The Great Escape Festival 2019

Always a date for the Sister Ray diary, The Great Escape festival in Brighton provides the perfect opportunity to combine our favourite pastimes of watching the most promising new acts currently doing the circuit and slugging back pints of IPA with no heed to the regret to be felt the next morning.

Due to the sheer number of acts performing (over 400) and venues involved (35 no less), the Sister Ray team were out in force ready to report on the best, worst and most oddly named artists out there as well as to take plenty of shaky pics of said artists on their smart phones… purposefully shaky might I add, and in no way IPA induced. Not only that but we also took part in the Great Escape Music Industry quiz and… one of our teams won!

The Sister Ray winning quiz team: Susie, Dave, Phil and Gordon

Without further ado, over to Sister Ray boss man Phil Barton for his take on the weekend –

So, in no particular order, some memories are still sketchy, here are my thoughts on the 4 day extravaganza.

Starting with the magnificent Viagra Boys. Sweden’s finest sleazeballs and supreme exponents of the art of dirty rock & roll absolutely nailed their set on Friday night at the Haunt. Singer Sebastian Murphy, stripped to the waist (as usual) delivering a withering full throttle treatise on the shitness of modern life. The joke is on us, but the ride is so thrilling we go along with Murphy and his ultra tight band. As a spectacle it is a punch in the face assault. Surely, getting beaten up sonically by a band is as good as it gets? Awesome.

BABii, newly signed to Death Waltz Originals, worked hard to woo a pub crowd with her ice cool electronic pop. Bashing the life out of a set of synth pads whilst delivering hard hitting lyrics, BABii is definitely one to watch. The album drops in July. 

BABii at The Hope & Ruin

Inhaler at the Albert on Thursday attempted a stadium show in a packed pub. They undoubtedly have the balls and chutzpah to be a great guitar led band. They just need to walk a bit before running. Look forward to catching up with them again when the sound guy has a bit more space to work his magic.

Always good to hear a front man engaging with an audience and sparkly dressed Kiwis, Soaked Oats, have such a chap, Oscar Mein. While delivering psych infused sludge pop Mein informs us they have brought a case of Speights beer all the way from Dundedin with them and will be giving it away at their next gig. Lots of app checking and the whole audience makes a note of their next show.

No pics of Soaked Oats playing so have this poster instead

Boniface at The Walrus on Saturday were a sugar rush of anthemic songs. They definitely got the “we are having a great fucking time up here so join in” award. Infectious and they made a ton of friends.

Sleeper in a garage anyone? The irony was not lost on Louise Weiner either. She gleefully pointed out that they’d finally become a garage band. The Shipwrights Yard Session on Friday showcased Sleeper, who ran through a tight set largely from the new album The Modern Age. Rose Elinor Dougall popped in and delivered the goods. Want your songwriter to be both witty, reflective and helm a band rich in talent? Better call Rose. The Grim Twins barked through a set of mixed dark gothicky punk and Tim Burgess rounded off the session with set of well received solo gems. By this time the beer had kicked in and quite frankly the good folks at Republic of Music deserve medals for putting on such a superb event, in a garage…. well done!

Thanks Phil. Follow Phil on twitter here –

Next up, with her insightful and slightly less pissed (judging by the quality of her photos) take on proceedings is the wonderful Katie Kemp:

Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird kicked things off in the Komedia on Thursday lunchtime. I went for the name but their funky indie tunes and enthusiasm made it a perfect opening set for the weekend. It was the band’s first performance outside of Australia and they were clearly delighted to be greeted by a busy room giving them a warm welcome, which they admitted exceeded their expectations of only 3 people turning up.

Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird at the Komedia

More sunshine came from south of the equator courtesy of The Beths with their happy riffs, infectious tunes and harmonies which are still coming back as ear worms days after their performances. The additional ‘secret’ show downstairs at The Hope & Ruin early Saturday evening had queues down the street hoping to catch them. Seeing as it was a little more tricky given Liz Stokes shorter stature and the very low stage, she admitted having been at the back of similar gigs herself so she got the the front half of the crowd to crouch down so she could say hello to those further back which was a nice touch.

Red Rum Club served up melodic guitar riffs with a side of Mexican tinged brass making for a memorable set at The Prince Albert early on Thursday evening. The Liverpool band are easily winning over crowds with a flawless uplifting performance, without a doubt they have the stage presence and skills to charm a much bigger crowd.

Red Rum Club at the Prince Albert

Heading to The Dive Bar on the Beach later on Thursday evening The Snuts brought their anthemic guitar indie rock out to play, and it seems likely that it won’t be long before they are filling venues as big as their sound and performance deserve. Later in the evening the always thrilling Confidence Man had the venue floor bouncing like a trampoline with their energetic electro-pop, perfect dance routines, mesmerising delivery and more outfit changes than Madonna. 

