If you didn’t know already, we’re big fans of The Great Escape.
Press passes and opening night free drinks help, but anyone who has a copy of ISSUE ONE will know that we were backing this festival back when Offie Mag was but a glint in our eye. It brings Brighton to life for the 3 or 4 days that all the delegate pass-wearing, tote bag holding, music-loving types arrive in our city and cover it like ants on an ant hill. In a good way.
Honestly, when TGE is in town and the Spiegel Tent is erect, with the Brighton Fringe in full swing and a bit of sun on the beach, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better city anywhere else in Europe than Brighton & Hove. And this year was no different, as some of our favourite artists arrived in town; ones who we can recite track after track from, ones who we have heard a mere glimpse of and ones who, through Chinese whispers and social media hype, we were simply intrigued to catch in the flesh.
The following is a comprehensive round-up of the whole festival; Gig reviews, surreal moments, video interviews, photography, a radio show and even some food and drink reviews from all sorts of Offie Mag affiliates that we’re fortunate enough to have.
Let’s start where it makes sense to do so, at 10.03pm on the second night of the festival.
If you don’t know who slowthai is by now, you’re an idiot. He is already, without a doubt, a British underground icon whose following and YouTube views are growing daily and quickly.
His mean and gritty persona comes across in his live shows – spending more time in the crowd than on stage.
The show, to my surprise, started right on time and slowthai was quick with the energy. It took him a whole 4 minutes until he was shirtless and in the crowd. His set was everything I had imagined and hoped for, starting with some hits from his EP, I Wish I Knew, including my highlight tune, IDGAF. A personifying, aggressive and jarring tune, which comes across VERY well live.
Through the madness and sweat dripping from the ceiling, there was a level of professionalism in the set, a sign that he has either spent a lot of time playing shows, or a lot of time rehearsing. Either that, or this is just who slowthai is and this is what he was born to do.
Whilst he was in the crowd causing general havoc, his equally gassed DJ, Kwesington, who by this point had removed his boiler suit and gas mask, was dousing the crowd in water.
When slowthai dropped T N Biscuits, his most renowned song, that shit really got real. Slow split the crowd into two… not the classic, SIDE TO SIDEEEEEE, but from front to back – an interesting move. After Kwesington had already jacked the song twice, he let it run and jumped into the crowd himself. Blokes were crowd surfing and one of us took slowthai’s shoe to the face. It was great.
This was probably the wildest show I have ever been to. And Octavian wasn’t bad that night, either…
Now back to the opening night for a chat with Skinny Pelembe before one of his two sets…
The Doncaster multi-instrumentalist, singer and MC is ridiculously talented. His recent single Spit/Swallow is so packed with varying influences, sounds and above all else, good music, that it feels like a more major release. An EP at least.
He spoke to us about the festival, his breakdancing past and why he raps like his mum.
On the sunny Friday, we spoke to one of the most exciting young artists at the whole festival. The recently turned 20-year-old, Jaz Karis, was opening up the evening’s entertainment at Patterns as seen above.
Performing tracks from her debut EP with a voice that captured the attention of all in the basement, her set was the perfect calm before the storm that would follow.
It’s not just about the gigs at The Great Escape, it’s also about all those weird moments in between them where you’re running around the circumference of Brighton, hoping to stumble across something special. They’re precious moments. Use them to get a cheaper drink from an offie. Use them to refresh your TGE app and find out what you’re missing and what you’re about to miss if you don’t hurry up and finish that cheaper drink you got from the offie. Or get some food.
There was plenty on offer – each of them as trendy as the last. This writer didn’t know what a baos was, but he does now.
It’s a weird sort of steamed bun thing with a choice of fillings rammed up inside it. There was fried chicken in mine. It was kinda peng. However, the aftertaste was soured by the money I’d just forked out for it. 2 for £9 it said. “Let’s go halves then,” I said. “There you are,” the nice lady said, handing me what I assumed was only half of the order. But nah. Apparently, when you order this bitesize baos, you’re supposed to get two, assuming that you have a stomach bigger than that of a shrew. I fucked up. It hurt me. It hurt my wallet. But my word, what a delicious mistake.
Sticking to culinary matters, we did a live radio broadcast from YO! Sushi on Platform B. Hosted by Brickcellphone, we played music from all sorts of artists on the line-up like Hak Baker, Suspect and Bakar. Then, a couple members of Brighton’s young hip-hop squadron, Yert Collective passed through for some live bars off the top of the dome.
There was a palpable buzz, as there so often is at The Great Escape, in the lengthy queue waiting to enter Coalition to catch a glimpse of the increasingly popular South London crooner, Puma Blue.
Me and my Offie Mag colleague waited patiently and were afforded access to this ambiguously reputable establishment after a cursory glance at our ID’s from the burly bouncers, equipped with those little clicky number counter contraptions dwarfed by their comically large mitts.
Into the musky darkness we trudged. Into Brighton nightlife’s sweaty underbelly we embarked, ears pricked and heartstrings awaiting a pluck. Goat Girl were finishing up their set as we sipped and slurped on refreshing canned lager. Having heard a lot about them and never witnessed them in action, it was a pleasure to see another band at that happy stage where it didn’t matter what they said, played, or how they played it – their adoring, moshing fans at the front would not be deterred.
The room emptied after Goat Girl, drinks were purchased, lungs tarred, and the room swelled again. Mr Blue was up next. Anticipation gathered. Expectant mutterings ensued. ‘Moon Undah Water,’ the kookily misspelt recent single was what had me most excited. It had been blasted into my ear canals more times on my solitary jaunts around Brighton than I’d be comfortable disclosing, and having seen the ascension of his songs once before from the recordings into a live environment, I knew this would be a special moment in the set. They opened with it, and my suspicions were substantiated.
It was gargantuan. This was a band of superb musicianship who had clearly played together a lot, and who clearly relished every minute of that playing time together. They rattled through the set with exquisite fluidity and what can only be described as subtlety. The nuances of each song were executed with blissful prowess, and once again, Puma Blue left his audience in a dizzy, intoxicated trance.
By Music Editor, Tom Gladstone
And finally, we close our coverage where we saw Bad Sounds close the entire festival – on the fitting venue of Brighton Pier.
As the chaps told us in the above interview, this wasn’t their first time at The Great Escape, and it seems to be a festival pretty close to their hearts, as well.
Until next year, The Great Escape, you big beautiful thing, you.