“150 bands playing 20 different venues,” runs the tagline for the second Great Escape, the UK’s industry-centric three-dayer of new music that, by day, is also a convention.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like making decisions, you’re probably going to suffer panic on a grand scale, but some helpful planning can mitigate the drowning feeling before it takes hold.
The earlybird wristband for all three days cost just 35 (39.50 standard) – and when you consider the line-up, that really is value for money. And with larger venues added to the seafront shamble, hopefully some of 2006’s capacity problems will be solved this time around. Amongst the debuting new spaces is the lovely Corn Exchange, which looks a good bet for three well-programmed nights in a row.
While the Barfly-managed festival remains primarily a showcase for new music, the organisers have, like last year, sprinkled some well-known acts atop the newness.
So it is that The Magic Numbers will appear on the bill alongside Archie Bronson Outfit, whose award-festooned album Derdang Derdang came out last year, but whose raw live set is never less than exhilarating. Peripheral sets involving a mobile phone company, for which your wristband will be useless, include a set by The Happy Mondays. Hardly new music, but well worth a look.
Several of last year’s acts are back for more. Liverpool’s Hot Club de Paris will still be keeping it small, but The Maccabees, playing a 2am set at the Pressure Point last year, are sure to be one of this year’s better-known draws.
Last year’s most hyped new band, CSS, put in their first Great Escape appearance, while compatriots Bonde do Role go head to head with them for the title of best Brazilian banzai bonkers band.
But back to the newness. The festival sees delegations from all corners of the globe arrive to ply their wares. As well as those Brazilians, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, France, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Australia and – for the first time – China all have acts competing for attention.
The Sami sounds of Norway’s yoikers Adjgas will be a highlight for anyone bored of guitars, while those French masters of the cover version Nouvelle Vague share the bill. Sweden’s Loney, Dear will please any latent fans of Belle & Sebastian as they roll through new album Loney, Noir, while China’s post-punk troupe Re-Tros could leave Brighton as one of the most talked-about acts of the festival.
The UK’s guitar-based indie scene is well represented of course, with just about every buzz band of the moment playing at least one gig. Ahead of their debut albums, Good Shoes, Tiny Dancers and Mumm-Ra look like treats, and The Pigeon Detectives no less so.
For fans of electro wondering if there’s anything beyond CSS worth bothering about, rest assured there is. Belgium’s Goose will be getting phat in their adopted home city, while Transgressive’s Foals will get the seafront shaking like there’s no tomorrow.
Singer-songwriters are much in evidence too, with Micah P Hinson, a man whose experience belies his tender years, the most tantalising of a bunch that also includes the kooky Hafdis Huld, Bella Union’s newest signing Stephanie Dosen, the vaguely ska Mr Hudson & The Library, prolific Scot James Yorkston and country-sad balladeer Willy Mason.
Word-of-mouth success Kate Nash, set for her debut album at some point this year, will also be hoisting her pink neon sign and twinkling her electric piano. And we managed to miss Adele at the Camden Crawl the other week, so will be attempting to make amends here.
A bevy of unsigned acts share the bills with any number of high street name sponsors and indie idols, and this festival is about nothing if not checking out acts you’ve never heard of and being the first to spot that famous Next Big Thing. It could be west London’s The Moths, who fuse punk and electro and make a racket. The Electric City come off the back of a Patrick Wolf support slot to play another of this year’s new venues, Hector’s, with their name just about summing up their music.
So, with your schedules planned out in advance, you should have no trouble at all seeing at least a couple of well-known acts, some buzz-fueled indie bands and some completely unknown surprises. You won’t see 120 acts, of course – the trick is to plan your evenings in advance, and have back-up options in case you don’t get in. And make sure you bring a waterproof coat. Brollies are useless against seaborne gales – let’s hope we don’t have any of those this year.