LIVE: The Great Escape 2022 (Photos & Highlights)

We were back at The Great Escape for the first time in 3 YEARS at the weekend, stomping around Brighton trying to catch some of our favourite women and LGBTQ+ artists in new music. Spread across multiple venues in the city, the festival showcased an eclectic line-up of talent, and our Features Editor Kate Crudgington and official photographer Jon Mo were there to capture just some of the highlights of the prolific 3 day event.

Of course, clashes, queues and timing issues meant we inevitably missed some artists, including sets from ZAND, Ailbhe Reddy, Mykki Blanco, A.A. Williams, Witch Fever, Bad Waitress, Kills Birds, LibraLibra, PEANESS and Grandmas House, but we tried to get to as many gigs as possible on Thursday & Friday. Read about the performances we did manage to catch and take a look at our pictures below…

 

ARXX remain one of our favourite bands, both on and off stage

Whether it’s vocalist & guitarist Hanni casually saying “let’s break up this wall of men” as we moved towards the front for Fräulein’s set at Queens Hotel, or drummer Clara cracking up the crowd with her story about a seagull stealing her croissant during their own set (she’s a Brighton resident as well, rookie mistake) – ARXX truly are the definition of an iconic duo. Their set at The Hope & Ruin was so packed we couldn’t get in, but it was worth running up the hill to Brighton Youth Centre to catch them performing later on the same day. Full of their trademark riotous riffs, anthemic vocals and knockout percussion, the duo tore through renditions of ‘Deep’ and ‘Call Me Crazy’ as well as previewing their new single, ‘Couldn’t Help Myself’. We can’t wait to have them headline for GIHE again at The Shacklewell Arms on the 22nd July. (tickets here)

Fräulein are your new favourite grunge duo

Joni & Karston aka Fräulein blew us away when they headlined our first GIHE gig of 2022 back in January at The Victoria in Dalston. Since then, the duo have been playing across London non-stop and have been out on tour with The Mysterines and Coach Party too. They performed their brooding, captivating grunge sounds to a full house in the basement at Queens Hotel on Thursday afternoon, with singles ‘And I Go (La La La)’ and ‘Drag Behind’ being set highlights. They played a show on each day of the festival over the weekend, so if you didn’t catch at least one of their sets, you definitely missed out.

We are in love with Brimheim and her band

We had a lot of FEELINGS watching Danish artist Brimheim perform to a packed crowd at seafront venue WaterBear – and all of them were GOOD. Clearly loving every moment of her set alongside her equally enthusiastic band, she thrashed around with her guitar, enjoyably scowling down at her mic as she delivered her pitch perfect vocals. Performing songs from her debut album, can’t hate myself into a different shape, she thundered through ‘favourite day of the week’ and ‘baleen feeder’, her exquisite, confessional lyrics were given a new edge by her raw, more abrasive live performance. We cannot wait to see her live again.

The Irish showcase at Prince Albert is always a festival highlight

Year after year, the line-up for the Irish showcase at the Prince Albert continues to impress us. Even when we can’t physically get into the venue to see the bands (we heard SPRINTS sounding HUGE as we stood in the queue on the stairs) the atmosphere and the talent is always worth sticking around for. We caught Tolu Makay in her stunning sequin-drenched outfit on Thursday, performing infectiously fun tracks from her debut album Being, including ‘Me, Myself & I’ and ‘You Are Enough’. On Friday, we were front row for CMAT’s show (read more on that below) and to catch Kynsy live for the first time. Since the release of her debut single ‘Cold Blue Light’ in 2020, we’ve been keen to see her show and she did not disappoint. Accompanied by her band, she ripped through singles ‘Happiness Isn’t A Fixed State’ and ‘Elephant in the Room’, her voice sounding superb despite her saying she was “a little croaky” on the day.

