Nottingham’s annual urban festival Dot to Dot took over the city centre on Sunday. Impact sent a team of your favourite writers to cover over thirty of the day’s most exciting acts. Here’s the first part…
14:00-14:30: Skaters – Rescue Rooms (Red Room)
Skaters’ garage rock is very typical of the New York scene from which they have emerged. Think The Strokes, Wavves and Parquet Courts and you have a fair representation. Their music is all about thumping basslines and scuzzy guitars, things that usually go down well with English audiences.
They are the perfect band for an early afternoon slot, warming the crowd up nicely for the madness to follow later in the day. The music isn’t technically brilliant and nor does it have to be, with punky single, ‘Schemers’, extracting some gentle dancing from the largely static Nottingham crowd.
Skaters are very accessible and look like they enjoy playing, which is always a bonus. They won’t achieve the same level of success as The Strokes or the critical acclaim of Parquet Courts, simply because their songs are not good enough. However, if this does change, Skaters could well be the next big thing to cross the Atlantic.
14:30-15:00: PINS – Rescue Rooms (Subculture Stage)
Playing early in the day due to a second show back in Manchester supporting Toy in the evening, Manchester’s female foursome took to the Fred Perry splashed stage in front of an assembling crowd. Sporting a racy black leotard, leading lady Faith crashed through a tight set list that comprised of old and new, the latter being surprisingly even more impressive than the more known material.
Stay True, or ‘Stageroll’, the band’s upcoming release, the name of the track depending on how your hearing is, was a stand out track from their newer material; drum heavy and more memorable riffs. ‘Eleventh Hour’ sounded tighter than ever; their darker, almost 70’s drone contrasts beautifully with ‘LUVU4LYF’, a track which sees the band at their brilliant best, and allows Faith to let loose, free from the shackles of her guitar.
15:00-15:30: Ady Suleiman – Rock City Main Hall
Ady arrived on the Rock City stage beaming from ear to ear, as he saw that one of Nottingham’s most historic venues was full to the rafters for his first ever performance on the Rock City stage. The crowd grew throughout Ady’s set and so did the grin on his face. Moreover it seemed that every single person in Rock City was tapping their feet throughout the gig.
Ady delivered a half hour set full of feel good soul, including crowd favourites, such as ‘Serious’ and ‘Why You Running Away?’
Every time that Ady Suleiman has played live lately, he seems to have grown in confidence and his Dot to Dot set was no different. He has clearly made the most of touring with the likes of Laura Mvula, because he was full of confidence as he energetically bounced around the Rock City. If Ady continues to grow in confidence like this then he is undoubtedly one of Nottingham’s most exciting prospects.
15:30-16:00: Georgie Rose How – Jongleurs
Alone, Georgie creates calm, just her and her trusty guitar that is picked to perfection. The addition of a violin, a drum, keyboard, bass and electric guitar sees Georgie reach the next rung of the ladder she is currently flying up.
Her jazz/country crossover is almost transatlantic in its tone, punctuated with her broad Mansfield twang. ‘Stranger’ soared with harmonic violin and a steady drum backing. Her set was strung together by a solo track, which silenced a busying comedy club.
Ending on the first song she ever wrote, ‘King of Me’, Georgie and co. showed why they are on the rise; the violin and guitar work was stunning, and the track brought to an end what was one of her biggest, and best sets to date.
15:30-16:00: I am Lono – Stealth Live Room
Nottingham band I Am Lono take their name from a scene in Hunter S. Thompson’s 1980 novel The Curse of Lono in which Thompson maniacally celebrates clubbing to death a fish while boating in Hawaii. The connection between this literary reference and the band’s music isn’t an obvious one, but they do create an impressively ‘large’ sound, considering the duo primarily makes use of just a bass guitar, synthesizer and drum machine.
The tracks build from skeletal sketches to grand epics as Matt Cooper (vocals, synths) layers up Dave Startin’s (bass, guitars) quirky hooks with thick electronic coatings. Debut single ‘Leland’ is the catchiest moment of the set. Startin’s bass groove brings to mind Hercules & Love Affair’s 2008 hit ‘Blind’, while Cooper’s warbling vocal hints at Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round’ (‘Leland, I want your love’).
