LIVE: The Great Escape Festival – Brighton, 19.05.16 – 21.05.16

Inner-city festivals are always tough: endless attempts to run from venue to venue to see absolutely everyone on your list, usually resulting in lengthy queues and inevitable disappointment.

But I’ve learnt from mistakes and though The Great Escape is certainly no exception to the rule those acts we did manage to catch were far from disappointing.

Here’s a little taste of what went down:

We kicked off the festival with 60s inspired Hidden Charms. After a brief – but undoubtedly heartfelt – nod to late manager, Craig Tarry, and friends, Viola Beach, Hidden Charms launched into an electrifying, psych set.

What’s perhaps nicest about The Great Escape is the busyness of the venues; whether full of old fans, or people who just stumbled upon a pub, even the smaller bands of the weekend enjoyed pretty full audiences.

And so, after piling out of the Hope & Ruin, we piled into the even sweatier Latest Bar, for Dublin’s Otherkin. It seemed the weekend was to be packed with raucous, topless, and unapologetically wild sets and, true to their name, Otherkin set the bar high with their manic takeover.

Rounding off the first day, we caught Blossoms play their first of 3 Great Escape sets. Filling up Concorde 2, the Stockport boys got everyone dancing, with favourites like Charlemagne fitting seamlessly with taster tracks from their upcoming album. After instructing everyone to go and see Craig David – a set that we unfortunately missed – they finished on a high with ‘Blow’, bringing Thursday to an appropriate climax.

With Brighton enjoying a bit of sunshine, Friday seemed like as good a time as any to make full use of the Vevo Garden. Be it luck or fate, we found ourselves watching Declan McKenna, falling in love (as everyone was) with his political, yet consistently beautiful tracks.

After a failed attempt at getting into his earlier set, we managed to squeeze into the Wagner Hall for the second of Jake Bugg’s two surprise sets. It’s easy to forgot just how big someone is when they find themselves away from the limelight, but when you find yourself sardined in a venue, with adoring fans singing every word back, it’s just as easy to remember. It’s difficult to know if Jake Bugg played a set of crowd-pleasers or if the crowd would have been pleased by anything, but either way his set certainly saw him comfortably back where he belongs.

Friday and Saturday saw an exploration of the Alternative Escape. Clearly drawn to destruction, we caught two Crows sets: the first in The Black Dove, and the second at a takeover at Bleach. Both equally chaotic, Crows may be one of the only bands where the band themselves (or at least frontman James Cox) goes more wild than the crowd; seemingly more out of complete fixation than a lack of enjoyment. With Cox kicking in ceilings, standing on tables and spending 90% of his time in the audience, if you’re looking for a rowdy – but very fun – live experience, Crows are your ones to watch.

After continuing our Alternative Escape ventures with South London’s shame, we made our way to Spiegeltent – perhaps the most an inner-city festival has ever felt like an actual festival.

Cocktails served from a truck by glitter-clad girls in hand, we finished off the weekend with ex-Tribes frontman Johnny Lloyd. Though we may never quite get over the loss of Tribes, Lloyd has re-established himself with a host of exciting new songs. Between working with Jamie T and Hugo White, and touring earlier in the year, Johnny Lloyd proved at Great Escape that he’s still making a name for himself in the new music scene, and the Great Escape proved with their weekend that, despite not having the biggest names, they’ve certainly got some of the best.

Melissa Svensen

Melissa Svensen

Melissa Svensen

Melissa, 22. Editor. Student, music journalist, probably talking about Blur or Bowie