The annual Dot to Dot festival was a fantastic day giving the opportunity to explore a plethora of quirky venues in Nottingham which were showcasing a wealth of talent. Walking around the town centre on the bank holiday you could feel a buzz in the air, and with the European Archery championships staged in the old town square as well, the streets were saturated with people, many of whom were carrying parts of drum kits and lugging around an assortment of instruments.
Early in the day one could have been seen at Rough trade for their first act Jamie Moon, an acoustic folk artist accompanied by his band. They gathered a large crowd in the intimate space however the crowd were shy to move to the front and politely listened leaving an open semi-circle. The songs were fairly reflective but seemingly uplifting at the same time, coupled with delicate guitar arrangements and finger picking. It was very easy listening and could be closely compared to Ben Howard’s most recent album “I Forget Where We Were”. They played the unexpectedly upbeat song “Cold Hands” towards the end of the set which changed the mood dramatically. This was a crowd favourite and got everyone bobbing along.
Babe Punch have been working hard to make a name for themselves, having slowly garnered attention and a slow but steady accumulation of Facebook followers. Those with no prior knowledge of the band may have been surprised to see a group almost entirely comprising females, a rare sight in rock, a shame as these girls are able to rock just as hard as their male counterparts, with a set including songs like Snake Tongue and Control.
By meandering through one of the many venues, one may have stumbled across Blaenavon, no strangers to Nottingham having played last year in support of previous D2D headliners Dry the River. Intertwining D2D with their own headline tour, the band have a very moody feel to their music, matched only by the sullen look on their faces as they perform. Smoothly switching between deep howls and a soaring falsetto, you can’t fault their ability as musicians, just a shame that the introverted performance makes the listener feel almost as if they are intruding on something quite personal.
Babe Heaven were playing the Rock City basement and offered a stunning performance in which the lead singer Nancy’s soulful voice was perfectly blended with ‘ethereal electronics, hazy guitars’ and the pang of a playful steel drum. The progressive synth and floating vocals in debut single “Heaven” made for a unique and memorable offering.
Bodega is arguably the venue which holds the most gigs in Nottingham on a day-to-day basis, hosting a couple hundred people comfortably. Into The Ark, a duo playing acoustic soul were playing the packed Bodega bar. Their voices blended wonderfully and it was a real feel good performance, with pain passion and groove in every song. Later on in the day Warhaus quickly filled the bar of Bodega with passers-by enticed by the sound. With big sounds assisted by an array of instruments including a trumpet, he managed to recreate in a live setting his sultry, film-noire inspired music. A solo project fronted by Maarten Devoldere of the Belgian band, Balthazar, showed how his years on the stage have served him well as he confidently took to the stage with just one supporting member. There is limited interaction with the crowd, possibly due to a language barrier, but either way Devoldere does a good job of not only attracting people but retaining them, staving off their curiosity for what lies in other venues, which can be a difficult feat at festivals like D2D when there are so many acts on at once.
Johnny Lloyd has gone solo since Tribes’ unexpected split in 2014 and has been busy touring with The Kooks and working on a new EP called ‘Dreamland’ produced by Hugo White from the Maccabees and Jamie T, which is set to be released later this month. It was amazing to see him again playing on the main stage with a fantastic band behind him (including former Tribes drummer Miguel), as a much more polished act than his previous solo performances. Playing his feel-good nostalgic music, listeners were given a privileged preview of the EP in his 45-minute set, which included some heavier songs with the full band. His voice cuts through you and songs such as ‘Pilgrims’ and ‘Happy Humans’ are filled with such raw passion and beautiful melodies that they sent chills down the spines of those in the room.
The headline slot at Rock City gave was occupied by the wonderful Mystery Jets, a 5 piece- guitar indie band and a surprising set list choice giving both a view to the past with tracks from early albums such as ‘Twenty one’ and ‘Serotonin’ as well as a few from the latest album ‘Curve Of The Earth’ released in January of this year.
Blaine opened with ‘Telomere’ from this album, which took major influences from Pink Floyd; it seemed a bit shaky at first but got progressively stronger and more powerful throughout the song. Feel good crowd favourite ‘Serotonin’ immediately captured the audience and had them stamping their feet and screaming back the lyrics. ‘Flash a hungry smile’ featured early in the set too and is a track not often played at live gigs, an excitable song you can whistle along to, with the witty line “Have you heard the birds and bees have all got STDs”! ‘Bombay Blue’ and and ‘Bubblegum’ steered the mood in a different direction, introspective and emotive with twangs of sadness after upbeat ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’, but this gave a good opportunity to sway and catch our breath. The Mystery Jets united the crowd in the second to last song, calling for entire crowd participation to sing out the chorus of ‘Two Doors Down’ It created a fantastic atmosphere, everyone belting out “I think I’m in Love with a girl who lives two doors down”. Some were therefore left feeling a little disappointed after this massive high by the choice of ‘Alice Springs’ as the show closer, a slow reflective song from the album Serotonin which isn’t as memorable compared to other favourites which were overlooked.
A brass band had struck up just outside Rock City, adorning lampshades as their choice of head wear; This was a totally unexpected and wonderful spectacle. They played covers of some classic funk and soul hits such as Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’. People were even crowd surfing in the street.
Over at Trent SU, the headline slot was occupied by none other than the fantastic Temper Trap. Known for their hit single ‘Sweet Disposition’, they have so much more under their belt and this has only been embellished by the release of their most recent album, Thick as Thieves, from which they performed new songs such as ‘Burn’ and ‘Fall Together’. Since forming in 2005 the band have gone from strength to strength, honing their music through years of touring; this was highlighted by a smashing performance of ‘Drumming Song’ which the packed room sung in almost perfect synchrony.
No inch of Nottingham was left unaffected by the dulcets of music coming from even the most unusual of venues, including a Bakery and a Christian café. The magic of D2D is the ability to stroll between venues and soak up some local talent, hence each branch of the festival has its own roster of city-specific bands which may not have otherwise received the attention. Many rumours were circulating as to who the much anticipated ‘secret headliner’ could be. It’s always been known to be a local band, and tonight this came in the form of Crosa Rosa, a stunning psychedelic rock band, who despite the late hour did a solid job of waking the crowd up through their high-energy performance which saw them crowd surfing and a fan scaling the speakers for the final number ‘Turn Me Around’. With grungy, distorted guitars and lead singer Joe’s coarse vocals, the band are certainly on to something and could very well go on to follow the same path of success as other D2D alumni.
Mt Wolf were a perfect way to wind down the night after seeing the various headliners. Playing Stealth, the venue most renowned for its intimate feel, this provided a good backdrop for the band who were showcasing their slimmer line-up as a trio following the loss of lead vocalist Kate Sproule last year. Despite the fewer members they still managed to fill the room with their brand of beautiful noise for which they are becoming well known. With soaring, Sigur Ros-esque vocals over the sounds of the guitar, songs like Anacrusis are stunning and have a Bon Iver feel to them. The band are a sound of summer, almost a shame that they played so late in the night as they provide the sort of music anyone would enjoy while sitting under the sun, though they will certainly have opportunities to do this when they tour the festival circuit, playing festivals including Secret Garden Party and Tramlines. A tremendous set from a really unique band whose music speaks for itself and is as such attracting fans in those who stumble across them.
Lastly Baba Naga played a late night set at 2:00am. This was a very unique act, hugely different from anything some may had seen that day. Lead guitarist Dan Booth describes their sound as a “strange psychotropic trip, a communion of continual frequency on a cosmic paradox, a sonic bombardment of the senses.” It was just that, with the unstructured performance causing you to lose yourself in the music. A great end to such an eclectic day.