Brighton’s Great Escape, Europe’s largest new music festival, is like a live version of a new music blog, with over four hundred artists vying for your attention playing shows in clubs, pubs, churches, hotels and other locations of the south coast town. The key word with the Great Escape (much like this year’s event’s weather which went from heavy rain to sun) is variety. In just over 72 hours of being in Brighton I saw indie, country, folk, jazz, pop, soul, funk, disco, rap and many other genres, witnessing 37 full sets.
Of those 37 performances, the quality level was very high and so it’s impossible to say which gigs were the best. However, there’s something very exciting about seeing an artist for the first time and their performance leaving you breathless and giddy. So, whilst I went to shows by acts that I’ve witnessed already such as Alice Jemima, Skott, Casi, Pumarosa, Liv Dawson and Jerry Williams and they were all hugely enjoyable, these five gigs by musicians that I'd not seen before had that ‘wow’ factor that you can only get the first time you see a band or solo performer. They came from all sorts of genres and, reflecting the Great Escape’s truly international curation, from all over the world.
Sigrid (Coalition) Norway
It might have been raining outside, the venue ceiling was dripping inside with leaks but Sigrid just can’t stop winning and spreading sunshine. A superb Later with Jools debut, an outstanding debut EP and positive reviews from critics and fans alike, the new pop lady on the block had a lot to live up to and she delivered. Sigrid was as charismatic and praiseworthy as I’d imagined. Yes, of course Don’t Kill My Vibe gained the biggest cheers but the rest of her set was coated with enough quality to suggest that alongside other new potential pop stars such as Maggie Rogers and Skott, that it’s possibly time for Perry, Gaga and Spears to move to one side.
Sultan of the Disco (Latest Music Bar) Korea
On entering the Latest Music Bar for a K-Pop Night Out (which actually took place in the afternoon) guests were greeted by friendly Korean hosts and handed glow sticks, cute animal temporary tattoos and leaflets about the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. It clearly wasn’t going to be an ordinary gig by UK standards. And it wasn’t.
In a sweaty basement bar Sultan of the Disco delighted with non-stop dance routines, classic disco grooves and funk not dissimilar to Chic, The Jackson 5 and Bruno Mars together with a joyful cover version of Ghostbusters; which you can see a clip of by clicking here from my Twitter feed. Dressed in kimono style dressing gowns, shades and headbands the band threw to the audience cuddly toy versions of Soohorang and Bandabi the Winter Olympics 2018 mascots and at one stage lead singer Nahzam Sue played keyboard by being held mid-air by other band mates. Band’s don’t normally do encores at Great Escape, but there was no way the audience was going to let Sultan of the Disco get away without playing one. 100% fun.
The Rhythm Method (Brighthelm) UK
The Rhythm Method (pictured below) are the sort of band that could only come from the UK. Or rather England. More specifically London. They channel The Streets, Madness, Squeeze, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, and The Pet Shop Boys. Lead vocalist Joey told the late night drunken crowd “You don’t want to be here, we don’t want to be here,” whilst looking thoroughly pissed off and I couldn’t tell if he was joking or being serious. They had catchy hooks, bored sounding half spoken-word lyrics that referenced politics, pubs and sex and opened with a song that, if I’m not mistaken, mentioned salad cream. "Play Home Sweet Home," shouted someone in the audience referring to the duo's most well known track. "No," replied Joey. And they didn't. And it didn't matter. You’re either going to love them or hate them and if they get around to releasing an album I suspect there’s the potential for it to be an instant cult classic.
Confidence Man (Komedia) Australia
Confidence Man are a group that make every regular indie rock band, every bland music by formula pop band and every Drake wannabe seem as boring and pointless as ironing socks. Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie came dressed in a baby doll dress, way too-short shorts and two gothic beekeepers hats respectively and for 20 frenetic minutes bombarded the audience with comic strip sassiness, high energy dance routines, (click here for what they were doing) and Lucozade fuelled skilfully crafted electro bubble-gum tunes. That’s all the time it took for Confidence Man to quickly become one of the most talked about bands of the day. I can’t wait to hear and see more.
Tom Adams (Unitarian Church) UK / Germany
Sat at a piano in the corner of the church Tom Adams (pictured below) created the closest thing possible to heaven. Placed somewhere between Phillip Glass and Sigur Ros, Adams’ contemplative modern classical pop with choir boy falsetto voice and soft ambient electronic backing was a beautiful still moment amongst the craziness, the crowds and the energy of much of Great Escape. It was a perfect way to end the Friday evening. He’s already created one of my favourite records of 2017 (Silence), and the live incarnation was just as good.
The 37 artists I saw at Great Escape and Alt-Escape 2017 were:
Benny & The Hair Nets, Fable, Porshyne, Confidence Man, Jade Bird, The Van T's, Be Charlotte, Liv Dawson, Songe, Swimming Tapes, Sigrid, Shitkid, Nilufer Yanya, Tom Grennan, Cosima, Salen, The Rhythm Method, Flamingods, Slotface, Rosie Carney, Hazel English, Childhood, Matt Woods, Wrabel, Sarathy Korwar, Julie Byrne, Tom Adams, Alice Jemima, Bokito, MC Sniper, Sultan of the Disco, Jerry Williams, Matt Maeson, Off Bloom, Casi, Skott, Pumarosa