The 10 best acts we saw at The Great Escape 2022

After a three-year absence, last weekend (12-14 May) The Great Escape returned to Brighton for an exceptional celebration of live music and sunburnt antics from some of the most exciting emerging bands. of the planet. For many artists and bands who have worked tirelessly to launch their careers throughout the lockdown, the multi-venue festival has provided them with a brilliant opportunity to perform in front of thousands of new music fans and industry figures.

NME spent three days running around the waterfront, catching plenty of exciting and intimate sets – and we’ve rounded up the best acts we’ve seen below. Will we meet again next year?


Delivered with real feeling and vitality, the Brighton-born rapper’s triumphant comeback show made hearts and ears flutter: his fast, carefree set was an antidote to TikTok’s ubiquitous commercial branding during the showcase of the Saturday night video sharing app. In a burst of hyperactive energy from a performance, top 10 hits such as “Flowers (Say My Name)” and “Come & Go” were remixed and reloaded, as ArrDee paced the stage uncompromisingly furious. and the gloriously unsanitized charisma of his music. He clapped his hand and posed for selfies with front-row fans amid a sweltering rave, capturing the moment as this special festival drew to a close for another year. (Sophie Williams)


At this year’s event, The Great Escape’s spirit of intimacy and unpredictable adventure remained shining, perfectly encapsulated within the setting of Cassyette. She clearly arrived with subversion in mind and turned her heavy rock sound into wild beats while challenging an elated audience to follow her flurries of jumps and headbutts. “Show me your great energy!” she enthused before the growling guitar lines of lead single “Dear Goth” exploded into explosive life, delivering sweat and spectacle in equal measure. (NA)


As the six members of the South Wales CVC lined the stage in a mishmash of tasselled leather jackets, printed shirts and cowboy hats, looking like a vintage brocante musical outing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they had all arrived from different groups. Rather, the harmony is in the music: vintage psych rock, smooth and understated, stuffed full of warbling guitars and growling drum patterns. With just one single to their name – the brilliantly shaggy “Docking The Pay” – the band used their first appearance at The Great Escape to test out plenty of unreleased material, and what we heard sounded groovy AF. (NA)

Jar of Dora

Talk to NME Over the weekend, American artist Dora Jar said her recent supporting slot with Billie Eilish at New York’s Madison Square Garden shows that no matter how big the venues, “you can feel their [the crowds] energy.” Her Friday midnight show at the Brighthelm Center showed a glimpse of those lessons: She’s engaged and energetic, throwing threads of her songs to (admittedly, smaller) audiences, hoping they’ll reach one and sing. During ‘Scab Song,’ she rejects the head-banging rock breakdown and instead makes it into a delicate acoustic number, showing all her artistry; the threads have been tied in a most magnificent arc. (Thomas Smith )

Draya Mac

Invoking his endlessly charismatic online persona – the West London entertainer’s larger-than-life dance routines have earned him over 1.4 million TikTok fans – Dréya Mac’s performance at Concorde 2 from the front de mer featured daring choreography and brilliantly dramatized facial expressions. Joined on stage by her close friend and collaborator Felixthe1st, she launched the viral smasher “Own Brand Freestyle” into scenes of thumping mayhem, with plenty of overzealous gun fingers. In doing so, Mac cemented its position as an unstoppable entity on the brink of another exciting new chapter. (NA)

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High school

Performing in a packed Komedia Basement at midday on Thursday, the Melbourne trio’s soulful and distorted vocals transported a host of new music fans, industry leaders and daytime drinkers to the rich narrative worlds they create in their music videos. They were masters of both the minimal and the maximal: the band’s softly synthesized New Order-inspired melodies were enhanced by intense club lighting, as they played both new material and the majority from their stellar EP “Forever At Last”. NME even spotted HighSchool’s fellow Aussie indie upstarts, The Lazy Eyes, singing along with closer ‘sirens’, which created some mega-wholesome vibes for a while. (SW)

Joe and the Shitboys

The Faroese punks of The Great Escape’s first two sets were a total roadblock where a one-in, one-out system didn’t even work, because why the hell would you want to leave and miss out? Their Green Door Store set on Friday was just as chaotic: rants about veganism (“If You Believe In Eating Meat Start With Your Dog”), machismo (“Macho Man Randy Savage”) and a cover of Rage Against The Machine delivered by the shoulders of a bettor. (TS)

Pink Gray

It takes courage to perform Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” let alone in front of an audience of your peers and industry folks, and yet, for Rose Grey, it seemed inevitable. Since her debut EP, ‘Blue, Lately’ in 2019, the London-based artist has gone from a blissful baggy psych-pop to a complete disco diva; his latest songs “Synchronity” and “Last Song” are darker and more club-ready than ever before. This Donna Summer cover is starting to make more and more sense… (TS)

Piri and Tommy Villiers

TikTok had its fingerprints all over this weekend’s acts, and little more than dance duo Piri and Tommy Villiers – their song ‘Soft Spot’ went viral on the app and confirmed their place in the cohort of Gen Z mash lovers. Their set at the TikTok showcase was lively, showcasing the chamber drum ‘n’ bass beats that made their name, but hints at a future that encompasses house music, techno and more. You feel a massive leap is at hand… (TS)

Piri and Tommy Villiers
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Priya Ragu

Another artist whose success has largely come in the isolated COVID times is Tamil-Swiss artist Priya Ragu – but it hasn’t been seen. While performing on the stage straddling the festival beach, Ragu had the confidence of a performer who has been honing her craft on stage for years. She can sing about lockdowns (on, uh, ‘Lockdown’), but does it with tenacity and festival-ready beats, you wonder if she had that exact moment of a packed crowd of hundreds of fans at the mind when she was doing then. (TS)

Elizabeth J. Harless