I Am Lono’s music is every bit as dark and brooding as the mid-afternoon environs of the Stealth Live Room, but the moments of colour that shine through point towards a love of both the abstract and the direct.
16:30-17:00: Ruen Brothers – Jongleurs
With a late afternoon slot, the young brothers took to the Jongleurs stage, with a vast amount of confidence and style. The band have recently had their track ‘Walk Like A Man’ given the accolade of Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record in the World, something they were rather excited/proud to tell the crowd. Highlights for me had to be ‘Cry Wolf’ and ‘Hold Me Tight’ that both, although start slow, have an incredible build up that was swallowed whole by the crowd. However, the peak of the set came from the final track, ‘Aces’, a song that has an infectious riff and powerful chorus.
The band left the stage with turtlenecks a significantly darker shade of grey and they gave it their all, and with a packed out Jongleurs, it is safe to say that Ruen Brothers are going to have a big following soon. An Impact exclusive, as well, is that the pair will be doing a homecoming show around the 20th June, in Scunthorpe. Although the details are vague as of yet, from their set at Dot to Dot, I definitely won’t be missing it.
17:00-17:30: Swim Deep – Rock City Main Hall
Having seen the pop-art style cover for Swim Deep’s second single ‘Honey’, it was no surprise that the band entered the Rock City stage with a wave of colour; spotlights matching the rainbow-decorated guitar of lead singer Austin Williams. On their website, the Birmingham four-piece claim to “want to have a massive influence on pop music”. That seems rather ambitious; the more modest intention of “making you feel good” being more realistic.
Nonetheless, with sweet Keane-like revolving keyboard riffs and indie mops of hair – think The View – Swim Deep bring some light to a festival which has plenty on offer in terms of dark. The seat reaches a peak with penultimate track ‘She Changes the Weather’, as the song builds to an energetic finish. “The festival season has started” suggests Williams; certainly with their breezy indie pop, Swim Deep were able to bring some of the early-summer sunshine from outside and into the black-walled confines of Rock City’s Main Hall.
17:00-17:30: Ryan Thomas – Rescue Rooms Acoustic Rooms
Nowadays the amount of people who say they play Folk music is probably equal to the amount that said “I play synth” in the 1980s. So it’s nice to hear an acoustic artist like Ryan Thomas playing the Blues instead; we’re in a recession right? He spent most of the show stumbling between the contrasting personas of speaking like an awkward British young man (“Really sorry, my guitar lead fell out”) and singing like a miserable, grizzly Blues artist.
Ryan offered a brilliant cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’; enhancing the Blues aspects of the song so much that when he sang “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”, most of the audience probably believed him. His music mellowed out as the set went on, and songs with soft lyrics such as “I ain’t gonna cry ’cause there ain’t no use” seemed to provoke sympathy in the audience, generating loud applause. Thomas finished on ‘Walking Blues’, one of his most archetypal, Robert Johnson style, Blues songs – as if to underline what he was about. This defining finish proved effective and Ryan got a great send off from the crowd.
17:00-19:00: Don Letts – Rescue Rooms Patio
The DJ sessions in the patio of Rescue Rooms worked quite well in bridging the time between acts on Talbot Street. Spanning the genres of rock and roll, mod, post-punk, indie and electro, the plethora of DJs did imbue the afternoon and early evening with a calming and estivalian atmosphere.
By far the biggest and mildly arbitrary name to be DJing was Don Letts, figurehead of the late-1970s and early-1980s London music scene and present DJ on 6 Music. With a biography that reads like a detailed history of punk, post-punk and a little bit of reggae, Letts’ set on the patio was punctuated by an esoteric selection of punk and reggae. The set felt very much like that created by a music veteran of the legendary status of Letts.
