The Great Escape Festival took over Brighton last weekend for three jam-packed days of new music, industry networking and a whole load of shenanigans. Riding the rollercoaster that is The Great Escape takes a lot of stamina – and you might even vomit at the end.
Think of The Great Escape like a weekend in Santa Monica, but different. The rain poured early on Thursday morning, which obviously didn’t stop the party, as music industry delegates dashed between happy hours, tiny venues and invite-only brunches.
The Great Escape 2019 truly felt like the UK’s answer to SXSW; each year it captures that vibe more and more as the programme expands and attracts surprise superstar sets (James Bay, Shame); exclusive industry parties (Coda, Live Nation); underground hype (The Alternative Escape); and iconic brand takeovers (Fender, Spotify, YouTube, Dr. Martens).
Lola Young stole our hearts on Friday morning at the Beach Site with by far one of the weekend’s most exciting sets. Lola’s endearing personality, honest song-writing and ability to not take herself so seriously is what sets her apart from the rest. Her Insta bio reads ‘you’re not supposed to like me’; it’s too late for that. Lola’s style is both dark and witty. She encompasses the socially aware lyrical ability usually seen in hip-hop with a tender story-telling ability more often seen in folk music.
A native of Santa Cruz, Oliver Tree is the artist no one knew they needed. After his high energy, packed-out set at The Great Escape on Thursday, it’s safe to say he’s here to stay. Have you ever seen anyone enter and exit the stage on a micro scooter with a full 360 degree spin in mid-air? Oliver Tree did that. He really did that.
Performing at The Beach Site for the ‘Annie Mac Presents’ showcase, Charli XCX was proven to be right. L Devine is the “motherfucking future” of pop. Her catchy and credible pop songs cover everything from same-sex love, anxiety and crushes. The 21-year-old Geordie legend left the crowd wanting more as she ended her set with brand new single ‘Naked Alone’, out this Friday (17th May).
Norway had a strong presence at The Great Escape this year with Girl In Red, Iris and Askjell leaving a huge impression.
Thursday evening belonged to two of the realest artists in the game. Little Simz and AJ Tracey. Pulling in one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, independent rapper Little Simz tore down The Beach Site with her vital songs and cool bravado. Later on it was a one-in-one-out situation for AJ Tracy’s Komedia takeover as music fans and industry delegates queued to see AJ perform to an intimate crowd.
Easy Life don’t play by the rules and their fans love them for it. The five lads from Leicester brought all the energy on the late Friday afternoon, and when the stage manager tried to cut their set short, they were having none of it. Ending with ‘On Nightmares’, Easy Life immersed themselves within the crowd, lifting any looming hangover from the night before and preparing us for the night ahead.
Other standout sets across the weekend included Swimming Girls’ display of grunge pop at Horatios; Canadian band Tallie’s shoe-gaze surf-rock at Green Door Store; the talented and aesthetically-pleasing duo APRE at Komedia Studio Bar; and Gen-Z heroine Arlo Parks at The Beach Site.
Words by Hayley Thompson // @hayleyyt_