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A Tale of Two Artists: Alfie Templeman and Holly Humberstone at The Great Escape Festival

Image courtesy: Pexels, Anna-M. W.

Roar writer Maisie Allen on Alfie Templeman and Holly Humberstone’s performances at the The Great Escape 2021 festival.

It was very easy to be sceptical when Brighton-based festival The Great Escape, announced they would be going ahead in 2021, but rather than postponing like many other festivals, they would still be sticking to their May deadline and showing it virtually, with different streams on varying Youtube platforms. Two of the artists making their Great Escape debut as spotlights, Alfie Templeman and Holly Humberstone, however showed that virtual performances can still bring as much passion as an in-person gig.

18-year-old Bedfordshire based Templeman’s evening slot on the festival’s “Stage 6” opened with his playful summer tune “Happiness in Liquid Form”, the titular single from his 2020 EP, dancing around in a burgundy suit which stood in stark contrast to his bright lyrics. Templeman never missed a beat to be a phenomenal showman, with his energy serving as a reminder of just how young he actually is, even though his musical skill would match, and if not, exceed, the most seasoned musician. Following on from “Happiness”, Templeman performed his slightly chilled out “Everyone’s Gonna Love Someone”, with its opening line of “sweet nostalgia” setting its sugary-sweet nostalgic tone, although the late electric guitar riffs and saxophone ground it in a hybrid of 1980s pop and twenty-first century electronic influence.

The eclectic sounds of Templeman highlight the vast amounts of music that Gen Z artists like himself and Humberstone have at their fingertips, with his third song “Wait, I Lied”, a sultry careless anthem with a bass line that wouldn’t have been out of place in the 2013 Arctic Monkeys album “AM” and he had the attitude to match, which shows throughout all of the songs on his new album, “Forever Isn’t Long Enough”. Templeman’s ability to engage viewers is testament to how he is not only a great musician perfectly packaged as a Gen Z wunderkind, but a performer whose career will continue to thrive on stage.

An hour later, 21-year-old Humberstone was shown to be in a darkly lit house – later revealed to be her own – with its crumbling ruins; the perfect setting to her melancholy tracks, reminiscent of the haunting voices of Maggie Rogers and Phoebe Bridgers. Humberstone even revealed during her set that the house itself is haunted, after a friend’s clairvoyant mum could ‘sense it’ and that it served as further inspiration for her music; her track “Haunted House” explicitly so.

Initially sitting at a piano for heartbreak lament songs like “Falling Asleep at the Wheel”, also from her 2020 EP of the same name, Humberstone swapped to a pastel blue guitar for the second half of her set, using it to perform her first ever release “Deep End”. Speaking into the camera, rather than her longed-for audience, Humberstone reveals that she wrote it for her younger sister when she was struggling a few years prior as a way of showing her that she’d always support her. The revelation of this makes the lyrics all the more touching, without the saccharine connotations that the genre of melancholy pop can be given.

Both Humberstone and Templeman’s performances at Great Escape’s 2021 virtual festival show that new music can still thrive in this changing landscape, and whilst in-person gigs can never be replaced, the online performances by both artists highlight how music is a unifying force. In fact, online spaces and virtual performances open up new discussions around music accessibility and exposure. The Great Escape has always been a festival for new music, and whilst Templeman and Humberstone have been creating for a few years, their careers will only continue, and if their recent performances are anything to go by, succeed as well.

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