Brighton, UK – The Great Escape is often referred to as Britain’s SXSW; a festival for new music that has mushroomed somewhat since it was first staged in 2006. This year’s event, which runs from 18 to 20 May, showcases 450 emerging artists from across the world in over 30 venues across the elegant seaside city of Brighton. The festival is for music professionals and fans alike with a convention featuring panels, seminars, keynote speeches and networking sessions running in tandem with a plethora of live shows. A full delegate pass costs £250 while a 3-day fest ticket with access to all core gigs, though with that all-important rider of subject to venue capacity, is a bargain £65. Single day tickets however are already sold out.
If you are unfamiliar with Brighton, let me paint a quick picture. It is generally much cooler (as in temperature) than Austin and presents nothing like the scale of the Texas event. Located around 50 miles south of London, the place is blessed with a long promenade, two piers (one sadly a burned-out wreck) and the kind of stony beach that’s ruinous to feet. As a centre for arts and culture, Brighton is a hip place: vibrant, creative, cosmopolitan, boasting a large gay and lesbian community and with the country’s first and only Green Party Member of Parliament. It has a landmark pavilion, some great Regency buildings and The Lanes where you can lose yourself in a maze of independent shops.
Geography and history lessons over, who should you see at The Great Escape? The roster includes some high profile names – Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Slaves, Kano and Gabrielle Aplin to list a few – and several breakthrough acts that have been featured in these columns, most notably The Districts and Pavo Pavo. Spin through the A-Z of acts and you’ll find Into The Ark, the duo that came runner-up in this year’s The Voice, while scrolling further down you wonder whether the previously unrelated Shit Girlfriend and ShitKid might be tempted to form a supergroup one evening. The full gig schedule can be viewed here while a festival app is also available via The Great Escape website. Meanwhile here are some appetisers for you.
Ásgeir – The Arch, Sat 20 May
Icelandic singer-songwriter Ásgeir was responsible for the fastest-selling debut album in Icelandic history in 2012; a record conceived in his farmhouse bedroom featuring lyrics written by his poet father. The artiste has returned with a bold new electronic album, Afterglow, previewed here with “Stardust”.
Betty Who – SHOOSHH, Thurs 18 May
Originally from Sydney, Australia Jessica Anne Newham aka Betty Who mixes polished, fun pop songs with more emotive tracks on her recently released 2nd album, The Valley. The 80’s leaning “Mama Say” is very much in the former camp and is delivered with confidence and panache.
The Big Moon – Horatio’s, Sat 20 May
London four-piece, The Big Moon, released its debut full-length Love In The 4th Dimension last month. Bringing bravado and camaraderie to its brand of indie rock, the band is adept at that quiet-to-loud mode as demonstrated by the album’s opening track, “Sucker”; the gender-challenging video is fun too.
Broken Witt Rebels – The Hope & Ruin, Thurs 18 May
Young four-piece Broken Witt Rebels hails from Birmingham, UK but has much in common with Southern States rock in its marriage of rebel rock and soulful blues. “Guns” from the band’s Georgia Pine EP nods towards this classic vein and celebrates its home town’s historical reputation for gun making.
Ailbhe Reddy – Bleach, Thurs 18 May; Prince Albert, Fri 19 May
Dublin alt-folk singer-songwriter Ailbhe Reddy has just one self-released EP titled Hollowed Out Sea behind her but is quickly gathering outstanding reviews for her latest song “Relent”. Reddy’s emotively raw tone is highly distinctive fused with the underlying rhythms of her homeland and there is a touch of Daughter about the primal intensity of her songwriting.
Kane Strang – Bleach, Thurs 18 May; One Church, Fri 19 May
New Zealand’s Kane Strang is set to make the transition from bedroom recordings to the studio when his second album drops later this year. Following a similar path to the likes of Lady Lamb, Car Seat Headrest or High Sunn, Strang has previewed the album with “Oh So You’re Off I See”, a song that augurs particularly well for the main event.
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Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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