Since the initial foundations were put in place in Nottingham 10 years ago, Dot To Dot Festival has rapidly grown into one of the most unique and highly anticipated entries in the festival calendar. The event, which started operating in Bristol from 2007 and Manchester from 2010, has provided a launch pad for a host of up and coming artists over the years, including The xx, Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran, to name just a few.
Bristol has always complemented the Dot To Dot format perfectly, providing lots of quirky venues across the centre of the city – and importantly, within reasonable walking distance. This year’s festival was no different, with thousands deciding on their plan of attack for the biggest line-up to date around venues as varied as Thekla, The Fleece, Trinity Centre, O2 Academy, Exchange, The Louisiana, Start The Bus and many more.
And what better place to kick off the festival than Thekla, arguably Bristol’s most recognisable venue, where South London electro three-piece SYKES delivered an energetic and thoroughly entertaining set. Fresh off of supporting Charli XCX and Kodaline, the trio crammed as many songs as possible into their accomplished 30-minute performance, with their crisp synth pop evoking comparisons with Bombay Bicycle Club and Chvrches.
It was then on to one of the city’s most underrated venues, Exchange, which has previously hosted the likes of American trio Haim – before Radio One got ahold of them. The stage was occupied this time by another three-piece, Nottingham alt rock teenagers Kagoule, whose world-weary, atmospheric sound was ideal for the venue’s dark, dingy surroundings and attracted a good sized crowd considering it was so early in the afternoon.
While they were far from conventional – bassist Lucy Hatter was dressed in overalls that made her look a bit like an umpa lumpa when paired with her short blue hair, while lead singer/guitarist Cai Burns appeared to still be in his pajamas – Kagoule’s distorted guitar riffs and thumping beats certainly left an impression. New single Gush was the pick of the bunch, with its twisting, devilish melody evoking 90s grunge at its best.
A quick stop off at Start The Bus, where Manchester quartet Flesh performed a snarling set that lived up to the snotpop description they use for their sound, was followed by a trip to the O2 Academy for Scottish synth pop band Prides. The trio’s anthemic sound is like a more radio-friendly Glasvegas, but significant technical problems severely hampered their set – confirming the pitfalls of the unforgiving 30-minute set. There were no such problems for Ming City Rockers; the four-piece’s set was fast and furious, as they moved through their visceral, angst-ridden garage rock with very little baggage.
Following that rough-and-ready chaos , Sundara Karma provided a much welcome mellow interlude. The Reading quartet’s set was assured, with serene single Indigo Puff filling out the upstairs room at the Trinity Centre. In fact, the Trinity Centre was the place to be for much of the evening. As Sundara Karma finished, many festival-goers headed downstairs for the primal experience of seeing Fat White Family in the flesh. The five-piece’s live reputation goes before them – with on stage masturbation just one of the stories doing the rounds – but they remained relatively well behaved during their frantic set, concentrating on their sleazy, sadistic form of rock.
While they may not be to everyone’s taste, Fat White Family are not a band likely to be forgotten in a hurry and sweaty, ramshackle versions of Auto Neutron and Touch The Leather went down a storm, with the crowd singing “Me and my baby gonna touch that leather” back to frontman Lias Saoudi during the latter. After the raucous, unpredictability of FWF, it was time to head back upstairs for the much more polished Nothing But Thieves.
The young four-piece, from Southend-on-Sea, are already making waves on Radio One and it was not difficult to see why. Their soaring rock anthems are nothing new, but it doesn’t make them any less thrilling when combined with frontman Conor Mason’s falsetto vocals, which have previously been compared to late great Jeff Buckley. Early single Itch is a perfect example of their no-fuss sound, with its sweeping chorus lifting the crowd instantly and ensuring they remained on a high throughout.
It was ideal preparation for the Trinity Centre’s closing act, Los Angeles duo Best Coast, who were in fine form. Incorporating new songs from their recently released third LP, California Nights, with their first two records, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno had what seemed like a capacity crowd in the palm of their hand. Their surf pop was the perfect come down following a chaotic day, with the delightful When I’m With You a particular highlight.
The biggest reception of the night, though, was saved for the band’s signature track, Boyfriend, which prompted a mass sing-a-long to its simple, but ridiculously infectious chorus. There may not have been any readymade superstars like Sheeran among this year’s Dot To Dot Festival line-up, but there was plenty for any music lover to get their teeth into, with another fantastically eclectic collection of artists to discover and enjoy.