First Review: Dot To Dot 2011, Bristol
Ben Rust indulges in the first leg of the tri-city festival
Ben Rust - 29 May 2011
As Bristol kicked back and enjoyed the weekend, every deck-shoed, waxed-jacketed Rah within a 50 mile radius came to town to get their Dot-to-Dot on. With a solidly forward thinking line up of new bands, and a bit of Radio One friendly pop to keep the hordes happy, Dot to Dot manages to be interesting, exciting and a little bit sanitised all at the same time. If you manage to tear yourself away from the O2 Academy, where unfortunately (or fortunately), the vast majority of the crowd congregate, you can see some amazing bands and explore Bristol’s coolest venues to your heart’s content.
Kicking things off early doors in The Thekla, Broken Arm Of Love play a grindingly heavy set for their 2pm stage time. Freely admitting their debt to Minor Threat, QOTSA and Jesus Lizard, the band play sludgy stoner metal to a sparse but loving crowd. The fact that ‘Big Jeff’, a Bristol institution, takes time out from bouncing at the front of the stage to ‘sing’ lead vocals (hectoring shouting in his case) just enamours them to the crowd even more.
By the time Aliie Moss’s 3pm set rolls around the sun is shining and VF has already spotted a troupe of fancy dressed hedonists rolling up to pick up their wristbands. The odd grouping of Bananaman, a chubby man in a blue babygro (with bottle), a female priest and a weird gypsy looking catwoman adds some colour to proceedings. Inside Allie Moss’s traditional folk is ill served by a talking crowd all more eager to grab their first pints of the day.
Moving uptown and hill to The Cooler, Count To Fire wear their plaid proudly and their country vibe indulgently while never becoming interesting. Born Blonde seem to take their post modern twist on nu-rave very seriously and are only worth seeing for the size of the bassists biceps.
Idles take things up a notch in the cavernous Anson Rooms with their glorious racket. The five dapper gentlemen, including a bow-tied lead singer who looks like a navvy given leave going to go to the ball. They play a great slap of heavy math rock. Set closer ‘Hurricane’ descends into cymbal slapping, guitar throwing joy.
An ever increasing crowd turns out for Radio One endorsed York folkie Benjamin Francis Leftwich. His delicate voice, with just his acoustic guitar for back up, leaves the crowd hushed and meditative. Dispatching single ‘Pictures’ early on Benjamin plays a confident set helped by the crowds’ positive reception.
The main buzz around the day was reserved for the mysterious Cults. Playing to a rammed Louisiana the couple of Brian Oblivion (guitar/vocals) and Madeline Follin (vocals), swelled to four members for live shows, played a beautiful set of retro inspired pop. The hype around Cults has been building for months, with numerous blogs proclaiming them the best thing since the last best thing. On this showing, even with minimal crowd interaction and sullen appearance, the blogs were right. Best known single ‘Go Outside’ is joyous with tinkering glockenspiel and vocals reminiscent of the best 60’s Doo Wop groups.
Dot to Dot Festival suffered from very sparse crowds compared to last year, but their policy of booking the best new bands does deserve a much wider audience. The whole event was well organised, friendly, and one can just hope it runs and runs without selling out to bump up ticket sales. Blame the football that was on, a lot of people seem to like that.