The final day at The Great Escape was notably quieter that those that preceded, nevertheless the turn out for most venues came close to capacity. Wrestling with the changing weather conditions, the tired faces still gave it their all.
Where most festivals seem to find and stick to a musical identity, The Great Escape continues to thrive by not really having one. There is a wide range of musical genres on offer and a genuine cultural diversity of the acts covering all corners of society. Though this should be something that is the norm rather than the exception, it is still worth its share of praise given the state of the industry as it is.
Thankfully the rain held up over at The Beach site for Australia’s impassioned wonder woman Kaiit. Performing on, The Ditto Stage, an opened up food truck, she draws a big crowd and excellently controls the collective mood. Getting people going with her well delivered verse, and wooing with sung parts, she is funny and thoughtful with equal impressive effect. Backed by a really well rehearsed band that capture the soul and laid-back groove of her music well, taking and adapting the best parts of Erykah Badu’s discography. With the setting, performance and style of Kaiit’s set, The Great Escape fully embodied that festival feeling.
Gentle and eerie at once, thrashing and snarling at others, Our Girl, lead by frontwoman and seemingly ubiquitous Soph Nathan, are one of the better representatives of rock music at the festival. Seemingly a dying breed of late, Our Girl cast an intriguing light on the genre with thoughtful and controlled but no less thumping songs for the packed-out Old Market.
The Fender sponsorship of The Old Market proves slightly grating over time, and perhaps more so for a festival that manages to mostly stay clear of the corporate infection that can pollute music events. The so-frequently-expressed gratitude to ‘fender for having us tonight’ sounds worse every time, but it is, you feel, the nature of the beast.
The ever-elusive Anna Calvi at The Old Market’s ‘Fender stage’ is a unique and compelling talent. She has clearly managed to accomplish a certain type of performance that feels as much a version of a character. Very consciously, each moment expresses a range of emotions between each nuanced and genre-pooling song. They traverse a mixture of what can only be described as electronic nightmare (rather than dream) pop, glam and prog rock, reworked with genuine chutzpah. All attempts at categories, though, inevitably limit her in some way.
Opener and stand out ‘Hunter’ best displays her talents though a richly deep but powerful vocal performance, and it’s easy to forget how impressive a player she is too, playing guitar with sultry, then savage, but always stylistic control. “No don’t you stop me” she sings so quietly at one point, and it’s hard to see if anyone can.
Over at Patterns, you could feel the sweat on your skin before you entered the room as Injury Reserve rocked the stage visible only between strobe lights and under the misty inferno covering the space downstairs. Their sound was refreshing, vigorous and unexpected. Honing in similarities to BROCKHAMPTON before 2017 they carry themselves and the crowd through a journey from moments of audacious, in-your-face group performances to mellow emotional solos.
Fusing electronic mixes with hip-hop, producer Parker Corey and rapper Ritchie (sic) held the front of the beats and producing the sound facing away from each other on tables as if they were competing. Yet they blended together in tightly and intricately. It was Stepa Groggs’ job to keep the crowd on their feet with shouting down the mic face-to-face with the front row before calling on a mosh-pit.
Across the festival, the short time slots afforded for everyone are clearly a logistical nightmare, as many start late and end up being painfully cut off early, and often the best shows feel like they end before they’ve even got started. The Great Escape, though, is centred on new music, and short slots allow all to see so much in the limited time they have, which has to be the real aim of it all (even if, at times, it can come across as some form of musical speed dating). Despite short time it was amazing how well the lighting worked especially in venues like Patterns.
Ahead of the Future Bubblers’ Late Escape show, Shunaji gave an enchanting performance at the Komedia Studio. Although she was delayed due to a technical fault, the turn-around between NUTRIBE and Shunaji was almost seamless with the stagehands promptly fixing the issue.
Her tracks hit below the surface with every lyric crafted in a thought-provoking way, even going as far as slipping in to other languages . Honestly exposing the truths of the music industry and her experiences as a black woman in the arts, Shunaji plays on the lyrics of ‘Wade in the Water’ which dates back to times of slavery. The blue lighting absorbed her face and the attention was undeniably all on her as she spoke of the harrowing reality that can be faced. She writes what she feels and invites others into her experiences.
Opening for DIY advocate and West-London artist Lava La Rue was a familiar face to the London music scene. Hidden at the back of Shoosh’s ‘Notion’ stage, P-rallel just got on with it in the most modest way despite being renowned for kicking off the show for punk rap musician slowthai.
La Rue gave an ode to her hometown, Ladbroke Grove in West London. There’s something ingenious and admirable about breaking into the industry and performing at a festival like The Great Escape whilst remaining deeply rooted to where you came from and keeping it grassroots. The way in which La Rue and the Nine8 Collective encompass the DIY movement against the corporate wave is foregrounded by their fearless, ambitious and experimental sound. Dipping into different genres La Rue exclaims, “Do you guys know the Breakfast Club? I thought why not put an 80s tune on a hip-hop album.”
Branching into themes much needed in today’s culture of online, she performed tracks like, ‘Ode to Killer T’ which emphasises how we get lost in the world of screens and end up yearning authenticity. She’s joyful, relevant and artistic in the finest of ways knowing her crowd and sticking to them no matter what. What a triumph this weekend has been.
Images: The Great Escape