Last week I was at Great Escape Festival in Brighton, the
multi-venue festival where careful planning, running between stages and dodging
the queues becomes a fine art.
I managed to see 36 full performances whilst I was there and
so I thought it was time to pick a couple of acts that I saw that I haven’t
written about on the blog that hit my ‘shows potential’ button.
First up today is Blusher. An Australian pop three piece who
remind me very much of 2012-2016 blog-wave era pop; their music is shiny, upbeat and you
can dance round your handbag to it. Someone described it to me as ‘music for
the gays’ and whilst I don’t fully agree with that level of exclusivity (after
all music is for everyone, right?) there’s undeniably a hint of a door left
open by Robyn on tracks like Dead End and Backbone. These are pulsing
electronic bops with hooky choruses and plenty of gloss in the production.
In the live context the band switch between serious muso
types, rocking the bass and keyboards, covering MGMT in their set, to full on hands-in-the-air cool-pop goddesses, throwing in some bedroom mirror dance routines and
lyrics that celebrate the joys of dancing to forget: "One more reason to take
the floor, call the girls up and dance until he’s gone," they sing on Backbone. "I still want the long nights, dancing with my drunk friends," on Dead End.
Their first ever UK gig in Brighton was in the neon blue lit Zahara
nightclub and it was packed with music industry delegates. It was very well received - they certainly got hips wiggling and toes tapping. A
good start here for Jade, Lauren and Miranda who are the three people who make up
Blusher. A debut EP is to follow on July 14th.
When I first started attending Britain’s biggest
new music festival Great Escape in Brighton in 2007, (I missed the first one in
2006) it was pretty easy to catch someone who was going to be the ‘next big
thing’ in the UK, by sheer virtue of the fact that there wasn’t a huge number
of artists to choose from. At the that time around 150 artists played in 15
venues over 3 days for your £35 ticket, so about 50 artists per day.
The festival was also predominantly a showcase for white male
UK based indie guitar bands (some of the names listed as headliners that year
were The Rakes, Art Brut and The Pigeon Detectives). You had to scroll down the
small print to spot the likes of Adele playing a small coffee shop, which
thankfully I did. It remains to this day one of my best brags when the conversation
turns to big artists that you saw in small venues.
These days Great Escape is very different. It’s truly
international in flavour, with artists from Australia, USA, Colombia, New Zealand
and many European countries appearing (sadly this year there are no artists
from South Korea). Also, many different genres are represented, from
folk to hip-hop to pop to soul. There's even some experimental ambient stuff in a church. In total the festival showcases over 500
emerging artists in over 30 venues plus there’s a pop-up mini festival site on
the beach. Add to that the unofficial ‘alt-escape’ shows and there are probably
over 800 artists playing in Brighton next Wednesday to Saturday.
Therefore the chances of seeing ‘the next big thing’ are slim,
especially when you add in the fact that it’s now so hard as an emerging artist
to gain enough traction and audience to make music a long term career. However,
for new music fans Great Escape remains the equivalent of what Glastonbury is
to summer camping festivals. It’s the biggest and often the best.
Every year a number of people ask me for tips on who to see.
This on its own is an impossible task. Yes, whilst I have listened to every
single artist on the bill in recorded form, it doesn’t necessarily mean they
can cut it live, especially at an early stage in their career where they may
still be developing.
However, if you’re going and don’t know where to start with so many names on the bill, here
are a few pointers of either acts I’ve already seen live and rate, or that have
caught my ear when doing my research for the festival. It’s probably not that
surprising to learn that most of these artists have already appeared on
Breaking More Waves over the last couple of years.
Here are 8 for Great Escape.
The Last Dinner Party
Whilst The Last Dinner Party (previously just The Dinner
Party) had already attracted a fair amount of attention (I tipped them as Ones
to Watch last year in a blog post that you can read by clicking here) it’s
since the release of their debut single Nothing Matters that the band has really
been grabbing listeners ears everywhere.
