“There Is Beauty In The Chaos” A First-Timer Attends The Great Escape

A swift wander around the enormous Brighton showcase...

Every year in May for the past sixteen years, the music industry (bar the more commercial side that probably thinks they are more superior than the indie sector) descends on Brighton for The Great Escape Festival – a four-day event that describes itself as a showcase for over 400 up and coming artists from all over the world, across 35 walkable venues.

Attending The Great Escape sort of seems like a rite of passage if you work in the music industry, but at a questionable cost. I lost count of how many people were surprised that I had never been before having worked in music for nearly a decade, then quickly following up about how the festival is either a) loads of fun because your mates will be there, or, b) not fun because no one actually sees any bands and everyone is on cocaine.

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“There Is Beauty In The Chaos” A First-Timer Attends The Great Escape

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Luckily my first ever experience of TGE fell (for the most part) into the former – and how nice it was, considering the dismay of the past two years, specifically for the live music industry. The prospect of being reunited in one of the UK’s major music hubs all in the name of live music and live music only, was thrilling, and a sign that perhaps the world is healing after all. I’m glad my first TGE landed at the (current) tail end of a global shitstorm, because it made it feel all the more sweet. I was supposed to go in 2020 when Hayley Williams was set to headline, which is just confusing as she’s literally one of the biggest names in alternative music. The clout isn’t worth it TGE, stick to supporting the underdogs!

Brighton is a spiritual home for me, somewhere (as is the same for many others) I see myself living if I ever get bored of London, and an idyllic setting for an “all-dayer” – which this was for me because I could only make TGE on the Thursday. In hindsight, I’m glad this was the case – all my peers were mere shells of human beings by the time Saturday and Sunday rolled around, a few even copping out early because they just couldn’t hack it anymore. I think people go harder at TGE than at a camping festival because it’s just perpetual bottomless brunch energy. This confirms what I thought to be true, that The Great Escape isn’t as fun if you didn’t find a place to stay in Brighton for the whole weekend. Some people might like the idea of getting a train back to London at 4am for consecutive days in a row, but I would rather not decrease my life expectancy by five years.

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“There Is Beauty In The Chaos” A First-Timer Attends The Great Escape

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After a swift collection of my wristband and lanyard (ooh, a publicist and a journalist!) – my first port of call was M For Montreal (Mimosas + Bagels) at Patterns – something I only knew about because it appeared first on the list in a lucrative WhatsApp message of all the free food/drink socials happening on the day. I proceeded to send this message to three other people.

Patterns is a dingy basement club on the seafront, painted all black and definitely a disorientating vibe for 11am. As the place slowly filled up and my peers lined their pockets with Lox and BLTs, washed down with plastic cup mimosas (my first just being orange juice because I was just too keen!) things quickly stopped being about bagels and instead became a Music Industry Guess Who – people you only knew through Music Industry Twitter slowly revealed their faces to you like an unlockable character in a video game that you reluctantly wanted to play. By 12pm, I had already completed my networking quota for the week, and maybe my entire life.

The Great Escape is the most fun when you’ve only half planned it – I say this because I tried to stick to a schedule and failed hard and fast at the first hurdle when I missed an artist who was packing up by the time I got to the venue they were playing at (I was having too much fun basking in the sun). Every cloud has a silver lining though, as I bumped into three other mates at that venue, before running back to Patterns to see if they still had free mimosas (they did not). There I saw the magical Magi Merlin in all her psychedelic R&B glory, and then ate lunch on the beach for an hour.

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“There Is Beauty In The Chaos” A First-Timer Attends The Great Escape

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In total, I only managed to see five artists in my thirteen conscious hours at the festival – but any more than that and I think I would have been spreading myself too thin. My hotel room was my savior, providing a solid two hour nap in which I roughly plotted out my evening plans. I received a message from a fellow publicist friend that said “Nixer are on at 9pm and are like Working Men's Club, if you find yourself back out again”. As a new wave fanatic, Working Men’s Club are one of my favourite bands, and one of the best live bands I have ever seen, so obviously I was going to go check out the elusive Nixer. What followed was me, half asleep, waiting for 45 minutes for Nixer to go on stage, all for it to sound nothing like Working Mens Club, but instead a yobbish Devo meets Mindless Self Indulgence from Ireland. Their set was pure hit and miss chaos, repeatedly asking the crowd if they could hear everything okay. If I had paid for my ticket I would have asked for my money back, but at this point in the delirium the whole thing was just unintentionally funny.

By 10pm, the energy in Brighton was less chaotic but a tinge of electricity lingered – with most venues packed like sardines with queues out the door. This was astounding to me as most people didn’t even really know what they were queuing for – and by that unhinged logic I have the utmost respect. Maybe this is what makes The Great Escape so special, and sees the same people that slag it off return year after year. Even in the early hours of the morning the festival attendees were still awake. There is beauty in the chaos, after all.

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Words: Jasleen Dhindsa

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