LIVE: Our Great Escape

By Tamsyn Wilce

Each year, the city of Brighton and Hove gets completely taken over by over 500 bands and artists, industry experts and music lovers alike to enjoy the madness of The Great Escape. Priding itself on being the best ‘Festival’ to discover new music, the event holds gigs in every venue, pub, cafe and generally any space they can fit in a stage over three days. Most people purchase wristbands for the weekend, which gain you access to all of the gigs across the three days, however if you’re on a budget there are a whole host of free events which are open to everyone. Being the latter, we headed into the city to catch as much as we could amongst the hustle and bustle of the Great Escape crowds.

First up, the Scuzz UK Throwdown at Volks nightclub, and the beastly baselines of Croydon trio Bad Sign. Bringing an almighty amount of noise to the usually-peaceful beach front, they thrashed through their set, which included favourites ‘Unbeliever’ and ‘Father’ whilst also taking the time to get all up in everyone’s faces and let them know they mean business. Completing their set with filthy riffs, demonstrated with execution by guitarist Jonathan Harris, there were worrying seconds where it looked like the amp stack was  moments from toppling due to the chaos of it all. Equipment still intact, ear drums not so much, Bad Sign kicked off the throwdown perfectly.

From there on, things only got more and more boisterous as Zoax took to the makeshift stage, or in frontman Adam Carroll’s case, anywhere but. Buzzing off the triumphant release of their debut album, there was a confidence about Zoax that had not been seen before. There was a little extra swagger, a little extra groove and even more energy than before. Carroll has become renowned for his crazy motions during Zoax’s live performances and this one was crazy enough to stop traffic, literally. As he sashayed outside, Carroll brought the road to a hault and left a taxi driver traumatised as he unleashed a bellowing roar. Bringing the party back inside, the end of their set proved why they’re one of the most exciting UK bands right now, and as the wall of bodies collided with the final breakdowns it was clear that Zoax are on the brink of something big.

Another act on the brink of huge things is solo artist-come-project Grumble Bee. Initially grabbing people’s attention with his combination of soulful and husky vocals, with erratic riffs and math-rock hooks, Grumble Bee – aka 23 year-old Jack Bennett – is catching people’s eyes at an alarming rate. Upstairs at The Prince Albert is a small capacity, muggy room, which moments before his set became crammed with fans and industry moguls trying to catch a glimpse of this buzz worthy act (pun definitely intended). Working through tracks from his debut EP ‘Disconnect’, Bennett transformed from a humble and somewhat timid character to someone possessed by their own passion and music. His voice shifted from smooth and bluesy to sharp and cutting, reminding us of Circa Survive/Saosin’s own Anthony Green, but with a deeper tone. “Sorry that was gash,” he stated before leaving the stage and this was his only fault, because the performance was jaw droppingly good and he better start believing it.

After an evening of attacking our ear drums, it was time to watch something a little calmer. Having first made his name as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, solo artist Sam Duckworth has reinvented himself as Recreations. Along with his acoustic guitar and his not-so-trusty macbook, Duckworth serenaded those of us at the back of the Irish pub with modernised versions of Get Cape favourites, including ‘I Spy’ and ‘War of the Worlds’, as well more recently penned tracks. Mixing up electro beats and sound clips with acoustic niceties, the whole set was a fresh taste of what Duckworth can offer. A fun, yet chilled ending to the night, but an easy introduction to what would be a busy weekend.

After a day off from The Great Escape on Friday, we jumped right into Saturday with band of the moment, The Hunna. Performing at the local church community centre wasn’t what we expected, but upon entering the spacious room, it was a perfect setting for the hottest indie band on the market. Performing they’re already huge hits ‘You & Me’ and ‘Bonfire’ as well as unheard tracks from there forthcoming debut album, the four-piece looked effortlessly cool on stage, while delivering each song with style. The guitar twangs and unique tone of vocalist Ryan Potter combined to create an infectiously beautiful sound, and while comparisons can be made to some of the big dogs in the indie music scene, The Hunna are comfortable in their own skin and undoubtedly have a bright future ahead of them.

Saying that we saw Black Foxxes would be a bit of a lie, as The Haunt was literally bursting at the seems with people trying to catch a glimpse of the hotly tipped trio. Though it was physically impossible to see anything on the stage from where we were stood, what was heard certainly made up for it. Having openly stated that many of their songs are written about struggling with mental health, there was a slightly eerie and poignant atmosphere whilst Mark Holley projected his emotions, powered by the driving force of the drums and graininess of the guitars. Black Foxxes have been earning themselves a lot of praise in recent months, and they have plenty more to give. 

From indie-pop to songs about pets and wrestling, upstairs in the Pav Tav London trio Sad Blood were spreading their angst among the crowd. Front man George Phillips was charismatic as he talked about the influences behind their emo-twinged music, whilst distorted guitars whirled around our ears and the simple, yet perfectly suited drum rhythm’s accompanied Phillips’ gloomy tone. Having just released their EP ‘Legion of Gloom’, it’s only a matter of time before emo gang’s everywhere are singing Sad Blood’s praises.

The Great Escape is renowned for its diversity of bands and genres who play over the weekend, everything from folk to metal is welcome here and if you have a penchant for the slightly more obscure, you can bet there’s a stage there for you. Next up on our trip around the city were Box of Light, a surf-rock duo who just ooze 50s fun. Though much of their fanbase has grown due to vocalist Helen Anderson’s YouTube career, all preconceptions of this band remained firmly at the door. With glittery guitars and fizzy spirits, Box of Light injected some much needed summery vibes to the wet and dreary day and it’s impossible not to bop your booty along to tracks such as ‘You Try’ and ‘Say It First’.

By the time the sun had set on Brighton, our feet were sore and energy drained so it was decided to round off what had been a great day and weekend with a fun yet soothing set from Great Cynics’ frontman Giles Bidder. Though at times looking a little lost without his fellow bandmates, once he got into the swing of it all he had the room cheering with laughter at his witty anecdotes, whilst each song blissfully flowed through his voice and guitar. It was short and sweet, but the most ideal ending to The Great Escape – the Punktastic version.