With a whole host of very old-fashioned reference points
(David Bowie, Sparks, Queen, Fleetwood Mac) The Last Dinner Party could appeal
to those who were around when those reference points were in their prime, but
also a younger, cooler indie crowd who are perhaps getting a little bored with
yet another post-punk band with a shouty male vocalist. Having seen them live a
couple of times I can confirm that they’re a talented gang with a charismatic,
confident front woman. Don’t expect a bunch of tunes all as instantly accessible
as ‘Nothing Matters’. This is a band who sound like they could make a great
album rather than just a collection of pop singles.
After Mae Stephens went Tik-Tok viral earlier this year with
her break out tune If We Ever Broke Up is she destined for 1 hit wonder land or
a big-time pop career? There haven’t been any further releases (why bother when
you’re still collecting streams like they are going out of fashion? 95 million
and counting for If We Ever Broke Up) and so maybe Great Escape will be our
first opportunity to see if Mae Stephens is going to be here for the longer
period or not. Worth checking out just to find some answers.
Louise Macphail and Kristin McFadden make up Prima Queen. They
hail from Bristol and Chicago respectively and make beautiful music that sits
somewhere on the Venn Diagram between indie, rock, country, pop and singer
songwriter. They are one of the bands I’ve seen the most in the last 12 months
and every time their music sweeps me up. I’m not sure if it’s the gorgeous
melodies or their very real storytelling that veers from sad songs that will
possibly make you cry (Butter Knife) to tunes about dating someone whilst not
really being over a previous partner (Eclipse) but whatever it is they are a
band to fall in love with.
Unfortunately, Prima Queen clash with The Last Dinner Party on
the timetable, so there’s a difficult choice to be made here. All I can suggest
is whoever you don’t see, you get tickets to see their own show in the
Unlike some of these recommendations, McKinley Dixon already
has plenty of work online, including a number of albums. A new long-player
follows this summer and his visit to Great Escape festival will give new
audiences a first chance to hear what he’s about. Inspired by everything from
Mary J Blige to OutKast to My Chemical Romance, his current EP Beloved! Paradise!
Jazz? gives a good example of his music; a glorious summer kissed flow of jazz,
hip-hop, pop and soul. He’s playing a number of shows so there’s no excuse not
to catch him at the festival.
If you haven’t seen Vlure live yet you are missing a trick.
Imagine the characters from Trainspotting in a nightclub dancing to Faithless and
intense rock and roll. That is the sound of Vlure – a band that give it 110% at
every live show they play. Like Prima Queen Vlure was a recent runner up at the
Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. Vlure are one of those bands that
really only make sense when you’ve seen them live.
Another artist that appeared on the Breaking More Waves Ones
to Watch 2023 list last year, Caity Baser is a UK artist who might have found
some initial fame on Tik-Tok, but unlike many of her contemporaries she’s no
one hit wonder. Her sassy, lyrically witty pop has already won her a legion of
young fans and its starting to translate into chart positions. Last year’s ‘X&Y’
narrowly missed the top 75 in the UK at number 77 and this year’s ‘Pretty Boys’
went top 30 at number 26.
After selling out London’s Forum, next up for Caity are a number
of summer festivals, perhaps showcasing her music to a different type of fan
than those who are currently obsessing over her as she hits the likes of Great
Escape, Latitude and Barn On The Farm. Live some of the smoothness of her records gets taken out, but you go home feeling like she's your new BFF. Look out for my favourite Friendly Sex.
A few years ago one of my highlights of Great Escape was an
Irish showcase at the tiny Prince Albert pub where I caught a beautifully
intense set from The Murder Capital. This year that same showcase is in the
same venue and the potential highlight is another band bringing further force.
That band is Gurriers. If you like your guitar bands raw and rage fuelled then on
the basis of the music they’ve so far delivered, Gurriers will be for you. If
you can’t make the Prince Albert show on Thursday afternoon, they are also
playing Alphabet on Friday evening and
an Alt-Escape show (which non-ticket holders can attend) at Folklore Rooms on
What’s not to love about a man who does big gay pop songs,
clearly models his stage presence on Freddie Mercury and on the 19th May will release an absolute banger about a nightclub called Homospace? Mickey
Callisto is the fun you’ve yet to experience but really should. He’s the
ultimate groovy space-cadet.
