The Great Escape 2021: Our 10 new favourite artists from the weekend

The UK's foremost new music showcase event still gave us a swathe of bright up-and-comers to sink into, despite being a completely digital affair.
Posted: 17 May 2021 Words: Charlie Bristow

As the forecast improves, live music is once again back on the cards. Despite Brighton’s The Great Escape festival being online and fully digital, a gripping array of new talent emanated from studios around the globe over the weekend. 

Here are our 10 favourite sets from the event, from the artists that are bound to be your new favourites before the world blooms again:


London’s PVA begin with their hypnotic lo-fi electronica. 'Sleek Form'’s throbbing and anthemic bassline lays foundations for evocative vocals, oozing underground sensations, whilst pulsating synths slither around tribal, monumental drumrolls. Imagery created is of coloured strobes with silhouetted on-stage figures amidst a dark dancefloor captured by omnipresent reverberations that emanate in every direction. 

Yard Act 

A witty, deadpan northern accent narrating modern day life over grooving, grinding garage-rock amalgamates into Yard Act’s relatable, tongue-in-cheek humour. Poking fun at the world, a prevalent existential but also hedonistic undertone appears, a difficult skill to master but completed exceptionally. 

'Fixer Upper' gives a circuitous insight into lively, fictitious character “Graham” and his undertakings, contemplating issues of house redevelopment and life’s challenges. Yard Act have managed to compress an absorbing sound of easy listening, requiring little concentration despite comical and proficient lyrical motion.

Billie Marten  

Another young breakthrough from the North of England, Billie Marten captures a sound attempted by many, mastered by few. Reminiscent of a 90s MTV Unplugged set, smooth acoustic guitars hang above a poignant, compact rhythm section, tied together by the vocal harmonies from all bandmates that fluctuated excellently in tandem. Marten's profound style of indie folk focuses on topics including her upbringing and the world around her, providing a form of escape from reality.   

Sinead O’Brien 

Sinead O’Brien emerges from the current, exciting surge of modern Irish music. Perhaps symbolically playing her showcase in an empty theatre, her cleverly-incorporated Western Irish accent boldly projects her poetic lyrics and spoken-word style, infused with repetitive, contagious quotes. Driven by a primitive but effective backing instrumentals, O’Brien has a very firm grasp of her surroundings, delivering a harsh, truthful realism of societal issues and how they can be altered positively.

Eve Owen 

A delicate and haunting sense of vulnerability with atmospheric lyrics nestled gently amongst melancholy acoustic ballads, Eve Owen’s tone echoes throughout her small recording space, longing for larger, hushed crowds. A monochrome set up punctuated by a prominent pink skirt indicates Owen strives to express her true musical self despite bleak surroundings. An idea of musical escapism is clear - perhaps one of the most powerful artists from Thursday, her's is a raw, cathartic, and beautiful performance.


HANYA kicked off Friday with their excellently-blended mixture of smooth vocals and rhythmically-pleasing instrumentation. Like many, HANYA are road-testing material here before touring when the time allows. Success is extremely likely, however. Their sound is one that will resonate excellently around nationwide venues. 

The Slow Readers Club

Underneath the assumed gritty, northern exterior looms a melodic and melancholic attitude. Unexpectedly gentle vocals delightfulyl surprise as stories of distraction written throughout lockdown fall from lead singer Aaron Starkie, complete with doffs to their origin’s predecessors. Despite originally forming in 2003, the band are still on the edge of creating a substantial tremor. Their third album Build A Tower and TGE showcase are key ingredients for their deserved impact and long overdue recognition.

Bleach Lab 

One of Friday’s standout performances, the gentle dreamscape of Bleach Lab is an emotion-driven, serene ray of light. Their bandname suggests a heavy punk sound, but is the perhaps unexpectedly the opposite. Lead singer Jenna Kyle’s tender vocals interlock with flowing, jangly guitars and muted drums which result in a swirling escape from the chaos of modernity. Some bands were born to be played on vinyl and Bleach Lab certainly fit that description.

Magick Mountain 

With origins including Pulled Apart by Horses, it is not hard to see why Magick Mountain’s thunderous sound immediately propels them up the list of exciting new psychedelic bands. Their raucous debut album, Weird Feelings, released in October 2020 has seen them land headline shows later this year. Harmonious vocals and heavy garage-rock sound are a huge part of this band’s appeal, paving the way for new Leeds bands within their scene. 

A classy touch - similarly to Yard Act - sees their performance came from Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club, a pivotal venue in promotion of local and international music to the city. No doubt, Magick Mountain will play there at some point in the near future, potentially to bigger crowds than ever.

The Lazy Eyes

Another Australian gem on the cusp of greater pastures, the Sydney foursome have paved a classy, endearing modern-day 70s aura. From organ sounds and playful vocals to the guitar effects in 'Nobody Taught Me', to even their appearance, this is definitely a band to watch over the next year. Accompanying the 70s sound, the laidback persona of Australian music is comfortably woven in before concluding with a fluid psychedelic finale, cleverly covering most bases of modern Australian psychedelic rock.

Lime Garden 

Despite their recent name change from just Lime, none of their sassy credence is lost. A rapid rise has seen them recently sign to So Young Records, a big step forward for the DIY band. Improvements in confidence prove both noticeable and effective as their sarcastic look at life, fused together with splashes of colourful rhythms projects a likeable wittiness and wry, sideways glance at the world.

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