Dot To Dot has many good things going for it on paper. For starters, it’s a bargain at 20 a ticket – and that allows you to see maybe eight sets in a day. And it takes place in only a handful of venues, all within reasonably close proximity of each other – the longest journey will only take you nine minutes. This year it’s being held on the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend – providing the perfect opportunity to avoid royalty, boats and pomp.
But the miserable grey skies that hang above Nottingham sum up the mood of the day pretty well. Anyone brave enough to go walking from venue to venue will be drenched; even the most hardened gig-goers look disgruntled and the mood is further dampened when Summer Camp, for some one of the most anticipated acts, have to cancel because of illness.
Crucially though, the line-up just isn’t impressive enough. It’s troubling when you count The Drums and Willy Mason, the latter of whom hasn’t released any new music for five years, among the big draws. But it’s in the daytime when the unspectacular nature of the bill becomes painfully obvious. All afternoon is spent hoping to find that one great band that you’ve yet to hear of. At the Rescue Rooms, Hyde & Beast frustratingly keep everything at a mid-tempo setting, whilst Pale Seas also fail to sustain interest at Bodega.
The pick of the daytime bunch is Jake Bugg, who takes the same spot that Ed Sheeran had at last year’s event before his stock skyrocketed. Whether the same thing will happen with Bugg is yet to be seen, of course, but he attracts a big crowd at Rock City. He’s joined by a bassist and a drummer for his 45-minute set. But this young singer-songwriter just doesn’t have the presence yet to command an audience this big. He might’ve fared better in the smaller, more intimate surroundings of the basement downstairs.
Jongleurs, normally a comedy club, presents itself as a venue that saves the day. Most of the bands appear on the rockier side of the musical spectrum with Pure Love and Wavves among the bigger names. But the two standouts appear much earlier in the evening. Turbowolf use a combination of sludgey guitars and the odd theremin wail to stir up frenetic activity down the front whilst 2:54 are delightfully entrancing and hypnotic.
Once the ever-reliable Pulled Apart By Horses with their all-conquering riffs and powerful songs have wrapped up their set towards midnight it feels like a decent day out has been salvaged. But for Dot To Dot to get people coming back next year it needs to, aside from having a bit more luck with the weather, get a more attention-grabbing line-up. They have everything else nailed a very reasonable ticket price, convenient venues but when other inner-city festivals are upping their game year-on-year they run the risk of falling behind.