LIVE: The Great Escape 2019

By Louise Tindall

As The Great Escape took over Brighton for another year, it is fair to say that this line up was one of its most diverse yet. Partnered with The Alternative Escape it provided three days of music ranging from pop to punk and everything in between.

Thursday kicked off with Brutus who performed at The Haunt, which became home to a crowd that seemed to have no common factor as people of all ages filled the venue. Opening their set with a blank stare they asserted their dominance in preparation for half an hour of post-hardcore punk with drummer and vocalist Stefanie perfecting every last note with raw yet desperate effect. Everyone was captive to their hold as they performed songs from their latest release, ‘Nest’ including ‘War’ and ‘Space’ which were both striking, if not portentous parts of the set.

Not long later, Hot Milk took over Volks down by the seafront. Somehow they managed to turn this small 300 capacity venue into one that felt so much bigger. Performing all of their songs from ‘Are You Feeling Alive?’, their ability to involve their audience with the set was full of promise as you could visibly see the crowd bouncing off the energy they were being given. With a little speech about how being in the band gave them the ability to be themselves, they proved what that actually meant. They seem to have a very clear direction in their sound and prove that fun pop-punk is still very much alive and well. Jim Shaw and Hannah Mee’s vocals effortlessly merge together to create a sense of nostalgic teenage angst combined with contagious melodies and easy-to-learn lyrics.

Friday is a busier day than the previous, kicking off with Petrol Girls at The Prince Albert. Being a feminist post-hardcore punk band, all of their songs have an important message focusing on minorities, sexual assault, nationalism and the gender binary. Vocalist Ren Aldridge commands the stage as she not only performs with a sense of urgency and desolation but explains the meaning behind each song and gives people fair warning before performing anything that could be triggering. Her relationship with the crowd is prodigious as not only does she discuss these issues but makes a joke about performing the same set as the night before and laughs at her insecurity of having her photo taken with her new microphone, as it makes her feel like a wildlife presenter. She thanks the crowd for being so respectful to what they stand for, which no doubt has encouraged people to stop and think. This does not for a second take away their great musicality and stage awareness, however, as they perform latest release ‘Big Mouth’ and other hits with a flawless yet harsh finish.

Next up are Cable Ties, a post-punk band from Australia. Their set is filled with nothing but energy as they move around the stage completely absorbed in their music. Jenny McKechnie’s vocals are mesmerising and seem unnaturally precise considering the dominant stage presence she has created for herself.

This is shortly followed by Vulpynes who manage to maintain the intensity that their predecessors left for them. This female duo perform their aggressive set with blustering vocals and a LOT of noise. They are loud, they are destructive and they do it so well. They appear to single handedly encourage a whole new audience to appreciate the contentious attitudes that come with making punk good.

Pagan are another highlight who somehow manage to contradict their image with their music but in a way that only makes them better. Their performance has no boundaries and is an example of controlled chaos. They perform hits from their latest release ‘Black Wash’ and create an experience that can only be explained as authentic. Filtering between genres, it is impossible to categorise them as just one – but they have certainly proved themselves as ones to watch.

Haggard Cat are another chaotic but serious band that takeover Volks with their violent and intensive music. They have managed to make their songs sound even greater live and really immerse the audience in every beat that falls from the stage. It is surreal that a duo have managed to create such a multi-dimensional set that encompasses everything that it is to be ‘rock n roll.’ Their strident individuality is what makes them so great and it is a true statement to see songs off their album ‘Challenger’ to become even better when witnessed live.

All in all, The Great Escape did not disappoint when it came to delivering the freshest faces in the world of punk, and it is going to be an honour to follow these bands on their journeys and future releases.