The Great Escape music festival is wonderful thing and appears to be growing exponentially by the year.
This time round, 20,000 music lovers and record industry professionals made their presence felt in the city and had the pick of 700 shows by nearly 500 artists across more than 60 venues.
Even before the attendance figures were revealed, it was obvious the 2018 vintage was the biggest yet.
Venues heaved, queues came and went, and the town visibly teemed with legions of gig-hunters in a way that it hadn’t quite managed in previous years.
This was by no means my first rodeo. I’m a veteran of a five or six Great Escapes (it worries me a little that I can’t be more precise than that) and have the TGE tote bags and tinnitus to prove it.
Proceedings began in the reassuring Stygian gloom of the Komedia Studio bar with the soothing sounds of lost love from All our Exes Live in Texas, and ended in the unaccustomed comfort of the Ship Hotel’s Paganini Ballroom and an absurdly lively burst of beats from Benin City.
Along the way we stomped our way to an awful lot of different venues, some familiar, including staples of the Brighton live scene, such as the Green Door, Sticky Mikes and Hope and Ruin, others which are more occasional destinations, like Horatio’s Bar on the pier, and the atmospheric One Church, and the new kid on the block for 2018 - the Great Escape beach venue.
The latter, located on the beach not far from the Concorde, has a capacity of 2,000 and was presumably created in response to the festival’s growing numbers.
It had an interesting vibe, part-agressively branded modern outdoor festival space and part-Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,
One act who could never be accused of kowtowing to their corporate paymasters are Bristol’s Idles.
On the first evening of the fest they delivered an intense set, seething with fury and bristling with intent.
They praised NHS workers and immigrants - “I (expletive deleted) love immigrants. They built this country”, and spat venom in the direction of the British Press and toxic masculinity.
Their feral energy only abated during a conga and a bizarre mid-session duet of All I Want for Christmas with a crowd-surfing guitarist. In the words of one of their targets . You couldn’t make it up.
Similar levels of noise and intensity came from Yukon Era and The Psychotic Monks (who were as much fun as their name suggests), at the One Church and The Volks respectively.
The latter, who were French and fearless, had a good line in pounding near-metal riffs and grimaced and gurned their way through a very sweaty set.
But it wasn’t all blood, thunder and devil’s chords. Canadian all-girl surf band The Garrys oozed insouciant cool and Dick Dale-style twangy guitar licks, Sassy 009 from Oslo were a lush but heady mix of retro Chicago House beats and folky harmonies, and superbly attired Aquaserge (check out the matching black and silver robes) filled the One Church with joyous jazz-infused groovy meanderings and some life-affirming horns.
Also worth a mention was the justifiably-hyped South Korean band Say Sue Me.
Their dreamy guitar effects-driven sound shimmered and chimed and seemed influenced by My Bloody Valentine and other shoe-gazers from days gone by. Lovely stuff. And especially popular with the older Great Escapees who pined for more of the same and were perhaps a little teary-eyed when the band played a suitably-ethereal cover of Blondie’s Dreaming.
As always with the Great Escape, there was a lot to love and a lot of acts which you hope will come to BN1 again.
The organisers deserve the plaudits for a largely impressive line up and as I shuffled home, my feet ached but my soul soared (at least a little), after three bonzer days and nights at the coal-face of new live music