Tuesday 2 May 2017

Preview: The Great Escape 2017 - (Part 1: Practical Tips For Music Nerds)

City based multi-venue new music festivals might be omnipresent in the UK these days, but Brighton’s Great Escape remains the mother of them all, being bigger, longer and bolder as it showcases a far more diverse range from all over the world than other similar British events.

Running from Thursday to Saturday Great Escape brings over 400 acts to the pubs, clubs and venues of the south coast of England and that doesn’t even include the Alt-Escape, which is a collection of generally free to enter showcases taking place alongside the main festival programme.

This year as it has done for the last few years, The Great Escape also features a number of larger Spotlight shows. These include Slaves playing at the end of Brighton’s most famous landmark the Palace Pier, using the Horror Hotel as the setting for a 1,000 capacity gig. The show will also include Ellie Rowsell from Wolf Alice DJing on the dodgems and the audience being asked to wear Horror Hotel themed fancy dress. West Sussex’s own Rory Graham aka Rag ‘n’ Bone Man will also be performing at a spotlight show, at Brighton Dome, returning to a place he first played in 2012 when as an unsigned artist he supported Joan Armatrading after his girlfriend had entered him for a talent search competition.

However, for me, The Great Escape isn’t about larger established names, it’s about watching and listening to as much new music as is humanly possible, mainly checking out acts I’ve never seen before, as well as a few favourites that I've seen before.

Over the next few weeks, if you’re into new music (and I assume you are otherwise why would you be reading this blog?) you’ll probably see plenty of articles with tips of acts to see at the festival. A word of warning - if you see an artist being asked in an interview for tips never trust them, they'll generally tip their mates, someone that has or is supporting them or someone on their label. However, I hope you can trust Breaking More Waves, as I'll be suggesting a handful of artists to see in a post later this week. 

But before that, if you’ve never been to the event or even if you have here are my practical tips on how to get the most out of it.

Warning: These are tips for people like me, namely those who want to see as much live music as humanly possible during the course of 3 days, not those who want to catch a handful of bands and spend time chatting to their mates / ‘networking’ with music industry types in the many pubs of Brighton. Or in other words, total music geeks.

So here are my 5 basic suggestions.

1. Eat A Big Breakfast

Because trust me you’re not going to have much time for food the rest of the day. The music starts as early as 11.00am on some days, so eat a big breakfast around 10am and then just grab food as and when you can in between venues / bands. Why spend an hour sitting down and having a leisurely lunch when you can grab a sandwich walking between gigs and catch another band?

2. Wear Sensible Footwear

OK the Great Escape is hardly Glastonbury, and you won’t need wellies, but if you’re planning on seeing lots of acts (over 10 a day easily) you’ll be on your feet a lot, so choose your footwear wisely. Even though venues are, with just a few minor exceptions, close together, you'll still be doing a fair amount of walking as well.

3. Plan, Re-Plan And Plan Again (And Have A Plan B and C)

Virtually all of the Great Escape regulars I know say they enjoy the military like planning of what they are going to see almost as much as the event itself. Some use the app, some the website, some a spreadsheet, some the good old fashioned pen and paper list. It’s very easy to decide who you want to see in advance as The Great Escape publishes Spotify playlists of virtually every act on the bill. The idea of the festival being a ‘discovery’ event as it used to be is not quite true, or rather your discovery can be done equally as much before as during the festival. You can now know what every act sounds like before you hit Brighton – the question is just how good are they live?

Of course, with most venues being relatively small in size, queues and being ‘at capacity’ are an integral risk of the festival for punters, but with good planning, you should be able to mitigate most of that. The app also gives updates on if venues are full or not (although in my experience this can't always be fully relied on - but it's a useful guide). The key thing to take into account is if there’s an act you really want to see, don’t risk turning up 10 minutes before they are due to play. I’d recommend getting there at least for the act before, maybe even earlier if its a 'buzzy' act or very small venue. But if you can’t get in, take note of my next tip.

4. Never Stand In A Queue – Unless You’re Waiting For A Venue To Open Or Are Certain You’ll Only Be There For Five Minutes

I remember one year at Great Escape walking past a 200 capacity venue where Alt-J were due to play (they were one of the buzz bands of the moment and just breaking through). The venue was already full and there were at least 80 people queuing outside. They were never all going to get in. My advice in this situation - take a punt on something else. You might be surprised at what you find. Why waste time in a queue? Unless of course it’s to ensure you get into a venue before doors open. Back in 2007 I queued outside the Red Roaster CafĂ© for half an hour before the doors opened to ensure I got in to see a singer who was 2nd on the bill. I was third in the queue. That singer was called Adele. In hindsight it was a good decision. (Note: I had already brought food from a local supermarket and ate that whilst queuing, ensuring I followed my own time saving guidance.)

5. Try To Catch At Least 1 Artist From A Country That You’ve Never Or Hardly Ever Seen Live Music From Before

One of the things that sets Great Escape apart from other Festivals is the number of international showcases it has. What’s important to remember with the artists playing these shows is that they will often represent the cream of emerging talent from that country. Therefore the quality will be high. This year for example, one possible showcase that is on my list is a South Korean one. After all, who couldn’t resist a band like this…..(albeit Sultan of the Disco are not particularly new).

Keep an eye out on the blog for later this week I’ll be posting some musical recommendations for this year’s Great Escape. 

Sultan Of The Disco 

No comments: