Manchester Dot to Dot Festival – live review

Manchester Dot To Dot Festival 24 May 13
Words By Liam Core & Alex Staszko
Pictures By Alex Staszko

Before I get into this review, I’d like to publicly thank Alex Staszko for stepping in past the last minute and reviewing the first half of the festival for me. I spent most of the afternoon sat in the Sea Terminal in Douglas waiting for a perpetually late boat. Seriously, if anyone ever thinks about going to the Isle of Man. Just get a plane and DO NOT USE THE STEAM PACKET UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Rant over.

Alex’s Bit

Dot To Dot is another urban festival, but with today being a Friday instead of its usual Monday, its sadly under attended at most of the venues.

Gorilla is one of them at 4pm as the excellent From The Kites Of San Quentin put in a sterling performance of laid back electronica, with wonderful soaring female vocals more suited to 130am in a smoky jazz club.

A few steps round the corner and up a ludicrous spiral staircase, The Attic is already running late and its only 4.45… Next up is Sons And Lovers, who eventually come on after struggling with DI boxes (some wag shouts out ‘house’, as the soundman shouts out the channel numbers). They’re worth the wait; their soaring guitar anthems wow me from the start. Think a poppy Cure crossed with a little Editors.

I only catch Emma Hallows last two songs in The Thirsty Scholar, the first of which reminded me of a nice Lilly Allen pop song, while the latter was a slow ballad that unfortunately I could hardly hear over the chatty audience.

Upstairs in Sound Control The Ruen Brothers sound like 70s power pop to me, and like something from the graduate to my pal Mandy! They’re not to either of our tastes, so we hip downstairs where Joel Baker is soundchecking his bluesy songs, he’s got a good voice when he starts his set, but when he covers Kanye West it’s time to go.

The Ritz is busy for a 6:15 set from local boys The 1975. They’re not exactly to my taste, but I last the whole set to see what all the fuss is about. They look more like they’re from 1985, what with their Hacienda haircuts, and they sound like INXS, but, but fortunately a little better. they do however make the most inane comment of the day “This Is a song about girls. . .its called girls!”

A solo Sam Bradley in Sound Control is much more to my taste and does a great take on punk rock folk songs, unfortunately I only caught 15 minutes, definitely one to catch again

Up in The Attic, the punk rock chainsaw guitar of Rivals wows a small but appreciative audience, another to catch again, later on I’m told its one of The Futureheads moonlighting. Straight after I nip over to Sound Control where Saint Raymond draws a good crowd with his haunting voice.

Much much later on in Gorilla Manchester’s own Chapel Club showcase their new sound, they’ve gone all electro and It’s great! Their first song is amazing and reminds me of The Teardrop Explodes. Their singers In ear monitors are thrown away quickly during the first song as he struggles to hear himself, it doesn’t seem to detract from the performance as by 1:40 all the audience are all dancing along.

Back to Liam-

After finally arriving in Manchester at about 2000, I was finally ready to see some bands. However, I would like to highlight the helpfulness and efficiency of people on wristband exchange at the Ritz. Sat in the Port in Douglas waiting for a boat to depart, not knowing when or if I was actually going to arrive in Manchester, these fine people were sympathetic to the situation and helpful. When I got there I was wristbanded up in a matter of seconds. Kudos, my friends.

First band on the list is the quite magnificent Hawk-Eyes in a busy not full Attic. Playing fast and loud through a seven song set, Hawk-Eyes are quite magnificent. Despite fighting technical gremlins whilst setting up (causing them to axe two songs from the set list) Hawk Eyes played through their set eliciting a positive reaction from the crowd which had made it’s way up the long, twisting stairs up into the venue. It didn’t take long for the mic stand to make its way into the crowd either, with vocals being sung all round the venue. Double thumbs up for Hawk-Eyes for a cracking start to my festival.

After this, it was time to go downstairs in Sound Control for Indiana. I only attended this because Feathers had pulled out because of traffic (saw them in Nottingham though- outstanding). Indiana are a three piece electronic band with similarities to The XX but with more soulful vocals. They also have a band name which makes it nearly impossible to do any meaningful research on them. Whilst the sounds were pleasant enough, it would be hard stretched to describe this set in front of an empty venue as captivating. However, Indiana do a good job of having low-key electro songs which usually build up to epic conclusions with soaring vocals. Perhaps one to look for the future, in front of a larger and more receptive audience.

After this, it was off to Gorilla to watch Teleman. And boy was Gorilla empty. Whilst Pete and the Pirates were something of a name band, it was questionable booking at best to put a band who have just one single out in one of the largest venues of the festival. Regardless, the small crowd which had gathered were treated to a lovely little set from Teleman. Opening with Skeleton, and playing through a nine song set including recent single Cristina, and it’s quirky yet wonderful b-side In Your Fur, Teleman certainly succeeded in winning over the small yet appreciative.

