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The Great Escape 2024: Rolling Stone UK’s rundown of the best things we saw

Here's our round up of 2024's best sets...

By Nick Reilly & Will Richards

Wunderhorse live (Picture: Press)

So that’s The Great Escape for another year then. The Brighton festival – widely regarded as the UK’s primary industry showcase – returned last week under the strangest of circumstances. As we explained in our on-the-ground report, more than 100 acts pulled out due to the festival’s partnership with Barclays, after it was revealed that the bank holds investments in companies that supply arms to Israel.

While this boycott may have loomed large, there was still the chance to find acts that might just change your world. After a weekend of running between the bars and basements of Brighton, here’s the best things we saw at The Great Escape 2024.

READ MORE: The Great Escape 2024: Festival season kicks off under the shadow of mass boycott


We’re calling it: MRCY at The Great Escape felt like one of those “I was there” moments that you’ll fondly look back at when they’re slaying the biggest of stages in a few years time. The group – formed by the core of producer Barney Lister and vocalist Kojo Degraft-Johnson – offer classic soul stylings injected with a contemporary twist that elevates it to the next level. The show at Komedia provided powerful, room-silencing moments, but songs like the euphoric ‘Days Like This’ felt like an unbridled celebration. It also helps that, in Degraft-Johnson, the group have one hell of a powerhouse vocalist. Watch this space.


A 9.15PM show at Brighton’s Chalk may have been the main draw for Wunderhorse on Thursday, but a secret set down at Jubilee Square was equally great. Performing a secret 5.30PM set for BBC 6 Music, it was the perfect chance for the group to show off the muscular heartland rock of their upcoming second album Midas, and identity-searching old favourites like ‘Teal’ from their debut album ‘Cub’. Bigger shows at Brixton Academy might await Wunderhorse later this year, but here was a chance – up close and personal – to see one of Britain’s most exciting young bands.

Elle Darlington

In a recent Play Next interview with Rolling Stone UK, Welsh star Elle Darlington told us how Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande were two of her formative influences. The powerhouse vocals of those two singers are a lofty aspiration for any artist, but an early afternoon set at Brighton’s One Church proves she’s got a voice capable of hitting similar highs. Her blend of noughties R&B and pop feels like a welcome throwback and capable of holding its own unique place in the UK musical landscape. It’s early days, but you wouldn’t bet against Darlington becoming an ubiquitous voice on our airwaves.


In a year of a significant reduced Great Escape schedule, far less bands were being passed around Brighton via word-of-mouth this year, becoming must-sees in a style unique and special to this festival. One sentence overheard more than others though was: “You have to see Fcukers!” Cramming ourselves into the beachfront venue The Arch on Friday evening, the Ninja Tune-signed New York City trio justified that hype and then some. Vocalist Shanny Wise, bassist Jackson Walker Lewis and drummer Ben Scharf make filthy and ludicrously fun dance pop that sits on the boundary between club music and radio pop. In new single ‘Bon Bon’, they have one of the most addictive and boisterous songs of 2024 so far, and the live show was equally as exciting and full of energy.

Sarah Julia

Sarah and Julia Nauta have an undeniable musical chemistry that, one would assume, comes from their literal blood ties. The Amsterdam-based sisters brought their show to the dingy Patterns basement early on Friday, but their music was bright and shimmering enough to make it feel like a sunset instead. Phoebe Bridgers, Joni Mitchell and fellow sister duo First Aid Kit come to mind as musical reference points, but this pair have a unique alchemy in their harmonies and their coming-of-age tales that set them apart.


Sometimes it’s hard to generate the atmosphere of a dark, atmospheric club gig at a showcase festival like The Great Escape, where bands are set up in any room that can fit a drum kit. In the middle of the afternoon on Thursday in the corner of the Black Lion pub, Welsh rockers Slate proved that – actually – all you need is buckets of attitude, a wall of noise and excellent songs. You can hear Joy Division, Fontaines D.C. and Oasis in the band’s shimmering punk songs, but the attitude and lyrics of frontman Jack Shephard are their calling card. Most potent was the single ‘St Agatha’, where he sings of Welsh national identity through the story of a churchyard where bodies were buried with their feet in England and their heads in Wales. It was a chilling and theatrical highlight of the daytime programme.