The Great Escape – three days of musical excellence scattered around the venues of Brighton, sprung back from its two year hiatus with a bang. There were simply too many incredible acts to write about, Speedboat, Fatdog, The Balimaya Project, and Warmduscher all deserve an honourable mention, but there were a few that especially stood out: CURRENTMOODGIRL, Blackhaine, CKTRL and KEG.
I began the festival with a Fake Escape (Great Escape’s smaller, agreed upon rival) performance from CURRENTMOODGIRL AKA Greta Carroll (Perhaps familiar to some as part of Bernard + Edith or Pearl City) who can only be described as a force to be reckoned with. If her undeniable talents, made up of her ethereal voice, paired with unique industrial synth soundscapes aren’t enough to draw you in, then her powers of seduction will be; CURRENTMOODGIRL commands the stage in a way I’ve never seen, her movements captivate the audience like an additional instrument. Despite being on her own up there she holds the power of a full orchestra, and is met with a cacophony of ‘who is this’, ‘what is this’ ‘I can’t believe we’ve found this’ from a group of truly bewildered onlookers stood just behind me; the whole room is completely taken aback by her sensual energy and enveloping sounds.
As one of the first events I attended, for the lesser known rival festival, CURRENTMOODGIRL immediately positioned Fake Escape as a worthy opponent to its allegedly greater big sister. I’ve read interviews previously of CURRENTMOODGIRL talking of the struggles of working with men and being able to trust her own talent; this performance truly showcased her raw power as an unbelievably accomplished, independent woman, doing it for herself, reflected by the incredible reception from an unsuspecting audience. CURRENTMOODGIRL ensured the bar was set very high for the coming days.
I’ve heard a lot about Blackhaine, my first introduction to him was through CRACK magazine as the cover star, his bold look instantly intrigued me. As I spun down the rabbit hole I found many connections to artists I already loved, the likes of Space Afrika and Kanye West to name a few. The performance that Blackhaine gave the crowd was aggressive, emotive and powerful, his presence enigmatic. I stood in the front row with a feeling that something
could happen at any moment, a slight fear that filled me with adrenaline and excitement. Unfortunately, the majority of the crowd were awful and gave almost nothing back to the Mancunian rapper whose enthusiasm was unwavering, but this didn’t effect the ferocity from Blackhaine; truly a skill to perform with such vigour to a crowd
that gave nothing to bounce back off. I have to say it’s one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen in a very long time, the energy was unmatched.
Full of adrenaline after the Blackhaine performance, I ran up to the city centre to catch CKTRL, an artist I had found from Alex Rita’s Calm Roots radio show on NTS. The spirituality of the Brighthelm church was fitting for the Lewisham multi instrumentalist (accompanied by two pianists and a double bass player) and was in stark contrast to The Arch where I’d seen Blackhaine just moments before. The gentle melodies of the saxophone and clarinet were entrancing and made the room fall silent (ruined just slightly by the particularly loud couple behind me). I found myself wholly engaged with every note, beguiled by how beautiful the soundscape was. It was a perfect performance to follow Blackhaine; the unadulterated aggression and hostile energy followed immediately by the beautiful melancholic sounds of CKTRL was incredible. A perfect rollercoaster of emotions that heightened the intensity of both experiences, something The Great Escape is unique in its ability to provide: the meeting of the most contrasting genres of music experienced alongside each other.
A band that seemed to be owning the festival were KEG; playing multiple packed out shows across the weekend, KEG was a name on the lips of many. After their daytime set at Jubilee Square, packed with playful frenetic energy from frontman Albert Haddenham and synth player Will Wiffen I knew I had to see more; I heard they were playing a 1AM set at the folklore rooms, a small 50 cap venue, and had a feeling this would be somewhat of an Apex. This feeling continued as I arrived at the venue, with people pouring in it was clear this was going to be ‘intimate’. Jostling through the crowd I made it to the front of the venue. Hot, sticky and dripping with sweat, the crowd were encapsulated, jumping and stamping and jumping some more, until the gig had to be cut short due to fears for the structural integrity of the floor, luckily no one was hurt and we all left wanting more! KEG’s blend of quick guitar licks, skittish lyrics and sensual trombone notes truly blew the house down, KEG are certainly a band to be excited about.
Thanks to The Great Escape, check their website for 2023 tickets!
Video by Reuben Lindley
Image by Maisy Banks