There’s an art to doing the Great Escape – 400 bands, mostly new, in over 30 venues over 3 days, with showcases from all over the world curated by groups in the know. You can’t see them all, many venues fill up quickly and others have awful sound…so move around, aim for those you like but also take a chance…and most importantly, have a good time! I managed 32 bands. This year’s themes for me included political lyrics (and the general lack of...), looped folk, and famous people’s side projects…

Lyrics – one of the highlights was FTSE, playing at the always worthwhile Republic of Sound party. I loved what I had heard of his recorded stuff, especially the terminally catchy ‘Nite Life’, great videos too.  Ostensibly a young grime/triphop rapper from somewhere in the Midlands, in the Frank Ocean mode – will he kill it live?......Oh Yes!! It’s much more intense than on record, louder and darker, intelligent words, with lots of nihilistic commentary and profanity. He performs with a woman with a perfect voice, who turns out to be his wife. Next day he plays in a hardcore grunge band, Get Hot, with Jakwob, virtually their first ever set, and it’s blistering. We have some politics in common…  interview to follow soon

More conscious lyrics from Dizraeli, in the frankly bizarre surroundings of the Lush cosmetics boutique. Queues round the block for his set as Disraeli and the Young Gods, real live organic hiphop. How will he do alone, amongst the soaps? …..Mostly acapella poems, the first I hear is Thank his brother, his ex-girlfriend, and his 92 year old nan, inspired by her realisation as she held her husband’s hands as he died, that she still had so much she wanted to tell him. We are all totally moved. Do they sell hankies here? Other highlights are We Can Be Children Again and Good God, about the equanimity of spirituality and whatever you may call God. Again very different to the recorded stuff. However I now want all his albums and, to see him with the band.

After a tiring first day full of weird and wonderful things, lets relax by going crazy with an old favourite…The Hold steady, at the Uncut showcase. They don’t disappoint, with 3 guitars and no keyboards, all the old rock favourites like Chips Ahoy and Little Hoodrat Friend, plus some from the new Teeth Dreams album. Craig seems really happy, still mouthing the lyrics between the lines, and doing little Dad dances in between verses. So good I see them again at XFM on Friday.

Q magazine have a lineup in a conference centre featuring the Strokes, Doves and Snow Patrol…or rather people from them. Nathan from SP’s Little Matador is good solid Metallica-type rock, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Reminds me of early SP when they were a punk band… Jimi Goodwin is very serious, and not very happy, having just woken up at 9pm. It’s a bit pretentious for me but Doves fans would probably like it. Best of the lot, rather surprisingly, is Albert Hammond Jr. Very tight, very Strokes-y, but all his own stuff I think, apart from a cover of Buzzcocks Never Fallen…

RM Hubbert is a big sweetie with a guitar, lots about his dog, a song about Joe his dead father-in-law and one called Buckstasy about an Ayrshire cocktail (!). He confesses he performs to help his clinical depression. The Car Song, written with Aidan Moffat,  is an absolute classic.

Looped folk – Uncut has the wonderful Lisa Knapp, who plays mostly songs linked to the month of May, with subtle field sounds and added quirks. In the same vein is the exotically dressed You Are Wolf, who does songs about birds from new album Hawk to the Hunting Gone. They are followed by something completely different – Arc Iris, which is a lyca-clad Josie from the Low Anthem, performing a tribute to 70s rock operas with gusto and aplomb.

Other highlights new to me – Lizzo, larger than life hiphop queen from Minneapolis, Salt n Pepa n Shirley Bassey all rolled into one big fun package. Her vid for single Batches&Cookies features her “rubbing butter onto a naked man”, she says with relish.

Girl Band from Dublin, who sound like early Fall or Joy Division if Ian was really drunk and slurring his vocals. Powerful highlights include Lawman, My Daughter Paul and the very short ChaChaCha Song, as released for Record Store Day.

Ezra Furman, bastard son of Buddy Holly, PeeWee Herman and Jonathan Richman, if you can imagine that. Very happy, very eccentric. Local Cambridge legend Chris T-T is in the front row.

Courtney Barnett, who adds lashings of crazy psych guitar to her country songs.

Kate Miller-Heidke, also from Australia but very different, torch songs and comic opera. 

Oy, the Berlin-based Swiss-Ghanaian vocalist, who performs  songs based on African proverbs with great energy, to an intense Afro/electronic beat.

Goodbye Brighton, and thanks to my wonderful family  – see you again next year!

Kevin Hand