The Great Escape Festival @ venues across Brighton (14-16 May '15) // Words: Saam Das
Gloriously sunny weather greeted revellers on the final day of 2015 The Great Escape, a long way from the inclement weather that made day one of the festival a challenge. The music remained of a high standard throughout, and while Northern outfit Cape Cub may well have been better suited to moodier weather, their Dome Studio Theatre performance is excellent regardless.
Led by Chad Male, they surprisingly leaned toward a stadium pop sound at times, and Cape Cub is a project with real crossover potential. I then decided to take a punt in a very different direction, with Canadian experimentalist 36? at Green Door Store. Their falsetto-led opening number saw at least a dozen people leave. They settled down a bit but they comfortably went in my book as the most bizarre band of TGE15.
The Komedia unusually played host to a 14+ but one that was perhaps appropriate for American rapper K. Flay, whose live spectacle was a little lacking (even with an enthusiastic drummer) but the kids seemed to enjoy it sufficiently. I did too, but my prior expectations meant this had been a tad underwhelming. Almost the opposite happened soon after, as I went to witness Al Bairre in the intimate setting of the upstairs of The Prince Albert.
Al Bairre certainly contrasted the preceding Thor Rixon whose dance sounds were at least more engaging than the live set up of him sat at a desk in front of a laptop. The South African quintet, all clad in white, instantly and unexpectedly lifted the energy of the room - providing an infectious enthusiasm, matched by the giddiness of the music itself. A blistering performance by a band that should have every summer festival booker after them.
With few bands of interest on till later in the day, I was probably the only TGE15 attendee to then decide that it was time to check out the Booth Museum Of Natural History - I would recommend visiting, and the Dyke Road park opposite is a lovely spot for a cheeky ice cream. I returned back into town for the Tusks Secret City Session at the Bosco Theatre, and just about managed to squeeze into the small surroundings. Things never quite soared for Emily Underhill and her unnamed compatriot, but I imagine she will be back bigger and better.
I had plotted to catch Arkells next but as is often the way with these kind of festivals, a line up change means I inadvertently catch some of Demob Happy instead. (Which was at least announced before they started.) Their brand of rock, while performed impressively enough, isn't quite my thing so I moved on to catch Oscar at The Arch, whose melancholic Morissey-esque vocals contrasted a more uplifting sound. An intriguing combination and it's easy to see why he's been signed to Wichita Recordings.
Having arrived well in time for GEoRGiA, I found Coalition was running considerably behind schedule. That meant that I had the chance to check out New Yorker Verité, who sadly didn't sparkle with her pop. GEoRGiA, on the other hand, was well worth the wait. Prowling across the stage, and occasionally taking command of a drumkit, she deliver a set of explosive material. Even with one of my pre-festival tips (Mapei) looming, GEoRGiA felt like a suitably triumphant end to my festival.
It's been ten years of The Great Escape and it's been a pleasure to see it grow since I attended the very first edition back in 2006. Now firmly established as one of the UK's finest music festivals (full stop), the 2016 edition can't come soon enough.
Buy super early bird tickets for TGE16 and find more info about the festival at greatescapefestival.com.