In our series of Great Escape festival previews, Little Indie's Neil Cole, Linn Branson and Leah Raymond cast an eye and ear over what will be happening on the stages next week in Brighton, and who they think are worth catching.
Neil Cole is first up with his top tips.
It’s nearly time for one of the highlights of the music calendar, The Great Escape festival in Brighton. For anyone that hasn’t been before, this is no ordinary festival. There’s no camping, no headliners, no portaloos and no gigantic main stage to try and squeeze around with thousands of others. Instead, this is a collection of over 400 new music acts, spread across 30 venues in the centre of Brighton. A single, reasonably priced wristband gets you access to the lot, allowing you to pick and choose your own festival line up as well as seeing the sights of one of the UK's most vibrant and diverse cities.
The Great Escape can be an intimidating concept if you’ve not been before. Even the biggest new music aficionado won’t be able to claim they know all the acts on the bill, as the curators search the globe for hidden talent to invite across to the festival. One look at the ‘clash finder’ shows what a unique event this is, often with 15-20 different shows to choose from at any one time. To help you navigate the three days of great new music, here are a few of the highlights I have picked out.
A big tip for 2018 is London four-piece STEREO HONEY. The band’s early releases are reminiscent of Wild Beasts, with frontman Pete Restrick’s incredible vocal range over some superb brooding guitar. One of the great features of the festival is having multiple chances to catch a performance, and you have three opportunities to see this fantastic new band. (Beach House, Friday 15:30; The Prince Albert, Friday 20:15; Patterns, Saturday 14:45)
There are often showcases of international music at The Great Escape, and one country to make a huge impact in 2017 with their celebration at The Green Door Store was Canada. There is some brilliantly unique music coming out of Canada right now, and the Canadians look set to make an even bigger splash this year.
With several showcases across the weekend, it’s harder to narrow down this year, but my top pick is BONIFACE – wonderful singer Micah Visser manages both catchy melodies and uplifting synths. Seriously… check out 'I Will Not Return As A Tourist' and marvel at the slow build-up and almighty climax. (Green Door Store, Friday 12:45; Patterns, Friday 19:15).
It wouldn’t be The Great Escape without some fantastic Aussie music, and one of the better-known acts on this year’s bill are the magnificent ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER from Melbourne. They’ve been around a few years now and after notable success back home are starting to make inroads into Europe. Last year’s breakthrough single 'French Press' has been followed this year by the superb 'Mainland' and 'Talking Straight'; both are pieces of instantly memorable, instantly likeable guitar pop. (Beach House, Thursday 15:30; Paganini Ballroom, Thursday 23:15).
A much newer act with every chance of breaking out this year are Glasgow’s RASCALTON. They are reminiscent of early Libertines with fast-paced tunes and scuzzy vocals, most evident on single 'Told You So'. Having only heard them on record so far, they scream of a band likely to have a fast and frantic live set and it’s one we definitely won’t be missing at the festival.(Horatios, Thursday 13:00; Green Door Store, Friday 22:15).
Final pick for this preview is Nashville-based BULLY, who are established enough to have two albums under their belt but aren’t yet well known on these shores. That could be about to change with a series of forthcoming UK dates as well as their appearance at The Great Escape. Their sound recalls the early 90s, with the obvious comparison to The Breeders thanks to the lo-fi guitar and singer Alicia Bognanno’s gorgeous vocals. (The Arch, Saturday 21:00).
Those are my five – but my top tip is to do your own research and come up with a shortlist of acts you wouldn’t mind seeing. If a venue has an enormous queue, our suggestion is to forget it and move on rather than waste time waiting outside. If you miss a set, or can’t get into a venue, don’t panic! When it comes to The Great Escape, you are never more than five minutes from another venue and another great new band.
The Great Escape takes place at various venues across Brighton between May 17 - 19. Click here for further information.