The Great Escape has swung back into action, with more than 200 acts descending on Brighton for three days of music.
Day One opened with scorching sunshine and a plethora of events, with Clash opening the day by enjoying Montreal rap and finishing by indulging in some homegrown R&B.
From iconic acts playing intimate venues – step forward MUNA – to a plethora of newcomers, The Great Escape more than justified its reputation as a launching pad.
Here’s our take on the essential sets from Day One.
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Described simply on The Great Escape’s website as “epic, the band!” Cowboyyy are cloaked in a wide-brimmed Stetson of mystery. The UK-based band’s Instagram account features only collages accented in digital blue to plug numerous live performances, despite the fact that they have not yet released a single song.
Yet the word of Cowboyyy was more than enough to draw a huge crowd on Brighton’s Jubilee Stage. Pummelling percussion had ears ringing and faces grinning, as Cowboyyy’s dissonant wall of sound lassoed the crowd into enchantment. Highlights from the performance include the bass guitar’s frog hat, the drummer breaking a hi-hat from going a bit too hard, and a lyric best paraphrased as “[we’re comparable to a discount version of Black Midi]”.
Although setting no expectations, Cowboyy were a complete and wonderful surprise – the sort of new music that The Great Escape is all about.
If you asked anyone at The Great Escape on that sunny Thursday morning who they were most looking forward to seeing, the answer was likely to be MUNA.
The three-piece from LA have made quite a name for themselves in the UK, having completed two phenomenal sold-out shows at London’s The Garage and Rough Trade East earlier this week. The Amazon New Music Stage was chock-full of feverish fans jostling with excitement, clamouring to get closer to the stage.
The self-proclaimed “gay church” experience blessed the crowd with a short but sweet selection of songs, including an electrifying amuse-bouche from their upcoming self-titled album. MUNA’s stage presence is like no other, once again proving themselves as seasoned performers executing incredible leaps and dance moves, all whilst wielding guitars.
A vortex of hair and talent, MUNA never disappoint.
Margo Cilker seemed utterly at home under the cerulean lights of Unitarian Church late Thursday evening. An acoustic set of her critically-acclaimed debut record ‘Pohorylle’, Cilker used the space to her advantage as the stripped back set gave incredible acoustics as her voice reached into ever corner of the space, and surely into the hearts of the attendees.
You could almost hear the audience watch with bated breathe as the sheer beauty of East Oregon Songwriter performance takes them of a journey. That’s not to say that the professional of the show means Cliker doesn’t have a sense of humour.
You’ll catch her giving a subtle nod and smile to the multiple cowboy hats in the crowd that served as homage to her country leaning sound. All in all, the sense of love and contentment was near overwhelming for the whole performance.
The evening marked a shift in the energy of the day, as the darlings of the Merseyside Crawlers took to the stage down on the beachside Amazon Music Stage. The seasoned four-piece seemed at ease they second they took the stage, especially as they launched into their upbeat opener MONROE.
As for the crowd, there was a healthy mix of converted fans ready for a rock show and those who seemed unsure of what to except. But in the end, all seem satisfied with the band’s infectious energy, heartfelt performance and their chemistry together that radiated thorught the audience. Not to mention, their set had maybe the closest thing we see to a mosh pit we’ll see at The Great Escape.
The weekend’s still young though…
Billed as one of bigger acts of the night, The Amazons very much took TGE in their stride over at Chalk. Experts at anthemic riff-heavy rock music, it didn’t take much to get the sufficiently liquored crowd truly involved with chants, singalongs and all manner of dancing.
The boys from Reading’s set included massive tracks like ‘In My Mind’ and ‘Black Magic’, that featured roaring bass, crisp guitars, and drum fills that took full advantage of the venues sound system. It felt like a real treat to have such arena ready sounds in that small a space, all topped off with the band’s gratitude as they took the time to share with the audience exactly how much the festival meant to them.
For those of you who like a bit of a secret sleeper at The Great Escape, Keg was surely not one to missing. Down at the Jubilee stage, an invasion is probably a more accurate description for their performance. Their massive crowd induced a one-in, one-out policy. As Brighton natives, the boys rightfully treated the show as a homecoming gig and as such, turned the rambunctious art-punk energy their known for up to eleven.
Tracks like ‘Heyshaw’ infused the crowd with urgency and attitude that comes hand in hand with of mischievous music.
“The problem with my new record,” smiles Kathryn Joseph, “is that none of it is exactly a right good laugh.” She’s right, of course. New album ‘for you who are the wronged’ isn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute affair, but it’s also a riveting, emotionally intense, wholly gripping song cycle, communicated through that remarkable, one-of-a-kind voice.
Catching her at Brighton’s One Church, her set is framed by the immense bond between her artist and the material; several in the audience are reduced to tears, and if her self-deprecating humour proves anything, it’s that Kathryn Joseph’s empathetic approach remains a rich, boundlessly beautiful experience.
A performance to treasure.
Clash favourite George Riley creates soulful worlds for personal immersion. On record, her opaque R&B interwoven with potent digitalism is a terrific headphone experience, one charged with emotional communion.
Onstage at seafront venue the Arch, she’s a frequently hilarious, constantly engaging figure, someone who seems able to frame her songwriting – which so often dips into unexplored regions of the heart – with a vivid sense of personality. Brimming with energy, it’s a set that throws fresh light on her work to date.
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