As the summer months are upon us and festival season has begun in earnest, ticket holders for camping festivals like Reading or Leeds, all start following the weather forecasts with a little more frequency. Are they going to get fair skies to compliment the £200 worth of music they’ve shelled out for? Or should they prepare for a Bear Grylls survival weekend? Like with all things reliant on weather over the British summer, nothing is certain.
Maybe thats why day long urban festivals like Dot to Dot have become so popular? They offer a great lineup of venues and rising stars at a fraction of the cost, (a ticket for Dot to Dot was only £20) without the risk of a wash out. Indeed the overcast conditions in Manchester didn’t affect the enjoyment to be had over the 14 hours of exceptional music that Dot to Dot offered it’s attendees.
I started out my day in Sound Control’s, Live Lounge. Where indie-pop shoegazers, Being There, kicked off the festival in surprising style. Surprising because I always have fairly low expectations when it comes to opening acts and the Londoners exceeded them significantly. Sounding similar to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, the quartet hazed their way through their set with enough verve and skill to make me take a mental note to check our their Bandcamp page when I got home. An excellent start.
A change of scenery was on the cards, so I headed over to the Deaf Institute. Which has to be one of the most charismatic venues in the entire country. It would be easy for this article to gush about the venues qualities, but in all honesty it has a charm best experienced and not described. The reason for my migration was to catch Hyde & Beast, who I have only listened to in fleeting moments. The band are a side project of The Futureheads Dave Hyde, and sound nothing like jerky punk of his original band. Instead, they deliver a corn liquor fueled dose of rootsy, country dance that’s pumped along by Neil Bassett’s, Brian Blessed esq enthusiasm for drumming. His efforts are matched (in a much more understated way) by the rest of an equally talented ensemble cast, who wasted little time in winning over the audience. It’s a high quality set from a band deserving enough to make itself a name without having to ride on the coat tails of The Futureheads relative fame.
Shortly after I found myself in The Loft (back in Sound Control), to watch The XX endorsed 2:54. After hearing all the hype and the a few songs I had expected them to be some form of Warpaint clone. Something hipster pleasing, but lacking a character of their own. Boy was I wrong. Fronted by London sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow, 2:54 confounded my predictions by drenching Dry era PJ Harvey lyrics with choruses reminiscent of 90’s stalwarts Manson, in layers of reverb. My only criticism is that they need to mix the plodding beat of their music up a little, as it would add that little extra pep and vim to their sound. Regardless, they have true potential and were the most pleasant surprise of the day.
As I wanted to get a good spot for Cloud Nothings, I parked myself in The Loft for a little while longer. This was a terrible mistake. As next up was Frank Carters new band, Pure Love, who were easily the worst band of the day. You know that episode of South Park where the characters sniff their own farts due to their smugness? Well that’s the best comparison I can find for Pure Love’s set. Which dripped with the ex Gallows front mans overblown sense of self importance. He and his band were all show, (Carter jumped into the crowd one song and stayed there for the rest of the set) but ultimately impotent. As they delivered song after song of the sort of generic bullshit rock that made me want to rip my own ears off. I’m not one for violence but the thought of emptying a full clip of a kalashnikov into every part of Carter’s face was the only thing that kept me from vomiting throughout the set.
Cloud Nothings showed Carter how it should be done. Blowing away the lingering smell of his bullshit in a fury of nihilistic rage and thunderous guitars. Sticking entirely to offerings from their latest album, Attack On Memory, the Ohio foursome delivered an incandescent set of lo-fi pop-punk thrills alongside glorious bouts of instrumental virtuosity. Including a 14 minute version of ‘Wasted Days’ that bewildered and beguiled the audience in equal measure. On stage, lead singer Dylan Baldi is an intriguing duality. Growling out songs whilst hiding within the confines of his hoodie, projecting an air of ‘I don’t give a fuck what you think.’ It’s an engaging mix, that expertly puts over the mood of the new record and helped make Cloud Nothings the stand out performance of the day.
Afterwards I rushed downstairs to catch the enigmatic, Willis Earl Beal. I needn’t have bothered, as by the time he aloofly took to the stage in his now famous ‘Nobody’ T-shirt he was over half an hour late and I was royally pissed off. However from the moment he sang his first note, all was forgiven. This man quite simply is Isaac Hayes reborn. His incredible vocals have a power and tonal quality that allows him to deliver songs like ‘Take Me Away’ with a right hook of emotion that will knock you on your ass. Due to his delay I could only stay for a handful of songs, but he strikes me as an artist still working out what he wants to say. Full of raw ideas, but lacking in a focused statement which would ultimately give his songs the same heft as his voice.
As I walked in to watch Pulled Apart By Horses, I was greeted by screams of “When I was kid I was a dick, but nothing changes” which as opening lines go, is a belter. The lyric is taken from ‘Wolf Hand,’ a stand out track from their new album, Tough Love. Which has gathered enough attention from BBC Radio One to help propel the band to a new level of popularity. Thankfully for longstanding fans, the attention hasn’t gone to their heads. As tonights show is full of the mixture of testicle expanding metal and mischievous humour which made Transgressive sign them in the first place. Across their hour long set, tonights crowd are whipped into a fist pumping frenzy by new mosh-along tracks like ‘VENOM’ and ‘Epic Myth,’ before being treated to vocal cord destroying favourite ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat.’ In between, lead singer Tom Hudson’s confesses that he’s “gone from being hungover to drunk in the space of an hour,” that the band spent last night the back of their van in a shirtless haze of bromance and then bullies bassist Robert Lee into the admission that he “shat himself last night.” So much for what happens on tour stay’s on tour eh? They follow this up with ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive.’ Turning Sound Control’s Loft into their very own house party. Orchestrating an impromptu dance off amongst the all too willing audience members who they now have eating out of their hands. It’s the sort of mindless fun that most modern bands have become too pretentious (or just too boring) to indulge in and a fitting end to an exciting day of music which rarely disappointed.