The Snuts at The Dive Bar

After failing to get in the Hideout for locally formed Squid on Friday morning, it made their show at Horatio’s at the end of a sun soaked pier that evening well worth the wait. Incredible high energy beautifully noisy performance, including cornet, cowbells, and a thumpingly good drumming lead singer.

Canadian Rich Aucoin made a long awaited return to The Great Escape on Friday afternoon at the Green Door Store. His infectious enthusiasm to bring everyone into his up beat electro-pop performance culminated in the whole crowd dancing and singing along with him under a parachute.The crowd would only have left happier if he could have carried on longer, sadly time pressures didn’t allow it.

The Komedia Studio was packed out by Seazoo on Saturday afternoon brightening it with their sunny sounds. Being the lovely generous souls that they are, they even offered anyone that wanted it a lift back to Wales in their van after the gig. No takers though as the rest of the evening’s lineup still had plenty to offer.

Seazoo at the Komedia Studio

British trio Big Joanie were a highlight the all female ‘She Shreds’ line up hosted by the Green Door Store on Saturday night. They brought their bold fuzzy punk guitars, driving drums and brilliant vocal delivery to an appreciative packed out room.

Big Joanie at the Green Door Store

Thanks Katie, next up, representing NENA records we have Graeme B and Vic B, take it away chaps:

Graeme B –

This year’s Great Escape started at 12 noon in Komedia watching the tremendously named Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird.

What a lovely sunny synth driven start to the festival, which was soon followed by Canada’s Tallies at the Green Door Store. More sunniness, more jangling guitars and sweet vocals from Sarah Cogan, with great melodic surf indie rock.

Thursday ended down on the beach with the superb French insouciance of the fantastically cool Juniore, who also won the award for largest hat of the weekend! Well I assume there was someone wearing it or it may have just had a life of its own….

This was followed by the Snuts, simply put, just great Glaswegian anthemic indie rock. The finish had stadium/lighters out/singalong written all over it!

What can I say about Japanese all girl group CHAI other than if you like an a Capella Abba cover in Japanese, then just go see ‘em!!

Chai at the Hide Out

Friday was spent mostly in the sun on the pier at Horatios. Highlights in the day were the Beths form New Zealand, Brighton’s own Chappaqua Wrestling for great harmonies, and Squid just being marvellously squiddy.

On to the final day starting in the Walrus via the Hope and ruin to the Green Door Store for the energetic tequila fuelled instrumental band Los Bitchos, super cool electronic duo Sink Ya Teeth, Big Joanie taking you back to the simplicity of post punk DIY and followed by the lovely country tinged harmonies and melodies of Peggy Sue

Curtains drawn on another TGE, and so to bed.     

The much coveted Great Escape wristband

Vic B –

Despite being friends with Spreadsheet Pete, a man who reviews every band, my Great Escape approach involves significantly less preparation – avoid venues I don’t like, settle in those I do and wait to see what bands appear.

I don’t like venues that only serve Red Stripe especially if they also have  toilets that might give you cholera, those that are strange shapes that create bottle necks (people why don’t you just move forward of the bar in the Haunt?) or stages that are so low you can only see the tip of the bassoon  – Jubilee Square you build the stage just make it higher!

So on the 2019 Great Escape venue hit list – end of the pier for Horatios and the chance to sit in the sun between acts, the Beach venue for street food stalls (Masala Dosa – yum yum), the Green Door Store and the annual chance to arrange to meet friends in ‘the house’ (the bit behind the wall) and a new entry for this year downstairs at the Walrus for comfy seats, beer in actual glasses and some complementary chips.

Highlights include a gaggle of bands stating with ‘The’ –  The Beths (New Zealand), The Snuts (Glasgow) and The Jungle Giants (Australia) offering in turn upbeat indie pop with a charming front singer, an anthemic guitar band with a song about dancing on Brighton beach and electronic indie that provided a fun upbeat end to a long day.

The Snuts at the Dive Bar

In the category of hugely entertaining live but I’m not listening to it at home is Chai a female band from Japan who expertly covered an array of genres punk, dance,rock,  Abba whilst singing in high pitched Japanese.

Chai at the Hide Out

I do want to listen again to Abakos, a warm Canadian / Congolese band with simple beats and powerful vocals and County Line Runner for good lyrics, good melodies Americana style (and a reappearance of Adam from the Lyrebirds, a late 2000s Great Escape discovery)

Another advantage of the ‘stay in one place approach’ is the avoidance of queues and this year my only one was for the fine Welsh band SeaZoo worth the wait for their cheerful harmonies and happy beats.

Well that sums up our Great Escape for this year. Make sure you grab your tickets for next year early and we’ll see you there. We’re off to nurse our considerable hangovers… until next time, peace out!


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