It’s that time of the year, festivals Love Saves The Day and Dot to Dot clash once again to take centre stage, a far cry of the summery weather we had last year but instead the heavens opening up and continuous rain pouring down over the city of Bristol and there I was, a little hungover with my camera and notes at the ready, photopass and wristband collected and all set for the madness that was about to begin.
Having won ‘Best Metropolitan Festival’ at the UK Festival Awards, Dot to Dot was back, ready to showcase some of the best local and breakthrough acts on the scene. I had a blast last time, meeting several bands both local and beyond, from having a drink with Austin, TX pop rock piece Black Books to meeting Ruen Brothers and Teleman – who are both doing big things right now. This year was set to be no different with indie rockers Peace headlining with the likes of Drenge, Real Estate and Courtney Barnett joining the bill as well. With Drenge recently interviewed in BLM’s early issue this year, it made sense for me to check out their set, the rest was going to be a fine mixture of the best music acts from Bristol and beyond and in some cases, potentially finding that one band or artist who’s going to be the next breakthrough act.
Speaking of breakthrough acts, one band is certainly making some noise at the moment – Bristol’s retro pop outfit Cursor Major who were featured on the cover of May’s issue of BLM and indeed they were debuting at Dot to Dot for the first time over at The Louisiana. A no brainer really so I set myself off straight to The Louie’, catching lead singer Andy Norton and Big Jeff along the way, a quick little catch up and the guys were ready to set the festival off with some retro-rousing electro pop. Music full of quirkiness, bubbly waves and flare, glittering electro synths, slick guitar riffs and charismatic vocals, from ‘Give Up The Ghost’ to ‘Red Light Fever’, Cursor Major got the afternoon off to a flying start and with a packed audience so early in the day, a good sign of what was to come perhaps?
All energised, I stormed straight to The Fleece to catch up with a familiar band who I first saw live at Dot to Dot last year, Bristol indie four piece Casimir. It was almost a reminiscent feeling seeing them perform again, a year has passed and the guys now live in London, with a batch of new material at the ready and live shows to boot. One the best live sets by far at Dot to Dot last year and this year they didn’t disappoint! Explosive sounds of heavy drums, eerie guitar loops full of reverb creating a wave of soundscapes worthy of attention. A mixture of old songs from their debut EP ‘Not Mathematics’ and newer songs which had a more upbeat edge with pulsating bass and aggressive drums.
Another top set down and on the run to the next venue, unfortunately when I arrived at Thekla and it was only 3.00pm, there was a queue stretching all the way to the car park with only a one in one out policy, not even my VIP pass was going to break through so had to cut off Thekla completely so unfortunately no Amber Run, Kyla La Grange or Wolf Alice.
After a slight re-plan to my schedule it was straight to O2 Academy next to catch sets from Natalie Holmes and Young Kato. New EP ‘Over & Out’ showcases the progression of maturity and honesty of Natalie Holmes since last year and it shined through in her intimate set with heart-warming acoustics, soulful vocals and song-writing prowess. Cheltenham’s six piece Young Kato, signed to BMG and backed by the likes of Fearne Cotton and Zane Lowe (Radio 1) are certainly breaking through at the moment with their energising pop sound and also becoming a fan favourite amongst the teenagers which was certainly the case as the audience in the venue consisted of teenage girls. Nonetheless it was an explosive performance with heavy percussion and soaring vocals, shooting in the pit as well was quite the experience and indeed got me pumped for Peace’s headline set.
A short pause to refresh myself then onto Start The Bus to check out Brighton’s new wave pop outfit Fickle Friends. Recommended by podcast platform Bristol Beats Club in their top five acts to see at Dot to Dot, I took the plunge to see what they were all about. Away from the teenage audience at Academy to a more packed and civilised crowd, drinks at the bar and people having a laugh, it was a buzzing atmosphere all around with the audience dancing along to the groovy guitar strings, catchy synths and irresistibly lush vocal tones from lead singer Natassja Shiner. Closing track ‘Swim’ from their set, just screams summer and was a standout with everyone cheering and dancing away, it was good vibes all around!
Worn down from the party vibes, I went back to the Louisiana for some downtime to catch some sweet acoustic music. Down at the cellar were two very special sets, one from Isle of Wight singer-songwriter Rhain and an exclusive acoustic set from Champs. Champs transforming their usual pop melodies to a stripped back set with two guitars, creating folk ballads so delicate, sincere and intimate as everyone sat down and relaxed to the warm harmonies. Rhain who is currently working with music community Chiverin was truly special, tense and emotive piano ballads, beautiful vocals so unique and raw that people from upstairs immediately came down in numbers to watch her set. A young artist with some much potential and surely some exciting times ahead for her – certainly one to watch!
After two brilliant performances it was back to O2 Academy to see Drenge and Peace. The main room still occupied with teenagers and even more flocking towards the barriers, hyped up and excited for Drenge. Brothers Eoin and Rory casually come on stage and fire off their sixties infused indie rock sound to the max. Music ever so tense, thrashing sounds of drums, roaring riffs and loud vocals. Songs like ‘Face Like A Skull’ and ‘Bloodsports’ erupted the young audience, screams and everyone jumping, mosh pits all over and crowd surfing left to right, the security guards sure had their hands full. I wasn’t allow to go in the pit to shoot Drenge due to a miscommunication with the one of the security guys, completely their wrong but I wasn’t going to argue as I still wanted to get some photos of Peace.
Luckily enough it was an ok go to shoot in the pit for Peace so no complaints. The audience were pumped from Drenge’s set and even more excited for Peace, the band came on with lights shining down, interchanging to their funky punk sounds. Vibrant with groove slick guitars, hard-hitting drums and twangy vocals, Peace have a particularly cool vibe to them and one that got the young crowd dancing. ‘Money’ from their forthcoming new LP was a delight with its extremely catchy hook, ‘Toxic’ from debut LP ‘In Love’ with groovy basslines and catchy chorus got the crowd singing away leading to more crowd surfs and people being escorted by security. Another favourite was ‘Follow Baby’, a grittier and heavier side to the band with spell-binding riffs and more strangled like verses.
Peace certainly delivered and a worthy headliner this year. One more band was left on my list and one I couldn’t finish the festival without – indie three piece Tiers closing the festival over at Stag & Hounds. One of my favourite bands on the Bristol scene and a great way to finish up what has overall been a great Dot to Dot, swaying to their melodic sounds that are every bit layered with reverbed guitars, thudding basslines, skittering drums and soaring vocals. Friends and fans amongst the crowd enjoying what was indeed a delightful set and probably one of the last shows from Tiers as new endeavours are on the horizon for lead vocalist Sam Craven who will be moving to London very soon – we all wish Sam the very best!
As for Dot to Dot, despite the miserable rain it was another top year and with it some memorable highlights, until next time.
Get gnarly with a bit of Drenge right here: