A sunny Saturday on the coast brought a hotly anticipated lineup of up-and-coming artists to The Great Escape festival. Elsa Monteith reports back from her hometown of Brighton…
UD’s relationship with The Great Escape festival originated in the basement of The Queen’s Hotel many years back, laying the foundations for an ongoing series of collaborations, showcases, and seminars over the years. As our connections developed, and catalogue of artists increased, our venues quickly moved into the epicentre of the city and hub of the festival. We shifted from the basement of Patterns, to arrive most recently at the door of the Komedia, an ever favoured Brighton haunt and live music institution.
I’ve found myself in the Komedia basement a fair few times in my years living in the city – from club nights to comedy, it’s a venue that hosts a vast breadth of events, but I always find myself returning to the same familiar flavour: live music.
There’s something about the hum of the PA and the twang of a guitar being tuned that pulls me into the room. I often stick to the back, taking my notes in one hand, swilling a trusty (and cheap) fresh lime and soda in the other. The sticky warmth of a simmering crowd and the booze infused head bob of the festival goer makes a live performance just that extra bit exciting, a feeling of thrilling unpredictability. Seeking out the new artists I want to lend my ears to is becoming simpler, with platforms like UD Music and The Great Escape providing means of access for up-and-coming names to come to notoriety. I cleared my calendar this past weekend and favourited an untold number of events, including four names that have been on my radar for a while now: Amie Blu, Molly Elizabeth, Scuti, and Sarah Isabella.
I found myself at the Komedia at midday, ready and waiting for UD’s lineup of womxn making a name for themselves in the industry. The afternoon was kicked off by Sarah Isabella performing an enchanting set led by honey vocals and a warbling acoustic guitar. There was an expertise to her voice; every hook was hit with precision, every soulful note knocked out the park. I felt connected to Sarah’s penmanship, and the room shared the sentiment with one attendee telling me that “she has a calmness” about her, and a “sweetness” to her vocal tone. We heard news of her next EP coming out in August, an enticing tease of new music. I caught Sarah after her set, learning that her musical influences included Sade and Fleetwood Mac, two markedly different sounds with a recognisable coalescence in Sarah’s performance.
I headed upstairs to catch some sun between sets, spying Scuti in a pair of crocs adorned with the word “Skoo”, hailing back to her signature track and instagram moniker “Skoowup”. I am very familiar with Scuti’s sound, having rinsed her recent release ‘Eating’ for all it’s worth, and sharing the delectable ‘Kit Kat’ with the group chat at every opportunity. Her performance was outstanding, responding to the room and hopping down from the stage to get on our level (in more ways than one). The tell tale anthem of ‘Skoowup’ echoed back from the audience with undeniable vigour from both those new and familiar. I bumped into her much later that evening and we chatted over Malibu and pineapple juice, discussing the festival standouts and the need to “match your energy” with the crowd. Scuti’s got a sound to be reckoned with and a big future ahead of her.
Amie Blu (pronounced “am-ee”) had a contemporary nostalgia about her, drawing a crowd of R&B enthusiasts and classic soul lovers with ease. Sitting centre stage accompanied by soft keys and a gentle guitar, Amie’s voice had a depth of experience at odds to her young age. Her sound filled every inch of the room, a generous warmth with an unmistakable atmosphere. As a Flames Collective member and firm favourite in our April mixtape selects, Amie has built up a reputable profile as a genre-crossing artist with captivating talent. I can’t wait for a full length album.
The stage closed with the dulcet tones of Molly Elizabeth, another member of the UD Flames Collective and Incubator Programme. Performing a rich mix of beguiling covers and originals, Molly had a natural charm and a playful disposition with the crowd, working her magic with a notable ease. Her upcoming single ‘Heart Eyes Messing’ (out this week) was accompanied by a romantic story about an unrequited love found in the aisles of Tesco, a credit to her human-centred lyrics and honest songwriting. UD has been involved with Molly’s career over the last couple of years, working alongside her to find her sound and platform her talent in and beyond the community. Her future is bright, with forthcoming music on the horizon, and an audience eagerly awaiting its release.
UD set both the tone and the standard for the festival on this sunny Saturday. Being in the company of talented up-and-coming artists and their admirers was refreshing, a welcome relief from the industry heavy weights we see dominating the charts. I spoke with Pam, the Director of UD, between performances, taking a moment to reflect on how The Great Escape festival is “called a new music festival for a reason” – it’s a progression route, and one with a promising trajectory for new musicians. My time in the Komedia basement was second to none, with thanks to UD, The Great Escape, and the lineup of standout performers bringing their sound to the Brighton shores. Until the next time!
Words: Elsa Monteith Elsa Monteith is a Brighton based writer and broadcaster working in and around the arts and on the radio waves. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography: Zach Hyland