Five of our favourite moments from The Great Escape 2022

From surprise covers to instrument malfunctions — just a handful of stand-out moments across this year's edition

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Well, that’s another Great Escape Festival done and dusted, and we’re just about feeling human again. There were a lot of highlights, from our New Music Showcase on Thursday to catching our Breakthrough Acts Emms, ArrDee and ENNY headline their own Spotlight shows.

Here are just a handful of other surprises and smaller moments that stood out as we look back at the festival to help us get through the week.

THUMPER’s cover of Natasha Bedingfield

If there was any doubt that Dublin’s raucous rockers THUMPER could live up to the punchy promise of their name, their towering opener ‘Topher Grace’ soon knocked that away with a head-nodding… thump. The six-piece’s Friday set on the MVT Beach Stage-cum-food truck was a great way to wake up the afternoon, but I don’t think anyone expected a cover of Natasha Bedingfield’s timeless pop hit ‘Unwritten’ — a recent addition to my karaoke armoury, incidentally. The sped-up tempo and chorus guitar hook actually worked pretty well. I came to sit on some pebbles, eat a dosa and take in some fierce noise rock, but I certainly stayed for a bit of Natasha. JB

THUMPER at The MVT Stage

When none of CMAT’s instruments worked

“Okay, this song has a saxophone solo…” Real rockstars don’t need instruments, and watching CMAT blag her way through her entire (packed) set at The Prince Albert proved just how versatile a performer she really is when all the electrics don’t work. Someone managed to get the keyboard going for about five minutes so she had someone to play with on ‘Virgo’, but otherwise she rattled through her folk pop back catalogue completely unplugged. For everyone there, it was a revelation – with an acoustic album now surely in the works. Probably not so great for her having to do it though… PB

CMAT unplugged | Ticketmaster UK

Discovering gems at the Alternative Escape

We get that not everyone can take time off midweek to take in all the action, so it’s always a lovely touch to see the festival’s free Alternative Escape attract crowds regardless of their wristband or delegate pass. This year’s roster seemed especially top drawer, with the likes of Emilia Tarrant giving it her all as punters queued up to catch the North London Derby on the other side of the pub at the Fiddler’s Elbow. Hand In Hive’s Friday showcase at The Mucky Duck was heaving from the start, opened by a solo set from LA songwriter A.O. Gerber that stopped everyone in their tracks and kept them there for stellar set from the likes of Jemima Coulter, Gracie Gray, Divorce and Wydlest. JB

A.O. Gerber at The Mucky Duck

Yard Act’s on-stage banter

It would be pretty disappointing to queue up for a band beloved for their wry observations, witty put-downs and swaggering post-punk to not receive a jibe or two yourself. Thankfully, then, those who got down to Chalk early to ensure their spot for Leeds’ Yard Act were not disappointed, as frontman James Smith worked them into a gradual frenzy by admitting with a wink that he’d seen better crowds at The Great Escape before. They weren’t afraid to take digs at each other, either. During one pre-song speech about us all being humans from the same world a heckler shouted for them to get on with it, much to Smith’s delight who immediately retorted with “This is my f**cking stage and I can say what I want”, to which bassist Ryan Needham implored his mate to carry on with his “sixth form level sociology chat”. JB

Yard Act at Chalk

English Teacher getting intimate

English Teacher rode into the festival on one of biggest buzz waves of the weekend – with a recent 6Music set painting them as the new Black Country, New Road. Comparisons like that are lazy, of course, and the band’s post-punk poetry had more than enough wit and invention to write their own introduction (sounding far better live in a scuzzed-up basement than they do on the record). The real highlight came late in the set when Lily Fontaine slowed things right down for an intimate, whispered version of ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ that managed to hush the entire room before exploding into caustic feedback. That’s how you make an entrance. PB

English Teacher at The Komedia

Early Bird tickets for The Great Escape 2023 are available now. ou can read our full review of The Great Escape 2022 here, and check out all the photos from the weekend here.