The Great Escape 2014 festival review

Virtual Festivals' top four discoveries at The Great Escape

The Great Escape 2014 festival review

Photographer:Virtual Festivals

John Bownas - 12 May 2014

Brighton isn’t short of live music on any given night of the year. But for three days every May its multitude of venues creak at the seams as bands descend from across the UK and around the world to try and gain new fans and cement their place in the minds of industry talent spotters.

The Great Escape prides itself on challenging the established view that a big, successful festival has to pin its hopes for ticket sales on a heavyweight cast of established and popular acts.

Yes, for a premium charge, The Dome hosted artists such as Kelis, and for those who were quick off the mark it was possible to catch bands like The Kaiser Chiefs at ‘secret’ shows. However, the main programme is jam-packed with lesser-known names, and the whole point of the exercise is to seek out and find some new acts that have the potential to become tomorrow’s household names.

However, with 400+ shows in a multitude of venues and the added complexity of a burgeoning ‘alternative escape’ fringe, hosted by a plethora of independent promoters, labels and music publications, the chances are stacked firmly against you uncovering more than a handful of new gems. A little research is consequently needed to explore the listings and compare the various pundit recommendations. And coupled with some judicious lucky-dip Russian roulette this does improve the odds of coming away with some fresh songs lodged in your ears.

Other tips for anyone going next year are to bring a bicycle to get around town, and make sure you have the festival app downloaded to your phone. It’s also advisable to update it regularly, as the inevitable line-up changes do get picked up and you can avoid turning up at gigs that have been moved.

With so much to chose from here’s just a small selection of our finds from this year

Dublin Brothers Alfie and Harry Hudson-Taylor – playing under the name Hudson Taylor (9) – already have the backing of a major label and their Spiegeltent performance underscores the faith Polydor’s A&R team have put into the siblings’ future. Mature lyrics are driven along by the kind of powerful acoustic guitar playing that drives a sharp wedge through massed-ranks of mediocrity. 

Another recent signing, Kimberly Anne (8), wears her south-east London roots firmly on her sleeve…think a less abrasive version of Jamie T. Playing in the Spiegel Bar and later at a ‘secret’ venue announced via the festival’s useful text alert service, these are smaller crowds than she recently experienced supporting Jake Bugg at Brixton Academy, however her DIY ethic lends itself perfectly to more intimate settings, and she’s definitely a name to watch as she claims new fans with every show she plays.

RM Hubbert (9) is one of the half-way house names on the Great Escape bill. He’s a reputable name in his own right, with a long background and a degree of success under his ample belt. But ‘Hubby’, as he is affectionately known, is probably destined to remain under many people’s musical radars. This is a shame, and despite winning £20,000 and the title of Scottish album of the year in 2013 for his ‘Thirteen Lost & Found’ release, his marriage of contemporary flamenco and gritty, sometimes gothic, indie-folk-esque ballads are not likely to be the stuff of mainstream commercial success.

Last of our picks, sassy Norwegian’s, Deathcrush (8) don’t just kick out the jams, they slap them around and leave them bleeding by the roadside for good measure. In a riot of attitude and post-punk savoir-faire this two girl, one guy trio open the evening at Digital and set a high bar for the rest of the night’s bands. Blistering bass-lines, thundering drum-riffs, staccato guitar and sneering lyrics all come together in an in-y’r-face package that ignites excitement and leaves the crowd begging for more.


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