FestivalsLive Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: The Great Escape 2019 – Saturday

A band described as “death metal meets pop” is too good an opportunity to turn down, and a fitting way to start our final day at this diverse and varied event. But, while we may have come for the intrigue and spectacle, we stay for the unmistakable quality of Sun: a two-piece act made up of German singer/guitarist Karoline Rose and French drummer Vincent Kreyder. The two united over their shared love of metal riffs and pop melodies and they commit fully to both elements, weaving catchy hooks around brutal riffs and double-bass blasts. Rose’s  phenomenal vocal control and technique enable lengthy bursts of guttural screams before switching seamlessly to clean, pristine melodies, and she commands the stage well, maintaining the audience’s attention all by herself. It’s early days for this act, who are currently working on their first record, but there’s plenty of potential in their sound, and one to keep an eye on. 8/10

False Advertising get off to an impressive start with You Said, a catchy slab of sound fuelled by punk energy and pop melodies. Jen Hingley’s vocals drip with attitude, providing an angsty counterpoint to the jangly guitar tone, punctuated by rumbling bass and hard-hitting drums. Midway through, Hingley and drummer Chris Warr trade places, and with the change in instruments comes a switch in style. Warr is an accomplished vocalist and handles his duties well, however the slower paced grunge sound that he leads the band through takes some of the shine off the set and has us longing for a return to the high-energy feel of the opening half. 6/10

In 2015, rising post-hardcore act Crooks released their much-anticipated, highly regarded debut album Are We All The Same Distance Apart and, having signed to an imprint of Equal Vision Records, seemed to be on a strong trajectory. Sadly the band went into hibernation soon after, but now vocalist Josh Rogers has emerged from the creative shadows with his solo effort Sullii. This low-key, emo/R&B set is a world removed from the last time we saw Rogers on stage with Crooks, but even against electronic drum beats and samples, he retains the same emotionally-exposed, heartfelt delivery that hooked us on his music from the start. Palletown and Calmer expose the real potential of this project, showing Rogers at his fragile best, counteracting the occasional niggle with the live production mix,  which drowns out the live vocal in place of the backing track, taking you out of the moment and lessening the emotional connection. However, this is to be expected for a project at its embryonic stage, and between Rogers and Crooks’ bassist-turned-music-producer Jacob Dutton, who could be seen running the turntables and samples at the back of the stage, there’s enough talent and pedigree to turn Sullii into something special. 7/10

Across the weekend at The Great Escape we’ve seen nuance, variety, diversity and sophistication, but sometimes at a festival you just want to be hit over the head with noise. German alt-rockers Blackout Problems provide just that, hitting us with a barrage of sound that makes up on volume what it may lack in subtlety. Vocalist Mario Radetzky uses the intimate confines of Volks to his advantage, getting into the faces of the crowd to stir up a frenzy. It’s an entertaining set that helps keep us awake towards the end of an action-packed three days. 6/10

We end our festival experience with an unexpected treat at The Hub, as German psychedelic/prog quartet Okta Logue take us back in time with a Led Zeppelin-inspired collection of tracks. The blend of prominent bass and hypnotic organ sets a wonderfully warm foundation for a procession of blues-tinged guitar solos and soothing vocals melodies, all flowing effortlessly from this accomplished, professional act. It’s a delightful set to witness and a fitting end to another superb year of live music at The Great Escape. 8/10

Over the course of its fourteen year history, this festival has set itself an extremely high standard to maintain, yet each year it somehow exceeds expectations. With organisation this seamless, and sound engineers this efficient despite the fast turnarounds, it’s easy to forget not only the amount of hard work that goes on behind the scenes, but also the scale of the operation. The Great Escape’s enormous radius covers over 30 venues, with over 500 live acts to provide for, but everything works with machine-like precision. We leave Brighton with a fresh new list of unearthed talent and immediately hit the countdown timer in anticipation for doing it all again next year.

Written by: Mark Johnson