8 not enough for you?
Here are a further 8 recommendations: Heartworms, Debby
Friday, Bellah Mae, Venbee, Rianne Downey, Nell Mescall, Another Sky, Ttrruuces
Bonus Tip !
And here's a final bonus tip. If you're at the festival for the 3 full days (4 if you include the limited offerings on Wednesday night) don't just stick to the genres you like and things you know. One of the beauties of Great Escape is that there are plenty of artists playing who rarely visit this country, or may never do so again. For at least half an hour in one of the three days, choose something at random that is totally different from what you'd usually see. Maybe try some hybrid Colombian folk with London jazz and hip-hop (Mestizo Collective) or some Australian sex pop (Big Wett). You may hate it, you may love it, but it will expand your musical mind either way.
How about a seven piece from Brighton playing jazz post rock with a hint of experimental punk?
Well that’s today’s latest selection on Breaking More Waves.
Welcome to the world of Flip Top Head, who describe
themselves as orchestral cult rock.
Their debut shape shifting song Seventh Bell Number was released
back in February and has hints of Black Country New Road insofar as you’re
never quite sure what it’s going to do next. Unpredictability can often be a
mess, but in this case it works. The mix of beefy trombone, guitars and the wonderfully named Bowie Bartlett’s haunting vocal that sings of giving back his eyes mix well
Yet this is only their first song, so who knows what comes next? The
internet can provide clues of course, with live footage on YouTube showing that their other songs also feature the male vocals of the equally
brilliantly named Bertie Beer.
Sitting far outside the mainstream, Flip Top Head certainly
won’t be winning over lots of Ed Sheeran fans. But for those who like their
music a bit more out there, they might just be your new favourite band.
If you’re anything like me, the word Nightbus will fill you
with some degree of anxiety. I’m talking drunken men shouting at each other, fighting,
the waft of takeaway food, vomit and discarded beer bottles rolling round the floor
whilst a girl near the front of the vehicle is crying, consoled by her friends:
“He really isn’t worth it. You’re better than that darling.”
Thankfully this Nightbus, a three piece from Manchester (not to
be confused with the ‘filter disco’ four piece of the same name from the
previous decade) is a far more appealing proposition. From what’s been released
so far I’d describe them as a darkly languid indie band with a heart of goth.
With the likes of new artists such as Heartworms (who they recently supported
in Brighton) currently getting a lot of attention, the kings of dark-pop The
Cure being back on the road and night-queen Siouxsie Sioux set to
return this summer, right now it’s a good time for new goth influenced bands to step out of the
shadows - even if it means that a nasty bright spotlight might shine on them.
To pigeon-hole Nightbus as just goth is wide of the mark
though. Their debut track Way Past Three is dreamy and gently ethereal and starts with a guitar sound similar to The Edge from U2, whilst
new song Mirrors throws ghostly shapes not dissimilar to a less taunt Joy
Division with its chugging bassline and haunting synths. What is certain though
is that whilst their music would sound great on your headphones late at night
on the sodium lit bus ride home, their world is not one of kebabs and drunk
fighting, but one of moody indie-art-pop, ready to hypnotise you.
Nightbus consists of Olive Rees, Zac Melrose and Jake
Cottier. You can catch them live supporting Iceage in Manchester tomorrow
Remember ‘Nu-folk’? As the likes of Mumford & Sons found
themselves headlining the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, it seemed that every
indie leaning musician out there was ditching the guitars, growing a beard, buying
a waist coat, stomping round the haystacks and getting to grips with the banjo.
As with any musical fashion, that wave eventually broke.
Even Mumford & Sons reinvented themselves as a rather boring stadium rock band
and charity shops noticed an increase in waistcoat donations.
So, when a group comes along that could have quite easily
fitted into that indie-folk gang back in 2009 you might give a little shudder.
But don’t. Because Limerick three-piece Kingfishr make powerfully brilliant
songs, and that’s what’s important, irrespective of genre, fashion or
Kingfishr consist of Edmond Keogh, Eoghan McGrath and Eoin
Fitzgibbon and they embrace Ireland’s love of traditional music that is passed
down from generation to generation (banjo player McGrath is part of the
National Folk Orchestra of Ireland). However, the band add the sort of muscle
that rock fans will enjoy – their songs well up with the sort of punch the air
euphoria that someone like Bruce Springsteen achieves.
This is best heard on the third and most recent song they’ve
released – Heart In The Water, which is full of moving and sky scraping weight .
Of the song the band say: “Resentment is a powerful emotion. Looking back at
all the things you could have had had or done, and realising you won’t get
those moments back is hard to take. Heart In The Water is about learning from
paths not taken.”
Listen to Kingfishr below and once again celebrate the
It’s been a while since Breaking More Waves has featured a potentially
chart-bound pop musician on these pages. Recently the focus has been on louder,
edgier alternative acts or left of centre singer songwriter types. So, let’s
address that right now by waving hello to Bellah Mae who says of herself: “I
overshare my life in all my songs and then let the world listen, so welcome to
the Hot Ex Girlfriends Club”.
With a couple of singles under her belt, Bellah (short for
Isabella) is already showing lots of promise as a potential hit maker. First
there was break up jam Boyfriend Of The Year (a pop tune with a slightly U.S rock
attitude and the only one where you’ll probably hear the mention of carbonara
of in the lyrics) and then the follow up, the Drama King, which finds Bellah singing to her
slightly pathetic and obsessive boyfriend: “You follow Instagram models, one
after the other, but god forbid I follow back my best friends brother.”
Whilst they’re both bops a deeper perspective on what Bellah
is probably about can be heard on a different version of Boyfriend of the Year titled
the (Sadder) version. Here there’s a nod to Taylor Swift in its style. Just like
Taylor Bellah has a bit of a country background, having done some ground-work in
Nashville when she was just 17 before signing a record deal.
If you’re a fan of
Taylor, Olivia Rodrigo or Miley Cyrus you’ll find a lot to like here. As with virtually
everything featured on these pages it’s early days, but I’m certainly not
betting against Bellah Mae right now.
If you’ve had a chance to listen to the updated Breaking
More Waves New Music Weekly playlist (here) you’ll have no doubt heard the mesmerizing song Red Wine by Irish singer Sal that opens proceedings.
The independent Cork based songwriter has released just a handful of songs under this name, Red Wine being her fourth following last year’s
Bullet In The Head, Everything and Merry Go Round. It’s a stop-you-in-your-tracks
country lullaby and deserves to be heard by a far
bigger audience than the 773 monthly listeners she currently has on Spotify.
little bit of digging reveals that this isn’t Sal’s first musical project; she’s recorded and released as Sara Ryan since 2016, was named New
Artist of the Year at the Irish Folk Awards back in 2017 and released an album
in 2019. That was in the past though and what excites most is her new material
and in particular Red Wine - a song that casts the most magnetising of spells. The irony is that the song is about the difficulty of letting go - something you'll probably find is hard to do with a tune as alluring as this.
Her other material still maintains a hint of country, but
there’s elements of pop and softer rock as well; if you like music by the likes
of Natalie Imbruglia or the song Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer then Sal’s
melodic ways are guaranteed to charm you.
Having worked through a number of support slots with various Irish musicians, Sal has a few small headline
shows of her own coming up through March in Ireland (including one in a
If she continues to deliver music as gently heart-melting and gorgeous as Red Wine, she could well be one to watch into the future.
I’ve debated in the past about what is ‘new’ in the context
of music, something that probably isn’t that important to anyone else, but as
the writer of an occasionally posting new music blog these are the sort of things I think about. Imagine being my partner and the exciting discussions I bring to the table: "So, if you've never heard The Beatles before, are they a new band? Are their songs new music?"
Today’s new band are pretty damn new by most definitions.
After all they released their debut single today. Or are they?
A quick consultation with the internet tells us that they’re not quite the fresh-faced teenage discovery I thought they might
be. For Miss Tiny is actually producer / guitarist record label owner Dan Carey
(Wet Leg, Fontaines DC, Honeyglaze, Kae Tempest etc) and vocalist / drummer
Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft from Childhood and Warmduscher. They’ve been friends
for many years and originally formed the band together under the terrible name What It’s Like To
Be A Rat, debuting at Brixton Windmill last year. Having deemed that name “too
evil sounding” they’ve become Miss Tiny, after a nickname to Benjamin’s
grandmother who passed away during recording.
