As the new year comes into focus, one thing is for certain: The Great Escape will be a crucial part of the music calendar again.
The Great Escape is the central date in the calendar for industry players and storm chasing fans alike as it showcases a carefully chosen selection of new key bands to get to know. In combining festival with conference, TGE is a huge moment for the bands that feature, some practically playing for their lives, or at least their record deals. It is an exciting, action packed few days, the British answer to SXSW, and this year already looks set to deliver, with only a fraction of what will come to almost 500 bands having been announced.
The festival stormed back into our consciousness back in November with their ‘First Fifty’ showcases, throwing up the devilish choice of which to pick. For me it came down to The Dinner Party or Jessica Winter with Grove. I went with The Dinner Party, acutely aware that their rapidly growing profile meant that this could well be one of the last chances to see them in as small a venue as MOTH Club for quite some time. They are a truly exciting new band, drawing on the classic pop irresistibility of bands like ABBA and Sparks and bringing to it the attitude and style of the modern London scene.
They are just one of the many tantalising prospects leading the line in the initial lineup announcement of TGE. The exceptional quality of Jessica Winter and Grove, who also reliably bring brilliant live performance stacked with quality songs, speaks of the strength depth already written into the bill. Winter was a highlight of Mutations back in November, with her unique, intelligent take on contemporary pop. Grove dazzled throughout festival season, my favourite set being to a small but dedicated crowd of Wide Awake goers in search of something fresher than Primal Scream.
All that indecision and brilliance compressed into three of the vaunted ‘First Fifty’! That is not to mention the ‘Spotlight Show’ headliners, Mercury winner and 6 Music favourite Arlo Parks and pop superstar in the making Maisie Peters, back from tour with Ed Sheeran to the city where she started out as a busker. Elsewhere on the bill are riotous Brighton punk favourites Lambrini Girls and Ethan P. Flynn, a modern-day songwriting master. Melin Melyn bring an exciting jangly psych sound breathing life into a Welsh indie heritage dating back to Gorky’s and the Super Furries, while Been Stellar come in from New York with Strokes guitar lines magnified to stadium scale.
The festival encompasses over 30 venues across the mercifully walkable Brighton city centre. As with Austin during SXSW, the entire city comes alive with music, with bands popping up in the most unlikely locations. Tickets are available to buy to guarantee access to the bigger shows, but the official Alternative Escape throws up an additional set of free events showcasing acts from the bill in smaller spaces for those lucky enough to get in. If you want to get in on the ground floor with a new wave of unmissable bands, mark the 10th to 13th May in your diaries, check in on your Brighton mates with spare sofas, and start dissecting that lineup in search of the next big thing.
Tickets and further info are available here.