If you’re looking for a festival that is truly value for money, then Wikifestivals would wholeheartedly recommend The Great Escape in Brighton.
300 bands both international and national, across 30 venues over 3 days, at which a 3 day pass would cost you £49.50. From rising acts such as Lianne La Havas, King Charles and Spector right down to the unheard worthy of attention, this is a festival that has the curious and exploratory music fan at heart.
Taking place in venues all over Brighton, attendees really get a visual and audio variety, from the open air boldness of the Hub, to the intimate yet thick sounds of Psychosocial, you really feel a lot of thought has gone into choice of venue.
It doesn’t feel like venues have been chosen just for their space and bar, but more a case of hand picked locations, coupled with careful line-up and programme organisation, which created a flow of establishments each with their own identity and mood.
Much praise also has to be awarded to the volunteers involved, obvious in their bright yellow T-shirts, you knew if you needed help they could either assist you straight away, or at least point you in the right direction.
Live music highlights for myself included an impromptu street busking session from Michael Rossenberg a.k.a Passenger, whose indie folk offerings courted passers by well as many stopped to listen.
A very humble man breaking in songs to thank those who grabbed leaflets and purchased CD’s displayed in his guitar case, he sung material close to the heart about moments in life and experiences.
Kudos also has to be given to Pete Philly who I caught in the Komedia Studio bar, mixing soulful John Legend-esque singing with rapping of human unity and other spiritual thoughts, I was absolutely gutted that I was unable to check him and his very tight and talented live band the next day.
Further music highlights included Lianne La Havas at Komedia, having first spotted her on Jools Holland I wanted to experience such a pure voice in person. Popularity rising fast, in the run up to her arrival you could hear the anticipation of the crowd, with all types and creeds gathering to hear that strong voice coming out of such a sweet girl.
I even spotted a member of Pete Philly’s live band, something I noticed a lot in the festival, as members from other bands hung around the event to check each other out.
Anyone curious to see Lianne La Havas should grab the opportunity whenever they can, the great thing about this festival is that you do get to experience bands and acts on the up. From the way she reacts to crowd cheers, to the respect views in the crowds faces as they listen intently, Miss Havas isn’t going anyway very soon, and in my opinion I’d be happy for her to be around forever!
When she performed the very popular “Forget” I literally got shivers every time she hit the high notes, and I found it warming how she kept thanking the crowd for being so lovely.
Musicwise, I also enjoyed the Catalan Sounds showcase, an initiative that aimed to bring different sounds of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands to the international ear. Of all the bands I sample one that stuck out for me was Oso Leone.
Fans of of the dreamy textures of Fleet Foxes and other progressive atmospheric sounds take note, I wholeheartedly believe the atmosphere they create when performing live will make them a very popular acts in years to come.
There was also the friendly indie pop tones of the band Me And The Bees, whose lead singer is adorable to watch in a quirky Zooey Deschanel way, while the female drummer is also equally fun, cute yet fierce with every pound of the drumstick.
This Catalan Sounds showcase is an example of all the fantastic gatherings of international bands you get introduced to, from “NZ at The Great Escape” to “Canadian Blast” to the “Dutch Impact”.
If you choose to pay extra for a delegate pass at The Great Escape I think it’s safe to say it is 100% worth the fee. From panel discussions to networking opportunities, anyone looking for expert knowledge, advice and contacts in the Music and Media industry, be it as a manager of an upcoming band, a promoter of events or anything related to the industry, I’d highly advise going and I understand how for many The Great Escape is Brighton’s SXSW.
One panel discussion I attended and thoroughly enjoyed was The Great Festival Conversation held at the Pavillion, whose panel featured Micheal Eavis a.k.a Mr Glastonbury, Rob Da Bank DJ and organiser of Bestival, Jo Vidler from Secret Productions (Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Glade) and Simon Taffe Director of End Of The Road.
Discussing the development, history and future of festivals in the UK and abroad, the conversation was insightful and also had an air of celebrity about it, as audience members heartily laughed at the incredibly charming contributions and thoughts of Micheal Eavis.
(I especially loved his combo of suit and tie on the top half of the body, coupled with the short shorts and battered trainers on the bottom, got a lot of love for the Eavis staying true.)
I also attended the Digital Wedding discussion, which gave insightful thoughts on the marriage between music acts and brands with the use of the Internet.
Back to the festival as a regular attendee, I really loved how the festival programme went beyond just displaying the schedule of which bands playing where. I loved the recommendations section which saw music persons from Paul Smith of Maximo Park, to Matt Wilkinson of NME discussing who they would recommend you check out at the festival.
Beyond the main highlights of the Great Escape, there was also the Alternative Escape and late night shows at the Brighton Dome.
The Alternative Escape, in partnership with the main festival, presented a schedule of additional shows programmed independently yet run alongside core festival gigs. Whereas the Brighton Dome Shows where offered as a top up to your festival wristband, or as a standalone show for anyone wishing to attend.
I myself attended the Africa Soundsystem at the Brighton Dome, A Revolutionary music collaboration project, Africa Express Soundsystem brings together the best and brightest musicians from Africa and the West to collaborate in hugely-acclaimed one-off shows.
Of the British acts with african heritage that appeared, we were treated to the well hyped vibes of Kano, to the majestic ways of The Noistettes, whose afro beat version of “Don’t Upset The Rhythmn” was well received.
I couldn’t understand how anyone could remain seated during this performance, as the standing area was alive with a party vibe. The excitement in the air mirrored my feelings during the fun parts of Notting Hill carnival. and I felt the amount I danced during this show was equal to the weekly recommended amount of exercise and more.
Overall I struggle to think of any complaints I could voice about the festival. I’d highly recommend to anyone attending to take advantage of any flyers being given out, as the Brighton area itself grasps the festival with both hands, granting delegates and attendees discounts on food and free entry to the various late night clubs and venues to enjoy.
I felt the festival was true to its aim of showcasing a variety of international and national music, and that anyone not excited by the festivals variety should look inwards at their attitudes to music. I was also extremely lucky to meet the Festival Director and having experienced most of the festival prior to our meeting, the enthusiasm of him and his team is really felt at the event.
Because of the setting and the organisation of the festival, I can really see this as an event I’d be happy to attend over and over as the years go by. This isn’t an overcharged youth event nor is it a stiff upper lip “please no debauchery” arrangement.
I don’t know about you dear readers but I’m already eyeing up early bird tickets for 2013, and I’m 100% taking advantage of the hostel package so I can enjoy the late night fun too.
Until next year, thanks Great Escape and thanks to the gorgeous area of Brighton, you have been a real treat!