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.
Adam Ryan – The Great Escape programmer
Amyl and The Sniffers – With the mullets, the aggression and the unflinching embrace of Australiana, Amyl and the Sniffers have been likened to the sharpie subculture of the 70s – a pre-punk movement that was birthed in Melbourne and characterised by “Sharp” outfits and that quintessential Aussie larrikin attitude.
Nao – Performing on our new beach site on Friday night. The last three years has seen Nao’s talents bloom. Her first release ‘So Good’ came in 2014, and was the first indicator that here was a new and unique talent. Expect to hear some new tracks which will cement her as one of the UK’s most important neo soul artists
Sassy 009 – The young trio makes mystical, intimate and minimal music, that effortlessly floats between references of house, pop, techno and experimental as it came straight out of a Berlin nightclub basement. The Norwegians combine strange visuals with dark, danceable music creating an enthralling end product. They have been featured in The Fader who called ‘Pretty Baby’ a, “Throbbingly sweet dance track.”
Jimothy Lacoste – His music has tinges of Mike Skinner and draws accidental parallels to fellow north London dance-grime-electro collective Man Like Me, but his musical lineage seems more informed by an internal struggle with adolescent boredom and filling a void for the shy and insecure. In a world of constant bombardment of ‘new, hot’ 18-year-olds, Jimothy’s approach is more mature and considered, shying away from ‘living for the likes’.
Flohio – Flohio (aka Funmi Ohiosumah) is a British Nigerian artist from Bermondsey. Currently working on her debut EP, Flohio is already making a big impact, crossing genres through her own tracks and features with artists such as God Colony. She has previously been handpicked to support Princess Nokia, Clams Casino and Mura Masa.
Simon Raymonde – Bella Union founder and Lost Horizons band leader
The Beat Escape – A Montreal-based electronic duo who illuminate their beats with a dark pop sensibility. If you like The Cure’s Faith period, Joy Division / early New Order, the best bits of Depeche Mode, Talk Talk and The Blue Nile, then you’ll love them.
Ari Roar – A Dallas songwriter with a fine line in two minute skewed pop songs. When Jason Lytle says you are an amazing talent and likens you to a, “Lo-fi young Elliot Smith”, you’ll take it right?
Psychic Markers – A London four-piece that effortlessly eschews the traditions of alternative, and indie-pop and rock, by carving out a whole new style of modern ambient psychedelia.
BC Camplight – His debut release for Bella Union was beset with problems, mostly his deportation from the UK on the day it came out. He is back now with an incredible set of new tunes. Marc Riley at BBC6 has been a champion for ages, and for good reason. He is ready for a full time renaissance.
Deep Throat Choir – Our all-female collective was started by Luisa Gerstein from Bella Union’s Landshapes and now are a sought-after live act. Recently sold out the Scala in London and also collaborated with Simian Mobile Disco. They’re a must-see live experience, performing both an exhilarating set of covers and original material.
Julian Deane – Raygun Music and Cannibal Hymns
Aadae – I’ve been aware of Aadae for a year after falling in love with debut single ‘River of Tears. There’s a strong afrobeat influence combined with a great modern soul voice. It isn’t easily categorised which is something I’m often drawn to, despite it making it harder from an industry / positioning perspective. But those polyrhythms do something to me. We’ve become so grid based in terms of how we create and in turn listen to music in the digital age, often to the detriment of great rhythm.
Dream Wife – It was a massive honour to release their debut EP on Cannibal Hymns and so brilliant to watch them explode from there. This has got to be the must see show for a band who couldn’t be more in line with the zeitgeist.
Jealous of The Birds – Jealous of the Birds is Naomi Hamilton from Northern Ireland. I’ve followed her since her glorious and understated debut album last year. I’m hearing of exciting things afoot and couldn’t be more chuffed for her. She’s a star in waiting, that’s for sure.
Rahh – I only recently heard Rahh whilst consulting for BIMM on the newly launched Artist Fund which offers grant awards to graduates with serious industry traction. Rahh was a no brainer for everyone on the panel. I can’t wait to see her. Her voice and songs blew me away and I can only see great things ahead. It’s slightly outside of my comfort zone, but think classy modern R&B / Pop.
Trixie Whitley – A ferocious blues influenced guitarist / singer making waves in US and mainland Europe. Her dad was the late great Chris Whitely, and she’s carrying on the family tradition with the greatest of style.
And in terms of some Alt Escape stuff, DYGL from Tokyo who have a Brit band obsession and do it better than we ever did. And a new act called FADES who I couldn’t be more excited about.
Jim Irvin – Ex-singer (Furniture), music journalist (MOJO) and songwriter/producer (Lana Del Rey, Lissie, Nothing But Thieves)
Alex Hepburn – A salty, soulful woman from South London who has found fame in Europe. Vocally on the axis between Pink, Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin, she can pack a punch. However, the songs haven’t always been as satisfying as her instrument. If she finds the right material she could yet be a superstar.
