Opera North - The Little Greats

Live Music Review: Dot To Dot Festival 2017

4 June 17 words: Gav Squires
photos: Nigel King

After Friday in Manchester and Saturday in Bristol, the multi-city new music extravaganza arrived in Nottingham to close out the weekend. Taking place at over 30 venues, we headed along to join the dots...

Taco Hell

Taco Hell

Down at The Malt Cross and Oliver Pinder is a young man who sings with a passionate intensity, eyes closed as he delivers his lyrics. When I was his age the only thing I was melancholic about was not being able to get served in pubs. A little like an over-serious George Ezra, his backing. And of drums, cello and electric guitar add depth. He even played one song completely unplugged - no microphone or anything. The rest of the pub just got on with the important business of planning the rest of their day at the festival. 

Playing US indie/college rock with a harder edge, Taco Hell are the first band that I know of to namecheck someone called Audrey, when they announce a song about a nice lady that the lead singer used to work with. Performing in The Bodega, recent single Retainer sounded really good, with its lyrics about dreaming of the teeth falling out of your mouth. Plus, they had some great merch - "Tacos not Tories" t-shirts. This was right up my street, although Joe, the lead singer, occasionally got a little bit shouty, which didn't quite work for him. Oh, and there were times when I got distracted by the fact that he looks like Will Wheaton. 

Twin Kidd

Twin Kidd

The trio Twin Kidd brought their icy, superior pop to Stealth. Sounding a little like Christine & the Queens or a more interesting Lana Del Rey, I can't help but feel that they're only a couple of catchy choruses away from being really big.

The German indie band, Gurr, named after the sound that a German pigeon makes, curry favour from the off with the Red Rooms crowd with a bassist who lived in Lenton for 7 years and who wears a Notts County t-shirt for the gig. Mixing that classic jangly C86 sound with some surf rock style riffs, not only do they have a great sound but they actually seem to be having fun, which can't be said of all of the bands that I saw at Dot To Dot. This is best encapsulated when they incorporate the chorus from Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl into the intro to one song.

Of course, just like all festivals, Dot To Dot isn't JUST about the music. Outside Rock City, Fanclub and Emily Catherine both had stalls selling their wares, as did Doughnotts. I grabbed a "Mock Chicken sandwich" from Mocky D's and a haircut at Deckchair's pop-up hairdressers inside Rescue Rooms. Looking good and with a full belly, it was back to the music, starting with Rock City…

Honeyblood

Honeyblood

Talking about the previous two nights, Honeyblood claim that they have "saved their best till last" and it definitely feels like it as the two-piece put on an amazing set. There's not a huge amount of variety here, it's all high quality indie-cum-garage rock but it's so good and properly exciting, you won't hear me complaining. The set was mainly drawn from recent album Babes Never Die, with the band rocking out more than they do on record. 

Over to Nottingham Trent Uni for Cherry Glazerr, and to be honest, I'm not sure what to make of them, but they seem a bit confused themselves as to whether they want to be a rock 'n' roll band or something more arty. They end up falling between the two stools, not quite exciting enough for genuine rock 'n' roll and not quite clever enough to be really arty. In the end, the knob twiddling marks them down as being just a bit too arty to really rock.

I'd headed to The Lofthouse to see Jum so I was pleasantly surprised to see that You Want Fox were playing, showing that it's not just Royal Blood who two-piece bass-and-drums thing. It's a great set, full of verve and energy. Natalie (vocals/bass) describes Venus Virus as their "pop song" and it's certainly the poppiest of the bunch with its call and response lyrics. Despite being pop, drummer Collette still manages to play with such intensity that she gets "blood everywhere". Natalie shows next to no compassion telling her that, "you'll be alreet" before racing into the next song. Highlight of the set is Ex-Boyfriend, which sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees is they swore like Sleaford Mods. 

Slow Readers Club

Slow Readers Club

Slow Readers Club are the next big thing from Manchester, playing very serious indie in the style of Editors or Doves. Their set really takes off with Plant The Seed, which is a bit dancier than everything that's gone before, more reminiscent of New Order. They have a number of songs that you could easily imagine them playing in stadiums, songs that almost seem too big for the Rescue Rooms.

The band open with a public service announcement - they have to change their name. Due to legal reasons, they will no longer be known as Webbo & The Soft Boys but will instead call themselves The Soft Girls & Boys Club. I can't imagine that it will have much impact on their music though, which is all 70's riffs and very Credence Clearwater Revival. I must say that I was particularly impressed with their ability to fit five people on the incredibly small stage at the Jam Café. 

The local trio Kagoule triumphantly headline Rough Trade. Blue elicits an incredible response from the audience, including a semi-successful crowd surfer - Rough Trade, with its low stage and things hanging from the ceiling isn't really the ideal place for crowd surfing. Of course, in these times of monkey see, monkey do, he isn't the last.

The last live band of the whole festival, Mystic Braves, kick off at 01:15 in The Bodega and they're certainly an interesting bunch. The keyboardist looks like he should be in the Ramones, the guitarist looks like he could be in the classic Love line-up and the drummer looks a bit like Frank Zappa. They describe an old, fat guy on someone's shoulders as the best thing that they've ever seen at any show, which implies that they need to get out a bit more. Musically though, they are really good.  They have a '50s / The Shadows / theme from Rawhide guitar sound backed up with '60s organ and some fantastic harmonies. They also seem energised by a crowd determined to enjoy the last band of the weekend.

And with that, it's the end of another edition of Dot To Dot. In my opinion, it just seems to get bigger and better every year and this year was another awesome day of fantastic music.

Dot To Dot Festival took place at multiple venues throughout Nottingham on Sunday 28 May 2017. 

Dot To Dot Festival website 

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