Sunday 27 May was Nottingham’s turn to host the legendary Dot to Dot Festival, which has seen stacks of up-and-coming artists, including The XX, Ed Sheeran, The 1975, Wolf Alice and loads more. This time around, some of the bigger acts included The Horrors, Pale Waves and Nottingham’s own Ady Suleiman, along with a host of other local acts.
We started the day at 1pm in Rock City, with Nottingham rock band Do Nothing pulling a respectably-sized crowd to enjoy their early set. The lead singer broke up his melancholy notes with some enthusiastic tambourine shaking, and the band confidently totted out songs they’d never played live before. With a vibe that’s somewhere between The Killers and The Cure, these guys were a great first act to clock.
After a quick burger stop, we managed to catch the last five minutes of Nottingham indie-rock band Fast Car to Florence. They cut their set in The Orange Tree a little short, which is a real shame, because the song we caught was wildly impressive. Their audience were pressed against the walls and spilling out into the streets, in awe of a band that packed too much talent for the small venue to contain. These guys are undoubtedly ones to watch.
Next off we strolled down to Junkyard to drink IPAs and enjoy the raw, heart-breaking talent of Tori Sheard. One of the lesser-known names on the lineup, this Notts acoustic singer brought the small pub alive with her wistful, emotive lyrics and striking chords. Channelling the likes of Daughter and Bon Iver, the nineteen-year-old played mostly original songs, joking about how many of them were about death and heartbreak. With her powerful voice and flawless folky sound, Tori was a serious hidden gem at Dot to Dot.
Dashing across town to hit the Nottingham Trent Student Union, we were caught up in the huge crowd drawn by another local indie-rock group, Ashfields. Unfazed by the amount of people, they oozed confidence while belting out a string of songs that could easily be considered bangers. The highlight of their set for me was Is It Alright Now, a song from their EP New Skin; it’s been my shower song every day since. On stage, Ashfields also announced they were The Bodega’s secret midnight headliner, although we didn’t manage to catch that performance. But if what they tweeted the next day is owt to go by, they clearly had a great night.
We paused for chicken wings, and after we’d had our fill, we went to see Sunflower Thieves outside Nottingham Contemporary. The pair played an impressive set considering how loud and busy it was, with food trucks and face painting stalls dotted around the band’s small stage. Despite the noise, their songs were as hauntingly beautiful live as they are online, and they’re well worth a watch if you’re a First Aid Kit fan.
One of our final stops was Rock City, where we caught Ady Suleiman, Pale Waves and The Horrors. Ady, a Grantham-born r’n’b star, was hugely passionate in his set, singing a host of refined songs from his debut album Memories. He managed to captivate the whole crowd, which was huge and definitely a little tipsy. If his performance is anything to go by, this guy is going to be something big.
Next up on the Rock City Main Stage were the indie-pop band Pale Waves, with a set that was beautifully bizarre from start to finish. Their lead singer tore round like a hyperactive zombie, with wide eyes and a deadpan stare that made the performance all the more haunting. Television Romance, one of their better-known singles, was absolutely my favourite of their set, with a catchy chorus that was fizzing in my head throughout the hangover the next day.
For us, the epic energy and beautiful madness of Pale Waves’ set slightly overshadowed The Horrors, who weren’t helped by the fact that the whole audience was really starting to feel the booze by that point. We stumbled out after a few entertaining songs by them and, buoyed by spontaneity and many pints of ale, we ended up in Rescue Rooms watching the super-talented Mahalia. This Midlands girl managed to hold the attention of a huge, exhausted crowd with evocative lyrics and gorgeous vocals. Which isn’t surprising, considering she’s been signed since she was thirteen. After she finished her energetic, powerful set, we decided to call it a day – we’d walked over ten miles and could barely stand.
Dot to Dot continues to pull huge crowds each year, showcasing an eclectic mix of both local talent and bigger acts. You chase them across town, stopping for pints and poutine, dodging rain and dragging your blistered feet along behind you. It’s a hot, drunken mess, and it’s everything a festival should be.
Dot to Dot took place in various venues across Nottingham on Sunday 27 May 2018.
Dot to Dot website