The Great Escape review – raunchy rap, cracking synthpop and rock'n'roll fireworks

Various venues, Brighton
A handful of standout acts were exhilarating but this celebration of new music highlighted a drift towards sameness and whimsy

If Brighton’s three-day festival of new music is any guide, and it’s usually a good one, the talent pool feeding into pop is currently on the tepid side. The sense in previous years that you could dive in at random and pluck out pearls is missing. The drift is towards homogeneity and uninspired solipsism. So many indistinguishable dreamy girls, moody boys and whimsical or overwrought guitar groups, all with half an eye on the BBC Sound poll. So many over-contemplated navels.

The Great Escape’s other strength abides: what is good, and new, is likely to appear here. Among the most refreshing acts are those who, turning their focus outward, offer a kind of manic inclusivity. Had early Red Hot Chili Peppers been fuelled by empathy and adrenaline rather than machismo and testosterone, they might have been half as much fun as disorderly punkoid Bristol showband Idles. Queer Russian theatrical disco troupe Sado Opera are all saucy, big-hearted joy. A rambunctious set by London’s Giant Party calls to mind Lionel Richie on Marvin Gaye’s drugs.

Future stars of a just universe are here, too. Led by human firework Amy Taylor, Melbourne’s magnificent garage crew Amyl and the Sniffers play the single most exhilarating rock’n’roll show I’ve seen in years. London duo Audiobooks may feel like a baffling wind-up – half art-school brat, half wizard – yet they’re a cracking (and very funny) synthpop act. Effervescent Bay Area rapper Saweetie is more talented than she is raunchy, and she is certainly raunchy. The piercing, dissociative songs Dana Margolin writes for Brighton’s own brilliant Porridge Radio reveal an ever more sophisticated capacity to unnerve.

The festival’s closing showcase spot, usually sold out, has recently hosted British rap stars at the moment self-generated success jumps to national fame. Going by the lower turnout, Birmingham headliner Mist isn’t yet at the level Skepta and Stormzy were, and he doesn’t summon here the coiled energy they did. The standout turn is Fredo, the distinctive London grime MC, his steady delivery precisely doubled by his stage partner, giving it real heft, tension and drama.


David Bennun

The GuardianTramp

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