Originally published in The Edge
Imagine the kind of festival that would nonchalantly complete its lineup on a Tuesday morning by adding 150 new names and you can begin to get a sense of what The Great Escape is all about. Forget faffing around in a muddy field and missing out on your favourite bands because your friends are making you wait in a half-decent perch for one headliner – The Great Escape is three days of the music industry converging in over 30 of Brighton’s finest venues to celebrate and be introduced to everything new and ready to take over. The archives are packed with household names who appeared before their big breakthroughs – from Adele in 2007 to The xx in 2009 via Christine And The Queens in 2013 and Bon Iver in 2008 – and this year’s bill now boasts well over 400 names ready to feature in the same conversations. Slaves will kick things off by gigging on the resplendent pier, local lad and two-time performer Rag‘n’Bone Man has already sold out his headline slot at the Dome, and Kano will take over the Old Market for some grime time on Friday night, but here’s just a little taste of the acts that you should keep a particular eye out for.
12:30pm Thursday at Wagner Hall
11pm Thursday at Wagner Hall
8:15pm Friday at Coalition
Perhaps one of the lineup’s most familiar names thanks to her linkups with Jonas Blue (‘By Your Side’) and Jax Jones (‘You Don’t Know Me’), Croydon’s Rachel Keen looks certain to follow her mentor and regular collaborator Charli XCX into a convincing double life as a compelling pop star with so many hits (‘Don’t Leave,’ ‘After The Afterparty,’ ‘All Cried Out’) that she could just as easily stick to writing. Fortunately, there’s no sign that she’s going to pick one path over the other: writing with Stormzy and for Little Mix is in the works, meanwhile February’s sell-out headline show at XOYO was an effervescent set of defiant R&B (‘Distraction’), playground chants in the making (‘My Girl’), and incredible displays of mature songwriting for someone of her young years (‘Hotbox’). She may be popping up on festival cards throughout the summer, but The Great Escape will surely be the last chance to spot her in such an intimate setting.
8pm Thursday at Coalition
4:30pm Friday at Wagner Hall
Just when you think Scandinavia’s got enough incredible pop talent, along skips Sigrid Raabe. A few months ago, she was a 20-year-old from the Norwegian port town of Ålesund who happened to be new on the books at Island. Now, her immaculate debut single ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ has 20 million Spotify streams and The Guardian is labelling her “the new Lorde, basically.” In the lead-up to her Great Escape slot, she’s already sold out London’s Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, announced a Scala show for September, put out a four-track EP for which she has an item of clothing adorned with each track title, and a who’s who of the industry had a very special showcase of her talents when she dropped by the UK at the end of March. That jaunt even included a visit to Southampton, where our radio friends taught her the ways of scones on the Common.
Will Joseph Cook
2:30pm Thursday at Wagner Hall
9pm Thursday at Wagner Hall
“If someone calls you a pop act, it’s like being told that you write good songs,” said Kentish youngster Will Joseph Cook a year ago, and everything that followed in the build towards April’s full-length bow Sweet Dreamer has certainly adhered to that. Picked by Greg James as tune of the week and more recently given a stellar dancefloor edit by HONNE, latest single ‘Beach (I Wanna Make You Mine)’ originally appeared on 2015’s Proof Enough EP and has Cook showcasing the jovial, optimistic tone that makes his live shows such a joy. His shift towards big singalong choruses hasn’t come at the expense of his ability for a stunning bit of acoustic work, though, as his recent performance at Abbey Road with Surge Radio can testify.
3:30pm Saturday at Queens Hotel
The morning after Bastille opened the Wild World tour in Bournemouth, Toby Leveson left me with these words: “Take Everything Everything and add a bit of Wolf Alice with a frontman who thinks he’s in Slaves and you’ll get these guys.” Carrying lots of support from Abbie McCarthy on BBC Introducing Kent, the quartet is growing stronger with each release, and their first of 2017 (‘Kiss?’) well showcases the penchant for raucous duets shown on the full Made Simple EP that received four stars in our recent review.
