Dot To Dot 2011 festival review
- Jun 06, 2011
Having helped to uncover the likes of Ellie Goulding, Wild Beasts, Friendly Fires, Mumford & Sons, The xx, Foals and Laura Marling in previous years, Dot to Dot Festival’s reputation as a breeding ground for upcoming talent has a proven pedigree, and Nottingham was the second stop for this year’s latest instalment of hopeful contemporaries.
What distinguishes D2D from its corporate competitors is its unique format, with seemingly a weekend’s worth of live music condensed into 14, booze-fuelled, non-stop hours, without a portaloo in sight. There’s no pitching of tents here either, though had you been staying at Ben’s flat, you might have wished to. And yes, there was (and probably still is) mango chutney on the floor.
Now entering its sixth year, Dot to Dot’s blossoming status attracted Kiwi quintet The Naked and Famous, New York veterans We Are Scientists and the much-hyped Mick Hucknall-lookalike Ed Sheeran to the city’s biggest venue, Rock City, while Benjamin Francis Leftwich, The Joy Formidable and Wolfgang headlined the bill elsewhere.
After having finally parked the car, and also incurred a £60 fine from Nottingham City Council (w*nkers) for apparently driving in a tram lane, we once again obtained our hideously coloured rave-pink wristbands and headed off to explore. I mean, there were diversions all over the place and who has f*cking trams these days? It’s 2011, man. (Rant over.) After having endured/enjoyed a rather-more atypical festival delicacy of a Kangaroo curry, (from Walkabout) we made our way to Rescue Rooms, rather swiftly I hither to add, to witness our first live act of the day in the shape of Get People and moreover, use the toilets.
As i tried not to get my feet stained with urine, (flip-flops are a terrible choice of festival footwear) the unsigned tropical trio from London whisked through half-an-hour of breezy dream pop, in a similar ilk to that of Basque-Country quartet Delorean. Having played second-fiddle to Crystal Fighters on their UK tour this year, they are sure to follow in their footsteps with mainstream success, either that or appear on the Matalan advert, with either ‘Careless’, ‘Odyssey’ or the more-likely standout track, ‘Away’.
Following their set, we made the highly-controversial decision of choosing Benjamin Francis Leftwich over the much-touted Ed Sheeran (who, incidentally, appeared at number three on my top 10 acts to watch at Dot to Dot) and made our way to the second venue of the day, The Trent Main Room. And thankfully, the singer-songwriter from York did not disappoint. He strode on-stage with a rather timorous disposition in front of a packed house of swooning teenage girls, but the guitar –toting youngster showcased his incredible talent with his stripped-down acoustic set. Most notably, ‘Maps’, which opens with the line of, ‘I named a star after you’ that had female hearts melting and knees trembling the venue over. Similarly, ‘Pictures’ and ‘Atlas Hands’ impressed with Leftwich’s soft and lulling tones alongside his charming guitar, even if his illustrations of mountains on his instrument did actually look like tits.
It was onwards to another changing landscape as we made our first bow at Rock City soon after, for the much-anticipated set of Kiwi five-some, The Naked and Famous. Their set received a raucous reaction from a near full-house, as lead-vocalist and the beautiful Alisa Xayalith rollicked through an entire rendition of their debut album, ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You.’ And the album lends itself well to a live audience too, who fizzed off the on-stage energy and ear-splitting noise most predictably to ‘Punching in a Dream’ and finally, the certain festival anthem of the summer, ‘Young Blood’, which was carefully preserved for a suitably electrifying crescendo. However, the set did certainly have its low points, particularly in the middle and its enjoyment for me was rather hampered by two over-weight gentleman who must’ve thought they were Ed Macfarlane from their over-zealous dancing. Just because you’re fat, doesn’t mean you have a bubbly personality.
The high-tempo was maintained back in the Trent Uni Main Room though, as Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable took to the stage. Lead-vocalist Ritzy Bryan was as boisterous and vociferous as ever, as the trio belted out a rip-roaring rendition of hits from their debut album, ‘The Big Roar’, including crowd favourites ‘Whirring’, ‘Austere’ and ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’. However, the standout track had to be ‘I Don’t Want to See You Like This’, though their incessant determination to make every song last over five-minutes with its ongoing outro soon became perilously tiresome and prompted us to depart back to Rock City to see electronic duo, Hurts.
It was my first glimpse of the Manchester pairing and on this performance, their fourth place on BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll was more than justified. Fronted by the charismatic and painfully handsome Theo Hutchcraft, Hurts’ romantic electronica has all the elements of Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears, complete with the poise and retro imagery of Human League.
However, their music is far from that of an 80s tribute and their alarming stage presence, along with irresistible festival-belting anthems make for the performance of the day. Their appearance is as lavish and sophisticated as their sound would suggest; both fully-clad in black facades and hair immaculately swept-back a la an early-20s Brylcreem ad. Accompanied by a portly backing-tenor, violinist and white roses on Adam Anderson’s piano, they look like rebellious choir boys at a Grammar School, only this dramatic expression is deadly serious. Standout tracks were undoubtedly ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Blood, Tears & Gold’ and set finale ‘Better Than Love,’ which were bellowed out in unison by the adoring-horde, though ‘Stay’ certainly drew parallels with that of a glorified Take That anthem, either that or a Eurovision hit.
A brief and frankly bizarre stint in Mat Horne’s dressing room followed, before the much-anticipated Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs closed proceedings at a packed Stealth. Otherwise known as Oxford-based Orlando Higginbotham, ‘T.E.E.D’ has enjoyed a recent ascent following frequent airplay on Radio One. His hour-long set is slightly reminiscent of early Deadmau5, if in novelty costume only, as he marched out in a low-budget dinosaur suit and accompanying dino-dancer. His set is slightly blighted by sound problems, but it doesn’t affect the hardcore that have fuelled the party long into the early hours and predictably, ‘Garden’ and ‘Household Goods’ receive the best reaction and new track, ‘Trouble’, was also given an impressive airing.
It was an appropriate and timely end to another success for Dot to Dot and as we tried to avoid getting mugged as we trudged back to the car in the pouring rain, we imagined doing it all again in 12 months time.
See you again next year, Nottingham.
Photos by Benjamin Richard Harris