KEXP's DJ Shannon reports back from The Great Escape Festival, a three-day festival in Brighton, UK that champions unsigned and underground artists with shows across 35 walkable venues. Here are some of her highlights:
The day before I left for the UK, I heard the devastating news about Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. I was flying into Glasgow for a couple days. I was distraught and worried about returning to Glasgow in such a fragile state, but I was able to hang out with some of our mutual friends which lightened my mood a bit.
Next, I went to Manchester and my train arrived during a Man City parade. I dropped off my luggage at the hotel and ran to meet up with friends so we could head to Northwich. The Charlatans were taking over their hometown after a 20-year absence. I saw one of my new favorite bands, Deja Vega, play their single release party at the Straw Dog. Ended my night with the Charlatans, who put on a great show.
After a brief stop in London, I arrived in my second home of Brighton, the night before the Great Escape Festival. so I could finally see Scottish band, Man of Moon. I’ve been playing them for over three years and they were definitely worth the wait. Be on the lookout for their debut album later this year.
After a nice rest, I got up in time to grab my delegate pass and start the first official day of the Great Escape Festival, my favorite new music festival where I can discover unsigned and underground artists. There’s also a mixture of established artists to check out.
My game plan was to see my Top 10 bands and then go from there. Some bands only play once so it’s a calculated, balancing act, and involves checking for venue locations, band set times, and places to grab a quick bite. One of the new bands on my list was the Welsh band, Boy Azooga. Their debut album 1,2 Kung Fu is due out this month on Heavenly Records. Little known fact: Davey, the lead singer, is cousins with Chris from Man of Moon.
After checking the Great Escape app, I noticed a recent addition that I missed. It was a Conversation with Johnny Marr. I had 10 minutes to get there. My good friend, Kristen, who is a travel writer and photographer, joined me to capture the day’s events. We made it in time and she grabbed a front row spot. Marr brought his custom Fender Jaguar, answered questions from the moderator, and told some stories on how he came up with groundbreaking riffs to Smiths’ and Modest Mouse songs. I felt like it was a dream.
This year they had a few stages right on Brighton beach. I went into one of the tents early so I could catch Dream Wife, who I saw at Iceland Airwaves a couple times. I then pushed up to the barrier so I could get the best spot possible (without being in a pit) for Idles. They were my top band to see and I am still reeling from their show. They’ll have a new album out this year and are coming to Seattle on October 6th at the Sunset Tavern. Don’t miss them!
The next day I went to see Fontaines DC who had played on KEXP just days before. They flew all the way from Ireland to play on the Morning Show then destroyed it at a secret show at Conor Byrne. Their incredibly energetic set was a highlight for sure.
I attended a Scottish Networking Event hosted by Creative Scotland, where I ate a deep-fried Snickers and earned a badge.
My Friday night was camping out to see all the bands at one venue. First off, I heard a rumor that Nick Cave was on the guest list for the opening band, Crewel Intentions. And who did I see? Mr. Cave was incognito with his sunglasses on up in the balcony. No pics but trust me, it happened. Crewel Intentions put on such a great show. No music available out there but Chilli Jensen, formerly of Palma Violets, lead the band into songs reminiscent of the man himself who was at their show.
I left briefly in between sets from Hotel Lux, The Ninth Wave, Bodega, Warmduscher so I could go see Lady Bird, a three-piece punk band from Kent, England. I knew nothing about the band. Turns out the keyboardist usually sings but didn’t, so the guitarist and drummer took turns as their backup plan. It was an impressive show and I found out the lineup change after the show.
Gengahr closed out the night with a 1:30 AM set. I figured a late start was well worth it since I’ve waited over three years to see them live. Their new album Where Wilderness Grows is out now.
On my final day, I watched the Royal Wedding and had to power through the day with coffee. I was feeling quite rough. Luckily, Desert Mountain Tribe were playing midday two blocks from my bed and breakfast. Their new album Om Parvat Mystery is out now.
I ended my amazing festival experience seeing yet another artist I’ve waited years to see, BC Camplight. Brian Christinzio is the voice and talent behind BC Camplight. He took to the stage with a brand new band and it was their first live show. His captivating set and witty banter really set the tone. His new album Deportation Blues is out now on Bella Union Records.
Here are some of the bands I sadly missed but you should see them when they’re near you: The Orielles, The Go! Team, Teleman, Goat Girl, Rascalton, Spook School, Superorganism, Declan Welsh, and Flohio. Insecure Men canceled. I recommend seeing Iguana Death Cult and Deep Throat Choir.