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The Alternative Great Escape

There’s nothing quite like Brighton in May. You can’t move for festivals and anyone who’s anyone has a wristband of some sort. But just like the success of Brighton Festival led to the Fringe, so the success of The Great Escape opened the door to something a little less corporate. Mick Robinson reports

The Great Escape has cemented itself as one of the UK’s leading music festivals, and alongside The Camden Crawl, is a hotbed for the discovery of new talent. Attracting visitors from around the globe, you get your wristband and from there, well, nothing’s stopping you. Take your pick of the pubs and regular venues, but also the pool halls and carparks and… just about anywhere you go, there’s music, and it all  adds to the unique feel of this event.

There’s music from all over the UK – there was a sparkling Scottish showcase at the One Church – and it’s easy to feel that it’s a big music industry showcase. You can drown in bands from London. 

But for me the best thing is the local talent. Down here words like “corporate”, “big record label” and “industry” are considered dirty words, and the ‘Alternative Great Escape’ was born to showcase local unsigned bands and to open up the venues to people without wristbands.

This in mind Shortts Bar hosted three days of music, two hosted by local promoters and the last by the bar itself. Based in Kemptown, some folks tend to shy away from this side of town as it used to  have a reputation for being a bit like a George A Romero film, something like   The Night of The Living Dead, but things are changing and now there’s a more old school Shoreditch rough’n’ready vibe.

As for some of the bands we’ve featured, I’ll try and avoid the tired “the band sound like the Bunnymen meets the Clash” comparisons, as that’s all a bit meaningless. Be honest, you could probably say that about any band playing nowadays and you’d still be none the wiser. Most  kids have grown up on that rich tapestry of UK/USA punk, indie, electronic etc, music that’s been passed on through the culture and their parents as always happens in this country of music obsessed folk.

On that note, some full disclosure here. Each band featured here has a son or daughter from friends of mine or my daughter’s friends who’ve I’ve known for years or gone to gigs with for years. It’s not nepotism, it’s just there’s a hell of a lot of talented off spring out there.  

NOVA, a Brighton four piece band, all 18, full of post punk enthusiasm and the willingness to pull in the experimental funked up bass line and scratchy guitar of that era and give it a fresh sound with catchy hooks. They’ve got a strong  individual look too, and as a band starting out they have a bright future ahead.

ZAP EUPHORIA are already playing to a loyal, crazy fan base who follow them to every gig. The band have great charisma and are already working audiences up into a frenzy. Grunge funk distorted to the max with a message in the music that takes no prisoners. You can’t take your eyes off the band, they’re that hypnotic.

Crawley based SHAMEFACED, more of a wrong side of the tracks look and sound, again wonderfully  structured and dramatic songs, full of driving bass, drums and intricate then power chords guitar, perfectly highlighted in the clever lyric and vocal delivery of their classic “Blue Subaru”.

Check them all out, the energy,  belief, charisma, stage and song  writing craft and style of these bands will potentially propel them onto bigger stages, audiences and who knows a bit of Radio 6. Remember – you read it here first.

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