The aforementioned debut single from Miss Tiny is called The Sound (no it's not a cover of The 1975 song) and is streaming below in video form. It is
best described as a slow-motion lo-fi scuffed up around the edges take on Peter Gunn. It’s not a one off, but the first take from a bigger
project of which no doubt we’ll hear more soon. But for now get your groove on
to this dirty and enjoyably unpleasant beast.
There’s been quite a storm of shouty (and spoken) post-punk
raging out Ireland over the last few years and for the moment at least it seems
that the lightning does indeed strike more than once, because Gurriers are the next band
from those shores to hit with a vicious and venomous thwhack
Official debut single Approachable was released this week.
It has the same sort of ferocious firepower that those early Fontaines DC
singles possessed – think Hurricane Laughter with even ballsier vocals. They
sound like the sort of band that would send bodies flying everywhere in a
sweaty pub, volume cranked up, beers flying. Tender and beautiful? Most definitely not. Intensely raw and thrilling? That’s more like it.
Gurriers consist of Emmet White, Ben O’Neill, Mark
MacCormack, Pierce Callaghan and vocalist Dan Hoff who has described Approachable
as being: “A tongue in cheek anthem about the rising far right rhetoric all
over the world.”
Her style is inspired by World War II uniforms and her music
is an intoxicating mix of slightly funky, goth-tinged post-punk electronica. Does
that do it for you? If it does and you aren’t familiar yet, it’s time to get
acquainted with Heartworms.
I’ve been waiting for the right time to feature Heartworms
on the blog since first hearing very positive things about her set at last year’s
Great Escape festival in May and the subsequent release of debut single
Consistent Dedication in September. Now with a truly excellent spikey second song Retributions
Of An Awful Life out in the world, today seems a good time.
Heartworms is one Jojo Orme. Jojo spent her youth in Gloustershire
but has now relocated to London. Having signed up to Dan Carey’s Speedy
Wunderground label (Carey is also on production duties) her debut EP A Comforting Notion follows in late March.
Before the EP we get Retributions Of An Awful Life. It’s
intensely immense - the sort of song that threatens to grab you by both shoulders
and shake you until your bones break. Yet despite the pain, it's a pleasurable experience. There’s a suitably full-on cold looking video as well
(shot in black and white of course). Watch it below and add Heartworms to your list
of new favourite artists.
After rattling off the annual Breaking More Waves Ones to
Watch (here) and a few end of year lists it’s about time this blog got its act
together for the new year and put a few posts online, right?
For the time being the format remains the same; introducing new or relatively new artists, not too many posts to clog up your feed and only one
about each. Effectively each post is the musical equivalent of a tinder one night stand; but if you
want you can have a long lasting relationship with the artist; the choice is yours.
Let’s start with Connie Campsie. You can see her in the picture above, staring up at the sky on what looks like the top of a concrete multi-storey car park.
What is she thinking I wonder? Has she lost her car? Can she not remember what
level it’s parked on? Or is there a really good view from up there? Or is she just thinking the most British of thoughts: "Looks like rain and I haven't got my bloody coat."
Now just in case you’re confused, yes this is the second British relatively young and new Connie in music with a surname that begins with C in the last few years. The other is Connie Constance, who to be fair isn’t that new now having been doing the
rounds since 2015. Also, although the surname isn't a C, a quick shout out to Connie Talbot who was the runner up on the very first series of Britain's got talent in 2007 - remember the sweet little girl singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Except she's now 22 and a fully grown adult. Which if you're like me just seems wrong. In my head she will forever be that small child.
But before I go to far off at a tangent, back to Connie. It’s
a cool name in my books. So cool one of my daughters is named as such.
