Festival Review: Twelve Of The Best New Bands We Saw At The Great Escape 2018

on Friday, August 31, 2018
The Great Escape @ various venues across Brighton (17-19 May 2018) // Words: Saam Das


We've lost count of the times we've attended The Great Escape - now well established as the best new music festival in the UK - and the countless excellent acts we've seen since we attended the debut Brighton festival back in 2006. So we figured this year, we might chart some of the best new bands we caught at The Great Escape 2018 for reference purposes.


Boy Azooga



For convenience, this list will be in chronological order, although Boy Azooga were certainly up there in terms of performances during the festival. Taking to the new Dr Martens outdoor stage on early Thursday afternoon, the Welsh wonders gave it a strong first showing with their bouncy nostalgia.


AE Mak



Somewhat reminiscent of Irish compatriots Young Wonder, with ethereal vocals and similarly otherworldy electronica, AE Mak kept her chatting to a minimum - instead choosing to focus her energies into some impressively vigorous dancing. And her Kate Bush-esque vocals, of course. Beguiling and bewildering in equal measure.


Haiku Hands



It was about ten minutes before their set in the subterranean darkness of Komedia that we chose to treat ourselves to New Zealand trio Haiku Hands. Imagine The Spice Girls doing nu-rave on the middle of a Thursday afternoon and you'll have some idea of how unexpectedly brilliant and baffling Haiku Hands were/are. Plenty of chatter about this lot across the weekend, and deservedly so - by far the most fun new act we've seen at a festival in years.


G Flip



There was something charmingly disarming about the manner that Melbourne's drummer-turned-producer Georgia Flipo approached her Beach Club set - "this is by far the biggest crowd I've ever played for. I'm shitting my pants." Fair enough. Her confidence built through her tracks, alongside her live band, and G Flip delivered one of this year's finest tracks, 'About You', with aplomb.


Girlhood



Christian Pinchbeck and Tessa Cavanna happily threw it back, in a style reminiscent of The Fugees, in the nightclub venue of The Haunt on early Thursday evening. Unafraid of experimentalism, their cut up, beat driven tunes bolstered by synthesised brass brought something pleasing different to this year's Great Escape.


Bossy Love



Operator Please and Dananananaykroyd have both graced our pages in years gone by so it's only right that the collaboration of Amandah Wilkinson and John Baillie Jnr from each respective outfit finally features. While their early set at One Church is considerably delayed due to an extended linecheck, the energy is there from the beginning. A notable highlight being a rendition of Blu Cantrell's 'Breathe' (featuring Sean Paul).


Kirill Richter



The Great Escape's one of those places where it feels totally normal to go and see a Russian contemporary classical artist play in the basement of a hotel. Richter's intense performance on the piano, accompanied by strings, was a timely reminder of the insanely talented musicians that appear at the festival each year.


Plya



You may have heard of Plya under their previous name Sykes, and they're still forging an excellent path with their synthy sounds. Playing at a showcase for mental health charity Help Musicians in an unusually narrow performance space at Shortt's, the trio showed that they're picking up where they left off, leading upto their brilliant closer - the shimmering 'Thinking Of You'. (Bonus points for the drummer's excitement about dogs being in the audience.)


Maison Book Girl



Heralded J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) would follow later on Friday eve, complete with costumed dancers to accompany the bubblegum pop, but it was Maison Book Girl's absurdist industrial pop that won us over most. Complemented rather wonderfully by the best synchronised dance moves on offer across the festival. They also presented one of the most hilarious moments of The Great Escape as, even with fairly rudimentary English language skills, they aptly noted how ludicrously smoke-filled the venue was.


Polo



Having seen the band perform admirably well in an early slot on the Saturday of The Great Escape, Leeds' Polo are now approaching the sweet of the same name and the form of t-shirt for our favourite version of polo. (The sport languishing behind in a distant fourth.) Expertly mixing dark beats with soulful vocals, we were particularly enamoured by the dancey 'Gold Horizons'.


The Beat Escape



Watching a performance from Montreal duo The Beat Escape leads you to question if you are witnessing the past, the present or the future - such is the enveloping nature of their dreamy, driving electronic sound. Music to lose yourself in.


Her's



We finished off our 2018 at The Great Escape with one of our favourite bands from Leicester's Handmade Festival earlier in the month - oddball duo Her's. Playing in the grandiose St Mary's Church, they initially seemed a bit overawed in such an incredible setting, certainly more so than the impressive Tors whose alt-folk suited the venue well. However, it wasn't long till all was right with the world, and their unique joie de vivre shone through. They also remind us of a bit of a musical version of the characters of 'This Country', in the best way possible. Let's hope they're back for The Great Escape 2019.


Find more info and purchase early bird tickets for 2019's The Great Escape at greatescapefestival.com.

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