Dot To Dot Festival 2010 – Manchester 31/05/2010

June 12, 2010 by  

Aaaah, Bank Holiday, a chance to catch up on that well earned sleep and have a day of relaxation before the general routine of work kicks in tomorrow. This is no ordinary bank holiday weekend though as the Dot to Dot festival is taking place. Having been to Bristol and Nottingham respectively for the last two days it is now the turn of Manchester to stage this event of music new and old.

With around 50 bands on show including the likes of Mystery Jets, who are set to headline, Wild Beasts and Manchester’s own clash soundalikes Twisted Wheel spread across 5 venues located in the Student Union as well as The Deaf Institute amongst others, there is a wealth of talent to check out and no time to lose – I’ve just got time, for a quick pint before I start.

Right, first I’m off to the ‘Council Chambers’ at the top of the Student Union to check out ‘The Cheek’ formerly Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds, suffice to say the band are late, apparently due to being held up on the M1, so they already have some making up to do, but once they get into their indie pop swagger this no longer becomes an issue. They riproar through a clutch of their singles, including the excellent new single ‘Just One Night’, the melodic ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’ and the brashy ‘Hung Up’. Their debut album can’t come soon enough.

Not a bad start to the day then. It’s down to Academy 2 next to check out indie pop act The Answering Machine. I am just about able to get into the packed venue and I find that despite producing immaculate indie pop, it just all seems a bit desperate. They have the melodies and the songs, but it’s all a bit twee for me. They are going to be massive though, with all their bouncy pop numbers such as ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Emergency’.

It’s off down the road to the Deaf Institute to check out Californian collective Fol Chen. This act couldn’t be any more different than ‘The Answering Machine’. They resemble something out of a classic martial arts movie. Their sound involves propulsive drum patterns and what’s almost like an eerie 80s sci-fi noise, along with keyboard accompaniment. It’s a mishmash of sounds that somehow works because of the conviction of the band. ‘Cable TV’ sounds comforting, but unsettling and eerie at the same time. ‘Winter That’s All’ sounds weird with its 80s synths and Psych vocals. They don’t really sound like anything else at this point in time. They are one of the finds of the festival. However, they would have benefited from a bit more lighting and effects rather than just a raw ‘no frills’ set.

Blood Red Shoes continue the heavy sound with their hook heavy melodic rock. If you’re missing The Subways’ worry no more, this band can more than fill that void. ‘Don’t Ask’ pretty much does the job no frills unadulterated rock powered by huge riffs ,‘Light It Up’ is another stormer with its slow building verse into a crashing chorus of pounding drums and anthemic vocals. After a full-on 45 minute set, I’m literally gasping for air and yearning for something a little different – maybe a little quieter.

Sunderland’s Field Music are just the tonic for this, with their carefully constructed indie pop, complete with multiple harmonies. Gems like ‘Tell Me Keep Me’ and ‘You’re So Pretty’ still sound glorious and they should really be a national treasure.

Toronto’s Lights’ addictive electro synth pop is poised to join Ladyhawke, La Roux and Little Boots. What she doesn’t represent in stature, the pint sized performer more than makes up for with her blazing performance. Treating an intimate crowd to highlights from her new album she has them in the palm of her hand, with her sugary sweet vocals and epic otherworldly pop backing. ‘February Air’, ‘Saviour’ and ‘Ice’ are all massive pop hits in the making. The pop world is there for the taking.

Switching to an urban flavour of the south London variety, I head to Academy 3 to check out new soul girl on the block ‘Rox’. Having been quite disappointed by her recent performance on Jools Holland I have my reservations, but these turn out to be dumbfounded as she performs an assured smooth soul set. This includes an inspired cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ with a reggae makeover, which ticks all the credibility boxes, and soul hit in waiting ‘No Going Back’, which makes full use of her impressive vocal range. She is an absolute surprise package, soon to follow Adele and Amy Winehouse, into the mainstream and rightfully so.

Wild Beasts were one of the picks of the festival when the line-up was announced. Now sharing vocal duties they still sound like nothing else current, but all the better for it with their inimitable falsettos and baroque pop they still pack an almighty punch. The band draw the crowd into their weird magical world, with the bouncing melodies of ‘All the Kings Men’, the epic and quite beautiful ‘Hooting and Howling’ and the classic quirky pop vibes of ‘The Devil’s Crayon’. With a blinding set it is a true testament to the band, that in a music climate that is constantly changing they are staying true to themselves and putting on magnificent shows like this.

It’s just gone 10.00pm and the excitement is reaching fever pitch as in a few minutes headliners, Mystery Jets, will be on stage. They come on to some spoken verse (ever the intellectuals) and launch straight into their indie anthems, including ‘Young Love’ , 80s pop smash ‘Two Doors Down’ and the melodic ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’. This is followed some new songs from their upcoming release ‘Serotonin’, which showcases a more epic widescreen pop direction for the band. Despite their constant movement through genres they have never lost their way with a tune. New tracks ‘Lady Grey’ and ‘The Girl is Gone’ are glorious pop nuggets, but it’s the new single ‘Dreaming of another world’ which confirms the Mystery Jets as one the country’s best bands, with its indie-synth pop tones. They have lost none of their bite and with an arsenal of anthems they are poised to make their mark again.

Just time to check out some Los Campesinos!, I don’t know whose idea it was to schedule them at the exact same time as Mystery Jets, as they are also known for their energetic live sets. This may be a blessing in disguise as the band don’t really hit their stride tonight – this could be due to the fact that as frontman Gareth states ‘Manchester is the only location that has made the venue a 14+ audience’, which means that the crowd is full of teens and their performance is like an R-Rated show, almost reminds you of when you were younger and you sneaked into that night club. It’s all very amateur and a disappointment. Time for another pint or maybe something stronger- strongbow should do it before I check out the next act.

Late on the bill is Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, with the live stage being the time when this band really comes alive. The rabbles of moshers down the front are expecting something to blow them away. Yet, after releasing an average new album which was lacking in killer tracks the band, well maybe just frontman Guy McKnight, fidgets with the mike and looks completely out of place. Even when he sings it sounds half-hearted. It’s a total shambles and certainly not the best comeback performance for the band.

So that brings me to the end of the bank holiday craziness that was Dot to Dot.

I’m definitely glad I didn’t stay home for this one.

Roll on next year.


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