Amyl and The Sniffers – These Aussies look great fun. Punk-rocker throwbacks with mullets and guitars set to wallop.
Charlie and the Lesbians – CATL live in a similar soundworld, a scrappy, punky time capsule from Holland.
Broadstrokes – The nom du guerre of a Nottingham DJ who makes relaxed, jazzy tracks that Gilles Peterson has compared to Cannonball Adderley. Potentially mesmerising.
Stereo Honey – Buzzed about quartet built around the Jeff Buckley-ish voice of Pete Restrick and the Johnny Marr-like guitar-scapes of Nicky Bolardi, displaying plenty of scope for something extraordinary to emerge.
Pale Waves – I can’t tell if they are actually any good. Signed to The 1975’s Dirty Hit label, they sound exactly like The 1975 fronted by a woman – the arresting Heather Baron-Gracie, who resembles the ghost of a silent film star. Yet, any lack of sonic originality hasn’t deterred a bulging fanbase. Future festival headliners for sure, once they break out of their influences.
Fur – Harvest fading echoes of Merseybeat that serve up convincing hits from a parallel universe. If the vocals are a little subdued it may be because tongues are firmly in cheek.
Joy Crookes – Has a distinctive voice and in the pan-cultural video for single ‘Power’, a distinctive look too. The songs are as big, open and characterful as her eyes.
Lily Moore – The huge-voiced daughter of the late blues-king Gary Moore. Though she has just left school, she already has heavyweight management and a lot of people raving about her Adele/Amy Winehouse-sized gift.
Daniel Nathan – Juice 107.2 and Totally Radio founder
BC Camplight (aka Brian Christinzio) – Brilliant but unsung psych-pop multi-instrumentalist recently rescued/signed to Bella Union.
Flohio – Conscious experimental South London grime MC firing astounding quick-fire rap poetry.
Goat Girl – One of the biggest names on the bill. Chaotic, whimsical and 2018’s indie band to beat.
Sons of Kemet – Cosmic afro-futurist jazz led by Shabaka Hutchings, also featuring contemporary jazz titan Seb Rochford.
AK/DK – Brighton’s own purveyors of thunderous double drums, fuzzed up analogue synths and joyous noise, melody and space.
The Brightonsfinest Team recommendations
Bully – For sure there are a million and one cross-fertilisations of The Pixies and Nirvana out there, but this US three-piece are an intriguing mutation, allowing space and dynamic to rule their melodic racket.
Dream Wife – Brighton-formed all-female trio who set up a band for the purposes of an art project. The antithesis of college groomed orthodoxy, they make an original indie post-punk sound that is rather special.
Phoebe Bridgers – Turning into an alt-pin up for the indie kids, Bridgers is a special talent, as heard on her hugely acclaimed debut album of last years, Strangers in the Alps. A brilliant, no-punches pulled autobiographical story-teller.
Mahalia – Super mature and talented singer/songwriter who entranced a full house at TGE two years ago. Back with a sophisticated r’n’b and soul sound, her trajectory is steepening.
King Nun – A ferocious indie-punk noise emanates form this four-piece, but boy do they write catchy, fling-yourself-about tunes. A must see.
Jealous of the Birds – Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Naomi Hamilton was a strong support act for The Divine Comedy at the Brighton Dome at the end of 2017. Carefully-crafted indie-folk with an impressively assured, accomplished and sassy vocal.
Sophie and The Giants – The kind of voice to stop you in your tracks, as it did me a couple of years back, when it came wafting out of my radio. I’ve not forgotten the name since and am curious to hear that big voice (from a small person) live!
Ady Suleiman – We raved about his debut album when it came out in March. It’s a gorgeous release, and it has put his Great Escape show firmly on the map.
Art School Girlfriend – Lush electronica that will engulf you like a sea-swim and a melancholy voice to drown in. A happy kind of sad. Looking forward to wallowing!
Let’s Eat Grandma – Dark, teen and distinctly English, female duo. I’m looking forward to the strange, unsettling and unexpected experimentalism of the pair. A gig, and material, like no other!
Idles – The most exciting live band on the planet, headlining the opening night on the beach? Count me in.
Goat Girl – Hopefully recovered from the painful burn that caused their Haunt show to be cancelled, Rosie and the gang will be a must see.
Let’s Eat Grandma – Every snippet of new material sounds amazing, and out of this world. I’m sure their show will live up to the fast growing expectations!
Superorganism – Their show at The Haunt earlier this year is still my favourite of 2018, so another chance to catch them shouldn’t be missed!
Demob Happy – This may be sacrilegious, but I’ve never caught them! Looking forward to this after having heard so much about their live shows.
