Laura Mosley reviews some of the acts at this year’s Dot To Dot festival in Nottingham
As the winner of Best Multi Venue Festival at the Live UK Awards 2017, Dot to Dot is a must-visit festival for anyone with a keen ear for upcoming indie music. Having previously hosted The xx, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford of Sons amongst a plethora of other big names, this is the festival for anyone who wishes to spot a potential hit before anyone else. Priced at only £13, the festival hosts a range of bands spread across the city’s finest venues. Taking place over May bank holiday weekend, the festival visits Bristol, Manchester, and Nottingham in an effort to bring some of the most cutting-edge music to some of the UK’s most vibrant cities. The following review is based on the Nottingham edition and as so, is filled with a mixture of local and national bands – all of which ensured this was one of the most exciting instalments of the festival so far.
Adam French is essentially your dream if you love long-haired Northerners crooning away on a guitar. Whilst having to battle through the midday day-drinking buzz, French nonetheless performed a riveting set which increasingly captivates the crowd throughout. Whilst his self-deprecating stage talk was full of obscenities; his music was full of soulful rhythms and emotion. This was potentially the most stripped-back set of the day, but French poured his heart out from start to finish, ensuring he wouldn’t be viewed simply as a warm-up act. Closing song ‘Weightless’ was even met with audience members singing it back. Easing the audience in came naturally for French and he only needed six strings and his voice to do it. Yet his sound, echoing James Bay and other recent acoustic artists, needs a little run-through just to make sure he will be seen as more than just a carbon copy.
Ambitious and eager-eyed – Ashfields opened in full-force with as much inoffensive indie-pop as you can squeeze into a half an hour set. The vocalist, his shirt buttoned half way down his chest gave the impression of an adolescent Matt Healy with the way he graced the stage; pausing between each song to chat to the audience. ‘I want to see you dance!’, he shouted to an unmoving crowd. The band were fun and delivered an interesting set, but if you closed your eyes, you could easily mistake them for any other generic indie band on the scene. These guys might need a bit more time trying to figure out their sound and what makes them different.
The first thing that struck me about Super Furniture was how young they looked; the second, how much fun they were having. They seemed like a group of friends who’d finally brought their garage jam-sessions into a new surrounding – the remarkably polished set-up of Brewdog. Opening with Sleepless, the band slid through their set; merging indie with some reggae influences and powering through with ease. They even did an alternative-style cover of the Arthur theme tune (if you didn’t think Arthur could get any better, you’re wrong). There even was a slight bit of moshing at the front, although I think the band were held back somewhat by the small, compact venue. Having a middle-aged person grinning whilst clutching their beer is one thing but playing on a stage and having the space for people to dance to your music is another.
Contrary to their name, Bad Sounds are quite truly heaven to the ears. Blending old-school hip-hop with alternative indie, their sinewy synth sound and infectious rhythms made them an absolute storm on stage. You could blame tectonic plates, but new song ‘Evil Powers’ was the reason the crowd were making the venue shake at only 5pm. Closing with ‘Wages’, a ripple of optimism can be felt amongst the band – they know how to put on a live show and it was evident the crowd could feel it through their bones. Full of enough highs to set up the rest of the festival and enough energy to feel like you’re at a slightly surreal party, I’d be surprised if they didn’t come back to headline within the next few years.
Echoing the new-wave and punk vibes of Blondie, The Nectars brought the sound of New York to the stage with a set that aroused the whole crowd into wanting more. The vocalist’s voice was strong and fiery, tackling each song with ease. They even transformed a cover of King Krule’s slow, sombre tune ‘Easy Easy’ into a fast, loud, punk drawl which demonstrated the band’s versatility and skill. An obvious stand-out band due to their departure from the indie-pop filling up the other venues, The Nectars were loud and turbulent – gracing the stage like a hurricane – sweeping up the crowd with a bang that was over far too soon.
Filling the stage with a dream-pop haze, Pale Waves’ eclectic energy pulsed through their performance from start to finish. Opening with ‘Television Romance’, the crowd were immediately on their feet dancing. Strobe lights blazing, you could have been trapped in some gothic art-pop fantasy. Highlights of the set included old favourites ‘Heavenly’ and ‘The Tide’; synth cascading across the stage, the instruments merged together to create a mesmerising sound that would set up the final acts of the night. Although doing little to interact with the crowd, the music itself was enough to create a trance; although the influences from The 1975 were strong and at points seemed to mask Pale Waves’ individuality in their sound.
Cassia are the sort of band whose nonchalant, laidback tunes could easily be the soundtrack of your summer. Yet, they are nothing short of energy and buzz – ploughing through a setlist of non-stop bangers which quite literally as the song would suggest, sent me a bit ‘Out of My Mind.’Original in their own right and scoring high up amongst the plethora of bands merely for their catchy lyrics and melodies, the band peak with tunes ‘Weekender’ and ‘100 Times Over’; rousing the audience into a euphoric mood, making it impossible to stand still. Although it’s early days for this band I anticipate that with a few more songs, their sleek sun-filled tunes will be the highlights of many festivals to come.
Clad in leather trousers and a blue sequin jacket; the vocalist of The Horrors has an aura about him that makes sure you know he’s done this many times before. Veterans to noughties rock and a surprisingly established act compared to previous Dot to Dot headliners, The Horrors look like this comes terribly easy to them. Yet, I found their moody goth rock to bring down the indie-dance vibe present throughout most of the day. The ecstasy that seemed to come with the synth and up-beat guitar had dissipated and whilst The Horrors in themselves are a deserving headline act; I feel like Dot to Dot wasn’t the most ideal fit for them. Playing fan favourites ‘Still Life’ and ‘Something to Remember Me By’, The Horrors ensured the admittedly quite distracted and drunk crowd had a good time. Their live sound was professional and polished but perhaps not the most ideal when the crowd consisted of largely drunk teenagers who just wanted to push each other over.