Live review

The Great Escape 2023, Various Venues, Brighton

11th - 13th May 2023

All the stand-out shows from this year’s Brighton bash, in one place.

As with every year at The Great Escape, there’s so many new artists and so little time. One moment you’re settling in to catch your first seaside show, the next you’re 30,000 steps a day down and about to get turfed unceremoniously back onto a train.

Thankfully, however, in the interim hours we managed to catch all manner of wildly exciting new talents - from shouty punks to pop perfection and everything in between. Looking for your new must-see live list? Look no further…

The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton

Heartworms
Where, on record, Jojo Orme cuts an intimidating figure clad in military garb and unleashing slicing, icy missives, on the TGE Beach Stage she leads a set that has more in common with a thumping Yeah Yeah Yeahs-style mid-’00s indie disco than just another night at Brixton Windmill. It’s still effortlessly cool - tracks from recent debut EP ‘A Comforting Notion’ propelling forward with zero fat on their thundering bones - but it’s also aimed very much at the dancefloor. Heartworms might be the best thing we saw all weekend: there, we said it. (LW)

The Last Dinner Party
Entering the weekend with just one single and more hotly-debated press inches than most bands a hundred times longer in the tooth, it’s of little surprise that the queue snaking around Chalk for The Last Dinner Party’s set is a hefty one. For those lucky enough to squeeze in, however, the quintet are more than a match for the naysayers, delivering a set filled with drama, dynamics and oodles of fun. Closer ‘Nothing Matters’ might be the only released track, but there are plenty of obvious singles here - ones that veer from Florence-like swoops to weird, Sparks oddities. TLDP can sleep soundly knowing they’ve got the arsenal to prove themselves worthy and then some. (LW)

Benefits
Sometimes at The Great Escape, a venue can truly make or break an act’s performance; for Benefits’ imposing first appearance, performing against the backdrop of Brighton’s One Church feels entirely fitting. From the moment that the band’s frontman Kingsley Hall sets foot on stage, the room is transfixed, with his formidable narration - which swings from beat poetry-like cadence through to scorched, propulsive growls - sounding truly mighty in a space like this. For the faint-hearted, this is not. (SJ)

Miss Tiny
The new project of Ben Romans-Hopcraft (formerly of Childhood) and super producer Dan Carey, Miss Tiny could so easily have been a chin-scratchy riddle of technical trickery. Instead, crammed onto the floor of Shortt’s Bar for Heavenly Records’ showcase, it’s all sorts of fun; needling riffs and loose, swaggering drums acting as the bedrock for songs that are meaty rather than muso, and clearly designed with the joys of playing live in mind. (LW)

The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton

McKinley Dixon
So good we watched him twice, Chicago rapper McKinley Dixon already feels like a talent that could go truly stratospheric. With the sort of rapidfire flow that King Kendrick himself would tip a hat to, and a canon of tracks - some taken from forthcoming LP ‘Beloved! Paradise! Jazz?!’ - that bring in the freeform musicality of that genre but inject it with intensity and struggle, both times Dixon is absolutely on top of his game. The murmured praise that’s audible among the audience throughout shows we’re not alone in our excitement. (LW)

Dumb Buoys Fishing Club
Despite releasing their first song just a few days before, by the time that Dumb Buoys Fishing Club take to the stage at Horatio’s as part of DIY’s takeover on Friday night, the room is already packed out. It’s little wonder as to why; the collective - led by musicians Dan D’Lion & Havelock - might be a bit of a mysterious prospect but they certainly know how to have a good time, their blend of commanding but hooky hip-hop whipping up a storm in mere moments. Throw in a bucket-load of sea-related references (lyrics include “just another drop in the ocean”, “swimming with the fishes” and “drinking like a fish, sinking like a stone”, to name but a few) and an appearance from Brockhampton’s Merlyn Wood and you’ve got one of those surefire wish-you-were-there sets. (SJ)

Militarie Gun
A highlight from The Prince Albert’s tightly-packed stage on Friday night, LA quintet Militarie Gun’s fresh take on hardcore punk is a welcome addition to The Great Escape’s line-up. Granted, tonight’s room isn’t really the environment for spin kicks or mosh pits, but their infectious wares are enough to get chunks of the crowd shouting along, with the likes of ‘Do It Faster’ and new album cut ‘Very High’ sounding even more satisfyingly cathartic on the live stage. (SJ)

Picture Parlour
Entering TGE with a fair whack of hype behind them, Picture Parlour sound so much like ‘AM’-era Arctic Monkeys on their Sunday afternoon set, it’s like being in the Upside Down. Led by suited and booted singer Katherine Parlour, there's an immediately recognisable familiarity to how the vocalist's strong croon wraps itself around strange phrasings and words that shouldn't flow together but do; it is not hard to see where their primary influence comes from. They wear it well, however, and there are undoubtedly tunes. When PP bring more influences into their arsenal, they'll likely be even better. (LW)

The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton

Fat Dog
Taking to the stage of Hope and Ruin at 1am, having only just performed another set two hours previously, you’d have forgiven buzzy South Londoners Fat Dog for being a little sleepy. This lot, however, probably haven’t slept in several years - and it’s the wired, chaotic energy of the perma-partying that arrives to turn the upstairs room into one big mosh pit. Like a klezmer band who’ve taken all the drugs in the whole of Glastonbury, Fat Dog are as wild a live prospect as the rumours suggest; that their drummer plays a decent portion of the set sporting a horrifying latex dog mask only adds to the vision of total mad abandon. (LW)

