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Music

The Great Escape 2015

I have been going to The Great Escape festival for a few years now, and every time it doesn’t fail. At the end of the 3 days I feel fulfilled: I have discovered my new favourite bands, partied to my heart’s content, and learnt more about the music industry.

Before I go any further, let me just set the story straight by giving you some figures. The Great Escape is the biggest new music festival in Europe and it happens over 3 days – this year the 14th, 15th, and 16th of May – in the seaside town of Brighton. Across those 3 days, about 400 acts play in 30+ venues across town to a contingent of about 20,000 music lovers. Alongside it runs The Alternative Escape, a mini festival of free gigs, and a music convention where industry delegates can participate in talks and networking sessions. So it’s not really the kind of lazing-around-in-a-field-getting-a-massage type of festival.

For me the festival started with a gig by the young and talented Shamir Bailey. Shamir has been one of the biggest revelations on the indie scene recently and part of his appeal to me might be owed to the fact that he’d fit right in with my camp, arty friends. This is incredible seeing as he grew up in Las Vegas, a city not particularly well known for its camp, arty scene. So hats off to Shamir for sticking it out with music instead of moving to the countryside to be a farmer like he’d originally planned to!

The other highlight of day 1 of TGE was Clarence Clarity. When he rocked up on the stage of Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar in a hippie shirt and made a paper plane while singing his first song I thought, this guy must be Australian. But believe it or not, he’s from London. Clarence Clarity makes glitch funk tunes that sport names like “Alive In The Septic Tank” and “Bloodbarf” and sound like 2 songs are playing at once, but the result is blissful.

On the second day, I was gently brought back to my senses by Gabrielle Papillon’s soft voice and beautiful folk-bluegrass songs. Papillon, which is French for ‘butterfly’ – how fitting –, is from Canada and her charisma is worth witnessing live. Followed an afternoon of music convention talks and panels, during which I learnt about playlisting platforms, debates around songwriting credits and the differences between the UK and French music industries. The evening was again full of discoveries in a wide array of music genres, with gigs by superstar-in-the-making Sinead Harnett, punk-disco Londoners Shopping and indie R’N’B revelation Nao.

On Day 3, I had the mind-blowing moment I had been waiting for – I discovered my new favourite band. They are called Le Galaxie, they play highly danceable 80s-sounding synth pop and virtually nothing could give away that the band, which you want to picture looking something like the Liverpudlians angel faces Ladytron, are actually 4 bearded Irish men. Not sounding from where you were born seems to be a recurring theme for artists this year.

Le Galaxie’s half-hour set started early, which meant that, arriving on time, I missed half of it. I was pretty annoyed but it’s a big festival, things like that happen. And the mess in schedules worked in my favour later on in the evening, when Mapei’s delayed stage time meant I had time to walk over from another venue and catch her gig. Mapei is an American-Swedish singer and rapper whose vocal style bridges the gap between Diana Ross and De La Soul, and this is barely an overstatement. Her singles “Don’t Wait” and “Change” are terribly addictive and I wasn’t the only one in the crowd at Coalition singing along.

 Alo Wala at Dome Studio Bar

Alo Wala at Dome Studio Bar

Next came my mind-blowing moment number 2 with Alo Wala, another product of the US-Scandinavia connection. Alo Wala result from the combined efforts of Chicago-born rapper Shivani Ahlowalia and Danish bass duo Copia Doble Systema. It’s impossible not to draw parallels with M.I.A. because of the singer’s swagger and South Asian roots, but these guys are not copycats. Their music is a unique mash up of all tropical bass sounds under the sun: hip-hop, dancehall, South American beats, Indian rhythms, you name it. From the moment they hit the stage, their energy is hard to match and it literally feels like you’re handing over total control of your body to the bass.

This feeling dominated the rest of the evening’s dance-oriented gigs, and later that night Berghain resident DJ Tama Sumo’s house-disco set left me no choice but to stop thinking and surrender completely to the power of music. 

Words Luna Cohen-Solal

Photography Carolina Faruolo

Listen to our playlist below to discover our favourite artists from TGE15!