Ah, Dot to Dot. If you’re an avid gig-goer like me in either Manchester, Bristol or Nottingham, there’s a ninety-nine percent chance you’ve either heard of the festival or been to it yourself. Still unfamiliar? Here’s a quick rundown; it’s a booze-fuelled crawl throughout the three cities to discover some of the freshest talent the music industry has to offer. Throw in the heatwave that never fails to appear this time of year, and you’ve got yourself one the best days out you’re ever gonna have in May.
Usually based in the heart of the Northern Quarter, 2017’s offering saw a slight Manchester map change. Gone was the Methodist Church as the home of wristband exchanges, replaced with the distant ex-Corrie hangout Old Granada Studios that sadly resulted in missed sets. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom; now in its twelfth year, Dot to Dot boasted some of the biggest indie stars of the early festival circuit lineups that we weren’t going to miss for the world.
The party kicks off mid-afternoon at Gullivers, where London quartet Sorry are the first to take to the stage. They’ve been steadily carving a name for themselves down south with their distorted sound and supporting the likes of Shame; catching them live for the first time, it’s not difficult to see why so much hype surrounds them. Frantic 90’s-influenced grunge riffs are a perfect backdrop for guitarists Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen to harmonize their deadpan vocals. Their onstage confidence screams ‘slacker cool’, with the whiny opening chords of ‘Wished’ being some of the best to be heard all night – but it’s ‘Drag King’ that’s the clear winner of the set, it’s erratic drums putting a heavier spin on a debut single that gives so much promise for a band still in their infancy.
“We love you!” screeches a fan to Cherry Glazerr’s frontwoman Clementine Creevy. She laughs, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. “There’s always one of those guys!” Highly energetic and chaotic, the Los Angeles quartet heap their setlist with garage anthems – an appropriate move when performing in Old Granada’s expansive warehouse. ‘Trick or Treat Dancefloor’ is a nice throwback to 2014’s Haxel Princess; ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’ goes down a storm with the crammed crowd, who saviour the moment to hear 2017’s Apocalipstick material live for the first time. Cherry Glazerr are more than self-assured, starting a booming “born in the USA!” chant – but what’s to be expected from a band that played SXSW after just a year’s worth of performances? “We’re stupid and ridiculous but we have fun” Creevy grins, explaining Sasami Ashworth’s unusual sci-fi sounding synth notes. Departing the stage, she has some final optimistic words – “continue being loud, because music is the most important thing in the world”. After the terror attacks that so deeply scarred the city, it’s a welcome little reminder.
A sweaty run back up to Soup Kitchen gets us there just in time to catch South-East London’s rising star Comso Pyke. To describe the venue as “heaving” would be an understatement. There’s deafening screams – the majority female – as Pyke walks on, his chilled demeanour meaning that he’s ridiculously humble and seemingly unaffected by the response. With the Just Cosmo EP blessing us with some of the smoothest reverb-drenched tunes around, it’s an honour to hear the likes of ‘Great Dane’ and ‘Chronic Sunshine’ in the flesh. You’d be mistaken in thinking that there are two guitarists onstage with such an intricate sound – but it’s just Pyke alone, his off-beat, Mac Demarco style riffs sublimely matching his nostalgic-laden voice. To sound better live than on recording is an enviable feat – but Cosmo Pyke has got it nailed down.
A day festival is never without its teething troubles – and unexpectedly, Dot to Dot was no different. London’s funk-fuelled Artificial Pleasure, hotly tipped by critics to be one 2017’s ‘next big things’, fill up The Castle in record time and leave no room for latecomers. What I heard through the toilet door sounded incredible – a mix between Talking Heads and early 80’s Bowie. Willie J Healy was sadly running late – and after ten minutes of waiting around at Aatma, I just couldn’t afford to fuck up my schedule any more. The Growlers had one of the most hyped sets of the night, and sounded great (albeit very The Strokes) for the first ten minutes- but I didn’t stick around, after frontman Brooks Nielsen disrespectfully opened the minute’s silence in commemoration of the Manchester terror attack victims with a mutter of “we’ve been told to do this”. So much for respect.
But to end the night on a high, it was back once again to Soup Kitchen to catch the dreamiest and best act of Dot to Dot 2017, Swimming Tapes. “We’re very proud to be here this week after what’s happened” smiles guitarist/vocalist Robbie Reid to a roar of cheers. “We love Manchester!” Channelling some serious Beach Boys style harmonies alongside guitar chords that scream Real Estate, it’s no surprise that there’s a queue forming to gain entry into the basement. The audience don’t want anything other than feel-good summer songs, and the London quintet are here to deliver – performing banger after banger with huge tunes such as ‘Cameos’, ‘Queen’s Parade’ and ‘Tides’. As Reid and co finally exit stage much to everyone’s dismay, Dot to Dot has once again proven, despite its minor flaws, that it’s the festival to discover your favourite band.