So that was The Great Escape 2019.
The Brighton event seems to expand each year, truly taking control of the city as a whole, a multi-genre festival that encompasses breaking talent from almost every continent on the planet.
This year felt a little different. The Great Escape emphasised its new music roots, providing a superb platform that honed in on its curatorial skills and prowess for breaking fresh talent.
Matching high profile yet intimate shows from the likes of James Bay to countless smaller performances across the city, The Great Escape got the balance exactly right, underlining its status as the key European showcase for new music.
We’ll be rounding up our favourite performances from the weekend shortly, but here’s a few broader takeaway points from another memorable weekend on the south coast…
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The Netherlands almost stole the show at the Great Escape, with a flurry of much-hyped performances from some unique bands. Lewsberg are old Clash favourites, while Pip Blom’s phenomenally endearing songwriting made for one of the weekend’s true highlights.
The delightful Rina Mushonga lived up to our pre-event praise, but perhaps the weekend’s real stars were EUT. Complex but enticing, visceral yet packed with humanity, the band’s punchy live shows entranced all who came across their path.
With a lot more to come, EUT could spearhead a wave of exciting new bands from the Netherlands.
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Australia’s storming all-day mini-festival
The Great Escape has a global scope, with its line up spanning international waters. Nothing underlined this like the way Australian music took hold of the beach on Saturday afternoon, essentially creating a three venue mini-festival on the Brighton shore.
Emerson Snowe’s bewitching set was the perfect introduction, all ad hoc humour and perceptive songwriting. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets’ finely honed set caused chaos on the beach, while Pagan’s dark, emphatically corrosive music raised a ruckus.
Confidence Man lead the way, and their mid-afternoon set sparked a colossal queue snaking all the way back to the Queen’s Hotel. Bewildering, bewitching, and utterly entrancing, their party-starting set raised the roof.
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Ireland’s ascendancy as a key hub for breaking talent
The UK has always had a curious relationship with Irish music. Despite the regular ferry across the Irish Sea new talent can sometimes fail to translate – just look at last year’s Mercury Prize shortlist, entirely devoid of Irish releases.
That certainly seems to be changing, however. Limerick’s Whenyoung stormed their way across Brighton, while Dundalk’s Just Mustard more than lived to the hype that is currently surrounding them.
The Murder Capital are fresh off the road with Fontaines DC, and their ruthlessly executed set at the Green Door Store saw the stalwart Brighton venue packed to the absolute rafters.
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Foals underlining the potency of their catalogue
Transgressive toasted their 15th birthday with a selection of their finest artists, inviting a few old friends along to help them out. Foals played a surprise set, fresh from the release of their incredible new album ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1’.
While that record leans on their electronic impulses it was a defiantly raucous, guitar-fuelled affair at shore-front venue Concorde 2 with Foals bringing out some of their almighty festival-smashing bangers. A confrontational ‘Mountain At The My Gates’ led the way, while a slinky, disco-fuelled version of ‘My Number’ sent the crowd into raptures. It wasn’t just massive hits, though, with Foals also finding space for deep cuts like ‘Red Socks Pugie’ before sliding early cut ‘Two Steps, Twice’ into the encore.
A phenomenal set, it underlined The Great Escape’s ability to grab exclusive sets from some of the biggest acts around.
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Stellar time for UK rap
While The Great Escape is often viewed as an event that leans more towards the indie end of the spectrum it has grown to encompass all different genres, notably developing a key platform for the various strands of UK rap. Stormzy’s rise was famously accelerated with a stunning show in Brighton, and this year found a clutch of superb events demonstrating the groundbreaking vitality of artists from grime, drill, UK hip-hop and more.
On the Clash stage Unknown T raised the roof, while masked rap prodigy SL delivered a potent, provocative set. Manchester’s Aitch caused a flurry of hype wherever he went, while recent collaborator Jaykae electrified The Arch with his stellar charisma and clutch of all-out rap bangers.
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Photo Credit: Lauren McDermott
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