SPIDER
Listening to SPIDER, it's clear that she’s not really one for airs and graces. Taking to the stage on Thursday evening for a gutsy Green Door Store set, she’s quick to break the fourth wall of the festival, calling out the industry folk gathered for not getting more involved. It’s this defiant spirit that glitters in her scuzzy offerings - with recent cut ‘Fuck Everyone Fuck Everything’ an explosive highlight - and while the confines of her set-up (she’s backed by one guitar and a track) mean things don’t quite tip into the chaos that’s promised on record, there’s no doubt it’s sure to come soon. (SJ)

Alice Low
While Cardiff-based Alice Low’s theatrical performance style - all exaggerated gestures and overblown finger-pokes at masculinity - would be far more suited to literally any other space than the pub back room with a neon yellow Ticketmaster sign that she finds herself in, the musician’s utterly magnetic presence still rings out. In the mystical sonic realm where Kate Bush and David Bowie meet, Low’s songs - sometimes humorous, often moving tracks that discuss her transition with openness and nuance - are truly special things; fragile yet antagonistic, provocative yet pained. (LW)

Caity Baser
Arguably one of the bigger acts gracing this year’s line-up (just a few weeks ago, she headlined a sold out Kentish Town Forum), it’s little surprise that the reception for Caity Baser’s appearance on the Amazon New Music stage is a giddy one. Vibrant from the off, her set - boasting recent sassy kiss-off anthems like ‘Kiss You’ and ‘Pretty Boys’, and a good dose of self-aware between-song banter - is a lesson in both the power of infectious pop, and how personality is just as key when it comes to creating a star. (SJ)

The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton

STONE
The Liverpudlian band may be professing some serious jet lag when they take to the Amazon New Music stage in the early evening on Friday, but their brand of scuzzed-up carnage seems all the more brilliantly unhinged for it. Balancing the kind of swagger that ‘90s Britpop stalwarts would be envious of with potent, poignant statements (‘Money (Hope Ain’t Gone)’ stands out as an evocative highlight), theirs is a performance that already promises big things. (SJ)

Alice Longyu Gao
That China-born, LA-based Alice Longyu Gao has bothered to cart a full-sized harp onto the stage despite playing its wares for approximately 12 seconds in the whole set is indicative of the PC Music-adjacent musician’s commitment to total wild creativity. Dressed like a bride, tottering around like a music box ballerina before unleashing an unholy scream, her music dips one hand into hyperpop, one into metal, and blends the whole thing into a truly uncategorisable (but wildly entertaining) whole. 15 minutes into her set and she’s already fucked off. Sure. (LW)

Dolores Forever
Taking to DIY’s Friday night stage at Horatios, Dolores Forever deliver the sort of country-flecked indie-pop that you imagine could score them a Kacey Musgraves tour support and some serious mainstream crossover potential. Centred around the duo of Yorkshire lass Hannah Wilson and Copenhagen-born Julia Fabrin, their wares are nonetheless far more American-sounding than either of their hometowns might suggest - think Prima Queen, if they listened to a bit more Dixie Chicks. (LW)

Nuha Ruby Ra
Having toured endlessly over the past 18 months and honed her chops to fit any rough-and-ready festival setting, at beachside club Revenge, Nuha Ruby Ra is on magnetic form. With recent EP ‘Machine Like Me’ adding a couple of slightly more accessible tracks to her arsenal, her performance is still entirely unique - a prowling, contorting thing set to industrial backing tracks and using two mics simultaneously - but there’s something that’s slightly changed. It’s still highly esoteric, but maybe now it’s approachable too. (LW)

The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton

86TVs
The new project from Maccabees brothers Felix and Hugo White, with third sibling Will sandwiched in the middle and all sharing vocal duties, there’s no band at TGE who look as genuinely thrilled to be here as 86TVs. Musically channelling the more high-spirited, rousing end of their former band’s canon, with plenty of hooks to spare, it’s the sheer joyful energy being emitted from the stage that’s truly infectious. It’s good to have them back. (LW)

Pool Kids
Venues are normally pretty packed throughout The Great Escape, but getting into the live room of The Prince Albert is a particularly tough task on Saturday night, thanks to the gnarly sounds of Florida’s Pool Kids. Playing their second set of the day, Christine Goodwyne’s voice may be threatening to go at any moment, but even that’s not enough to stop the quartet’s explosive set: serving up a hefty dose of emo-rock - sprinkled with mathy guitars, for good measure - their take on the genre feels as dynamic as it is catchy. (SJ)

Girl and Girl
Further cementing the rule that every Australian band must contain at least one mullet, Girl and Girl’s curly-mopped frontman Kai James makes for a warmly approachable presence to ease us into The Great Escape’s opening afternoon. Channelling a rockabilly Parquet Courts vibe that’s more pleasingly scrappy than their recorded wares may suggest, James is also in possession of the sort of immediately recognisable vibrating vocal wobble that’ll keep them apart from the pack. (LW)

The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton The Great Escape 2023, various venues, Brighton

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