Dot to Dot Festival, Bristol, 28th May 2022 / Nottingham, 29th May 2022
While competing with the likes of Wide Awake and Bearded Theory this weekend, Dot to Dot proved itself worthy of both its status and name by creating a landscape of music over two cities in two days. Catching the event in Bristol on the 28th, I was treated with a great sweep of music, emblematic both of the talent of those involved in creating events like this, as well as of the bright world of local music. Throughout, band and audience joined, each enticed by other bands, hen nights, buskers and all the delights that the city had to offer on the sunniest day of the month.
The day started off at the lovely Louisiana’s bar with Hamburger. The Bristol locals have a musical collection which (personally) can only be described as having the energy of the ending of a coming of age teen film. Their performance, which enticingly involved three guitars with no bass (creating a lush style of light sadness), was backed by a wonderful collective atmosphere, with each member of the front of the band singing along. The lead singer, Fearghall, shines through with falsetto style ‘emo’ singing, fitting well within the upbeat tracks the band had to show. ‘Supersad’ was a key highlight, reflecting the band’s talents for emanating fun sounds between reflections of misery. With a scream from keyboardist Katie, the day was set with a fun energy.
Once their time came, it was a short walk to the Dockside for Sam Akpro. After seeing the band open for Connie Constance back in September, their style of melancholic rock found a whole new light, quite literally, within the summery setting given to them. Assuming their tracks would be misplaced out of the dark room I’d first caught them, the band instead caught me offguard, providing a new fun and joy alongside their atmospheric moods. Alongside the weaving personality of the titular singer, both guitarists on each side of Sam brought an integral aspect to the band: the lead guitarist with sparking blood, biting his guitar strings any chance he could, and the bassist with some beautifully clean riffs, keeping subdued but integral. If you’re into Krule-ish styles, or just good music, ‘Juno’ acts as a nice introduction into this world.
With a good 15 minute break we were given time to head into the Academy, where DAMEFRISØR kicked off with their stylish musings. The collective, made of 6, are perfectly able to craft a distinct level of mood, enveloping the audience in a pool of sound, sprinkled with techno fusions, like in the closer 2-HEH-V, beginning with a glitchy monologue alongside a beautifully simple arpeggio, before expanding into a blazing fury. It was a shame, given the time constraints, that they weren’t allowed to play for longer – a full Dame set would surely be special.
Clearly, whoever was working on the setlist was a mastermind, because this mood was regained almost immediately by the seminal Just Mustard. With their album Heart Under released just the day before, their style was ready to be injected into the academy. As they went on each track gained more traction, especially energised in Mirrors, which closed off the first half of their setlist, symbolised by the surprise reveal of a bow for one guitarist to make even more of a disturbingly long groan, a key staple of Heart Under. From both near and far, their signature sound was sure to find its way inside each audience member, with all its beautiful grime.
Next, it was a megawalk to The Fleece, to catch Coach Party. Arriving around 5 to 10 minutes before its start, it was a surprise to see the room already packed, brimming with fans. It wasn’t hard to see why: the Party themselves have an infectiously fun energy pervading through their songs. Even watching from a distance, their atmosphere carried through the crowd, elevating their bouncy rock thanks to both the audience and the band’s own energy – seen most effectively in the second scream of the day, from guitarist Steph Norris. Each track felt as vibrant from the next: even the more talkative, bleaker ‘Shit TV’ has ended up replaying most in my mind days after their set.
A well earned break accidentally led to a disastrous time mismanage, where in trying to find any way to choose between BG favourites Honeyglaze and techno-duo Jockstrap, time chose to take both away. To make this situation worse, a mishap at doors led to the departure of the camera into the cloakroom for (almost) the rest of the night. Tragedy seemed set. The dots of dot to dot were forming an outline of disaster.
So what better time for some nice indie-pop?
Make Friends were the next unplanned surprise of the night. After it taking us half the set to realise this wasn’t Gretel Hänlyn (which in hindsight should’ve been more obvious from the all-male band), we found the dig which allowed the grooves of the Bristol locals to set in. It was hard to find a more delightful sight, between their breezy tunes and the delighted dancing of some of the older fans. Placed elegantly before Cassia, the band’s atmosphere holds a similar summery quality, while keeping fresh with passionate lead singer and elegant percussion. With hits like ‘Hesitate’, the mistakes of the past were left behind, and our minds were set towards the future.
The future came immediately, with Cassia fronting just five minutes after in the room beside. Sitting down, it was a matter of spotting any member we could through the legs of audience members, as well as feeling the rhythms of the bass through seats. Even a false start couldn’t stop the atmosphere from feeling soft, comforting. If it wasn’t for the other bands that night, I could’ve happily slept to the dreaminess of their sound, exemplified by hits like ‘Drifting’. Sadly cut short, the atmosphere Cassia created couldn’t be left behind.
The summer sun transferred from sound to sight with a return to the dockside for Bleach Lab. In risk of running that sun metaphor too long, the Lab’s signature tranquility turned it purple, into a Violet Light of sorts. The quality of the band, especially in singer Jenna Kyle’s delivery, was truly put into its space here, with recent and (hopefully) soon to be released tracks making the most of the summer atmosphere.
Heading back to the Louisiana, it was a delight to chat briefly to George O’Hanlon, who had been a last minute replacement to the set. He gave some integral behind the scenes information, especially concerning a hot dog mixup with another George from festival mindblowers FEET. It was clear that Lime Garden was the place to be, and it only became more clear once their set began. In a full room, the quartet were electrifying, both in and between songs. Each track transformed on stage: ‘Marbles’ became even more funky that it already is, ‘Clockwork’ gained an extra groove – they even gave ‘Sick and Tired’ a new light once feeding me the actual lyrics, as opposed to the usual ramble I’d sing in the post-chorus. It’s hard not to see this as the highlight of the day – even with a 30 minute set, the band showed their place as a force of pure excitement, hopefully making their way up to the bigger stages soon enough.
As much as this praise could seem to dislodge headliners Squid from their place, the night couldn’t have wrapped up any other way. Now, with camera back in hand, the night was set to end in burning intensity. Intensity was certainly there. ‘Sludge’ kicked off the team’s repertoire, a track whose title speaks for itself, wading through stellar lines and bass riffs. Two (assumedly) new tracks set the tone for what the band sounded like to those who hadn’t heard them before – good noise, essentially.
Houseplants provided the second best joke of the night, with the song’s rise and fall of tempo acting like the friend who won’t stop starting the car as you put your hand on the door. The best, of course, had to go to the fan who decided to go shirtless-on-shoulders to ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ – the most subdued of the band’s setlist. Whoever he was, he brought the joy of the room together, and I can’t thank him enough for it. Singer/drummer Ollie Judge’s constant references to the Superbock logo were certaintly up there, too – I think at one point, the only word stated in a song interval was ‘Superbock’.
Waning between their rage and atmosphere (halved pretty perfectly in ‘Boy Racers’), the headliners allowed for breathing room between the high octane numbers of the night. The mosh was a place of both fuel and love – a delightful mix of characters to end a delightful day. Someone may even have been married within that night, according to the wedding dress caught on camera.
All in all, it should’ve been expected that those in Dot to Dot would deliver yet again, both in the artists actually performing to the audience and the audience itself. Each provided their own slice of the D2D pie: conversations with drunk guys who’d lost their mates; buskers providing backing for the walk to and from venues; the sun itself; all were in place to make it yet another day to remember, even if impossible to recall for some of the more excited members of the audience.
Words and photos by Jacob Rose
2nd June 2022