The Great Escape Festival 2016

poster-artwork-for-FB-postRegular readers will know that in recent years I have been a regular visitor to the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. 2016 sees my 4th visit which has been my favourite to date as I have been able to see many musicians and bands who have been featured on this site including Michael Baker, Common Tongues and Oktoba to name but a few. During my research for this I have discovered many new musicians/bands that I was excited to see including Grumble Bee and Justin Saltmeris.

This year was more of a fun experience as I met people who I speak to regularly via Twitter. Because of this I am going to change the way I do the review this year by getting them involved. I asked a few of my friends which 3 acts stood out for them during the festival and why. This is what they had to say:

Mary from

‘My first visit to The Great Escape festival filled me with panic for weeks because of the sheer volume of bands that I had down on my ‘must-see’ list. However I needn’t have been too stressed as my best gig buddies and my most trusted musical bloggers were all in town to show me the way, lead me astray and partayyyyy…. Amidst the 20 or 30 bands I saw over the weekend, one of my most memorable moments was seeing Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers for the first time, who took my breath away with some folky, bluesy, carnival-esque tunes that got the whole crowd bouncing. Next stand out performance was from Sway Clarke, another Canadian singer who found himself in Berlin via a beautiful love affair. His expletive strewn stories added to the vibes and brought on a few wry smiles amongst the audience. Finally, and also the band that I finished up the weekend with were White, with quite possibly the best band outfits I’d seen so far and infectious tunes that could get anyone grooving and moving along’.

Marijana Mladenic from Twitter @SunshineCity83

Top 3 acts heard of pre-TGE:

1. White – The Scottish five-piece from Glasgow, influenced by the late 70s/early 80s (think David Bowie or Nick Cave), are anything but pastiche. Their songs are filled with catchy lyrics, razor-sharp guitar playing, banging drum beats and thumping bass lines. On stage, the band is a cacophony of colour with their sparkly jackets and jumpsuits, and provides a very energetic and enjoyable performance. Favourite Tracks: “Fight The Feeling” & “Living Fiction”.

2. Northeast House Party – With tight hooks, infectious choruses, and a pumping bass/dance beat, the Australian band from Melbourne had the audience at the Komedia in the palm of their hand with their electrifying stage presence that sent the crowd into a chaotic frenzy. Their sound, somewhere between Bloc Party & LCD Soundsystem, is an anthem for the under 30s, each track packing a mighty punch. Stand out tracks: “The Haunted” and “Any Given Weekend”.

3. Beatenberg – If you were to cross Paul Simon with Vampire Weekend you’d get Beatenberg. They are a 3-piece band from Cape Town that brought a tropical vibe to Brighton with their very African sounding melodies and happy lyrics that made the crowd dance and smile. Tracks “Beauty Like a Tightened Bow” and “Rafael” were a favourite.

Top 3 acts discovered during:

1. Little Brother Eli – On first impression, the band looks like Mumford & Sons with their twee three-piece suits but how deceptive that is! Their sound is a heady mix of a rock, blues and garage with powerful vocals, growling guitars and gritty solos. The delivery reminded me of Biffy Clyro or Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a rawness and funk to the songs that gets under your skin very quickly. Stand out tracks: “Who Do You” and “Dreams”.

2. Mahalia – The multi-talented instrumentalist, playing both keys and acoustic guitar, captivated & enthralled the audience with her heartfelt & honest lyrics. For someone so young, Mahalia (who only just turned 18 years old last week) has the stage presence of an old soul. Her beguiling voice (reminiscent of an early Corinne Bailey Rae) is wonderful to listen to. The part-sung, part-spoken track (and Mahalia’s new single) “Back Up Plan” was a favourite.

3. John Joseph Brill – With deep vocals similar to Rob Goodwin of the The Slow Show, and an intimate song-writing style, John Joseph Brill got into my ears very quickly. Favourite track, “False Names”– written about a flawed best mate – could easily be the soundtrack to an indie movie about lovelorn lovers. Brill’s music is probably best listened to on an epic road journey with the windows down and the music turned right up. A gem of a find at TGE!

As for me, I got to see 32 acts over the 3 days which included some last minute additions due to unforeseen schedule changes. There was so much amazing talent on offer that I could not simply choose my top 3 instead I have chosen my top 3 whom I saw for the first time at this festival and 3 acts which I have seen in previous years.

Many of the new musicians and bands I got to see really impressed me including Delta Dawn, Fable and Joe Nolan but unfortunately they did not make my top 3. Both Justin Saltmeris and Tim Vantol stood out with their  captivating acoustic sounds which oozed emotion in their own style. Justin offering a gentle soulful folk tone that had me hooked from start to finish with his story telling quality which can be heard on the song ‘Tie Down Your Heart’. Tim delivered songs which were a reflection of his journey through life and thoughts within his songs. His song ‘If we Go Down, We will go Together’ stood out for me which also had the crowd singing along. I was excited to see Grumble Bee (aka Jack Bennett) after I heard his song ‘Sky Writer’ while researching the festival. His style of rock with epic vocals was a must for my list. Well, he did not disappoint as even though there were a few technical issues (not of his doing) he still managed to have the venue going crazy with his energetic guitar style and powerful vocals. The following day he showed off an acoustic side to his music and again his vocals were great!

Now for the guys I have seem live before. Ok, I am cheating as I have more than 3 for this category as I could not choose between Common Tongues and Michael Baker for the 3rd place spot. Both were vocally and musically flawless and had the audience in the palm of their hands. Both showcased new music which sounded amazing and I am excited for their new albums later in the year which you can pledge by heading to their websites or social media sites. Highlight songs were an amazing unplugged version of ‘Lovers Note’ from Common Tongues and ‘Revolving Doors’ from Michael Baker. I saw Easy Stride Band last year and their style of soul funk reggae is guaranteed good times with its party atmosphere. As soon as the set began my foot couldn’t stop tapping to their infectious beats. They were good last year but this time they had a much stronger sound and I was gutted when their set ended as I was having such a good time especially when they played the song ‘NOMAD’. Their new songs also sounded great which makes me eager for them to be officially released on the world as an EP or hopefully album. My favourite band of the festival were the same band as last year which was Little Brother Eli. There are rumours that I was singing and moving to their music which I will not confirm or deny but I can say a good time was definitely had. I love their bluesy rock sound which Alex’s soulful/bluesy tone combine to create this killer sound. It was great to hear favourites of mine like ‘Dreams’ and ‘Who Do You’ but it was their new track ‘Gold’ that stole the show for me. This song feels a little different from previous songs I have heard from the band, but stills keeps that catchy sing-along hook with an energetic vibe. This will be on their upcoming debut album which I feel will be their best collection of songs to date by far!

Even though this years festival is over I am already eager to return again next year. No doubt I will get to seem more amazing live music so if you are planning to go then I might see you there.

As always, a quick reminder to support the music that matters to you. Musicians and bands need our support so they can continue to do what they love which is to create music. Most, if not all of the bands I have mentioned will be featured later in the year because I want spread the word about them. You can do your part by telling the world about your favourite music today!