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WPGM Reviews: The Great Escape Festival 2023 (In Pictures)

Considering it was meant to be a very cold and rainy day, it turned out to be a lovely day – the sun was out, and it was actually warm… England are you okay??

It’s not even 11am on the first day of The Great Escape Festival (well, the first full day of music), and I’ve already seen Mr Josh Franceschi, the Emo King of Brighton himself, walking around. I knew it was going to be a great day of music, so let’s get to some of our highlights

Alexander Stewart

I had the chance to sit down with Alexander and discuss everything from the new music he is releasing as early as this week, and shifting from love and heartbreak, to his personal experience of mental health and OCD. I’m Trying, his new album, is out this week.

I was really lucky to catch a live performance of this during his set at Great Escape. It was packed, especially with it being a later performance. Alexander had a lovely calming air about him and the way he talks about music and his inspiration, it was easy to see how he is only just getting started and how there is so much more to come.

When it comes to songwriting, live performance and life experience his journey on making music is really special. I also learnt that Alexander really enjoys a Full English for breakfast – it’s his favourite and he also loves the vibe of England, how welcoming and lovely everyone is.

I definitely recommend catching Alexander on his summer tour this year with Charlie Puth.

Alternative Great Escape

Alternative Great Escape is a free event that runs alongside Great Escape, mostly in pubs and different bars around Brighton. I caught up with SickJoy in the evening, and they made such an impression that they were invited to perform the following evening in the official Great Escape Lineup.

If you like bands that play their instruments on the heavier side, wear a lot of black and have mosh pits, then I recommend adding them into your Spotify mix now and catch them live ASAP.

I also got to watch Crystal Tides – I like to think of them as my local go-to band. I enjoy them live, whether that be in a pub or on a large stage. I got to see them open for the Lottery Winners earlier in the week, where they did a mainly acoustic set and then to see them in a full band set up… both performances were so different but both were still good, even if one wasn’t their normal cup of tea.


I fangirled soooo hard. While around the festival, so many people asked me who I was most excited to see and it had to be BlondShell and everyone was like who? It was an at-capacity show – on Friday night they got to play on a bigger stage and once again they didn’t disappoint.

They had a 7-song set for both performances, which covered the album they have most recently released. They’re currently completing a mini Europe tour before coming back here for a one-off headline show. Next time they are back in the UK, they will be at something like the Big Top IOW or something similar at the Reading Festival. This is an artist on the brink of exploding!

Caity Baser

Caity never fails to make the room a little lighter whenever she walks in, let alone when she performs in it – she can turn any cold windy British day around. Caity very aptly stated that she “Volunteers as a tribute to be the ray of sunshine today” and she did just that. Her sweet as anything pop song got everyone dancing and moving to the beat.


Chalk was popular, people were getting turned away as the arena was full, and they were popular for a good reason. Their set was good, but the venue did limit them.

Their rock sound is a small basement vibe, yet it’s 3:30 in the afternoon. I could feel the urges of the crowd wanting to mosh but not having the space to do so. They sounded great and performed so well that I was excited to have a chance to see them on the larger stage on the Friday night.

And I got in to see them on the larger stage and it really did let them perform the way they should be experienced. The mosh pits were next level and for a 3 set band, their presence and control of the audience was phenomenal.

Christy O’Donnell

Well, everyone, against all odds, Christy succeeded in his challenge and made it to the festival on just £100 and a dream (don’t worry, he didn’t forget his array of different guitars). He’s truly a lovely lad with a stage presence that is going to get him very far.

His voice was solid, he never missed a note, hit all of the high notes, and did this all after hitchhiking from Inverness and arriving on the morning of his set! I personally feel that one day we will see him selling out massive venues, and I’ll get to say, “I got to see him in a room with less than 50 people” – bring on that day!

I also got a sneak peek of Christy’s new single, which is out in July – “Strangers”. I cannot recommend him enough, and I would highly recommend that you check out his show at the end of the month.

Joy Hotel

I got to catch the beginning of Joy Hotel’s set. The best way I can describe this band is if someone had transported 70’s soft rock sound to 2023. It was really lovely to feel like their music was familiar with the influences that were coming through while still creating a modern sound.

And I didn’t hear anything like them across the entirety of the festival. I would like to say that I can see them on the main stage at Glastonbury Festival in the coming years.

