The Great Escape: The most exciting new artists we caught at the seaside jaunt

If you were at The Great Escape in Brighton this weekend, well done, you survived. You battled rain, wind, sun, hangovers, queues, hangovers, hype, stoney beaches, hangovers, Queen’s Hotel and more to witness some of the planet’s most exciting and game-changing new artists. It was a hoot, wasn’t it?

If you weren’t in attendance, well, you’ll just have to catch up on the best acts from The Great Escape 2019 right here, then. Here are the best artists we caught at the three-day bonanza by the sea.

Words: Thomas Smith, Vidisha Jain, Andrew Trendell, Luke Morgan Britton, Dan Stubbs

The Mauskovic Dance Band

If Alex Turner’s Arctic Monkeys were the early-evening entertainment on the Moon last year, this summer’s house band make for a funkier affair. The Amsterdam-based five piece brought their fabled blend of “space disco” and elements of cumbia and unrivalled pace to Komedia for a Thursday night set that previewed their upcoming self-titled debut album. Relentless percussion and groovy basslines collide on ‘Space Drum Machine’, while the looped guitar parts on ‘Dance Place Garage’ has the energetic crowd all caught up in tangles. A delightful and hypnotic set from a band poised for a breakout summer. (TS)

The Visual

Another Amsterdam band appearing at the festival, The Visual – who recently released their debut album on Hague-based indie Mink Records – are a very different proposition to the Mauskovic Dance Band. NME caught them at Komedia at the ungodly-in-the-circumstances hour of 12pm on Friday, and walking into the dimly lit room to their intense, brooding sound was transportive: goodbye sunny day at the seaside, hello blackest night of the soul. The three-piece band’s sound tickles the same parts as Nick Cave, PJ Harvey or – most aptly – Jeff Buckley, thanks to the transcendent vocals of frontwoman Anna van Rij. Lost in the music, she at one point swiped her mic stand with her guitar, sending the microphone flying. Not quite Hendrix burning his Stratocaster, but an affordable version of the same. (DS)

Girl In Red

By far one of the most hyped acts of this year’s festival, Girl In Red played to packed-out rooms across weekend. At her finale at Komedia on Friday night, her disarmingly self-deprecating humour and lo-fi pop bangers about teenage depression and sexual freedom pierce through the usual music industry nonchalance and gig chatter to kick off a bit of a party. (AT)

Feet

FEET bloody love the seaside, by all accounts. For their Friday night set, they brought along an array of matching tropical shirts, beach-ready hats and most fittingly, songs about the coast and it’s temperamental climate (‘English Weather’). But no-one could rain on their parade – their set was brimming with energy that revealed itself in both gritty post-punk anthems (‘Petty Thieving’) and funky-indie rock (‘Ad Blue’). (TS)

Working Men’s Club

Cowbells and topless frontmen that throw audiences back to old-school rock are back in fashion clearly. Working Men’s Club made heads turn in intrigue as they opened the BBC Introducing night at the festival with an contrasting sound to the rest of the bands on the festival line up. The use of pointed synths sharp guitars and warped vocals explain on debut single ‘Bad Blood’ is proof why the band are in such high-demand. (VJ)

Lucia

Fresh from their boisterous and sweaty outing at NME’s Goose Island Presents showcase last week, Glasgow’s Lucia properly blew the doors off The Old Market from The Fender Next Stage. There are moments of bubblegum pop, soon burst by the snarl of riot grrrl and grunge and all delivered with the swagger of the icons they long to be. Let this band be the sound of your summer. (AT)

Unknown T

Unknown T’s drill anthem Homerton B was pretty inescapable in 2018, one of the songs of the summer, the first track of its genre to reach the charts (since going silver), earning him a Drake tour cameo and even grabbing the attention of one Louis Theroux. The East Londoner’s captivating set at Great Escape demonstrated that his talents stretch much further than his first hit though, with its follow-up single Throwback a particular highlight, showing T taking his sound on a bit of a left-turn with its nostalgic nod to ‘00s UK Funky. (LMB)

Broen

As The Great Escape hangover lingered into Saturday afternoon, Bella Union’s Broen washed over Brighton’s collective shattered mind with an awesome wave of soul, jazz, psych, rap, pop, rock and whatever else felt good. Their assured and instinctual performance was enough without the stunning and trippy projections, but it all worked towards their ethos of putting the ‘arty’ into ‘party’. (AT)

Aitch

Manchester rapper Aitch’s Great Escape set marked almost a year to the day since breakthrough freestyle Straight Rhymez 1 singled the 18-year-old out as one of most impressive technical MCs emerging at the moment. Since then, he’s supported Wiley on tour and attracted co-signs from everyone from 1Xtra’s Kenny Allstar to Kanye cohort Virgil Abloh. From his frenetic, mile-a-minute set (which totalled at little over 15 minutes), it’s easy to see why everyone’s so excited about his early, but still quite raw, promise. (LMB)

