So that was The Great Escape.
In terms of sheer numbers – we’re talking bands, solo artists, venues, and bums on seats – it’s the biggest event the team have ever undertaken, a genuinely breathtaking, city-wide Brighton takeover.
It makes actually distilling it all down a little difficult, though. After all, if no two people have the same Great Escape experience then how can we – for we are gatekeepers, at the end of the day - make sense of it all?
Well, with great difficulty. But after a weekend of continually seeking out new talent, and continually arguing about who to see next, a few distinctive patterns emerged.
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Jazz is most definitely on the rise
It’s not just hype. Some of the best line ups across the weekend were peppered with new jazz talent, ranging from crossover vibes to hardcore underground fare, emphasising the sheer range of talent bubbling out of the UK jazz community right now.
On the Clash stage, Puma Blue stole the show on Thursday night with an incredible performance – taut, emphatic, and blessed with wonderful songwriting, it was a genuine tour de force in front of a packed crowd in the Arch.
But that’s not all: Shoosh welcomed Kamaal Williams and Poppy Ajudha, while jazz stalwarts EZH hosted an incredible line up featuring Yussef Dayes, Ahmed Henry, Sons Of Kemet, and more. Truly, UK jazz is killing it right now.
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UK rap is diversifying into some incredible new styles
When grime stormed the barricades it seemed as though anything was possible, and the relationship between the mainstream and the underground has opened up fresh avenues for exploration.
UK rap – be it afrobeats, straight grime, hip-hop, or more – is splintering and diversifying stylistically, allowing some incredible iconoclasts to take hold.
Slowthai became a recurring tip across the weekend, while Flohio went down a storm at a dramatic, charismatic set.
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The guitar underground is in rude health
Seriously. We’re not about to write the words ‘INDIE IS BACK’ but it’s certainly looking a bit more chipper than in recent years, when you’d be hard pushed to find anything with both a guitar and a pulse.
Goat Girl delivered an emphatic performance on the Clash stage, while both Hatchie and Sea Girls packed out the Arch. Elsewhere, Squid played a stellar set at the Alternative Escape, but perhaps the pick of the weekend was South London wrecking crew Black Midi who played a series of electrifying performances across Brighton. Genuinely uncategorisable, the band’s no-holds-barred approach seems to reinvent genre tropes with each passing note.
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Outsider pop voices are making themselves heard
For the UK music industry’s annual seaside ramble The Great Escape remains an adorably ramshackle beast, with last minute line up changes, cancellations, and new additions keeping everyone on their toes.
This independence of spirit was evident in the new generation of pop voices represented at the weekend-long music survey. ALMA’s set on the VEVO stage cements her position as a pop tour de force, while J-Pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s set on the Clash stage was literally like nothing else we’ve ever seen.
Perhaps the biggest plaudits go to Rina Sawayama, though, who effortlessly matched style and substance, melding the two together to craft something that could only belong to her.
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Our weekend finished with the M For Montreal showcase, an event that opened with actual, genuine poutine and moved through stoner punk, plangent indie rock songwriting, and a helluva lot more. Compered by Mikey B Rishwain it was a typically broad cross-section of breaking talent from Canada, but it underlined the continuing potency of that country’s music scene.
Partner were an inspiration, while Helena Deland’s moving, poetic, continually absorbing songwriting stole our hearts. As ever, The Great Escape is most emphatically not a UK only affair.
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Photography: Jamie MacMillan
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