Great Escape: Top 10

Monday 21 May 2018
Words Matt Zara

If for some strange reason you haven’t been keeping an eye on our Instagram all weekend, we’ve been at The Great Escape down in Brighton. Forgotten what The Great Escape is? Give yourself a quick refresher here.

This weekend was a whole lot of fun. We discovered some amazing new artists, finally caught some acts we’d had on our radar for ages, and found ourselves at venues of all shapes and sizes. As the seagulls pick at the scraps of overpriced leftover street food, here’s our roundup of our favourite gigs of the weekend, in chronological order for your reading pleasure.

Sonny, Marine Room (Harbour Hotel)

We kicked our festival off at the Harbour Hotel, a spot with great sea views and wonderfully plush carpets. We were greeted by Sonny, a charming Geordie lad with a slick ginger rockabilly quiff.

His set was a quick acoustic one that showcased his particularly impressive vocal control. For someone just starting out, his stage banter was also pretty strong. Our highlight was Sonny opting to go ahead with a cover of Sam Sparro’s Black and Gold, despite the fact that his manager (situated just metres away) ‘hates it’ and always tells him not to play it. To top things off, he was also wearing a rather fetching silk shirt. Good work all round from Sonny, and a great way to start the weekend.

Odette, Sallis Benney Theatre

After her gig, Odette told us in a thick Australian accent she was ‘absolutely s******g’ herself throughout most of it, but we never would have known. She did a great job of perking up the Sallis Benney on a Thursday afternoon, a venue best known for hosting school plays and dance recitals.

The gig was a good laugh, with some interesting sounds coming from the drum pads and some good moves behind the keys from Odette. The theatre is a sizeable room, and she did a good job of filling it early on in the day, both physically in the number of people she bought in, and sonically through her powerful voice and booming drums.

 

King Nun, Horatio’s Bar

King Nun are a big ball of youthful exuberance, who make it very clear that there is still definitely a place from loud drums and thrashing guitars. Lots of energy, jumping around and excitement to the point that it made us feel old as we fretted over whether frontman Theo Polyzoides (side note: also one of the best names in music) was going to bang his head on the inexplicably low ceiling.

The drum kit may have kept falling apart, but if anything it only added to the overall chaotic experience. Although we don’t want to bang on about their age, it does mean that they well and truly have time on their side, and look like one you should probably keep an eye on.

Pale Waves, Horatio’s Bar

Following King Nun on a busy Thursday night was not a task many would be up to, but it didn’t seem to faze Pale Waves. The BBC Sound of 2018 nominees pulled a big crowd, and ploughed through their set at an impressive rate.

It’s also worth noting at the point that Horatio’s Bar might be our pick of the plethora of Great Escape venues. A small sweaty box at the end of the pier, it’s quintessentially Brighton, and excels for that reason. There are few things better than being able to watch a great gig then step out onto a rickety wooden promenade, raised above the sea about half a mile from the coast. In summary, good band, good venue.

Jimothy Lacoste, The Walrus

The basement of a maze-like pub was a weirdly perfect setting for the enigma that is Jimothy Lacoste. What’s he’s doing is hard to put into words, but we’ll have a go. It’s a bit like The Streets, but somehow even more lo-fi and humorous. Whatever he’s doing, it seems to be working. The room was packed, with people clambering onto tables to get a glimpse of 18-year-old Timothy Gonzales’ first festival performance.

All of this is before we’ve even got onto the dance moves. Jimothy moves like a man possessed. Every shape he pulls would have been a wildly successful Vine a few years ago, but instead it accompanies his odd bedroom productions and somehow just… works.

Mahalia, Paganini Ballroom (The Old Ship)

With a 10mil+ Colors session and gigs with Ed Sheeran and Jorja Smith under her belt, there was a suitable buzz around the Paganini Ballroom on Friday evening. In the past, Mahalia has said she’s found it ‘funny’ when she’s referred to as an emerging artist, as she’s been playing open mics since the age of 12. She’s now 19, and those 7 years of experience shone through in this intimate set.

90s throwback R&B alongside decorative drape curtains and elaborate floral carpets isn’t something you’d expect to work, but that’s the magic of The Great Escape. Charles Dickens stayed at the hotel in 1841, so she might not quite be the best writer to ever grace the ballroom. However, does Dickens have a Colors session? Exactly.

Octavian, Patterns

When you see Octavian doing his thing, it’s clear why Drake is a fan. Patterns often plays host to house and techno DJs, but this weekend showcased how well it works as a venue across other genres. The low ceilings and dim light of the sweaty basement give the room an intimate, house party feel, which lent itself to Octavian’s set.

Party Here may have been out for ages now, but people were still going mad when it came on, which can only be a good sign. The tune also features the self-referential lyric ‘You’re going to blow, it’s just timing’, and it seems like Octavian might just be right.

Slowthai, Patterns

Slowthai is nuts in the best possible way. Before the end of his opening song, he was already deep into the crowd – a bull in a china shop that can spit an impressive grime verse. Top off, tatted and dangerous, Slowthai’s crowd control is impeccable. Not only was he able to split a room from left to right and make them charge at each other, he then split them from front to back and got them to do it all over again. A sea of limbs with the Northampton rapper somewhere in the middle, lapping up every second of it.

Underground anthem T N Biscuits got about five reloads, with the crowd belting out every word once it finally got going, and lifting Slowthai aloft as if he was the king of some hellish underworld. Take note.

Ady Suleiman, The Old Market

Ady Suleiman is a man with a voice so good that his vocal cords alone could probably steal your girlfriend. Soft, bassy and bluesy, his tones worked in perfect harmony with his guitarist’s nylon-stringed acoustic. Said guitarist was also a marvel, and does not deserve to go without praise. His playing mimicked Ady’s vocals at times, and at others worked as a sort of call and response, in a way so effortless on the surface that it can only be the result of countless hours of rehearsals.

Team Spindle may or may not have been slightly worse for wear by Sunday evening, and this one was a wonderful soul cleanser. At some point this summer, get out in the garden and whack on Ady’s album in the background. You won’t regret it.

Mist, Brighton Dome

After Ady cleansed the soul, Mist decided to come along and cover it in a nice layer of grime. Headlining the GRM Daily takeover of the Dome, arguably the city’s most prestigious venue, he looked completely at home in front of a packed crowd. Amidst the moshpits and drinks flying overhead, a shoutout must also go to Steel Banglez, the man behind many of the beats that Mist does his thing over.

Mist is proof that the UK rap scene is about far more than what goes on in the capital, and is also responsible for one of the all-time great UK rap videos. We won’t spoil it for you, but Hot Property is well worth a watch, as was his set to close this year’s festival.

Well, there you are then. If you’d like to have all these great artists in one handy playlist, then today’s your lucky day. Relive a great weekend of music below.