Looking wearily at the vast queues that stretch from the venues where the bigger artists are performing, and the grim-faced bouncers operating a one-in, one-out system, it's hard not to feel that The Great Escape is more appropriately named than its organisers realise. Frankly, the best chance you've got of getting in to see Grimes, Toy, Django Django or the Mystery Jets is by making like Charles Bronson and Dickie Attenborough and fashioning a makeshift tunnel.

Anyone who actually manages to gain access to see Django Django can tell you what the fuss is about: their dense, reverb-laden, harmony-drenched psychedelia sounds fantastic live, and a second, marginally less oversubscribed show on Friday turns out to be one of the weekend's highlights. The shows in the daytime are less mobbed and offer up intriguing choices: on Thursday, you could find both the hazy psychedelia of Porcelain Raft and College's lush, 80s teen-movie-soundtrack electronics gamely attempting to transcend the surroundings of a pub's upstairs room in the middle of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the sense that you've ventured appealingly off-piste is palpable when watching Tokyo's Trippple Nippples: three female vocalists in facepaint and body-stockings adorned with the kind of crudely drawn penises that usually appear on posters in the London Underground. The music is fittingly berserk, lurching from something vaguely analogous to electronic chart pop to something vaguely analogous to South Africa's shangaan electro. Considerably less eye-popping is the spectacle presented by Jam City, from the post-dubstep label Night Slugs. In the grand tradition of live dance music, it's a non-descript bloke frowning at a computer, but what's coming out of his laptop is incredible: a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of electronics, disembodied R&B samples, rhythms that clatter and lurch unexpectedly. At a festival where one heavily-tipped name, Savages, turn out to sound remarkably like an 80s goth band – albeit a good 80s goth band – there's something bracing about hearing music that could only really have been made in 2012.

You get the same sensation off AlunaGeorge's impressively inventive and expansive take on pop R&B, with frontwoman Aluna Francis so obviously a star in waiting – and Kwes, a singer-songwriter whose music never settles. One minute his rich voice is backed by laidback electric piano flecked soul, the next by hammering, distorted beats. Elsewhere, the increasingly frantic search for a big, new guitar band throws up Palma Violets – glowering atmospherics with definite hint of Wu Lyf in the pained vocals – and California's Haim, who, live at least, sound no more like their advance billing of folk-meets-R&B than they do the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, but they clearly have decent songs to spare.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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