United Kingdom | 26 May 2009
Dot To Dot has duly become an event that any self-respecting Nottingham music fan can't afford to miss says Francis Whittaker
The premise of the East Midlands favourite all-dayer is a simple one, one wristband lets you spend a hard-earned Bank Holiday Sunday darting between five venues, taking in a reliably strong sixteen hour bill of the best up-and-coming bands and DJ’s the world has to offer.
For a festival with a fantastic basic concept, Dot to Dot has had something of an identity crisis in recent years, and has undergone a never-ending series of transformations in its short life. Starting off as a Nottingham-only one day festival, it’s since been a two-city one-dayer, a three city two-dayer, before reverting back to once again to being a two-city one-dayer. Phew.
Despite these changes, the festival has a reputation as a launching pad for acts just about to skyrocket in popularity: Klaxons, Kate Nash and Laura Marling have all been tucked away in the lower reaches of the bill in recent years. With much-hyped folksters Mumford and Sons and it-girl-du-jour Little Boots taking to the stage this time around, that trend shows no sign of stopping.
As a result it has duly become an event that any self-respecting Nottingham music fan can’t afford to miss, and the city’s streets have become bustling with skinny-jean clad hoards out to catch a glimpse of their new musical heroes.
Crowd numbers do seem to be down on previous years, which could be due to the economic slump. However, this means that despite having a number of big acts on display there are never any queues or overcrowding: a problem which had been a serious blight on the festival previously.
It may be helped by the good weather, but 2009’s installment of Dot to Dot turns out to be one of the best yet. The line-up is diverse and exciting, the aforementioned overcrowding seems to have vanished and punters are in high spirits throughout. Despite the addition of the Bristol leg three years ago, the festival is very much Nottingham’s baby, and as a result has deservedly become close to the hearts of the city’s music lovers.
After a few reinventions, the Nottingham Dot to Dot Festival has found its feet, and can mount a strong case for being the best indoor festival in the country.
Getting there and back: 7/10
Being slap bang in the middle of the UK, Nottingham isn’t too difficult to get to. However, as avid festival-goers will know, Bank Holiday trains can be hellish and this year there are no direct services to London all weekend. Nonetheless, the change at Grantham is painless and wouldn’t add too much time to any discerning Dot-to-Dotters journey.
The site: 8/10
Nottingham isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing city, but barring the Bodega the venues are all clustered around the same, largely traffic-free area, meaning flitting between stages is painless. It’s almost as if the city was designed for this sort of thing.
Unseasonably warm weather is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face, and the sunshine seems to have done wonders for the atmosphere at Dot to Dot. The ease of getting in and out of venues seems to leave everyone in a good mood and, as the bill caters for those with a genuine interest in uncovering new music, lager-louts using the day as a piss-up are thankfully absent.
Last year’s expansion to a full weekender meant organisers were left barrel-scraping to fill slots opened up by the extra day. This year however, there’s much less proverbial chaff to sift through to get to some genuinely delicious musical wheat, with the 2009 bill offering a relentlessly good list of bands that are well worth getting excited about.
Aside from the likes of headliners Friendly Fires and Ladyhawke, the onus this year is on big, loud bands, making an almighty noise and doing it almightily well. Of these bands, there’s a strong US presence, with the likes of Titus Andronicus, Vivian Girls and Abe Vigoda apparently falling into organiser Ricky Haley’s good books this year.
There are prime slots for Welsh indie supergroup Future Of The Left and Sheffield post-rockers 65daysofstatic, representing the high-decibel contingent from this side of the pond.
Crystal Stilts 8/10
These New Yorkers offer a woozily brilliant celebration of all things gloomy and go down a storm in the Bodega. Imagine a slacker Interpol playing off-kilter surf rock through the world’s spookiest echo chamber. Marvellous stuff.
Patrick Wolf 9/10
If there’s one thing that can be relied on, it’s that Patrick Wolf will put on a good show. Starting off in a suitably dot-covered shirt, Wolf strips down to a vest/lederhosen combo as he powers flamboyantly through tracks from his new album and the best of his back catalogue. His recent purchase of a Flying-V guitar gives tracks like ‘Accident And Emergency’ an unprecedented rocky edge.
AC Newman 6/10
A solid solo set from The New Pornographers main man who looks bizarrely like Adrian Chiles when you squint.
Mumford and Sons 8/10
Heavily-hyped, banjo-led anthemics from mainstays of London’s burgeoning acoustic scene. Hidden behind their folksy exterior lies an arsenal of big songs that are just made for mass sing-a-longs at summer festivals. A call and response chant of ‘When I say ‘Hoe’ you say ‘Down’’ only makes their set more enjoyable.
Abe Vigoda 8/10
As brilliant as the band are, it’s the carnage in the crowd which makes the set by these Californian art-rockers so memorable. ‘No Crowd-surfing’ signs are torn down as mob rule descends on a curiously security-free Bodega. The band, half the audience and various members of Crystal Stilts are held aloft despite the venue being far too small for such blazingly intense crowd-surfing Thankfully, no spines are broken and everyone enjoys this awe-aspiring festival highlight unscathed.
How’d you like them Apples?
There’s a genius Israeli funk band called The Apples who have a big cult following in Nottingham after playing a number of stormingly good gigs in the city.
‘Apples’ are scheduled to take to the stage in Rescue Rooms at the oddly early time of 3pm and a handful of devotees to Tel Aviv turntablism await with baited breath to be greeted by….. an unknown twee-pop band from Hereford with weird regional accents that happen to share the same name. Without the ‘The’. Rubbish.
Funk fans were left crying tears saltier than the Dead Sea.
Future Of The Left’s Kelson Mathias crowning a raucous set by mounting the bar, putting his mouth beneath a beer tap, then spraying a mixture of Carlsberg and his own spittle out of his sweaty gob into the faces of the audience. Very rock ‘n’ roll. Very questionable hygiene.
By Francis Whittaker.