Returning to the real subject of this blog post: Connie Campsie. Connie released a couple of
songs in 2021, a couple in 2022 and has just last week dropped Uneasy, a tune which
will feature on her debut EP I’m Still Talking To Myself out in February. It’s
my favourite so far, a really intimate piece that floats to your ears with a gentle caress
that whispers ‘I’m a beauty.’ Hints of Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor
Swift sweep through Connie Campsie’s music, so if that's your thought of thing, add Connie Campsie to your list.
The very sharp amongst you will of course be shouting at
your screens that Connie has put out music even before that though. Prior to
recording under her full name she released some songs under the name Campsie
(now deleted from streaming services) and before that if you cast your mind
back to 2017 and you may recall a band that featured on these pages called
Sugarhouse. They had a delightful indie pop tune called Love Anyone Else
that brimmed with the joys of young romance. “It will probably make you want to
start a fanzine. Or a record label. Or a music blog. Or just give someone a big
hug – maybe even a kiss,” I said at the time. One of the vocalists in that band
was one Connie Craven Campsie. Yes the same Connie Campsie who features here
Connie’s dropped the Craven bit (her mother is Beverley
Craven – the Brit award winning Beverley Craven who had two top 5 albums in the 90’s)
and just taken her father’s surname to release under. But don’t hold the famous
parent against her, except to say that the talent is clearly in the genes as
her latest songs demonstrate – they’re the most mature and compelling she’s
released so far and so for that reason Connie is our first ‘new’ artist of 2023.
Connie Campsie also features on this week's Breaking More Waves New Music Weekly playlist, which you can find by clicking here or searching New Music Weekly on Spotify.
2022 was a busy year for me in terms of gigs. I managed to catch in the order of 340 live performances.
So without further ado this is a list of my favourite 10 gigs of 2022.
1. Sofi Tukker - London
Moments after the gig I tweeted: "The energy from the crowd at Sofi Tukker tonight was insane. Sweaty, joyous and full of love. It verged on religious. Incredible." That sums up what was not just one of my favourite gigs, but one of the best couple of hours of my 2022.
2. Chvrches - London
I've seen Chvrches many times now but this was a peak. Add in Robert Smith of The Cure (one of my favourite all time bands) as a special guest and call me more than satisfied.
3. Ttrruuces - Bognor Regis
My 'Why have I not seen this band before?' moment. Also my pop-music-making-me-tearful moment.
4. Gabriels - Brighton
I'd read so many things about the elated state Gabriels could leave you in. Those writers were correct. A captivating and soulful live performance. Go see them if you get the chance.
5. Lorde - London
Lorde's 3rd album from 2021 continued to grow on me in 2022 and the beautiful live show complete with her staircase to the sun was aesthetically one of the most inventive I saw in 2022.
6. Rosalia - London
Rosalia isn't a household name in the UK, but elsewhere she's a huge pop star. She spoke of dreams of playing the Royal Albert Hall when she was young, so performing at the 20,000 capacity O2 was mindblowing for her. Thankfully it felt like every Spaniard in London had turned up and the show was packed. The Brits missed out here; an incredibly charismatic, funny, cheeky, sexy, weird, original and (despite the venue size) personal show from the woman who has also made my favourite album of 2022. And what a voice!
7. Gang of Youths - Kingston
This album release show for Banquet Records may have been the shortest gig I went to on this list of 10, but from the off it was exhilarating, with lead singer Dave L'aupepe heading straight into the crowd within seconds of taking to the stage. They may normally play much bigger venues, but The Fighting Cocks pub in Kingston was a perfect punch.
8. Priestgate - Brighton
One of the most exciting new bands I saw in 2022. "And the award for best new frontman at Mutations Festival goes to Priestgate," I tweeted after witnessing Rob Schofield's Iggy Pop referencing performance.
9. Kathryn Joseph - Reading
In a church in Reading Kathryn Jospeh was funny, bewitching, potty-mouthed and beautiful. The highlight of this year's Are You Listening Festival.
10. The Cure - London
One of my favourite bands of all time playing a 2 and a three quarter hour long set that included Friday I'm In Love, Pictures of You, Push, In Between Days, Lovesong and many more including a bunch of songs from the (hopefully / finally) soon to be released new album. What's not to like?