Walking around Brighton during The Great Escape this year, the buzz of opportunity and excitement hung in the air as much as the stench in the sticky-floored toilets of the Queens Hotel.
As usual, delegates milled around chattering, large plastic lanyards flapping in the breeze as they chatted, seeking business opportunities and new artist tips. The Brighton festival truly feels like a land of opportunity for the business end of the music industry, the part where emerging artists matter more than seasoned heroes, and new ideas are the only currency.
Panel sessions from an array of music biz names including Willard Ahdritz, Fraser T Smith and Novelist were well attended, and delegates hung around afterwards in customary fashion, asking questions and offering insight. AIM, AWAL, YouTube and more all got involved, and it was pleasing to leave the festival with positivity rumbling in the belly.
Providing the soundtrack was TGE’s latest batch of artists, 500 to be precise. Merely leafing through the programme was evidence enough that there was a lot of music on offer, so standing out seemed as difficult as ever. Everyone on site this year likely had a different experience, each with its contrasting highlights. So rather than a list praising only acts who outshone the rest, Music Week’s five picks act as a salute to each and every artist on the bill. It was a great year.
“Afternoon fucking tea???” Welcome to end of Slowthai’s Friday night show at Patterns, a basement that feels like an unloved fishtank, dank and full of charged up, confused inhabitants and an ungodly smell. The Northampton rapper, his voice hoarse, screams at his audience for one more time before closing song T N Biscuits, which here unfolds like a series of bass explosions and snatched, vitriolic bars. Every now and then, Slowthai’s topless figure catches the light, his chest heaves and glistens, and his eyes are ablaze with danger.
Similarly unhinged and treading a tightrope between barely intelligible and fantastically frantic, this Aussie four-piece bring one corner of this old seaside town to a standstill on Friday night. This is their first ever show outside Australia, and they attack it like dogs let off a leash. Before a closing cover of AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds, drummer Gus Romer’s nose begins spurting blood. He notices, and laps at it with his tongue, never missing a beat. It’s a glorious shambles. If you missed this one, they play in London this week.
Due to head out on tour with The Breeders this month, this Amsterdam four-piece tempted a huge crowd out of the blazing sunshine and into Komedia’s basement. Those inside made a wise decision: Pip Blom locked into a tight groove and didn’t let up. These are forceful indie-rock songs with jagged edges, revolving instrumental sections and frequent bursts of brilliant rage from singer Pip. But the most striking thing about her band’s show is how easy they make it look. It’s a breeze, a gig that passes by in a noisy blur.
Opening Music Week’s On The Radar stage at Coalition, Ten Tonnes play to a jam-packed room. Fresh-faced fans cram in by the stage, while a glut of industry types loiter at the back, you know the drill. It’s a classic Great Escape show, a new artist firmly on the up playing early and attracting a snaking queue. Ethan Barnett, who drives the project, hadn’t read the script, and tells us he’s surprised to see anyone here at all. Spiky, guitar-led songs such as Silver Heat and a breathless Lay It On Me come across full of personality, paving the way for a busy night that also sees sets from Lion, Lo Moon, The Beaches and Børns.
One of The Great Escape’s best assets is its ability to spring a surprise, that show you weren’t sure you’d catch but are glad you did. At the Heavenly Recordings showcase down on the pier at Horatio’s, Anna Burch turns in a performance of understated brilliance. The Detroit singer combines folk-rock and unpredictable pop to stunning effect, drawing from this year’s excellent Quit The Curse album. It’s always busy at Horatio’s, but the crowd gathered for this afternoon set can count themselves luckier than most.