The Great Escape 2017: Day Three

Brighton’s Great Escape festival drew to a conclusion with one more day of awesome acts from around the world. Here’s what went down:

A few years back The Great Escape was pretty tricky to navigate. You’d wander from venue to venue only to find that everywhere had a massive queue outside, you’d miss the secret shows because they were just too darn secret and the only information you had on the artists was a tiny write-up in the programme. Thank the lord then, for the Great Escape app.

It. Is. Brilliant.

It sends you notifications when shows are about to start, tells you when venues are at capacity and has Soundcloud links to the artists, as well as maps of how to get to all the venues. What’s more, it tells you when unexpected cool shit is about to go down.

So when our phone beeped at 11.45am on Saturday, we got changed out of our Star Wars PJs faster than you can say “kessel run” and literally sprinted down to Jubilee Square, the festival’s hub. Why? Because the app told us that, at midday, local hero Rag’n’Bone Man would be putting on a surprise performance with some chums.

Unsurprisingly, the area was rammed, but we still managed to squeeze/blag/force our way to the front to see the big man putting on a show with a bunch of insanely talented young MCs (pictured, top). In truth, Rag’n’Bone man didn’t do a great deal, he mostly just stood at the watching on as the MCs did their thing, but the show was worth sticking around for due to the sheer brilliance of the young performers. They spat rhymes at pace and with the focus of a collection of artists who clearly care passionately about their craft. An impressive start to the day.

Next, a dash down to the Queens Hotel allowed us to catch Glassmaps play a dazzling show. Glassmaps is the solo project of Joel Stein, who you might know as the lead guitarist in acclaimed act, Howling Bells.

Stein performed songs from his upcoming debut album; beautifully melodic, catchy tunes with a psychedelic edge, over which he sang lyrics that spoke of love and loss. This was certainly one of the festival’s most promising new acts.

Then, it was time for the Aussie Barbecue at Patterns on the seafront. Melbourne’s Gold Class were raw and loud as fuck and were completely contrasted by Lisa Mitchell, who followed with a gentle, wistful set. Its standout moment was when she performed alone, with just an acoustic guitar. Spellbinding.

Over at the Brighthelm Centre were Cassels. Hailing from Chipping Norton, they are two brothers (pictured, above) who rattle out clever lyrics over guitar and drums. Their songs are punchy and punky with a dark wit, while their banter was top notch too, making for an utterly engaging performance.

Set-closer, Cool Box summed the duo up perfectly. They announced it by explaining it was about how they don’t like their step-dad much. Cue laughs from the crowd. “You won’t be laughing in a minute,” they told us, before launching into an angry, powerful song about domestic abuse. “You hit my brother, because he saw straight through your bullshit and bluster, I think it scares you that he’s not scared of you.”

Simply, Casssels were one of the bands of the festival and you need them in your life.

Back at Jubilee Square, Jerry Williams (pictured, above) was about to wow a huge crowd. The 21-year-old from down the coast in Portsmouth played a half-hour set of tunes including I’m Not in Love With You, which had recently been selected as BBC Radio 1’s track of the week. It’s easy to see why Radio 1 would champion her, as she has all the makings of a star. Her charming, unassuming stage presence combined with an effervescent energy and some delicious self-penned songs hit all the right spots.

A cover of Jamie T’s If You Got The Money went down a storm and it was clear that she was having the time of her life playing to a large, receptive audience in the afternoon sunshine. Her vocal was lovely; not over embellished or affected at all, but rather had nice soft edges, while her unfussy, melodic guitar-driven pop was an utter delight. Make no mistake, you’ll be hearing a lot more from Jerry Williams in the future and deservedly so.

Talking of lovely vocals, Bess Atwell‘s set at the Unitarian Church was an understated pleasure. With just a guitar for company, she played some lovely folk compositions to an enchanted room.

Back to Jubiliee Square again, and an act that we were really excited to catch. Anyone who watched Channel 4’s The Undateables will know all about local chap, Daniel Wakeford (pictured, above), who is a lynchpin of the UK’s ever-expanding learning disabled music scene. A large crowd was in attendance for his free-to-all show. To see Daniel Wakeford perform live was to experience similar emotions to when you first caught a glimpse of The Undateables. What starts as intrigue almost immediately turns into warmth and joy.

Wakeford burst with positivity and excitement from the moment he stepped on the stage and belted out set-opener, I Love Girlfriend. Fans sang along to every word and boogied happily as he powered through a selection of his compositions, including Beethoven, Bad Feeling and New York City

It was an absolute delight to see live music performed with such honesty and joie-de-vivre. This was unquestionably the feel-good show of the festival and Daniel Wakeford emerged as the people’s champion of The Great Escape. He should be considered an inspiration to everyone, disabled or otherwise. Anyone who missed this show, quite simply, missed out.

As the clock ticked on, the festival reached its denouement. Rag’n’Bone Man filled The Dome, while Aussie George Maple did her thing at The Arch and the legend John Grant closed proceedings at Sallis Benney Theatre, where Bella Union’s 20th birthday celebrations had been taking place. Incidentally, Bella Union is our favourite record label and their little shop in Brighton is ace. Next time you are in town, pop in for a browse and a chat with Simon, the owner (and former Cocteau Twins member). He’s a legend. You might even get to meet their resident doggy too, if you’re lucky.

And so, at the end of another Great Escape, it was sadly time to head back to the real world. A world where you can’t just spend every day day skipping from venue to venue, discovering new favourite bands, chancing upon secret shows and going to gigs up the i360.

Yup, the real world definitely feels a bit more boring post-Great Escape. Roll on TGE18!


Review by Jayne Cheeseman and Bobby Townsend.