LIVE: Five of The Best from Great Escape Festival 2017
Every year at Great Escape Festival (the UK version of SXSW), the world’s music industry movers and shakers from labels and management, publications, radio and TV join 20,000 gig goers to descend upon Brighton’s many venues for an up close look at the brightest upcoming artists, and some respected established bands too. With around 700 bands in town from all manner of genres, finding the rock amongst the pop can take a little hunting, but here’s some of the best of the bunch to play this years event.
Canadian band, Royal Tusk, served up an old school rock n’ roll treat when they headlined the Break Out West / Canada House showcase at a packed Green Door Store. It was the first time the band had toured these shores and it was plain to see they were having a blast, as were the crowd, who lapped up every moment. The good time feel, reminiscent of early Bryan Adams, and grown up songwriting akin to Tom Petty at his best, was delivered with an easy confidence, the band are clearly no strangers to the live environment. Sadly their set was cut short in typical festival style, but they did enough to show what a modern classic their DealBreaker album is. Come back soon guys.
It isn’t always regular venues hosting bands at Great Escape. Britrap/rock crossover crew MassMatiks played in a clothes shop (albeit a rather large warehouse conversion) on a mezzanine stage constructed above the tills. The feeling in the room had all the excitement of an illegal takeover, as frontman George Peploe scaled the supporting scaffolding and spat the words to their hard hitting songs of young urban streetlife with particular passion. Despite performing at almost roof level the band managed to create a real connection with the crowd below filling the aisles between the clothing racks, causing much movement all the way to the shop front doors. Highlights of the set included a furious Blank Wall and an emotionally charged 4AM, complete with a poetic spoken word introduction that captivated the store.
Playing at The Richmond, a venue renowned from yesteryear for championing the original punk movement, a new Brighton band Negative Measures remind everyone how hardcore used to be done. Their set was an incendiary affair, kicking off from the get-go, with vocalist and main protagonist Jack Goring leading the fray of crashing bodies around the floor in front of the stage with seemingly little consideration for his own personal safety. Shows like this aren’t for everyone, and there were a few dropped jaws from the more executive types at the back of the room. But whether you get involved in the pitting or not, it’s a cool show to watch, and as a tight band clearly able to bond with their audience expect to see the Negative Measures name a lot more over the next couple of years.
For anyone longing for a new guitar wielding female fronted grungy band, with a feel not dissimilar to Japanese Voyeurs, Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, then Australian four piece, Tired Lion, could be just the ticket. Their show at the Aussie BBQ showcase was a dynamic energy fuelled explosion of heavyweight barred riffs over bittersweet vocals, all eyes constantly on front-woman Sophie Hopes and her no-nonsense approach to slamming out a tune. Get to know their songs Agoraphobia and Cinderella Dracula as they are sure to be big crowd pleasers at their upcoming Reading and Leeds slots later in the year.
These kind of showcase festivals often see bands playing outside of their usual gig comfort zone, and often not to their regular fan base. Tigress had a headlining show that didn’t appear in the official program, perhaps a late addition to the lineup? Consequently the gig was a smaller affair with the venue far from full, but this didn’t stop bassist Jack Divey celebrating his birthday in style and with a smile, making full use of the small stage and floorspace in front. The band have certainly progressed since last seeing them supporting Glamour Of The Kill a couple of years ago under a different banner (The Hype Theory). Their sound is now much more potent with a contemporary rock gloss giving a distinctive identity of their own, helped by Katy Jackson’s ever excellent vocals. As expected the playing was razor sharp, and in just a couple of years they seem to have amassed quite the catalogue of quality tunes.