"We're big, we're heavenly, and we're ethereal." So say Phoria, the Brighton-based five-piece who are about to play their first gig since August of last year, headlining the Brightonsfinest Alternative Escape showcase at the beautiful St Mary's Church on Saturday 19th May, joining the likes of The Fiction Aisle, Her's, Trudy and The Romance, SJ Brett, Charles Watson, and Wild Front.
Back for its 13th year, The Great Escape is the premier showcase in Europe for new music. Over three days and nights, Brighton is host to 450-plus acts playing over 30 venues, from around 20 countries. You won’t have heard of many of these acts, but quality and potential is the name of the game here. Along with a few fairly established names, the bulk of the bill is made up of acts who have shown their talent, and are on the cusp of bigger and better things. It is a fabulous opportunity to check out new music, covering almost all genres known to man. Alongside The Great Escape, there’s The Alternative Escape, which also features a wealth of stunning new talent, and The Great Escape Convention, where many of the music industry’s movers and shakers congregate to check out the talent, and do a spot of networking and deal making. For three days in May, Brighton truly is the place to be! To help you get a grasp of what is out there, we asked various Brightonsfinest contributors, along with some industry players, to give us the lowdown on who they are looking out for.
Gaz Coombes is one of those wonderful examples of a lead singer going solo and completely smashing it while moving away in a different direction. Since leaving seminal Britpop group Supergrass, he’s released three fantastic records, Here Come the Bombs, Matador, and brand-new album, World’s Strongest Man. We said that World’s Strongest Man was, “A continuing examination of ideas of masculine power, pride and ego” with, “Coombes laying bare his own frailties, in mind and body.” It’s a truly excellent record, and we sat down with Gaz Coombes to talk World’s Strongest Man, Frank Ocean, hip-hop, Record Store Day and Resident Records.
From Thursday 26th to Saturday 28th April, the glitterati of the UK’s electronic scene and guests from further afield ascended on Brighton – a city that had a strong electronic scene for itself back in the 90s with the likes of Norman Cook, John Digweed and Cristian Vogel putting us on the dance music map. Now in its fifth year, the UK’s foremost electronic music conference, Brighton Music Conference (BMC), took over the city for three days of talks, brand showcases and networking events.
It took a while. But when they finally got it together, it was good. Very good. Formed and developed in Brighton, their recently released debut album has been winning some of those super rare 100%, 10/10 reviews, from people who can't get enough of their 70s and 80s classic pop-rock songs. Where harmonies and hooks are the most important thing. The four-piece have it in spades it seems, and we'll miss them as they move out of Brighton and head for the Big Smoke. However, they'll be back for this year's The Great Escape, as well as a date with Concorde 2 in the autumn. Brightonsfinest hooked up with guitarist, singer and songwriter Jack Kaye while they were in town recently for an in-store at Resident.
The Stockport five-piece Blossoms caught the imagination with their debut album of 2016, which sailed to number one in the album charts. It was quite an achievement, but this young band's propensity for producing straight ahead classic pop fare with an 80s vibe, hit the mark big time. As will, almost certainly, the new album, Cool Like You. A bit shinier, and more synth-driven, it's still full to the brim of catchy, melodic pop-rockers that will take them to another, more rarefied level.
The 23-year-old West Londoner has been making some serious waves these last two years, culminating in the release of his debut album a couple of weeks ago. He always had a voice – as a choir boy – but didn't start making his own music until his late teens, inspired by the likes of Leonard Cohen, and discovering the joys of GarageBand. Hunkering down in his bedroom to write and record, Gracie's 'Last Words' demo inspired industry interest, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Suitably for an occasion which was initially inspired by the Free Comic Book Day in North America back in 2007, the superheroes that run our local independent record stores came together for Record Store Day. Whereas most retailers would do simply anything to get one over their rivals, this felt different – Brighton’s four indie stores seemed to operate in a friendly and collaborative manner, with a lot of effort put in to avoid event clashes rather than direct competition. Between them, Resident, Vinyl Revolution, Bella Union and Rarekind (as well as a special event at Brighton Dome organised by Spectrum in celebration of local artists) made sure that the whole of Brighton could join in the celebrations of the biggest day in the independent music store calendar.
After their exceptional sophomoric album, Twentytwo in Blue, which we called, “A thrilling ride which lands a solid sonic punch right in your guts” and their exceptional take-down of Brighton’s Concorde 2 a couple of weeks ago, we were honoured to chat to Sunflower Bean about their Top 40 record, making music in the American political landscape, and sitting Theo from Wolf Alice down to play him the record in full.
Back in January, Shame came out of the blocks fast with their stunning debut album Songs of Praise. Acclaimed across the board, their post-adolescent rage is infused with wit, a shed load of melody, and a fair degree of modesty. They didn't expect all this, but they may as well as take it as far as it goes. Following stints in Europe and the US they have just embarked on what they are now calling the 'Ibuprofen Tour'. Brightonsfinest spoke with guitarist Eddie Green about how a pub became the focus of their development, fighting at The Great Escape, and the stunning reaction to their music.