It was a bank holiday Sunday. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. Obviously, there was no better way for the Impact Music team to spend the day than exploring 2016’s Dot to Dot Festival. Established in Nottingham in 2005, D2D has since spread to both Bristol and Manchester. Each year the festival boasts an impressive mix of some of the best live artists of the moment. 2016 was certainly no exception. After a jam-packed day of ‘Dotting the Dots’ between some of Nottingham’s most beloved venues, Impact has rounded up a few of this year’s most memorable acts.
Local three-piece psych-grunge outfit Crosa Rosa put in not one, but two impressive sets at this year’s D2D festival. Opening up the day at Rescue Rooms, Crosa Rosa energised the crowd for the many sets to come; the blistering pace of each track, the pounding drum fills, the sneering bass tone and the snarling, distorted guitar riffs set the pace for a busy day of live music.
Featuring several tracks from 2015’s Pantophobia as well as some new material, the standout track was this year’s single ‘Simper Smiler’. After its ominous introduction, the trippy, effect-laden guitar part crashes over a drum fill and signals the rhythmic, stop-start drive of the verse, leading into the satisfying, rushing impulse of the chorus lines. With the crowd hungry for more, their bassist, Joe, inadvertently hinted that there would be a further performance that day; suddenly, it was clear which artist was to be the evening’s “secret” headliner at The Bodega.
With high spirits, the D2D revellers who had made it to the early hours – despite a few technical hitches – were not deterred in their crowd-surfing and headbanging. Both sets were imposing overall, and will surely have bolstered their self-assurance and attracted some new followers, all in time for their return to Rescue Rooms in November for a headline set.
After an impressive turnout for the opening set of the day at Rescue Rooms, the crowd quickly dissipated. This led to fears that the Californian Indie Punks would be missing as much of an audience as they do vowels. These fears were quashed towards the end of the break between bands, and the band were helped by a crowd growing due to the gap in sets next door in Rock City.
The quartet walked out to a crowd of casual music fans, many of whom evidently weren’t aware of the band previously. It didn’t take long for the band to win them over. After the first song, frontman Cole Becker explained “Now’s the time to forget about work, forget about school, forget about every other band that you’re going to see today, you’re about to get lost in SWMRS”. This introduction aptly characterised the set. Blasting through 30 minutes of Indie Rock as a fantastically tight unit the band stood out from many others during the day.
The only downside of the performance was the mixing which left backing vocalist (and, very occasionally, lead vocalist) Max Becker almost silent whenever he was the only singer. A highlight of the set was ‘Figuring It Out’, with an anthemic chorus that would have felt comfortably at home in a stadium, but also fit nicely ringing throughout a dark Rescue Rooms at 2pm.
This time last year, Reading indie-rock outfit Sundara Karma were virtually unknown. Since then, they’ve managed to garner a young, adoring group of fans – many of whom gathered at Rock City last weekend, to press themselves against the barriers of the main stage. Confident and conversational under the gaze of their devoted admirers, Sundara Karma reveled in their newfound popularity.
Eccentric front-man Oscar Lulu strutted towards the enraptured audience, playfully leaning forward to serenade members of the crowd. The band clearly felt at home in Rock City and it isn’t difficult to imagine Sundara Karma’s music appealing to even larger venues. Their intense, uplifting choruses filled the room with an electric energy, which was bolstered further by the crowd.
Anyone that knew the words would eagerly join in. 2015’s captivating single ‘Flame’ was definitely the highlight of the set: the opening riff was met with frantic squeals as die-hard fans launched into a group sing-along. Obviously, Sundara Karma have been quick to master the art of audience appeal. If their D2D set is anything to go by, it won’t be long until they’re ready to play to stadiums and arenas.
The Mariachi Band
This one was a little out of the left field. Reviewing the set times on the morning of the festival, what began as a joking remark, would soon lead to the Impact team to be stood at the Casa de la Musica (FUN FACT: that means House of Music!) upstairs in Revolución de Cuba (FUN FACT: that means… okay you get the point) surrounded by Sombreros and drunk strangers shaking Maracas. This set didn’t seem to be exclusive to the festival, but was included in the festival package. The band themselves were actually fantastic, an impeccable group that had complete control over a very busy room.
Their infrequent breaks were filled with the sounds of Shakira and Justin Bieber which kept the house dancing. The atmosphere was incomparable, feeling somewhat like Crisis would if it was set in Mexico and, you know, was actually good. This was a refreshing change of pace, after more than nine hours of some of the best indie music in the world, it was nice to take a break and experience something that was stylistically the polar opposite to the rest of the festival. This hidden gem really added to the festival and it was a nice touch of the organisers to incorporate something so different.
As Dot to Dot approached its tenth hour, the risk of audience fatigue was growing by the minute. However, any threat of tiredness instantly vanished when Diet Cig burst onto the Rescue Rooms stage. The New York City duo’s sugary brand of pop-punk soon animated the flagging crowd. Sprightly singer/guitarist Alex Luciano was built to be a performer. She was nothing short of an acrobat with an electric guitar.
During a rendition of ‘Scene Sick’, from last year’s EP, Over Easy, Luciano yelled: “Fuck all your romance, I just wanna dance”. And so she did. Propelled by the rapid rhythms of drummer Noah Bowman, Luciano would excitedly leap and kick around the stage, hammering at strings or cheerfully calling out to the crowd.
Her charming lyrics about the preoccupations of youth were interspersed with jokes and off-beat chit chat. By the end of the short set, Diet Cig had captivated the room. The Dot to Dot audience had worked themselves into a spirited frenzy that would be sure to buoy them on into the small hours of the night.
Delivering what was easily one of the most affecting performances of the day, the three-piece psychedelic Baba Naga arrived on stage at The Bodega at around one in the morning. Performing so late, their vast, pulsing soundscape was entrancing, adding to an atmosphere of intoxication.
Hailing from Sheffield, the band describe themselves as “psychedelic shamen”, producing music that is “a peregrination from desperation to despair, channeled into euphoric, psychedelic, pagan gloom.” Each track has a cavernous, enveloping quality in the live arena; one song seems to meld seamlessly with another, with haunting, echoing vocals that stretch across each track’s movements and texture.
Given the theatrics, their latest release, a double A side with ‘Somos Lobos’ and ‘Odmie?ce’, demonstrates that quality music underscores this project. ‘Somos Lobos’ opened the set, with a huge, building introduction that was eventually punctured with crashing drums and soaring, warped guitar parts, all the while accentuated with those resonating vocals. Taking on a slightly different approach, the riff-led ‘Odmie?ce’ featured a spiralling guitar solo that, impressively, avoided cliché and wrapped off the vibrant, rhythmic body of the track.
Whilst the band are yet to release an LP, more performances like the one delivered at D2D will surely provoke further interest in this group.
Early bird tickets for D2D 2017 are available here.
Liam Fleming, James Noble and Maddy Hay
Images courtesy of Dot to Dot Festival and Liam Fleming