The gargantuan Great Escape now bigger and better

Aldous Harding at the One Church
Aldous Harding at the One Church

The Big Daddy of new music festivals rolled into town last weekend showcasing an absurd amount of fledgling talent, backed with a smattering of established heavy-hitters.

For three long days and nights the city played host to more than 400 acts at 35 clubs, churches and concert halls. Earplug suppliers rejoiced.

Ibibio Sound Machine at the Paganini Ballroom, in the Ship Hotel, Brighton

Ibibio Sound Machine at the Paganini Ballroom, in the Ship Hotel, Brighton

The event has grown at impressive rate since it’s inception in 2006 and record labels from all over the world descend on Brighton and Hove to show off their wares.

By late-afternoon of day one we’d rocked up to gigs by acts from Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, as well as a couple from Canada.

Brighton Museum was the unlikely but thoroughly wonderful setting for a series of bite-sized acoustic appearances by a number of Canadian strummers. Best of the bunch was William Prince from Winnipeg, a hugely likeable, warm-toned baritone who proudly proclaimed his influences of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Snow, and sang of love loss, and heartbreak.

Outside the dozens of venues, Biblical downpours made central Brighton feel like the soggy set of Blade Runner, but these were hardy gig-goers determined to get their money’s worth.

William Prince performing at Brighton Museum

William Prince performing at Brighton Museum

A blockbusting, utterly drenched, queue formed outside The Ship Hotel’s Paganini Ballroom as BBC Radio 6Music took charge of proceedings inside, where the Afro-electronic sounds of The Ibibio Sound Machine were as close to irresistible as is possible.

London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams was a force of nature, spinning huge- tasselled shoulder pads at an alarmingly rate while making a bid for most frenetic front person of the festival.

Day two eventually saw some long overdue sunshine, Heavenly illuminating the One Church during a showcase of acts from New Zealand. The remarkable Kiwi singer songwriter Aldous Harding gave her all, and much more besides, in a intense, emotionally- charged set, which reduced the packed church to a stunned silence.

Writers have previously been a at loss to describe her sound and eventually settled on Goth-Folk. Her latest material defies any such classification. Sparsely accompanied by piano and guitar it rested on her astounding vocal range, and an hugely expressive delivery.

In complete contrast Belgian electro noise-mongers LA Jungle provided Friday’s second highlight, with a none-more-pounding mix of insane drumming and hardcore bpm at the Green Door Store.

On Saturday it seemed Brighton was at epicentre of all the world’s fun, as Great Escapers shared the busy streets with Fringe and Brighton Festival goers, and an improbable number of Stag and Hen parties.

Treats of a slightly lower-key final day included the lush licks and languid groove of the Blue Lab Beats at the Harbour Hotel, and the gleaming space pop of Jane Weaver, back at the One Church.

As Uckfield-born Brit Award winning rapper Rag and Bone Man ripped it up in front of sell-out crowd at the Dome, we trudged back to the Paganini Ballroom for a fittingly left-field end to the festival. This time the fun was curated by Radio 3’s Late Junction, and the last sounds of our TGE 2017 were extremely loud dubstep by Ikonika. So, three days, three nights, and many thousands of footsteps later, it was over but we were all left with a bunch of favourite new bands and dozens of blurred gig photos.

By Steve Holloway