar and bass interlock to bring a scorching rhythm and melody, as bounding mosh pits emerge in this small tightly packed venue, as they taunt ‘stop messing with my brain…’.  Intense vocals reach a melodic calm amongst clashing cascading guitars and drums, and then reach to the highest pitch with ‘I am not your barbie,’ and ‘Rip it out…’.


Another year, another bucket load of great new music discoveries, those of us who were at the first few events of TGE, will surely be amazed at how it’s grown from the tiniest of acorns to an essential start to the summer, showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.