The Verse’s Lorenzo Ottone tells us what he thought about The Great Escape Festival that took place in Brighton on 17th-19th May 2018.
The Great Escape took over Brighton for a weekend, highlighting the new direction of British indie. After years of post-dancefloor indie agony, The Great Escape marked a pivotal moment in highlighting the new directions of British underground.
Exactly like when Bowie departed from us, generating a revamped interest in his production, Mark E. Smith’s death brought the attention again on bands that have in The Fall a big source of inspiration. Acts like Shame started to gain space in the music press showing that, after years of artistic hiatus, British teens have something to say again.
Although Shame didn’t play the festival, Hotel Lux and Sports Team excellently represented this new wave of British indie. The first with dark, witty lyrics and catchy riffs, the second with the irresistible Jagger-esque moves of their frontman.
Brighton’s own Fur proved to be ready to take on big stages like Beach Club’s, one ahead of their support slots to Miles Kane’s tour. With 60s pop hooks and the singer’s beautiful mop-top, their ‘If You Know That I’m Lonely’ could well be the perfect unofficial summer indie hit.
Among guest foreign countries, France and Canada particularly stood out. French singer, and Melody Echo Chamber’s associate, Halo Maud showcased her ethereal psych-tinged pop solo debut. The Psychotic Monks brought psychedelia in the dark and loud territories of fuzz and reverb in the dingy ‘Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar’ basement.
France-based nine-piece supergroup Aquaserge blessed The Great Escape crowd with an intimate performance in the spiritual scenario of One Church. The band – which features, among others, Stereolab’s touring member Julien Gasc – delivered far-out cosmic jazz drenched with influences of 60s/70s European soundtracks and trippy North African vibes.
Canada took over The Green Door Store for a three-day daytime showcase of its best talents. Peach Pit with their laid-back lo-fi dream pop, reminiscent of Mac Demarco, packed the venue to witness one of the latest internet phenomena.
Brighton venues’ limited space was indeed the biggest problem of this growing festival, which perfectly suits the city’s spirit, but condemns people to skip certain gigs in order to queue for others.
Although I couldn’t find any way to eyewitness the new exciting Fat White Family side project Warmduscher, my press pass managed to get into a sold-out Paganini Ballroom just in time to catch Teleman – for sure one of the most-awaited acts of the festival. The combo’s vocal harmonies and ethereal synths sounded even dreamier surrounded by breath-taking golden stucco and burgundy carpet. Pity that the band mainly opted for newer material leaving old fans slightly embittered.
The buzz, though, was all about London’s newest underground hero Jimothy Lacoste. The rapper became some sort of sensation after posting YouTube videos flawlessly walking on double-decker rooftops and singing about London tubes’ expensiveness. You could tell the excitement for Lacoste was real just by glancing at the 200 yard queue outside The Walrus pub. A backdoor left open, though, allowed me to sneak in through the kitchen and catch the rapper’s set. Although incredibly basic, Lacoste’s rapping and cheeky lyrics about 2018 London everyday life made him an urban poet. The jazzy house bases were the icing on the cake.
Another young promise is Gus Dapperton. However, the 21-year-old American indie singer-songwriter failed to impress vocally when on stage.
The great thing about the festival is the buzz it creates all across the city, also with its side events, like Heavenly Recordings’ pop-up shop in the Lanes. There, I caught an intimate set by The Orielles and an explosive organ-filled performance by 77:78.
If the impressions left by this year’s Great Escape won’t soon fade away, the UK’s all set for another interesting indie wave. Those who were in Brighton this May could proudly say to have witnessed its birth.