The Great Escape 2019 - Review by Ollie Tunmore

James Bay. Photo by Ollie Tunmore
James Bay. Photo by Ollie Tunmore

Returning for its 14th year, The Great Escape (TGE) music festival took over the streets of Brighton and Hove this weekend (9-11 th May) to showcase the world’s finest emerging talent to 20,000 music lovers.

With artists from across the globe – Canada, Australia, Norway, the U.K. and more – festival goers were treated to shows from some of the future stars of the new music scene.

APRE. Photo by Ollie Tunmore

APRE. Photo by Ollie Tunmore

From grunge-rock to indie pop, there was something for everyone across the vast line-up.

As much as this festival is for the industry professionals – record labels looking for new artists to sign, journalists writing for their papers; it is equally as much for music lovers.

With the focus placed on showing new and emerging talent, it attracts only the most passionate of music fanatics, willing to dedicate their time to predominantly emerging/unknown bands for the sake of the music.

The real stand-out quality of TGE for me, however, was the energy the festival brought to the town.

Iris. Photo by Ollie Tunmore

Iris. Photo by Ollie Tunmore

Anyone who knows Brighton knows that May is a busy month.

With the Brighton Festival running throughout (including theatre, music and much more) – the town is already bustling with vibrant art and people.

But throw in The Great Escape on top of this – and Brighton truly does come to life.

Across the three days, the line-up boasted a vast variety of talent.

From ‘spotlight’ shows from bands making a special appearance (this year including sudden-star Lewis Capaldi and international rock sensations Foals, for example) through to the unsigned, brand new stars -to-be playing their first full show in the UK.

In one day, you can discover an Australian rock band playing underneath a pub, a rising pop star from the Scottish Highlands in a church and see a surprise set from an already established artist in the Brighton seafront arches.

It’s no easy task - cramming in as many artists as you can, all over town, into just a 72-hour period.

But that is what makes The Great Escape so magical; the variety, the choice, the talent.

You’ll easily clock up 30-40,000+ steps over the weekend, you’ll live off predominantly beer and chips, but hey – what else are festivals for?

Personal highlights for me across the weekend included being front row for the phenomenal James Bay performing a surprise one-man-band set at Coalition; seeing British duo APRE deliver a show-stopping performance to a packed-out room at The Walrus; discovering new talents such as Scottish pop-star-to-be Tamzene and the brilliantly theatrical Iris from Norway; and finishing the weekend with a stop at the O2 DIY Academy conference hosted by industry professionals.

And that is what is so engaging, so innovative, about this festival. There is so much to do at any given time. There are new artists to find, established artists to fight your way into, the beach to walk along at sunset, the convention to listen to keynote industry speakers, and fellow music lovers to mingle with over a beer.

It only feels right to host the event somewhere as warm and accepting as Brighton, too.

As Canadian T. Thomason said at this set at the Green Door Store: “Brighton has always been so accepting and embracing, particularly of the Queer community, and I love that. It’s

so important.”

There is also a clear effect from TGE organisers to positively impact the town and its people too, it feels.

The festival actively pushes recycling, water re-filling points, and waste-reduction (in the form of canned water, not bottles).

It is this innovative, creative and mindful business approach that sets The Great Escape so far ahead of competitors.

Concluding the weekend, The Great Escape organisers said, “Another epic four days in Brighton for The Great Escape 2019!

“This year we welcomed 20,000 music lovers to The Great Escape with over 580 artists playing more than 780 gigs across Brighton and Hove.

“It was wonderful to have Foals, Anna Calvi, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, Lewis Capaldi, Little Simz, Black Midi, Confidence Man, Fat White Family and Friendly Fires come back to the festival for some truly unforgettable performances. “And what a delight to see exciting new artists such as Squid, The Beths, The Murder Capital, CHAI, Celeste and more make their Great Escape debuts.

“Roll on next year!”

Early bird tickets can be found here

Review by Ollie Tunmore