Surfbort, Little Simz and The Murder Capital shine on the first day of the seaside excursion

The Great Escape kicked off to the sound of hundreds of new bands and artists by Brighton’s beach yesterday. Interrupted by frequent downpours and the beady eye of some seriously big seagulls, the sprawling event ran smoothly from morning to night (kudos to the organisers). To save you the leg ache (and the tinnitus), Gigwise clocked up the steps seeing some of the hottest picks from the thickest programme in festivaldom. Read on for our day one reviews. Same time same place tomorrow for day two.

Little Simz

With one of the best album releases of the year so far, Little Simz had quite the queue going for her big show on the beach on Thursday evening. One of the hottest tickets of the festival, Little Simz lived up to the buzz. Bringing a tight set of her biggest hits, including a massive performance of the anthem ‘Selfish’, Simz created a clubland atmosphere of the Deep End tent that, for those 45 minutes, made the entire festival seem as though it was organised just for her. Live, her lyrical aerobics hit home in sparklingly sincere fashion, while her emotive rap took on an amazing new flow, with Simz raising the bpm to a cheer-rousing speed. (JA)

Just Mustard

Intoxicating shoegaze proved the highlight of the Prince Albert's Ireland showcase with Dundalk's Just Mustard. The five-piece made beautiful sense of the noise they produced, artfully weaving atmospheric effects with crashing cacophonies, all crowned by detached, longing vocals that evoke the far-off call of film noir band Cults. The tight performance ducked and wove through multiple musical curveballs, cinematic at every turn and so meaningful as to make even the leak in the pub's ceiling seem choreographed. Just Mustard play The Haunt at 1.20pm and Horatio's at 7.15pm today. (JA)


We headed to Horatios at the end of the pier to catch Lewsberg, the four-piece hailing from Rotterdam set to take the post-punk scene by storm. Enunciating every single syllable, their lyrics are direct and delivered with a nonchalant intensity that makes Lewsberg so arresting, their stories and narration with a heavy Dutch accent keeps you engaged throughout every song.  Lewsberg’s sound is distilled - they have somehow managed to drill down to find the ‘essence’ of their sound, it’s pure, simple and effective. Angular guitars combine with a chunky bass backbone that holds everything together, before it slowly warps and morphs into something brilliantly feedback-heavy and dissonant. They’ve brought in a big crowd, bands included, which is promising for the Dutch music scene and beyond. (EC)


The creators of one of the most infectious EP’s of 2018 (How Does It Feel?) brought their exciting, melodious grunge rock to their hometown three times on day one of the festival. We caught them at an early show at the Hope & Ruin, where Pixies-like vocals melted into a world of crashing cymbals and dopamine-spiking drops. Infectious favourites ‘Break Your Own Heart’ and ‘Full Circle’ were joined by new single ‘Go Ahead’ - which sounds thoroughly thrilling live, while newly-written ‘Somebody Calling’ made an exceptional addition to their set and showed an even stronger way forward for the three-piece. PROJECTOR play Beyond Retro today (May 10) at 7:00om and Al Duomo at 9:00pm, plus tomorrow at East Street Tap at 11.45pm. (JA)

The Murder Capital

Murder Capital are brilliantly, passionately intense. Sharply dressed in a suit and tie, frontman James McGovern and his other Dublin revellers mean business. Their performance has so much pent-up emotion and intensity; McGovern creates a thrilling and tense atmosphere with his brooding stage presence and clenched-jaw gaze into the crowd. It’s so easy to get lost in their surging guitar lines and rumbling bass, they’re so tight it’s mesmerising. However, don’t mistake them for a punk band - alongside the swelling cacophony of some tracks, they keep everyone on the edge of their seat with quiet-loud switches that send shivers up your spine, emotion cascading out from the band as they narrate a personal introduction to a track, covering the delicate subject of loss and tragedy. It’s a beautifully poignant, heart wrenching moment, which was truly respected by the packed out crowd who listened with rapt attention. The moment breaks as soon as the last chord is struck, leaving everyone in a trance. What a set. (EC)


Hyped up on “sex and high anxiety” came Brooklyn’s Surfbort, fronted by the dazzling Dani Miller. There’s no bass to this band: instead, guitars throw power chords furiously at one another, the goal being utter mayhem and the result hitting home every single time. Highlights ‘Les Be In Love’ and March release ‘Billy’ were matched tune for tune by 40 minutes of whiplash punk, with Miller advancing several times, teeth bared in a manic grin, into the crowd. Several mid-afternoon crowd invasions of this effect had quite the buttoned-down crowd loving every second. Surfbort play The Haunt tonight at midnight. (JA)


Atmospheric blue and green lights bathe the stage at the Walrus for Zooni’s set. It’s an intimate affair, with vocalist Pete’s fragile and gently wavering vocal creating an ethereal atmosphere, with waves of hazy synths washing over the crowd who hang onto every note. The ‘alt-pop’ foursome take the audience on a journey throughout the set, from swelling crescendo to stripped back interludes, the set is fluid and hypnotic. Their debut track ‘Pany’ goes down a treat, and they promise the upcoming release of new music. Considering the poetic and emotive lyrical content combined with a piano melody it could be a more sombre affair, yet there is a sense of optimism and buoyancy amongst the crowd. (EC)

Saint Agnes

Bringing big riffs and even bigger solos to the stage at Jubilee Square were straight-up rock ’n’ roll band Saint Agnes. Healthy doses of mouth organ added colour to tracks that riffed off big-time billboard rock of decades past. Lashings of saint ’n’ sinners references and an overall air of being at a rock concert in the nineties electrified one of the oldest crowds of the day. Set closer ‘Welcome to Silvertown’ closed off the nostalgic set with the strongest statement in their set. Saint Agnes play the Prince Albert on Saturday at 10pm. (JA)


Inhaler have drawn a huge crowd into the intimate upstairs space at the Prince Albert. Mixing a juicy cocktail of infectious guitar-pop melodies with heavy vocal effects and shimmering synths, the Dublin four piece inject a burst of energy into the room. Frontman Eli has a powerful, swaggering stage presence, and their catchy harmonies incite a buoyant reaction from the crowd. Inhaler don’t feel like they have to reinvent the indie wheel, but why mess with something that works, eh? (EC)

Photo: Ben McQuaide and Luke Hannaford