Tuesday, May 30
The 2006 Dot to Dot Festival took place in Nottingham over Whitsun weekend. This year the festival was extended to five venues and saw over 60 bands perform, with the main and small room at Rock City added to the Rescue Rooms, Stealth and the Social. With one wristband allowing access to all five venues, plus a small stage on the Rescue Rooms patio, a busy day is in store.
After arriving a little late, I miss the delights of all girl trios The Smears and The Pipettes, but get there just in time to see Northern Irish band Kharma 45. The Derry quartet play dance rock in the vein of Kasabian. Vocalist Glenn Rosborough is a magnetic presence in the centre of the stage and unfortunately named (and mulleted) guitarist Peter Doherty lays down some nice intricate guitarwork. The track Ecstasy is a stand out, but at times they sound like an indie band with some samples tacked on, which I suppose is exactly what they are. And isn't dance rock a little bit 2004 anyway? If they can overcome the handicap of their terrible name, then this band might get somewhere... maybe.
Round the corner in the downstairs room at Rock City the splendidly named An Albatross are tuning up. Fifteen minutes later they're still soundchecking. When they finally get the exact, precise sound they want in each individual monitor, they hurtle in to their first track which is a blast of unlistenable noise with screeching vocals and a strange choice of instrumentation. They sound like Slayer augmented by a second-hand Casio keyboard. Are they in tune? Are the levels right? It's quite difficult to tell. And as they blast into another shard of brutal Casio-driven noisecore, many of the crowd vote with their feet and go and see what is on elsewhere. I choose to follow them.
Upstairs, laptop-folk troubadour Buck 65 is working the crowd with one of his likeable and slightly political tunes. Sadly though, much of the subtlety is lost in the cavernous interior of Rock City's main room.
Onstage over in Stealth are possibly Doncaster's finest electro quintet, Neon Plastix. Vocalist Patrick Goss is clearly worse for wear, but somehow manages to sing and play bass simultaneously, and almost in time too. Their dirty electro pop gems win over the crowd and the pick 'n' mix thrown into the audience clinches it.
In the Rescue Rooms, Thousand Natural Shocks, are pleasant enough but I can't shake the fact that their singer looks uncannily like comedian Steve Punt, giving me the shivers when I think of the sitcom My Hero.
Next we get some entertaining and angular B52's style surf punk from The Victorian English Gentlemans Club.
Then it's Pistolas, who hail from the punk rock hotbed of Norwich. They're a feisty quartet with a female bassist and a nice line in angular guitars. Ones to keep an eye on.
Bricolage are like Franz Ferdinand only without the fashion sense. Their twee Orange Juice influenced pop goes down well, but they need to work on their image a bit as nan's knitted jumpers just don't cut it.
Over in Stealth, Swedish trio Revl9n are a band with fashion sense in spades, but seemingly a distinct lack of any musical ability whatsoever. One bloke and two very good looking girls, they are a hit with the men in the crowd, but they don't play in time or in tune - they've got a lot of enthusiasm though. Maybe they are having a bad day, but it looks like clever marketing and a great look has got them a slot on this bill. Their PR people and fashion advisors deserve a pay rise.
Purveyors of workmanlike indie, The Harrisons do their best to entertain in the Rescue Rooms, but it's all a bit pedestrian for my liking. After a few tracks I take my leave and make the trek across town to the Social, where I am greeted with a queue of people trying to get inside to see The Long Blondes. It was probably a bad idea to put one of the hottest bands in the UK on at the smallest venue at the festival. As the queue stretches down the stairs and out the front door it's clear the Long Blondes could have filled The Social twice or three times over.
From my position at the top of the stairs craning my neck to peer through the door, I’m privileged to watch a great band (the backs of their heads anyway) play a brilliant set including two of the stone cold classic pop singles of last year, Separated By Motorways and Appropriation (By Any Other Name). Great songs and a brilliant look uncannily reminiscent of fellow Sheffield band Pulp. They've just signed to Rough Trade and I expect imminent chart domination. Anything less would be a travesty.
Back across town and another queue, this time merely to get into the Rescue Rooms courtyard. A surly bouncer informs us that they are operating a 'one in one out' policy, but when ten people leave, he only lets two people in. Then he lets in two people wearing white wristbands jump the queue and walk straight in - it's either full or it isn't, surely? One guy is flatly refused entry for queue jumping even though he has been standing next to me for the past twenty minutes. No amount of protesting can sway the security man.
At Stealth, yet another queue and this time nobody is allowed in at all, unless they have a white wristband that is. As a consequence I miss Klaxons, one of the bands who were top of my list to see. The bouncer won't even let us have the door to the downstairs room open so we can listen to them perform.
With entry barred from Stealth, the choice of the next band is seemingly made for me as I catch the Good Shoes in the Rescue Rooms. They're a band who I know next to nothing about, but who manage to whip a packed Rescue Rooms up into something approaching hysteria. Like a spiky South London Futureheads and get the crowd moshing like no other band I've seen so far today. I can't recall a single one of their songs but I'd definitely see them again.
Headliners Bromhead's Jacket are the southern equivalent of the Arctic Monkeys, with their tales of small town life, Samsungs and girls. Brilliant lyrics, great tunes and an engaging frontman mean that this band are one breakthrough song away from moving into the mainstream. They also have the best song lyric of the day "She's gone to get her wotsit waxed". If they aren't on the NME tour next January, I'll eat my hat.
All in all Dot To Dot's second year has been a success, albeit one with some issues to address for next year.
For value, over sixty bands for less than twenty quid can't be beaten and the lineup was fantastically eclectic with something for most people. However, either there were too many tickets sold or the decision to put some of the bigger bands on in the Social and Stealth needs to be rethought. The ever-present and sometimes slightly aggressive security and the wristband hierarchy, meant that for me at least, the event will be partly remembered for bouncers rather than the great music.
This time next year I expect some of the bands at Dot to Dot could be grazing the upper echelons of the charts and enjoying high slots on the bill at the likes of Glastonbury and Reading. It's a forward thinking and progressive booking policy that has served organisers Liars Club so well over the years. At the Dot To Dot Festival or at any Liars Club night, you know that even if you haven't heard of half the bands on the bill, you'll have a great night and be listening to the bands on Myspace the following day.
I would have loved to have seen the likes of British Sea Power, The Mystery Jets and The Automatic, but the beauty of Dot To Dot is that there are so many good bands that some are bound to clash.
And if anyone knows how I can teleport across town from Rock City to the Social, please let me know!