12:30am Friday at Brighthelm Centre
12:30pm Friday at Wagner Hall
In latest single ‘Pretty, Fake,’ Sälen’s Ellie Kamio squanders no time whatsoever in emitting sheer disdain for what she and bandmates Simon Milner and Paul Taylor-Wade described to DIY as a “wasteman” at a party: “I’m sorry, but did you say I’m pretty fake or pretty and fake? / Loose lips suck dicks / So who are you? / I know me / Who are you anyway?” Whilst it’s fair to say that the remainder of their discography – opened with 2015’s Christmas surprise ‘IILWMBF’ via Kitsuné, the French electronic label that handled early release from Two Door Cinema Club, Crystal Fighters, and Bloc Party – is a little bit more suitable for more sensitive ears, it well illustrates the band’s devilish twists on sweet pop melodies. February’s Island-released ‘Heartbreak Diet,’ for example, is a defiant breakup song that became a hit across student radio.
11:30pm Friday at Coalition
8:30pm Saturday at Wagner Hall
Having made their bow as a duo by adding an alarming club edge and subtle melodic augmentations to Dua Lipa’s ‘Be The One’ in late 2015, northern pair Shy Luv – Jake Norman and Sam Knowles, perhaps more recognisable under their respective Armeria and Karma Kid guises – released their first four tracks on Black Butter as the Shock Horror EP in Feburary. On the title track, they welcome 2016 Great Escape graduate JONES for a delightful hybrid sound reminiscent of Empire Of The Sun and Metronomy meeting for a little groove, and last week’s ecstatic debut of ‘Time’ continues the motion with strength, direction, and a bloody lovely flute line.
8:15pm Saturday at Coalition
One of Copenhagen’s latest exports, Polydor-signed electropop trio Off Bloom is seeking to build on last autumn’s blaring debut ‘Love To Hate It’ and the EP of the same name by playing a captivating second fiddle for Dua Lipa, LANY, and RAYE to open the year. Channeling compatriot MØ with a little extra ferocity in delivery and glee in between the bursts of intensity, Mette Mortensen fronts up with co-producers Alex Flockhart and Mads Christensen contorting themselves with each more than any other electronic performers would ever dare. The energetic punch is matched in the music, too: new single ‘Falcon Eye’ has the self-described “three-headed dragon” taking on today’s utterly rosy political climate.
8:45pm Saturday at The Arch
Hidden amidst The Great Escape’s lineup are a fair few names that fans of all things electronic might recall from their early days as professional features. Vienna’s James Hersey, for example, had his track ‘Coming Over’ remixed by Filous before becoming the only proper vocal track on Dillon Francis’ This Mixtape Is Fire, popping his name next to Calvin Harris, Kygo, and Skrillex. Like BRITs Critics’ Choice nominee Anne-Marie, Will Heard appeared all over Rudimental’s chart-topping We The Generation before releasing his splendid Black Butter debut EP Trust in February. Then, there’s George Maple, the Australian who picked up her stage name while deciding what to be credited as on Flume’s debut album. Earlier work may have touched more on the relaxed R&B end – like ‘Talk Talk,’ which ended up on DJ Snake’s album – but 2016’s summer single ‘Sticks & Horses’ brought rising D.C. rapper GoldLink for a show of swagger carried into new single ‘Kryptonite.’
12:30pm Friday at Patterns
8:45pm Friday at The Prince Albert
As a vocalist leaning towards the soulful side, one can certainly be in worse company than one-time architecture student Sam Folorunsho is, with reports of studio time with Questlove and comparisons to folks like Frank Ocean and Anderson .Paak. Based in Liverpool and described by us as “oozing a coy yet brazen sexuality at every turn,” the Decca signee will be looking to build on his Chirality EP and its gorgeous highlights ‘Gold Leaf’ and ‘Down’ for an old-timey aesthetic as exhibited on his recent tour with AURORA.
7pm Friday at The Old Market
4:30pm Saturday at Jubilee Square
Hailing from the waterfront city of Portsmouth, the guitar-bearing Jerry Williams is a regular session guest with our friends at Surge, including joining in to premiere some new music during the station’s live session extravaganza at Abbey Road. Released last September, her superb Let’s Just Forget It EP – a five-track collection from the jubilant streaming hit ‘Mother’ to a delicate cover of The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ – has picked up a prize and a Best Album nomination at the Unsigned Music Awards, which next year will open up The Great Escape at the Brighton Centre, and videos of its summery contents with compelling narratives have picked up 400,000 YouTube views between them. Latest single ‘I’m Not In Love With You’ is perhaps her strongest yet, now featuring as the BBC Introducing track of the week over on Radio 1.