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Live Music Review: Dot To Dot Festival 2019

30 May 19 words: Becky Timmins
words: Naomi Obeng
photos: Tom Morley

Through sunshine, showers, sweat and serious sprinting across Notts, our Dot To Dot team caught some absolutely smashing sets at this year's festival, which ended up a testament to Notts musicians reigning supreme. Have a gander at their highlights...

Camille Christel


Camille Christel at Alberts
The upstairs gig space at Albert’s might be a bit dishevelled, but it’s kind of spot on for Notts singer songwriter Camille Christel and her band. Having already enchanted the likes of BBC tastemakers Mary Anne Hobbs and Dean Jackson, there’s a quiet confidence to this young performer as she waits for the venue to fill up for this dusky Dot To Dot set. Her signature neon C’s illuminate the stage, adding a nostalgic glow, but it doesn’t need it; her haunting voice is the centrepiece. Keys, strings and innovative guitar work make an exquisite canvas for Camille’s velveteen voice to be lathered on, and as they saunter through the set, I’m consumed by anticipation for where this might lead. Whilst tracks Copenhagen and New York are measured and minimal, the determined lyrics and visionary approach to making music leave you feeling that anything could happen here; there is a volatility to Camille’s performance that is truly exhilarating, marking her out as a serious one to watch.

Daudi Matsiko at Jam Cafe 
You've got to squeeze into the packed Jam Cafe if you want to get a glimpse of Daudi with his guitar today. Close to the mic and singing with an honesty that brings forward a few tears, we’re all leaning in, and that's what this music sounds like; peering into a mind, but not too close in case we might disturb its poetic workings. Lyrics let us in on a quiet conversation he’s having, with himself and with us: "I wish I was less depressing" he sings on Annihilation, and we laugh a little, in on the joke of this reflective and introspective half hour - but also because we all wish we were less depressing too, sometimes. Vocals shift between delicate trembling vulnerability and a more confident character. I couldn’t think of a better environment to hear and see this perfect folk-guitar music unfold. I'm Grateful For My Friends, the title of the final track, is repeated again and again, becoming almost like a ritual. Is this an acknowledgement of gratefulness or is it willing gratefulness into existence? The ambiguity sits with you. A gift of an honest songwriter is to allow an audience to see themselves reflected. Thanks to Daudi we saw and heard each other in that room, and it was a quiet joy to be part of it. "I know it’s fine" he sings, "I just don’t feel ready to leave."

Daudi Matsiko

Do Nothing at Rescue Rooms
There’s a really strong crop of Notts indie bands right now, all writing exciting tunes and tearing up stages across the city whenever they play. But it’s Do Nothing who are undeniably at the helm, confirmed through tonight’s cool and commanding performance. This four-piece ooze charisma, channelled seamlessly through suited frontman Chris Bailey, whose confrontational delivery hits a sweet spot somewhere between James Murphy and Baxter Dury. His signature stance of leaning forward to impart acerbic lyrics feels part protest, part poetry recital, and it keeps this crowd captivated tonight. Rescue Rooms is the perfect venue for their Dot To Dot set; the crowd is swelling beneath the elevated stage - some here for a bit of push and shove, and others for a serious boogie - and both are certainly catered for. It’s special to watch this band soar; they’ve just been booked to support Interpol in Russia next month, and that elation galvanises their performance. But it’s the way Do Nothing inventively fuse brawny bass lines with melodic guitar riffs which massively impresses, and which comes truly into its own on their latest single Gangs. They close the show with this post-punk hit in the making, hot off the heels of being BBC Radio 1’s latest Next Wave pick by Jack Saunders. And it sure as hell drives this home crowd wild tonight.


Dream Wife at Rock City 
Loads of acts can claim to get the Rock City crowd eating out of the palm of their hand - the people flock there to party, it’s true. But few can claim to achieve it quite as swiftly and starkly as London-based disco punk trio Dream Wife do today. “If you’re tall, move to the back so the smaller people can see”, lead singer Rakel Mjöll yells early on in the set, her anthemic delivery a signal of what’s to come. Having formed in Brighton in 2015, when they decided to create a 'fake girl band' as an art project for a gallery exhibition, there’s an overtly performative element to their sound. But combine that with the heavyweight issues they address and their brand of infectious pop punk, and you’re left with something pretty special. Clad in neon and renowned for mayhem-laden live shows, their Dot To Dot set this afternoon is quintessential Dream Wife; nowhere more so than on Somebody, a song which acts as “one big f**k you to gender norms”. The crowd go wild, start a full-on mosh pit and kick-start some serious crowd-surfing, evidence that Dream Wife’s sharp and enraged agenda resonates deeply.

Do Nothing

Jimi Mack at Peggy's Skylight 
The lights take a warm hue 20 seconds after the first song begins. We're drawn in and with every note and beat, time expands. Jimi’s violin-like vocals ease us in, punctuated with more earthy tones, lifting the song into a 3D landscape. On either side of him Alice Robbins provides moving cello and vocals, and drummer Cameron Worne drives the lilting rhythms. Jimi sits in dark green velvet, reflective and thoughtful - yes, there’s something of Nick Drake in the vocals, but there’s a lot more there besides, a wryness in the lyrics and a dissatisfaction, perhaps, with the way the world is. The drums shuttle us along towards a haunting song that uses the image of a thin line and feels like it's resting precariously on an edge. Then we come to Barry, the emotional heart of this half hour, lyrically quotidian, as he tells us in his native Northern Irish accent, it circles around the suicide of two close friends. At times in this song Jimi lets his left hand fall, while the right hand goes on, plucking strings, continuing. The gesture may not be intentional, but says so much about this song, and the story it tells. Salao lifts us into sunnier territory, a sonically brighter place to end what was certainly a journey. The applause are given liberally and we're left wanting more.


Money For Rope
This band has two drummers. Two. Eric Scerba and Christopher Ray Loftis sit arms nearly touching like a conjoined drum god. Why two drummers you may ask. Well, my god, wait til you see them play. The energy this Brisbane five-piece brings to their soundcheck should have given an inkling of what was to come. Actually begins like a steady rock song, guitar riffs and a lyrical attitude that paint a picture of devastation. Singer and guitarist Jules McKenzie drawls: "Yeah I’m actually who I wanted to be", and as the voices of keyboardist Rick Parnaby, singing through an old-school wired telephone, and bassist Ted Dempsey join in, the song morphs and crescendos into a heart-stopping and thrilling wall of sound. The double drumming gives rhythm unlike anything I’ve seen; their energy never lets up. This is a seriously honed act, an extraordinary combination of charisma, an innate understanding of theatricality and a generosity with the audience. A “G’day” snaps us back to real-time. At the start of the gig McKenzie says he’ll pay someone back if they get him a whisky from the bar. Reader, the whisky was got, and he earned it tenfold.

Jimi Mack

Pixx
Beats and hooks are layered like an impressive garment in Pixx’s set today. Andean Corner begins with an earthy vocal sample and exotic bird sounds, propelling us into a sumptuous electronic meditation on societal hierarchies. The songs are undoubtedly well crafted, and the way her vocals stretch and bend, becoming shiny then radiant, deep then guttural, is captivating. On Bitch, she slows for the refrain, "something tells me you’re up to no good", with something of a snarl. Despite some exceptional galloping drums and sparky synths, there's something lacking in liveness through the middle of the set. However cut-throat and confrontational the lyrics, and despite the sweat and strain, the tracks feel almost inevitable, and we don’t get the full force of emotion. As the tracks follow in quick succession we maybe want a bit more acknowledgment, as a sweaty crowd straining to pick out words across the sparky high end and heavy reverb. The crowd is invigorated when the first arpeggiated notes of I Bow Down hit us, a melodically explorative and punchy track that easily pulls your body into dance. Closing with Disgrace, snaps, claps and cymbals float towards us in a vapour of minor synths, a truly haunting vibe to end with.

Points of View
A white t-shirt has "Points Of View were surprisingly decent, Dot To Dot 2019" written on it in sharpie. I don’t know what’s more surprising, the humorous understatement or the fact that a member of the band is wearing it for the performance. And any band that's sound-checking with some lines of poetry has a serious sense of humour. The opener sets the tone with a satisfyingly thick, chunky bass and playful slides. There are a few vocal wobbles but what they may lack in pitch accuracy they more than make up for with charisma - lyrics include "wanna look like conjoined twins tonight". It's strong rock from a young band who exude enough confidence and energy for a stage twice as big. High tempo meets high energy and the expressive performers go all out. It sounds like far more than three musicians up there, and they certainly pack a punch.


Dot To Dot Festival took place on Sunday 26 May 2019.

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