The Great Escape 2016
My third visit to TGE and another enjoyable break. After my first visit, I dropped the criteria for TGE to be deemed a successful festival from it being a ‘band discovery festival’, to it being simply a good short break where I catch some new bands. Although TGE does have several hundred bands. But the quality isn’t as high as SXSW. So it can at times be difficult identifying bands to watch. There’s often too many singer songwriters and electronic music for my taste. So the first year I found it frustrating.
This year, I’d dropped any such criteria and just concentrated on it being an enjoyable short break and from this perspective, it was definitely successful and I think this festival is now an essential fixture in my calendar.
This year was a good example of how my approach has changed. In all honesty, I didn’t feel the line-up was too inspiring. My first year, I would have found this frustrating. But I think like this year’s SXSW. We’re in a lull year. There wasn’t really a buzz around any new bands. But this year wearing a different hat, it didn’t bother my. The festival is so cheap that it’s still good value if you only catch two of three bands. With the early bird tickets, it works out at only £15 per day and at that price, you really can’t go wrong. So this year, I was just happy to bounce around and catch whoever I could find.
Shark Dentist, Leif Erikson, Good Foxy, FRIGS, Cosmic Strip, Catholic Action, Anna Meredith, Crows, White Miles, Frankie Cosmos, Amy Von, Larkin Poe, Banff, Howling Owl, Wyldest, Cloves, Bleached, Anteros
(Bold – liked, italics – band I’ve never seen before)
As you can see from the list above. I concentrated on catching new bands. Starting the festival were Shark Dentist, a band I’d heard good things about. Sadly they didn’t do much for me.
TGE was my first chance to catch Anna Meredith. I’m not sure a festival is the right place to catch her, as she mixes electronic music with cellos and brass. But the crowd were respectful and I enjoyed the set.
I have a sneaky liking for the Hub. It’s a tiny tube-like venue in the sea wall. It’s got a claustrophobic feeling that works well with rock bands (although you do have to get to the front, otherwise you don’t see anything). So making my first visit of the trip, I accidentally stumbled upon a band I’d seen last year, White Miles. They’re a two piece with a lead singer with a lot of energy. They worked pretty well in this venue.
Aldous Harding, Exmagician, Barbarella’s Bang Bang, Nadine Carina, REWS, Kim Churchill, PAUW, Ellie Ford, Dream Wife, Baba Naga, Inis Mor, Pleasure Beach, James Gruntz, Blush, Drones Club, Black Honey, The Anchoress
Starting Day 2 was the ever fantastic Aldous Harding. I think she’s a bit special. There’s something etherial about her performances that I just can’t get enough of. So it was a great way to start the day, but also a risky one. Starting the day on a big high means it can only go downhill. Luckily, there were a few bands playing who I thought could act as strong anchors. Dream Wife and Baba Naga around the middle of the day and Black Honey, to close the day. In all honesty, very little stood out during the rest of the day. But these acts were worth the admission alone.
One of the biggest draws at TGE this year was local band, Black Honey. I’m a bit of a fan of this band. Izzy the lead singer is pretty awesome. There’s a swagger about her that means this band is destined for big things. Obviously without the music it wouldn’t work and luckily they have some very catchy music. Izzy’s also brilliant to photograph as she always puts on a good show. Tonight they were playing Brighton Pier and I believe they closed the pier as the venue was at capacity. I suspect this is the last year they’ll be playing TGE as they’ll be too big next year.When I arrived there was a frankly awful band called Drone Club. I’d assumed that most people were there for Black Honey and was resigned to watch from afar. But oddly, it turned out, most people were there for Drone Club. As you can see from the photos and video. The crowd disappeared and I walked straight to the front. I guess that’s the great thing about music. What’s rubbish to one person is brilliant to another (though I’m sticking by Drone Club being the worst band I saw at TGE16)
Closing the evening was the Anchoress on the BBC Introducing stage. I quiet liked what I heard. But I have to admit, I’d done enough standing around and not enough drinking so I decided to call it a day and head off to find a pub.
Joe Nolan, Coves, Pollyanna, Glass, Chastity, Post Heather, Beverly, Chastity Belt, Aldous Harding, Margo Price, Joy Formidable, Cult of Dom Keller, NOTS, Diet Cig
Oddly, when I’d pre-planned the final day. I hadn’t identified much of interest other than bands I had already seen. So I decided to just base it on take it easy. But there was the odd thing. Beverly was pretty good. I caught Aldous again. Watched some of the FA Cup final and decided to take a chance on getting in to see the Joy Formidable. Luckily, I think the walk down to the Concorde on a cold evening had put people off, so just like the night before with Black Honey, I was able to walk straight up to barrier. I spoke to a long time JF fan after the gig who’s extremely disappointed with their new material. But personally. I loved their performance. To close the evening. I headed to my favourite venue, Sticky Mikes to catch NOTS and Diet Cig, who’s lead singer was still bouncing around as if it was the start of the whole thing. She’s like a walking (and bouncing) advert for Duracell. Amazing energy, another fun performance and a good way to close off this year’s TGE.