There's an unspectacular, rusty-looking rollercoaster situated at the end of Brighton Pier. As the weekend drew to a close I hobbled past the miserable vomit-inducing eyesore and saw a young boy crying as he, also, hobbled off - he looked broken. That's when I realised; three minutes on this rollercoaster brings about the same feeling of tiredness, emotion and physical pain as three days at The Great Escape.
But, compared to this rollercoaster, The Great Escape is oh-so worth it.
There are some great multi-venue city festivals across the UK but The Great Escape still tops them all. It's the Big Dipper of the city festival. It starts with the organisation, the atmosphere aids it and the people confirm it. This is before we've even got to the line up.
Let's get this out the way now; you'll do well to find this level, and consistency, of musical talent at any festival across the world. Within a couple of hours of arriving in Brighton this has already been confirmed by the wonderful Frances and the equally exciting Beatenberg. Frances proceeds to break everyone's heart with just a few songs outside at the VEVO stage (in the bloody sunshine, nonetheless) before South Africa's Beatenberg surprise even their biggest of fans - me - with the quality and intensity of their early afternoon set. The Vampire Weekend guitar riffs teamed with some subtly beautiful songwriting create something incredibly exciting. "One's to watch", I whisper for the first time this weekend. Now, let me tell you about the other 274 times.
Anna Meredith, who I didn't know a great deal amount, cannot be explained. But I would urge you all to listen, and explore, this extraordinary talent's repertoire. It turns out I've been waiting for someone to mix dance, pop and classical. Isaac Gracie managed to pack out the Unitarian Church and leave quite the mark on those who managed to get in. Justifying hype is never easy at a festival but, goodness me, this guy will be big.
Then came, in F1 car-like quick succession, three highlights of the weekend. Mt Wolf remain one of the most ambitious, exciting and irresistible bands in the country right now and their set was nothing short of remarkable. The debut album is arriving later this year and it will be an album of the year contender. It just will.
Talking of '.of the year' lists, Pumarosa will undoubtedly feature in pretty much every one of these lists. Their recent single Priestess was a festival highlight for many, I'm sure, and even featured a saxophone solo. Somehow avoiding the late-night temptation of Craig David (it was a Thursday, after all) I ended my night in the company of Anteros. And, as they kicked into the incredible 'Breakfast' early on in the set, my decision was all but justified.
After being awoken by what I thought was the sound of a new buzz band playing outside our Airbnb (it turned out to be a car alarm) it was back to the VEVO stage before midday - yes, really - for a genuine buzz band. To attract a big crowd to an 11:30am, outdoor, acoustic set you have to be pretty special, and Blossoms are exactly that. Showcasing a softer, acoustic side, it was further proof that 2016 really is the year of the Blossom.
Talking of buzz artists, when you turn up to a fairly well hidden venue just after midday on a Friday, you don't expect to see people being turned away. But this is exactly what happened when Tusks, recently signed to One Little Indian, opened the 'Latest Music Bar' stage. Tusks is an extraordinary talent who might just be one of the most important artists around right now.
Running alongside TGE is The Alternative Escape, and The North Lane Brewhouse (curated by SBLive and Akira Records) was the only place to be on Friday night. A run of three artists that all offered something really quite contrasting but equally majestic. Majik blended dark, heartbreaking vocals with some huge, pulsating production that will surely find itself echoing from speakers on much bigger stages very soon before Island took to the stage and changed the tone, and pace, completely. Cash+David completed the North Lane Brewhouse hat-trick and "When You're Lonely" proved to be a real festival highlight. "Strength in depth" is often a phrase used in footballing circles, but the strength in depth at TGE seems to be the key to the festival's success.
Friday night festivities continued, and thrived, long into the night, but there were two late night artists that stole the whole festival. First up it was the genre-evading Beaty Heart who packed out The Hope and Ruin and flew through a set made up of predominantly new material that was instantly recognisable. Soft Like Clay is an irresistible mix of electro, dance and pop and their best single to date 'Flora' proved why they are one of the must-see bands at any festival this year. After a quick dance in the direction of Komedia, brand new London 'duo' (there are five of them.) Formation took to the stage and, for anyone - like me - who hadn't heard much of them before, this was like being punched in the face instead of shaking hands. Pleasure is an infectious anthem that sounds great on record, but in the live arena this song, and this band, come to life. If you get the chance to see Formation live, do so. I encourage you.
As things began calming down on Saturday, it was an Australian takeover at Concorde 2 as City Calm Down and Banff added to the growing opinion that the Australian music scene is one of the best in the world right now. And, after a quick trip up the pier to Horatio's for Man & the Echo and Lusts, the former being as impressive in between songs as during songs thanks to that famous Warrington whit, it fell to WHITE to finish things off, for me. The five-piece from Scotland are building quite the reputation and it's easy to see why. Their set at Patterns was full of intensity, dancing and indie-pop gem after indie-pop gem.
Once again The Great Escape proved itself as the new music festival in the UK, and probably the world.
I'll be first aboard the same rollercoaster next year.
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