Georgia

Boasting one of the year’s best singles so far, ‘About Work The Dancefloor’, her Friday night showing saw an artist reborn. The house and electronic scenes of the ‘80s are nodded to in her dynamic live set, which sees the London musician utilise new instruments, machines and energy for a pulsating glimpse into her forthcoming second album. (TS)

Our Girl

The penultimate band on The Fender Next Stage, Our Girl saw us well into Saturday night with a rush of expansive, grungy dreamwave. Singer Soph Nathan is a key player in fellow guitar-shredding heroes The Big Moon, but the world of Our Girl is driven by a more unhinged attitude and a cosmic sense of escapism. (AT)

Celeste

Performing at the seaside venue Coalition, the venue’s setting created a natural acoustic that complemented the hypnotising performance of Celeste’s debut EP ‘Lately.’ The set included crowd favourites ‘Both Sides of the Moon’ and ‘Father’s Son’, dedicated to her late father. In fact, most of Celeste’s songs are inspired by rather heart-wrenching topics, but listening to her music is more about finding comfort than triggers. (VJ)

Gia Margaret

Intimate and intense, Gia Margaret’s stripped-down gossamer folk-noir sound of cinematic strings, whispered vocals and a whole load of sadness takes the familiar and repurposes it for her own open-heart diary entries. She claimed that her voice on the night was shot to shit, but Komedia fell in love with her nonetheless. (AT)

Joy Crookes

Slowing down the pace of The Fender Next Stage for a moment for some moving tones, the instrumentation in Joy’s performance was minimal, but the strength and expressions of her vocals would almost render any other instrument pointless anyway. Native to South London, she places significant weight on showcasing the range of cultures that form her identity, and her music is subsequently an amalgamation of commercial pop with soul with devastating effect. (VJ)

Alfie Templeman

Despite writing tight pop songs, the instrumental jams in Alfie Templeman’s set at Three Wise Cats, were just as exciting as those emerging hits. However, debut single ‘Like An Animal’ was the most encapsulating moment, with fizzing chorus being so catchy and memorable that by the final chorus the audience were singing along. (VJ)

Sneakbo

Despite first turning heads with a string of hits at the start of the decade, Brixton native Sneakbo only released his debut album, named after the part of South London that he calls home, in March 2018. His blend of UK rap with bashment and dancehall, which initially  set him apart, can now be heard in the music of today’s biggest genre-blending artists like J Hus and Not3s, but his Great Escape set proved that Sneakbo still remains among the best when it comes to dynamic and vibrant, club-ready tunes. (LMB)

Pip Blom

The perceived wisdom about the Amsterdam’s Pip Blom is that: ‘they’re always a good time!’ And indeed they are. Their set at Coalition, proved so with the players extending the limits of each instrument while retaining their indie edge with synths, and Pip’s explosive vocals pushing the band’s sound further than before. (VJ)

Donna Missal

Donna introduced her song ‘Girl’ by explaining that the worst thing that can happen is when women turn against each other. The song, though soothing and romantic, was laden with stark lyrics ‘Girl, you got me all fucked up.’ Thrashing on stage and the audience head banging in her heavier tunes, the stained glass windows of Brighton’s One Church that surrounded Donna perfectly mirrored the intensity of the set. It was a blessing to be let on this 30 minute emotional rollercoaster with her. (VJ)

Nude Party

We are, at the moment, overrun with bands making music that might be termed art-rock, or agit-punk, or socially conscious, serious, important even. Nude Party, as the name hints, are the absolute antithesis to this. The North Carolina band, caught at East Street Tavern, play goodtime rock ‘n’ roll with a joy that’s absolutely infectious to watch. It’s ’60s nostalgia filtered through ’90s nostalgia, like a Velvet Underground covers band playing the diner on Saved By The Bell. They are, all of them, what you might describe as rad dudes, if you were so inclined. You half expect to see Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle propping up the bar tapping his two toes, munching on a pizza. Such is the looseness of their groove, it’s almost impossible not to do shake something or other while watching them. (DS)

Rina Mushonga

Born in India, raised in Zimbabwe and now living in Peckham, Rina Mushonga’s music is as difficult to categorise as her background is to sum up in fewer than five words. Appearing at Hideout as part of the PIAS Nites showcase, she and her three-piece band create a sound that’s somewhere between Afrobeat, The xx and Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’, a rhythmic, groove-based and elegantly restrained sound that’s a launching pad for Mushonga’s soaring vocal. And you have to appreciate an artist who calls a spade a spade. “I’ll be hanging around at the bar after if you wanna book me for a festival or whatever it is you’re here to do,” she told the crowd. (DS)

The Murder Capital

The band’s final set of the weekend at Brighton’s Green Door Store was an passionate, life-affirming affair. Already a staggeringly live band, the Irish group’s songs match that intensity, with the expansive ‘Green & Blue’, a rumbling 6-minute belter which captures the raw energy of the five-piece being a striking highlight. (TS)