The Great Escape Brighton 2016 Review

We all know how most UK festivals work- you show up, you camp somewhere, usually muddy and wet, you sneak a few bottles under your shirt/short/hat/combination and you head to the arena for some musical action. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive festival fan, but the Great Escape is a different kind of festival altogether. It’s almost completely focused on ‘new music’, and with that tagline comes a whole new era of ‘festival’ in general. Although it is a brilliant collection of new music, with everything from up-and-coming indie bands to an underground grime scene, whether it’s festival status is truly deserved, is debatable. You don’t have the same camaraderie as camping in a field and getting wasted with your friends, it’s a completely urban environment and I can imagine for a non-brighton dweller can be quite hard to navigate.


For those of you who are unaware of what the Great Escape is, it’s a four day extravaganza in which various venues around Brighton host gigs and events under the same umbrella.

I grew up in Brighton, and seeing the Great Escape flourish every year has been a real beauty to behold. It puts the city in a good mood, there are loads of artists wandering around, I get to go to venues I’ve never been to before or wouldn’t go to without reason. It’s nice to promote new talent and isn’t massively overpriced for what it is. There’s a lot of nice little treats that come with your wristband, like a couple of free drinks at certain places or discounts on food and fringe events. It makes the city way more lively and you look at Brighton through rose tinted glasses, it brings a bucket load of atmosphere to my friendly city.

The long weekend itself was hectic, Some of the acts were unrefined, some were okay and some to be quite frank, some were pretty dreadful – with new music comes it’s fair share of risk – but when you get the one show that gives you the ‘I’m going to be able to brag about seeing these guys before they were famous’ feeling, it gives you goose bumps and an air of cockiness that lasts all evening, and that’s what GE is all about.

The festival is well known for its urban music vibes, with patterns showcasing Lady LeShurr in a packed out, madly energetic gig, however even with Stormzy playing a ‘spotlight show’ and music from Craig David’s new DJ act TS5, there was a very melancholic, Scandi-Pop, indie vibe to the majority of the festival, but that might be tailored to maybe the shows I happened to catch. A few favourites to call out were HER and SISKA, both French and both very different. The first was oozing sex all over the hope and ruin and had powerful vocals with highly sensual lyrics. The latter was a soulful, almost folky, bass filled vibe with some of the best vocals I heard all weekend.

Alongside all the lesser known artists, there were still some heavyweights pulling crowds to bigger venues, with Jake Bugg bringing the energy to Wagner Hall, which in itself is a masterpiece, even if a little hard to find. An amazing tucked away venue behind Saint Peters church- outdoors, fairy lights, and a cute little bar with a stage surrounded by foliage. It’s the type of place you had to stay at all day to see the one act you were actually interested in at 21:30. Mystery Jets also played a lively set, with a more prog-influenced feel than anything we’ve seen from them before at the Corn Exchange, a venue more central, capable of holding bigger crowds, and one of the best organised throughout the festival. The newly rejuvenated ‘Old Market’ also saw its fair share of action, with The Temper Trap playing a beautiful Amazon Live: Front Row gig, bringing a fresh lease of life to the venue.



Alongside the full blown Great Escape, is its rebellious little sibling that crops up all over the shop, The Alternative Escape. Although technically still a branch from the same tree, the Alternative Escape boasts something a little different, showcasing newer acts from specific labels and the Black Lion pub even hosting a few more learned events and East Street Tap remaining a hot spot for music and some definite refreshment throughout the evening.

It’s been over ten years since its humble beginnings in 2006, and although it’s continuing to bloom into a must-see of the summer, I do feel it needs to be slightly refined. They’ve got some great ideas and concepts, but the venues need to be stronger, maybe a few more outdoors stages, a few more quirky events, and just that little bit extra on top of the music. The music is great, but when you hit a three hour lull in the middle of a saturday afternoon, I can imagine those of us not from Brighton would feel quite irritable, which is the last thing you want in a crowd. But I say this from the perspective of a mum wanting to see it’s baby do well. The focus is on the music and the bands, and that’s something that gives it an edge, which can be lacking from the larger, more mainstream festivals these days. Things are only going to get better, and I for one can’t wait till next year.


DJ Shadow joins The Great Escape lineup

On the 13th May, Shadow will provide a unique insight into his work to date, and explain how the Shadowsphere was both conceived and realised. From his record-breaking debut album ‘Endtroducing…..’ via the first UNKLE record, the Quannum Projects label, the ‘4-Track Era’ project and his involvement in the ‘DJ Hero’ franchise, Shadow will step out of the sphere to lift the lid on his inspirational career.

