Europe’s leading new music festival The Great Escape took place in Brighton from 8th-10th May, attracting more than 18,000 music lovers down to the seafront to explore the delights of the city’s thriving music scene. Turning pubs and bars, theatres and hotels into music venues for three days, the festival hosted some of the most promising and innovative acts from around the world. The Edge headed down to the festival to check out some of the artists who will be gracing the stages of festivals in the UK and abroad throughout the summer.
Courtney Barnett, Komedia
Hailing all the way from Australia it seemed that Courtney Barnett was the name on everyone’s lips and it was easy to see why. Barnett stepped onto the stage with just herself and her guitar; she really didn’t need anything else. Her songs weave a web of witty lyrics and her singing is charmingly monotone without lacking in expression. It would seem that first and foremost, she is a storyteller and because of this she managed to get a real rapport going with the audience. Her set was humble and entertaining and it felt by the end of her set that somehow we had got to know her.
Formerly from Southampton and now living in London, Laurel retained an air of mystery in her gaze as she contently swayed on stage to her huge movie-style masterpieces. The 20-year-old showed off her voice beautifully with the hefty notes of ‘To The Hills’, although aspects of her performance felt a little contrived such as the breathy a capella vocals at the end of several tracks. Her genre felt very contemporary and marketable, and while previously unheard tracks showed spark, none matched the promise of set-ender ‘Blue Blood’. Look out for an interview with her on The Edge later this week.
Paul Dixon, otherwise known as Fyfe is not new to the music scene (back in 2010 he went by the name of David’s Lyre). However if you don’t recognise him you wouldn’t be the first. While there are subtle similarities between Dixon’s work as David’s Lyre and his work as Fyfe, they are not glaringly obvious. There is no denying it, Fyfe’s set was utterly captivating, with ambient guitar arrangements perfectly pitched against jaunty drum beats. In stand out track, ‘St Tropez’, Fyfe built up to an intense crescendo, reflected not only in his singing but in his slightly agitated yet sincere stage movement.
Tove Lo, Komedia
Six weeks ago there probably wouldn’t have been many people in Komedia for Tove Lo’s set, but instead there were repeated mutterings of “there’s a sick remix of one of her songs in the charts!” Sweden’s latest musical export gives far more than the original remix of ‘Habits’, and provides it all with bucket-loads of gusto and energy. After the second enthusiasm-packed track ‘Not On Drugs’ she grinned at the audience, out of breath, exclaiming how much fun she was having, and her excitement was contagious, with a previously static audience bursting into life. With songs like ‘Out Of Mind’, Tove Lo proved she’s got that knack for a chorus to propel her to a pop star who isn’t just a one-trick pony.
Mirel Wagner, Komedia Studio Bar
Following a Beyoncé-esque, big-noted and joyous performance from Max Marshall, the tone of the evening was drastically altered when Finnish musician Mirel Wagner sat down with her guitar on the tiny stage. The hushed plucking of her guitar signalled a staggered silence across the room for her entire set, stunned into a desolate numbness. Hopelessly sad opening track ‘No Death’ was haunting, and her stage presence – still, with closed eyes – added to the bleak pain of the track. Her exceptional musical talent and agonising anguish made this an unforgettably chilling experience.
Jamie Isaac, The Prince Albert
What Jamie Isaac lacks in age he most certainly makes up for in talent. His sound is smouldering with sophistication; it’s dark, moody and oh so brooding. He performed on what was possibly the world’s smallest stage but he commanded it with grace and poise nonetheless. What was most refreshing about Isaac was that he was not afraid of silence. His minimalist yet intricate approach to song writing showed real confidence, and he understood the importance of silence and what it can add to a song when used well. Jamie Isaac’s music is mature, interesting and most importantly thoughtful.
RHODES, Unitarian Church
In the revered silence of the Unitarian Church you could hear a pin drop as RHODES was about to step on stage; a setting perfectly suited to his intricate and reflective music. His vocals were pure, tinged with pangs of longing and a healthy dose of melancholy, contributing to a set which was simplistic yet effective. As he broke into the first few bars of ‘Always,’ the track that first brought our attention to RHODES, I could feel my body erupt into flurries of goosebumps. His performance was drenched in emotion, and was absolutely stunning.
Gorgon City, The Warren
Performing live with guest vocalists for one of the first times, Gorgon City’s set proved a little disappointing for the packed theatre in which they were performing. With no crowd interaction from the duo themselves, vocalists of varying ability were responsible for hyping up the crowd, and some did this better than others. While MNEK and Laura Welsh performed surprisingly substandard versions of their respective singles, it was Yasmin’s execution of ‘Real’ and Clean Bandit collaboration ‘Nightingale’ which were the set highlights. The staging of the show from VEVO was impressive, but the quality and energy of the duo was underwhelming.