Jerry Williams – At just 22-years-old, Jerry’s sound holds a blissful tone which is really setting her apart from most acts around today, her material beautifully capturing the mundanity of life with a fresh indie bounce that you can’t help but dance along to.
Pale Waves – Undoubtedly one of the most talked about rising names in the UK, Pale Waves’ infectious goth-pop style is sweeping the globe and has made them truly a force to be reckoned with.
Stereo Honey – The first time you hear Stereo Honey, you instantly fall in love with them. The level of energy yet delicacy within their material is incredibly exciting and shows nothing but enormous levels of potential for this four-piece.
Hunter & The Bear – A nostalgic style of powerhouse rock which few bands have been able to accurately master, Hunter & The Bear’s heavier sound preaches an electric buzz and incredible energy which will surely be fantastic to hear in a live environment.
Tom Grennan – Tom’s husky vocals and summer style have skyrocketed him to fame which is showing little signs of slowing down. Every one of his songs are catchy and fresh, and prove he is more than living up to his new found success.
Haiku Hands – If their two singles, ‘Not About You’ and ‘Jupiter’, are anything to go by, Sydney quartet Haiku Hands’ show is bound to be an anthemic combination of jazz and pop.
Boniface – Quiet, introspective artist Boniface is an exciting new talent who blew me away with his debut single ‘I Will Not Return as a Tourist’. He’s sure to do the same when he celebrates his first time in Brighton with his beautiful and heartfelt vocals.
Ms Banks – Arguably one of the biggest artists on the line-up this year and Nicki Minaj’s new favourite rapper, Ms Banks’ arsenal is brimming with a fierce fusion of UK hip-hop, lyrical dexterity and trap influences.
Rina Sawayama – Sawayama looks set to be the breakout pop star of the year. Her sound, described be her as, “Cute r’n’b with a subliminal pop sheen” is reminiscent of unashamed 00s pop.
77:78 – Made up of Aaron Fletcher and Tim Parkin from Isle of Wight outfit Bees, 77:78’s debut single ‘Love Said (Let’s Go)’, out on Heavenly Records, is a beautiful amalgamation of The Beach Boys’ innocence and Syd Barrett’s playfulness.
Nao – An obvious one, I know, but having seen her perform a blinding set at Love Supreme 2017, coupled with the retro-funk direction of her latest single, Nao goes on my must-see list.
Sons Of Kemet – At the forefront of the subversive jazz movement bringing the genre back into the UK’s clubs, and fresh from the release of their new album Your Queen Is A Reptile, these guys are front page material. Bonus points for seeing King Shabaka Hutchings on sax.
Ady Suleiman – We raved about his debut album when it came out in March – and the raving isn’t done yet. It’s a gorgeous release, and it has put his Great Escape show firmly on the map.
Yazmin Lacey – Yazmin’s debut EP always lies close to my record player. I’m not sure if it’s her unique vocal delivery or the lush instrumentation of the record, but something about her makes this, her first show in Brighton, a very exciting prospect.
Lily Moore – An outside choice, Brighton-raised Lily just released her debut EP along with a video shot in Marwood Bar that demands attention. Her signing to Virgin EMI suggests an incoming explosion, so go see her in a small venue while you still can.
Underwater Boys – Following in the footsteps of Brighton’s class of 2017 – The Magic Gang, Our Girl and Abattoir Blues – Underwater Boys are one of the newest crop to spring out of one of England’s most fruitful music cities. Being the brainchild of brothers Nick and Tom Klar, they have crafted a gorgeous sound that is as if Keven Parker produced some Brightonian surf rock.
Gentle Stranger – Take a listen to Gentle Stranger’s only single online, ‘Foxglove’, and you will think ‘who and what the hell is this bizarre outfit’. Choral harmonies, synth-pop and industrial noise in that track all play a part in the mysterious hype that surrounds this act – so much so that I’m sure this is going to be “that gig”, the one show everyone is going to be talking about for the weeks after TGE.
Kojey Radical – With a style that crosses over rap, grime and spoken work, and a sound which rolls through jazz, to dance music with easy, Kojey Radical is showing that popular music can be varied and respected. Having seen him play various times over the past year, it’s astounding how good Kojey’s live show can be and I wouldn’t miss a chance of seeing it again.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – With two stunning EPs to their name and a debut album on the horizon, the Australian alternative surf rock outfit who are now signed to Sub Pop are winning hearts at large. Think War On Drugs with less ballads, with the same blissed driving beat but more off kilter guitar lines.
Sam Evian – After discovering Sam Evian via The Great Escape festival line-up, the New York-based musician has quickly become one of my favourite new artists having become obsessed with his debut solo LP on Saddle Creek. Feeding off influences from the golden age of rock, Sam’s wistful and mellow sound is a lush intoxication of what once was. It even features sax squeals!