The Great Escape festival – review

Various venues, Brighton

The Great Escape, Brighton's bold attempt to come up with something roughly equivalent to South By Southwest, needs established names to pull in the crowds. But while there is nothing wrong with Katy B or Sufjan Stevens packing out the Dome – the former confirming her ascendancy from dubstep to pop star, the latter causing a frisson of controversy with his swerve into electronic textures and costumes – The Great Escape's USP is new music. So for the real spirit of things, you are best off haunting the smaller venues.

And you had better get there early. This year, smart money seems to be on Cults, a US duo who mine an appealingly lo-fi and gauzy take on 60s pop, with glockenspiel much to the fore. Unfortunately, most people who want to see them can't even get into the same postal district as the venue.

There is a lot of post-Florence and the Machine, female-fronted, radio-friendly alt-rock knocking about, not least from Alice Gold. And 80s indie continues to exert a spell over bands too young to remember it, as do the muzzy textures of shoegazing: Still Corners, from London, distinguish themselves here by having less to do with the dreamy washes of Slowdive than the icy spirit of Broadcast.

If you had to bet on anyone ascending to the big time, you could do worse than pick Anna Calvi. She has the voice; a sound that steers clear of the trends above; and a commanding presence, expressed via a lot of imperious flamenco gestures. This presence slightly overshadows her songs, but you get the feeling that will not be the case for ever, at which point she might well be unstoppable.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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