Tolu Makay

KYNSY

CMAT is Queen

Despite their best efforts to make things work, CMAT’s band couldn’t play along with her due to tech difficulties, so the Irish pop sensation shrugged it off and performed a superb solo acoustic set instead. Armed with her guitar and her trademark white cowboy boots, she performed seamless renditions of ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’, ‘Nashville’ and a “lounge version” of ‘No More Virgos’ with keyboard player Colm, all taken from her debut album, If My Wife New I’d Be Dead. A mix of stand up comedy and stand out vocals, CMAT’s sets are always a total joy to witness, and listening to other folks in the crowd sing along to ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ never gets old.

Lido Pimienta is a L.E.G.E.N.D.

Full of her stunning vocals, metal-esque screams, sharp wit and strong pro-choice vibes, award-winning Colombian-born, Toronto-based artist Lido Pimienta had the crowd dancing, cheering and laughing along during her set at Jubilee Square. Performing tracks from her 2020 album, Miss Colombia, including a flawless rendition of ‘Eso Que Tu Haces’, Pimienta cracked jokes about the Queen’s Jubilee between songs and made valid comments about the importance of respecting women’s reproductive rights. Her charisma, euphoric live energy and candid comments will remain embedded in our memories for weeks to come.

We want to join Softcult

We’ve been looking forward to catching Canadian twin siblings Mercedes and Phoenix aka Sofcult live since the release of their debut EP, Year Of The Rat, in 2021. Informed by their experiences of sexism and objectification as young women in the music industry, the pair performed their bittersweet grunge-pop anthems to a packed crowd at Volks, with songs ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ and ‘Gaslight’ providing an empowering and cathartic moment to push back against toxic masculinity.

We want to scream in tune like Lucy from Projector

Brighton band Projector have always impressed us with their live shows, but their set at The Tempest Inn on Friday evening truly excelled all other times we’ve seen them play. The four piece smashed through a set full of visceral alternative noise, with bassist & vocalist Lucy’s cord-ripping screams absolutely decimating our ear drums (in the good way), especially during the band’s latest single ‘hell in my head’.

Like most major UK festivals, The Great Escape has room for improvement

Whilst our experience of The Great Escape was a positive one, we know that’s not the case for everyone who attends or plays at the festival. We saw a tweet from artist Billy Nomates explaining that there was “no water no towel no buy out no rider [and] a microphone that doesn’t work” – therefore she couldn’t perform to the best of her ability at her set on Friday night.

We also saw a tweet from the band PEANESS, rightfully lamenting the lack of opportunities for artists playing the festival to have access to complimentary food and drinks, whilst delegates are often bombarded with these invites. It was both disheartening and comforting to see replies on these threads that echoed similar sentiments, especially as artists (particularly female artists) are often labelled as ‘unappreciative’ or ‘difficult’ when they highlight these issues. It’s not fair that people’s experiences of the same festival differ so vastly.

There are plenty of artists, promoters and PR teams working towards a better and more equal music industry – we met and saw some of them at The Great Escape! – but until everyone is on the same page, we will continue to elevate the conversations that challenge the unfair “norm”.

In terms of its line-up, 2022’s Great Escape really did feel like one of its most diverse and entertaining yet. But there’s always more to learn, more work to do both on and off stage, and more reason than ever to speak out when you think you’re being treated unfairly. Respect to the artists who were bold enough to do so this year.

CIEL

BERRIES

Gen & The Degenerates

Words: Kate Crudgington / @KCBobCut
Photos: Jon Mo / @jonmophotography

INTERVIEW: First Timers Fest

First Timers are a London-based DIY community of musicians and activists who believe that having access to creating & playing music should not be a privilege, it should be a joyful and social experience that empowers everyone. They encourage people from all walks of life – particularly those who identify as non-binary, LGBTQ+, disabled or female – to attend their workshops and gigs in order to experience and create music in a non-judgemental, low pressure environment. They aim to build people’s confidence, as well as forming a community of like-minded individuals who feel empowered to tackle the lack of diversity in larger music industry spheres.

