The Great Escape Festival

Venues across Brighton, May 8-11

MID-AFTERNOON Thursday inside the pleasingly clammy walls of the Green Door Store, Carling in hand, made for an interesting midweek scenario in itself.

Then came CRACK CLOUD (four stars).

Beautifully syncopated drums took centre stage, as the drummer in this eight-piece outfit served as lead vocalist, his lyrics offsetting the beat, a percussion instrument in its own right.

Riffs that owed much to funk drifted under and through the drums, and the keyboards and brass brought everything together into a carefully managed, unpretentious chaos that seemed synergistically effortless.

A conflagration of extraordinary, and a brilliant way to start TGE2019.

Luckily, NICE BISCUIT (four stars) were to be found in the bowels of Komedia, where two immaculate Stevie Nicks-alikes in matching orange velour fringed cowgirl outfits fronted a psych-pop freak out.

Flaxen-haired siren songs, replete with bewitching choreography and beguiling displays of tambourine and maraca-based expertise while the band behind them excelled themselves.

Delicious biscuit.

Heavy on the irony aesthetic and light on his feet, OLIVER TREE’s (THREE STARS) energetic bouncing gave the impression of the Deep End’s stage being a trampoline.

Clearly a talent and possessed of a singular dream to inject a huge dose of the early Nineties (not the cool early Nineties – think Spliffy jeans as opposed to Adidas, Calvin Klein or Daniel Johnston T-shirts) into a crowd that were probably born a decade later, Oliver Tree and his crew reminded me of The Bloodhound Gang.

I didn’t know what to make of that then, and I don’t now either –fun, I guess? Fun.

FLAWLESS LITTLE SIMZ (five stars). Immaculate flow, meaningful narratives, attitude for days, though gracious with it.

The Deep End audience were duly worshipful as the diminutive woman filled the room with her stellar presence.

Kendrick Lamar thinks she’s the illest out there, so no wonder this had a concert feel as her star ascends further.

Deeply satisfying conclusion to day one.

Walking past the Black Lion and some irresistibly ferocious noise is being made within.

Brighton’s own LAZYBONE (five stars) are creating some serious drama inside. Thrash garage punk synthpop is going down and frontwoman Candi Underwood is a vision of wild bubblegum punk joy behind her Hammond keyboard.

Jubilee Square seems like a weird place to get loose the rest of the year, but the vibe as created by THE INTERGALACTIC REPUBLIC OF KONGO (four stars) is very much a call to getting loose, and we’ve all drunk frontman Mike title’s Kool Aid by the end of the violent, psychotropic afro-punk set of Love. If it sounded like propaganda, that’s the intention.

TIROK means business, politically and musically. More violence, more love. Stirring.

Another Brighton band to be proud of, SQUID (four stars). They may have alienated houseplant-loving audiences, but queues around the block showed them to be as popular as everyone thinks they are.

One guy turned up in a squid costume, only to be in the same queue as us, outside the venue, reality slowly dawning.


Still, at least we got to hear some top drawer industry blethering courtesy of the equally unfortunate delegates.

We saw them do a couple of tracks later at a BBCR6 Steve Lamacq-fronted show anyway, and they were, predictably, very good.

Off to the Dive Bar for day three’s breakfast treat.

A. SWAYZE AND THE GHOSTS FROM HOBART (three stars), which is the absolute southernmost town in Australia, so it is amazing that the four guys from the band have survived long enough to become the band they have as presumably their entire lives have been filled with the risk of shark attacks, locust plagues and whatever else goes on in such far flung corners.

That’s not xenophobia speaking, its ignorance.

Immersive and mildly psychopathic, that’s AS and TG.

And now for something completely different followed at the same venue.

PSYCHEDELIC PORN CRUMPETS (three stars), despite looking as though they’d been transplanted straight from rehearsing in their mum’s house in Devon, delivered some powerfully transcendent hard rock riffs that impressed – the hallmark of prog, which, if you like it, can be great.

PPC will scratch the hard rock itch of anyone who cares to taste them.

JOHNNY MAFIA (five stars) are four lads from somewhere in France.

All of their songs are in English, despite the fact it’s not a language they’re remotely familiar with.

Which made for interesting skits between songs, and some extreme compensation from bassist William Aguedach’s face in the form of some crazed contortionism between grimacing and gurning.

Considering he was singing at the same time, no mean feat.

Their music is fuzzed out garage punk rock, done to something approaching perfection.

Sticking to a Ramones-esque two and a half/three minute formula, it was laconic in its execution and managed to kick the living daylights out of the Marine Rooms at The Harbour Hotel.

Melodic, scuzzy, down-to-earth, enticingly gallic and robustly fun, Johnny Mafia rule.

Evening settling on day three as TGE2019 comes to a close, and the beach site is where we’re winding up. The Deep End has a healthy attendance for genre-less eight-strong outfit BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD (four stars), an improbably experimental yet completely coherent group whose musicianship basically amounts to poetry.

Interesting to note yet another vocalist opting for a side-stage position rather than front and centre.

Swaying somewhere between a narcotised dreaminess and a gutsy, brassy euphoria and underpinned the rhythmic chantings, they permeate the blackness and move the crowd to murmur about greatness.

Questions abound when it came to BLACK MIDI (five stars).

Are they some kind of hallucinogenic Lynchian dreamscape?

What compels them – Londoners apparently – to don trenchcoats and ten-gallon hats?

Who cares. They’re immense.

The drummer is so ridiculously tight with his stick-slapping it’s borderline obscene.

They are arrestingly odd visually, and the music makes you feel as though time doesn’t exist.

It seems they’ve referenced nothing before them and traverse new textures and sounds with each track.

Strikingly original and utterly compelling.

Closing then, the choice was clear – FAT WHITE FAMILY (five stars).

We didn’t have to move, and FWF are presumed to deliver their personal mood of prowling, growling, sweaty satire courtesy of lupine frontman Lias Saudi and co.

The front got cartoonish and rowdy very quickly, as many others’ choice for ending TGE, causing the fairly animalistic Saudi to remark “animals” during a song.

An interesting tracklisting including I Am Mark E. Smith (fans will be glad someone is) and lead single

Kirsty Levett