Though Brighton’s seafront and winding lanes have long been a hotbed for new music each May while The Great Escape’s annual industry-heavy knees-up takes over, that’s not to say that the city’s fertile scene is left untended for the remaining eleven months of the year. Far from it, in fact; as Mutations Festival deftly proves, there’s a wholehearted, year-round appetite for emerging artists to play the city’s independent venues. Spanning an extended four-day weekend of programming, 2023’s iteration sees over 100 acts take to grassroots stages across the city, from cult titans Fat White Family to buzzy new beginners.
As with all good festivals, the main issue facing punters is navigating stage clashes: on Friday: do they see Antony Szmierek at Patterns or check out Walt Disco at Dust? On Saturday, there’s a choice between the genre-hopping sucker-punch of Grove and the powerful punk spirit of Dream Wife. But by Sunday night, (nearly) all roads lead to the Green Door Store, where Nottingham quartet Cucamaras kick off DIY’s stage in suitably sweaty fashion. From jumping off stage to stalk the crowd during 2022 EP cut ‘Safe Bet’, to unravelling this year’s ‘Porcelain’ in a series of distorted breakdowns, they take the somewhat worn post-punk mould and inject it with new vigour, channelling fellow Midlands lads Do Nothing in a manner that’s quickly becoming something of a signature for the city.
Next to grace the venue's unique space - once a Victorian horse hospital in the goods yard of Brighton station - are Miss Tiny, whose splicing of dub, post-punk, and more melodic sensibilities is unembellished with stage chat, but perfectly pitched for the swelling crowd. The collaborative project of Speedy Wunderground figurehead and celebrated producer Dan Carey and Warmduscher’s Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft, Miss Tiny started life centred around “anti-recording” - making music purely for the pleasure of the process - before releasing their debut EP ‘DEN7’ this summer. Flanked onstage this evening by bassist and the band’s third pillar Adele Phillips, there’s a tangible buzz to them that’s anything but small.
Closing not only the stage, but the festival overall, New York’s cumgirl8 ensure the festival is sent off with a bang (almost literally). Weaving provocation through their punk-influenced performance, the quartet power through tracks from their recent EP ‘phantasea pharm’, punctuating each number with tongue-in-cheek innuendo. Landing somewhere between a self-assured ‘sex sells’ mentality, and simply celebrating sex positivity, their set is concluded with a slightly mad - yet brilliant - pivot to a techno number ('picture party') that features ‘oestrogen!’ as a shouted lyrical refrain. It’s met with slight bewilderment from certain members of the crowd, but is nevertheless a moment that seems to encapsulate the ‘you had to be there’ spirit of Mutations overall; an apt way to conclude the Brighton weekender.
Super early bird tickets for Mutations 2024 are available for a limited time here.