Letts’ set was a bizarre mid-point between performance and DJ set, the only comparison I can think to make is to when Zane Lowe decides to inflict his horrendous taste in a live setting. Lowe could learn a few things from Letts, such as the benefits of the audience’s appreciation, musical identity and appropriate headwear (Rastacaps beat Snapbacks) all of which were in abundant supply at Letts’ patio DJ set.
17:30-18:00: Kagoule – Rescue Rooms (Subculture Stage)
Nottingham’s very own post-punk / grunge band, Kagoule, played the first of two sets during the early evening at Rescue Rooms’ Subculture Stage. And what a set it was. This trio, two lads and one lass, just get better every time they play. You have to see them now, while they’re still playing reasonably small venues, before they explode and become talked about in the same manner as likely influences and heroes: Pixies or Sonic Youth.
With exceptional sound quality, Kagoule absolutely tore Rescue Rooms apart. Recent A-side, ‘Monarchy’, was an obvious highlight, as were ‘Mudhole’ and ‘Made Of Concrete’, the only other two songs that the band have released. However, it appears that Kagoule have an endless stream of hits under their belt, with not a single set filler.
Sadly, the crowd was nowhere near as large as they deserve. However, those that had made the very wise decision to be there were treated to one of the finest performances of the day. Kagoule are the perfect band for both energetic headbanging and gentle shoulder bouncing. See them now.
18:00-18:30: The Bots – Rescue Rooms (Red Rooms)
The biggest talking point concerning The Bots is their age, which is understandable considering the two brothers are only 32 years old between them. Much like The Strypes, they are being applauded for possessing such a formidable talent at such a young age, it was considerably impressive to see how they played together like hardened musicians in spite of their age. Their songwriting possessed a raw quality that sounded like untamed youth and references a strong blues influence.
However, as impressive as it is to see these two young boys performing so professionally, when you consider the music from a wider point of view, musically The Bots are quite limited. Their music sounds like the music a band with the average of 16 would make; loud guitars, quick drums, shouting vocals. I get the impression the emotional weight of an act like Jeff Buckley or the musical ambition of Aphex Twin would be a little lost on these two. Not that music always has to be sophisticated, it’s just I fear for their future.
As thrilling as their show was I can’t really see their music progressing beyond its current state, which is pretty daunting when neither member is above the age of 20.
18:00-18:45: Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Rock City Main Hall
However, a packed out Rock City chatted excitedly while we eagerly anticipated the appearance of acoustic singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich. His performance certainly didn’t disappoint, and the crowd swayed and bobbed in unison to the melancholic notes of ‘More Than Letters’ and ‘See You Soon.’ His music is certainly very engaging, yet it was a shame that the vocals were slightly swamped by a venue that was too large for such a delicate sound and intricate guitar.
Despite the sad beauty that Leftwich’s tracks exude, as the performance progressed the soft, whispery voice accompanied by soft guitar became boringly repetitive. Songs began to merge together in one amalgamation of pretty acoustic sound, and each track faded into the next with little to distinguish them from one another.
Ending with ‘Atlas Hands’, Leftwich rallied his audience to a height of fevered adoration, and despite the ‘samey’ quality to his tracks, I left the venue with a contented smile slapped across my face.
18:30-19:00: Indiana – Rescue Rooms (Subculture Stage)
Unsurprisingly, the Nottingham crowd clamour to support their own and the Subculture Stage was rammed full, even though Don Letts was DJing at the same time just outside. This is representative of her rapid rise over the past year, from winning the Nusic competition despite never having played a live gig before, to being in talks with seven separate record labels.
As you’d expect, Indiana’s sound is very reminiscent of 1980s electronica, which is no bad thing at all. Her wispy vocals meanwhile, would not be out of place on the next xx album. She races through a half hour set, including the Sinead O’Connor-esque ‘Blind As I Am’ and the sweeping soundscapes of ‘Swim Good’.
Enjoyable, but not mindblowing.
Check out our coverage of the evening’s shows here.
Liam Coleman, Ben James, Adam Keyworth, Alex Neely, Dan Jones, Helena Murphy, Ian Fillingham, Fran Ozanne, Robert Smith & Jack Dixon.