Sufjan Stevens headlines The Dome on Saturday 14th May – again a co-promotion with The Brighton Festival. Hailing from Detroit, Sufjan’s beautiful lo-fi, alt-folk pop has been the soundtrack of the summer for many in recent years. His seminal and critically acclaimed album of 2005, Illinois, and its standout track Chicago put Sufjan firmly on the map, finding him fans across the UK. Earlier this year and to much acclaim Sufjan took his new production out on tour throughout the US. The hyper coloured, visual elements solidified the futuristic feel of 2010’s ‘THE AGE OF ADZ’. You will be in store for a real audio-visual treat.

As previously announced Friendly Fires are also headliners at the Dome with their sparkling modern pop which has ignited many dancefloors and dominated radiowaves with both their albums of off-kilter, pulsating electronica.

Full line up so far:

Friendly Fires ** DJ Shadow**, Sufjan Stevens ** (Dome Shows), Katy B, Warpaint, The Joy Formidable, Villagers, Twin Shadow, Marnie Stern, Alela Diane, Max Richter, Hauschka, Little Dragon, Smoke FairiesD/R/U/G/S, Brother, Becoming Real, Trophy Wife, PVT, Dutch Uncles, Tribes, SBTRKT, The Heartbreaks, Spark, Nedry, Worriedaboutsatan, Big Deal, Matthew and The Atlas, The Soft Moon, Teeth, Ghostpoet, Marques Toliver, Worship, Tripwires, Dustin O’Halloran, Lucy Swann, Visions of Trees, Seams, Marcus Foster, Ben Howard, The Holidays, The Jezabels, Said the Whale, Team Me, Bonjay, Deep Sea Arcade, Seekae, The Mountains and the Trees, Winter Gloves, DZ Deathrays, Woodhands, Heathers, The Bonfires, Paper Crows, Dan Parsons, NLF3, Brasstronaut, gable
with many more to be announce soon…


Tickets for DJ Shadow and Sujfan Stevens go on sale through this Thursday at 9am. Please note top up tickets for Sufjan Stevens are limited so be quick. 

The Great Escape launches with Friendly Fires and more..

The Great Escape hits Brighton on the 12th – 14th May 2011.

The Great Escape, Europe’s leading event for showcasing new musical talent announces the first artists for the 2011 festival. Taking place in Brighton over 3 days in May, The Great Escape kick starts the festival season, introducing 15,000 music lovers to the key artists and sounds of the year. With over 300 bands playing in 30 venues over 3 days in Brighton as well as hosting its acclaimed music conference for 3,000 industry professionals, The Great Escape is one of the main dates in the music calendar.


Headliners for 2011 are Friendly Fires whose sparkling modern pop has ignited many dancefloors and dominated radiowaves with both their albums of off-kilter, pulsating electronica – A huge show for The Dome. After having played one of their first UK shows at TGE 2010, we are pleased to welcome back Warpaint, who will be bringing their ambient alt-country, post rock all the way from LA to the south coast. Girl of the moment, and unanimously One To Watch for 2011, Katy B is arguably the hottest name in music right now. You’ll recognise her vocal contributions to Magnetic Man and Count and Sinden anthems, while her own productions deceptively blend her sweet vocal tone and dark story-telling lyrics.


With Ireland announced as the partner country for this year’s event, The Great Escape is delighted to welcome the carefully crafted indie folk of Villagers who will be playing tracks from their Mercury nominated album ‘Becoming A Jackal’. Revisiting the rougher end of Brit Pop are Brother whose self titled ‘Grit Pop’ has seen them compared to Oasis and their anthemic indie rock proves guitar bands will still have a big say in the charts this year.


Full line up so far includes the following, with many more artists to be announced over the next couple of months:


Friendly Fires **(dome show) / Katy B / Warpaint / Villagers / Twin Shadow / Brother / Little Dragon / D/R/U/G/S / Becoming Real / PVT / Dutch Uncles / Tribes / SBTRKT / The Heartbreaks / Spark / Nedry / Worriedaboutsatan / Big Deal / The Soft Moon / Teeth / Marques Toliver / Tripwires / Lucy Swann / Vision of Trees / Seams / The Holidays / The Jezabels / Said the Whale / Team Me / Bonjay / Deep Sea Arcade / Seekae / The Mountain and the Trees / Winter Gloves / DZ Deathrays / Woodhands / gaBLe


Super Early Bird tickets are currently on sale at an incredibly competitive £35. This offer lasts until 15th February when the price will increase to £45, so music lovers are urged to get tickets early to ensure more bands for your buck! Tickets can be purchased from or local outlets Resident and Rounder.


**This year, a small number of our shows will take place at The Dome in Brighton. The first of our 2011 Dome Shows to be announced is Friendly Fires. To ensure guaranteed access our Dome Shows, attendees can top up their festival wristband for just £6 per show, or purchase separate gig tickets on



Super Early Bird 3 Day Festival Tickets are on sale for £35 (offer expires on the 15th Feb)

Friendly Fires / Dome Show Single Gig Tickets costs £18.50 or top up festival wristband for £6