After unfortunately stumbling into the Ritz to catch the end of Dry the River, and really wishing I hadn’t bothered. It was back up to the Attic to catch Wave Machines. It was now approaching midnight, and having been in work all day and having the horrendous travel experiences, tiredness was now kicking in. However, not that you would know it as the Attic is rammed for this set. Unfortunately, the technical gremlins which had plagued Hawk-Eyes earlier in the day continued to do their dirty work hours on. The crowd became somewhat unsettled as the set became more and more delayed. Coming onstage nearly 30 minutes late, Wave Machines more than stepped up to the plate and delivered a storming set which would not have gone amiss in a much larger venue. Those wise enough to hang around saw a brilliant set of electronic music. Highlights included a beautifully dark Counting Birds and a charmingly upbeat Ill Fit. Wave Machines really should be bigger than they actually are, but this year they certainly seem to be putting the miles in on the road, and hopefully this will be reflected in the success they undoubtedly deserve.

After escaping the heat of the Attic, it was back over to Sound Control for the rest of the evening, or morning as by this point it was way past midnight. Chloe Howl had managed to draw a respectable crowd for her poppy electronic sounds, which were not a million miles away from mid period New Order. Certainly danceable, she managed to elicit a good reaction, and left me personally feeling that I had caught her entire set.

Sound Control then emptied out as PINS prepared for their set. PINS really should have drawn a larger crowd. As one of the best bands in Manchester at the moment, and a storming support slot with British Sea Power just over a month previously, it was quite sad to see less than a hundred people in the venue, despite the late start. Those that were there though were again treated to a genuinely brilliant set from the Manchester four piece. As it seems most bands were doing this night, it was a nine song set made of material which I hope ends up on a soon to be released album. Vocalist and Guitarist Faith has a captivating stage presence which echoes Jenny Beth from Savages, although with somehow less seemingly evil intentions. Set highlights were a brilliantly passionate LUVU4LYF and followed up with a beautiful rendition of new single Stay True. I’ve seen PINS a number of times since I first saw them at Sounds from the Other City in 2012 and it has been an absolute privilege to watch them develop and mature as a band. A few years ago their look and sound would’ve guaranteed a certain level of success. Today, it’s probably somewhat different. By any rights, they should be massive, they certainly deserve to be.

Next up, Mount Fabric play for the “nocturnals” again in the Sound Control. If anyone is going to challenge PINS for the title of unofficial best band in Manchester, then Mount Fabric would be amongst the top contenders (Although to be fair, the local scene in Manchester is as good as it’s ever been as far as I’m concerned). Just a six song set for the small crowd gathered for this late night set. For a small set, plenty of new material was played, although the set highlight was closer Curves and Corners, a brilliant mix of pumping bass soaring guitars and impassioned vocals. Like PINS before them, Mount Fabric should be playing on much larger stages than the one’s they are doing. However, those of us in the know should consider ourselves lucky that we are fortunate enough to see them in such intimate venues.

Finally, at about 0240, it was over to the Attic to catch the second half of Best Friends in action. And in all credit to them, a good crowd assembled in the Attic to catch this late set, the final set of Dot to Dot. Best Friends uplifting pop punk/Evan Dando stylings went down very well the even worse nocturnals and they have a good section of the crowd dancing and bopping along. Set highlight is the absolutely fantastic Dude Love song. For a fan of Pro Wrestling in the 90’s the title alone gets full marks from me, but this brilliant slice of west coast American rock made the crowd forget they were in a small room underneath a train line in central Manchester and that they might as well be at a party in 1992 Seattle. Great stuff all around, although it’s a shame that the WWF commentary samples from the record didn’t make it over to the live performances. A lovely way to close the evening… or morning.

Dot to Dot Manchester is a good festival but one you can’t help think tries too much. It was sad to see lots of great bands playing in front of tiny audiences. A less is more approach is perhaps the way to go. Also, whilst the organisers and bookers did their best to stagger set times, there were lots and lots of clashes. Live at Leeds and Sounds from the Other City prove that the multi venue one day indoor festival can and does work- and Dot to Dot itself has proven this, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react next year. Although to be fair, the Ritz itself was rammed when I arrived for Tom Odell and remained busy, if not full for Dry the River.

It would also be nice for a great emphasis to be placed on local bands. It was sad to see PINS and Mount Fabric play ;ate night in front of small audiences, whilst the large venue i.e. the Ritz held a monopoly on ‘name’ artists. As far as I’m concerned, it made little sense to have the 1975 on early in the Ritz, and Dry the River on last when it seems obvious to put the 1975 on last in their hometown in the biggest venue, and used that to give some local bands exposure, whilst Dry the River would’ve most likely easily filled Gorilla or Sound Control.

Still a very enjoyable night out. No queues at venue and mostly well organised. The fact I was still able to see eight bands despite arrive so late is testament to this. I’ll be back next year, hopefully without the transport issues! Although less Mumford and Sons esque shite on the lineup pleaseLouder Than War


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esteemed collector of aural artifacts of Manchester musicians and barometer of musical greatness since ancient times...knows a man who knows Mark Smith


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