Dot to Dot Festival: Manchester

Sixty years on the throne;  an impressive feat for ol’ Lizzy, and whilst half the nation is either glued to the television watching her stood on a boat, or dancing up and down a street waving a Union Jack, music lovers are gathered in the Manchester city centre for the final leg of the seventh Dot to Dot festival.  Spread over six stages, the festival is famed for showcasing not only some impressive headline acts, but plenty of smaller touring bands and local acts.

In Soundcontrol’s Loft, metallers Turbowolf fired up an early crowd with self-aware rock poses and crowd surfing amidst the epilepsy-inducing lights.  A furious cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love topped off the set before leaving the stage for the not-so-fierce 2.54; initially marred by sound problems, their slow-burning alt-rock felt uninspired, playing to an uninterested talkative crowd.  Later, the heavily anticipated Cloud Nothings ripped through a 100mph set with absolutely no let up.  Walls of feedback, absurdly complex drumming and singer Dylan Baldi screaming himself hoarse proved the key ingredients of a successful, though at times grating, set.  Co-headlining Dot to Dot were Leeds ’Pulled Apart by Horses; sonically similar to Cloud Nothings, but with more focus and intent.  Think Future of the Left but without the bitter disdain for other people.  A very sweaty Tom Hudson worked the crowd with ease; I punched a lion in the throat went down a treat with the capacity crowd.  He thanked us for not seeing The Drums, and closed the set with Den Horn, a concoction of perverse riffs and rapid drumming, before an organised ‘dance off’ brought things to a humorous climax.

Downstairs in Live Lounge, it was a much quieter affair; Wonder Villians were all smiles springing around stage with their brand of excessively twee pop, while Ryan Keen’s rhythmical guitar abilities were a twist on the tired traditional singer-songwriter, in front of an appreciative crowd.

Over at HMV Ritz, the Feist-like Songstress Lucy Rose was on the charm offensive; angelic vocally, with songs like the tempo-changing Lines bound to propel her into Laura Marling territory and fame, while Kyla la Grange and band brought note-perfect harmonies, and hints of The Levellers to the exquisite surroundings of the Deaf Institute.

A little out the way, but no less attended, Zoo played host to US trio Hooray for earth; a multidimensional Dinosaur Junior bringing glorious pop melodies awash with walls of sound, and to the delight of a lucky few, shared their rider of beer with the most alert in the crowd too.  Things quietened down significantly for the early evening draw of Willy Mason.  Playing acoustically with minimal accompaniment, Mason drifted between new material, which didn’t quite stand up to old favourites like Oxygen and Were the humans eat, but still brought the crowd out into full voice.

In the very depths of Soundcontrol laid the weird and wonderful Basement where the more leftfield acts seemed to be staged.  You would never have guessed that muscle-bound Willis Earl Beal had reached boot camp of X Factor, as he enthralled a bemused crowd; sometimes a bawling Tom Waits, sometimes a powerful Aretha Franklin (!), sometimes a soft and soulful Marvin Gaye, all the while projecting life’s pains with aplomb over a disorientating backing track played through a reel-to-reel tape; you really have to see and hear it to believe it.  Where Beal had intimated and had everyone on edge, Doldrums brought some light relief as his band played a sample-heavy sonically-enormous set to an enthusiastic dancing crowd; think electronica-era Animal Collective revitalising the Manchester baggy scene.  There was a real party atmosphere amongst the mammoth bass drops, jungle rhythms and effect-ridden vocals; the drummer appeared to be part monkey, swinging from girders and barriers around him, whilst band leader Airick Woodhead bounced around the stage in sheer ecstasy, like a kid who can’t sit still. In the end, the plug is pulled on their set but it seemed like they could have on forever.

For those with bags of energy, you could carry on enjoying Dot to Dot way past your bedtime as the sultry motown of OFWGKTA’s The Internet finished up at Joshua Brook, whilst those mad bastards Islet no doubt blew the roof off Soundcontrol’s Loft.  Alas, Dot to Dot continues to grow and proves its staying power as it runs into its seventh year and, quite like the Queen herself, is definitely showing no signs of disappearing any time soon.


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