The Great Escape Festival 2020: The Artists You Need To Hear
In the decade and a half since its inception, The Great Escape Festival has become a firm fixture in the calendar of musicians, industry professionals, and music fans alike, establishing itself as the UK’s foremost celebration of exciting new musical talent.
Over the course of its May (long) weekend, the festival brings over 300 artists to Brighton to perform across the city’s numerous venues, big and small, to provide a platform for the stars of the future. Sadly, with things the way they are, the 2020 edition of the festival has unsurprisingly had to be called off – a genuine blow for countless figures from across the music world, both in the UK and beyond.
But in keeping with spirit of The Great Escape’s longstanding desire to promote the discovery of new music, champion nascent talent, and shine a spotlight on under-the-radar or lesser-known gems, here are just ten of the acts featured on the lineup that would have been well worth watching this weekend, and who deserve your attention.
Given that her appearance at The Great Escape in 2019 was the first show that Arlo Parks performed as a ‘published’ musician, her development and rise over the last 12 months has been quite something. Now signed to Transgressive Records – a stalwart of the UK’s independent music scene – Parks has already been able to add the likes of Glastonbury and Latitude to her list of festival appearances, and her inclusion on the BBC Sound of 2020 longlist added to the growing buzz around the 19-year old.
Exploring themes of helplessness, humanity and heartbreak in her music, she does so with a lightness of touch and soulful spirit that rescues it from descending into the excessively morose or melancholic, and the diverse influences shine subtly through, whether that’s Portishead, King Krule, Elliott Smith, or Erykah Badu.
NTS resident and 6 Figure Gang member (along with Sherelle, LCY, Yazzus, Dobby, and Jossy Mitsu) Fauzia is one of the women at the forefront of the UK’s electronic music underground. Injecting the scene with an energy reminiscent of old-school raves, there's an infectious enthusiasm to the high-octane sets, packed with genre-spanning selections that cover jungle, footwork, speed garage, bashment, DnB, bassline; anything, in her own words, that is “fun, fast and clubby”.
If asked what type of music you’d expect to hear from a band whose members hail from Montevideo, Croydon, Stockholm, and Perth (Australia), you probably wouldn't go straight to Cumbia. But that’s exactly what Los Bitchos are all about, adding a contemporary, psychedelic guitar-led funk to the traditional Colombian musical style. And goodness me it works. It’s no surprise that the image of drinking Margaritas is one frequently invoked by the band themselves – on merch, in interviews, even in song titles – such is the gloriously sunny Latin groove with which they imbue their immensely catchy instrumentals.
Whether appearing as a celebrated solo artist, as a founding member of the irrepressible Ezra Collective, or alongside frequent collaborators like Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia, there’s no denying the fact that keyboardist and producer Joe Armon-Jones is at the beating heart of London’s vibrant jazz scene.
Second album Turn to Clear View was one of the finest that the scene had to offer in 2019, and while the boundless energy and groove of the accomplished performer are obvious on record, it's in his live performances that he really excels. So here’s hoping for a chance to see him on stage in the not too distant future.
Under her moniker of Boy Scouts, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Vick makes a brand of bedroom-pop and indie-folk that is delightfully delicate, tender and heartwarming – in the vocal delivery, the musical composition, and above all in the lyrics.
Although comparisons to other artists can be unhelpful, there’s truth to the old adage that you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep, and as a touring companion of both Jay Som and Soccer Mommy in the last year or so, as well as support act for Chastity Belt, it’s fair to say that said company is indicative of Boy Scouts’ arresting artistic output.
If you ever doubted for a second that you needed some psychedelic Turkish folk music in your life, Amsterdam-based outfit Altin Gün are on hand to prove exactly what it is you’ve been missing out on all this time.
Drawing from a rich tradition of Turkish funk and Anatolian rock that dates back to a particularly fruitful time in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, the music that they make is unmistakably rooted in these origins, from the vocal style, to the percussion, to the extensive use of the bağlama and other traditional instruments. All of which come together to create the infectious grooves and incredibly catchy rhythms that they offer up in spades.
Another artist drawing on the traditional music and instrumentation of their Middle-Eastern roots, albeit in a very different way, is Lebanese-Australian producer DJ Plead.
Releasing music on the consistently brilliant labels Nervous Horizon and More Time Records, DJ Plead brings rhythmic and timbric elements of traditional Lebanese wedding music and contemporary Lebanese pop alike to his intriguing percussion-led brand of modern club production.
To continue this loose (and wholly unintentional) theme of artists bringing aspects of their Asian heritage into the music that they create, we turn to NAYANA IZ.
The London rapper – part of the NiNE8 Collective that has also helped develop the careers of fellow members Biig Piig and Lava La Rue (among others) – expresses her Indian roots in everything she does, whether that’s her instrumentals, her fashion, her dancing, her production and visuals.
For The Great Escape Festival's full 2020 lineup, click here.