Their next event, First Timers Fest, is happening this Sunday (8th May) at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. 14 newly formed bands will take to the stage for the first time to perform in front of a crowd, and we’ll be there cheering them on and witnessing this brand new talent!You can grab a ticket for the First Timers 2022 Showcase here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/first-timers-fest-2022-tickets-309402048857

We spoke to Deena, Ishani, Sian and Ripley from the First Timers team about how the initiative began, what they’ve learned from being part of the team and what we can expect from this year’s showcase…

 

Hello folks! Please introduce yourselves and explain how you joined the First Timers team & what it is that you do…

At the moment the core First Timers organising team is Deena, Ishani, Sian and Ripley. None of us founded the fest – that was Bryony who now runs the Good Night Out campaign – and all of us got involved through playing it! Making the fest happen is a fairly big endeavor, and involves booking teachers and workshops, publicizing, finances, liaising with teachers and bands, and a million other little things that crop up.

It’s a lot of work, but it seems to be paying off. You’re a fantastic grass roots organisation and you do so much for the DIY music scene.

First Timers Fest itself was a big thing for us and got most of us into playing music! Also, its easier to be what you see, so seeing other London initiatives like Girls Rock London and Decolonize Fest flourishing is super inspiring.

They’re both great organisations too. What would you say are the highlights of being involved with organising First Timers Fest?

Jam on your hands is one of our favorite bits, even though its probably the most difficult thing to bring together and is always chaotic. It’s a workshop where people get to try out a bunch of instruments then learn a song then we play it all at the same time – so you have three drum kits and five basses and guitars and a tonne of people singing – it’s fantastic! Seeing people having fun at workshops and then telling us they never thought they’d be able to play an instrument and now love it is also amazing.

I attended your Bass Workshop with Jodi this year and I felt the same, it was such a fun day. Tell me about the other teachers and volunteers who are involved with the workshops. I know that Joni from Fraulein ran your guitar workshop and Chuck SJ taught songwriting this year. How do you connect with teachers and get them involved?

Our workshops this year have been really very good and luckily it’s been easy to find great people to run them. Sometimes we put call outs for teachers on our social media, sometimes we source them from the pool of people we’ve got to know over the years, or musicians we rate, or even people who have played the fest before! We love it when our teachers are First Timers at teaching too!

What are your anticipations for the First Timers 2022 showcase on Sunday 8th May? Tell us all about the bands on the bill…

It’s going to be fairly eclectic- it always is! Floralis is bringing us art pop influenced by goth rock and hip hop. Achers will be playing hardcore. A N T I A are putting harmonicas into grungy punk. Melhole are combining synths and ukelele, and there will be THREE kinds of hand percussion in ROAD. Many of the the main food groups really.

Because of Covid, for most of us this will be the first Fest we’ve organised from start to finish so we are just really excited to see them all up there!

I’m excited too! If someone was considering coming to a First Timers event, but felt a bit too nervous to get involved, what advice would you give to them?

We are all really very nice and we also all understand how scary it can be to take those first steps! Advice? Bring a friend, or reach out to us before you come.

And if a musician reading this is interested in volunteering for the next set of First Timers Fest workshops, what should they do?

Keep an eye out on social media as that’s where we tend to put out calls for artists, teachers, photographers, and other volunteers. Aside from Jam on your Hands, the workshops are paid for teachers, but the rest of us are volunteers. We are always needing more hands on deck with organising so do get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved – it’s good fun and very rewarding!

Finally, any bands or artists that you’ve been listening to recently that you’d like to recommend?

Here’s a link to every First Timers Fest band ever! 

Lots of them are still going. Breakup Haircut are playing their album release gig on the 22nd of July, Big Joanie are touring soon, Charmpit released an amazing album over lockdown, Bitch Hunt, Whitelands, Panic Pocket, Irn Brunette and Trouble Wanted have been playing live recently. If we’ve missed anyone out please do add your current stuff to the spreadsheet!

But we are equally as in awe of every band that played the fest the one time then dissolved or morphed or started other projects. We’re proud of them all!

Thanks to the First Timers team for answering our questions!

Follow First Timers Fest on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut