So this is pretty much the last wristband festival of the season before the muddy fields of Glastonbury, the scorched Eastern plains of Latitude, and the hormone-fuelled Leeds/Reading double-whammy take over our pockets and ears. Spread across three-cities, Dot To Dot is yapping at the heels of the better known Camden Crawl and the more “industry” Great Escape more and more as the years go by. This year’s line-up beggars belief, taking a sweeping swing at a wide range of genres and competing on every level with its main contenders. The sun probably helped as well, to be honest.
The problem with arriving early at events to avoid queues is that you inevitably end up catching the tail-end of the line-up, the kind of bands only put on the bill to encourage local scenesters to take the trip down to an otherwise perfect event. Frontiers are one of those bands; painfully devoid of a spark bright enough to light their way out of guitar-led obscurity. It’s a shame really, as the frontman seemed happy to make every effort to try and strike a chord with a tepid early-afternoon Rock City audience. In much the same light, Black Light Parade continued the forgettable performances with a less than stunning set in the basement of Rock City. Although packed out, it’s probably safe to assume this was more to do with people automatically gravitating towards Rock City early on in the day, rather than any palpable word of mouth buzz.
Fiction – To Stick To
Thankfully, the absolutely glorious Fiction managed to finally make a positive impression as the afternoon continued to wane away at Bodega. Sounding like you’ve locked yourself in a bunker in Dalston listening to only Late Of The Pier and Aztec Camera shouldn’t be considered a bad thing, and in this case it yields fantastic results. Putting the room at a virtual standstill, the ethereal ‘To Stick To’ proved itself particularly worthy of praise. Chapel Club continued to stun to a packed out crowd, reeling off track after track that proves they’re utterly ready for the “big time” they’re forecast to hit. ‘5 Trees’, their current single at radio, contains pretty much everything you need in a dark, brooding pop song.
Staying in the main room of Trent Uni I managed to catch Washed Out playing to a criminally low turnout. Quite what else on the bill was drawing people away is a mystery, although I guess Blood Red Shoes have had a bit more time to get exposed than Washed Out. Still, total lameness. Following on from Washed Out, Ellie Goulding managed to underwhelm a packed out Rock City main room with her quasi-acoustic electro-pop. Of course, all of that hype from the last 6 months to a year was going to be hard to live up to in a live environment, but compared to her closest contemporary, Marina & The Diamonds, Ellie’s live show lacks a certain spark. While Ellie is clearly a talent, it seems clear tonight if ever how much of a hand her producer and writing partner Fin Dow-Smith (aka Starsmith) had in her rise to fame. Without his guiding hand, her songs are left feeling slightly hollow – unguided. It’s a shame, because catching her duet with American act Lissie at Great Escape a few weeks earlier I was blown away by how stunningly her voice carried across and hushed an expectant crowd. Hopefully some experience over the summer at festival performances (something she missed out on last year) will help her raise her game in time for her October tour. There’s no denying the crowd enjoyed her though, an elated mass of underage hipsters and those just there to witness what all the buzz/fuss has been about. Unsurprisingly, it was tracks like ‘Starry Eyed’ and ‘Under The Sheets’ that gained the most welcome reception.
The rest of this review is by Chris Wheatley who can handle a late night better than me.
After the amazing reception Ellie Goulding received Mystery Jets had a tough act to follow as they headed out on to the Rock City main stage as the headlining band. Unsurprisingly the boys from Eel Pie Island delivered emphatically, using the festival as a chance to preview a number of new tracks from their upcoming new album Seratonin. After most of the crowd dispersed following Ellie Goulding I was concerned they wouldn’t return, however come the set opener the crowd had returned in force to add their intoxicated chorus vocals to the likes of ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’, ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Flakes’. New material, including album title track ‘Seratonin’ and the already previewed ‘Flash A Hungry Smile’, were well received and promise more of the same from Mystery Jets. The band themselves were in great spirits, William and Kai bounced around the stage throughout the set, enjoying themselves just as much as every fan inside the venue.
Next up were Manchester youngsters Egyptian Hip Hop at The Rescue Rooms. By the time the band had finished their soundcheck and took to the stage quite a crowd had gathered to see a band who has been receiving a large amount of press lately. Sadly the band seemed to lack the stage presence of some of their peers and seemed uneasy with themselves in front of such a large crowd. Some temporary sound issues seemed to hinder the band and gave pockets of the crowd an excuse to leave before the band found their feet for popular tracks ‘Wild Human Child’ and ‘Heavenly’.
Back at Rock City Jakwob was spinning his dubstep remixes of the likes of Ellie Goulding, Deadmau5 and more to an appreciative audience who were now in full flow each time the heavy bass beat dropped and shook the room. This was too much for Zane Lowe to follow, who couldn’t offer up the same high standard with his somewhat dated drum & bass sound. For a man who provides the country with so much new music on a weekly basis it seems his DJ set lacked that killer edge Jakwob had just provided the crowd.
So I think Chris and myself are both in agreement that while Dot To Dot Nottingham provided highs and lows, the latter were few and far between. It’s back next year, spread across the same three cities, and probably with an equally enticing line-up. For more info check out their site here. You can also read Chris’s review of earlier in day over at Indiescreet.