Maisie Peters

This was Masie’s first performance at the Brighton Dome, and she explained that it had always been her dream venue to perform at. I do think a performance where you see an artist performing at their dream venue is extra special. It was something I will annoy people about in the future. Maisie has the nicest and most hard-core fans any girl could ever want. They know all the words and scream with so much passion and heart.

Michael Aldag

I got to catch Michael’s set, and his happiness and stage presence is always guaranteed to make you smile and leave you happier than ever. But this was next level and less than 24 hours after he had performed at Eurovision in Liverpool. A great artist in the early days of his career and I cannot wait to see where he goes from here.


Seb is the man… a very chill and down-to-earth artist with the next-level beat – that’s the only way I can describe him. I really enjoy the song “sugarhoneyicedicedtea”. He’s definitely on my watch list to catch again next time he comes over after finishing college in New York.


It was great to see them again in Brighton, they’re such a good duo and perform so well together. They really cultivated a lovely community in Brighton – fan-made merch was proudly being worn. Their joy when performing is infectious. They performed so well, not missing a beat. And have such spectacular songs like “Home”.

Terra Kin

Terra played an acoustic set and did her “full sound up” set on Friday – it was a lovely little sneak peek of what was to come. Terra’s voice is beautiful and moving to the bones with lyrics to match. She sang her soon-to-be-released single “22”, a beautifully honest look at being in your 20s. Terra is so witty and insightful that it was a great way to kick off my weekend at Great Escape.

The Native

The indie band from Plymouth played to a packed basement – people were being turned away. They sounded on point and the crowd really enjoyed them. There were a few technical issues just due to the fast turnaround that the festival has but honestly, no one could tell as they played it off so well. They played their new song “Every Last Goodbye”.

Wild Horses

We love a good Friendzone song, especially when in reference to the record player, the only thing getting turned on tonight. The sound is very much in keeping with the next indie wave we are currently experiencing in music, with a little bit of rockstar swagger mixed-in.

Honourable Mention

These are bands/artists that I couldn’t get to see but I didn’t want to forget about them being a part of this year’s Great Escape.

I swear to God, I tried everything to get into the Arlo Parks show. Arlo Parks is a truly amazing singer-songwriter who is taking the music industry by storm.

After speaking to the people I know who attended their performance at Great Escape and also from what I saw on social media, plus serious FOMO, it is my mission to catch her live this year. Park recently released her second album My Soft Machine and it’s a great album building on her first album, Collapsed In Sunbeams.

Elsewhere, people queued for hours to see AZIYA and didn’t get in… there was a long queue around the block while she was performing just in case they could get in. Also, the fan base that the band Coach Party is building is unrivalled – they performed three times across the weekend, and I couldn’t get into any of their performances.

There was a lot of mystery around the band Fizz. Between posters, party favours being handed out and all of the rumours about them going around, there was certainly a buzz about them. I had a timing clash between them and another artist, but from what I saw on social media afterwards, a new phase awaits us all in the coming months.

And I’m not going to ruin the surprise for anyone because their social media hasn’t been updated yet – but keep your eye out for something! I’m guessing this was a soft launch, and the hard one is coming later in the festival season. Basically, if you see Fizz on the lineup, go see them, as they will be your new favourite band.

The Swedish band Girl Scout has heavy jazz inspirations in their music. They’re just very cool and great to see live. They tick both boxes in my head – such a great band to see live, you want to jump up and down to every song.

But also if you’re having a party and their song plays, then everyone really enjoys them (I can vouch for this as it happened, and everyone kept asking who was playing). Once again, I couldn’t get in due to the venue being at capacity and the venue being so far away.

My biggest takeaway from The Great Escape Festival this year is that you have to learn to compromise. You cannot see everyone you want to, and also you will see artists performing in the wrong size venue.

You will struggle at times to get to venues if you don’t queue up for an hour before – I say this with personal experience as I was with an artist’s record label, creating content for them, and even we couldn’t get in. We had to listen from the stage door.

This festival doesn’t really care who you are, and honestly, in the age of Coachella where VIPs, influencers and press can end up getting a different experience than everyone else, this could be a good thing.

I do think this festival is the one that you will look back on a year later and be like, oh yeah, I got to see so and so before they got big or became what they are today… you’ll be that person who likes to brag about the artists they have seen.

If you like seeing up-and-coming artists (I hate saying that because I do think all of these artists are amazing in their own right, but there are no other words) and you don’t mind who you’re seeing, you just want good music, then this is the festival for you. Also if you can walk long distances, this is the festival for you!

Words + photography by Cydnee Brook

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