With a line-up as inconsistent as the days weather it was hard to know what to expect from the 2011 edition of Dot-To-Dot. Pre-festival chat suggested attendance would be severely down on previous years, with a selection of bands that ensured there would be something for everyone but left the days events without any sense of identity.
Fortunately, the structure of the days events was nigh-on impeccable and the closure of Talbot St for the use of wristband collection and merchandise sales led to a reduction of build-ups in typically busier areas, and whilst the attendance for some of the sets at the beginning of the events proceedings were disappointingly low, and those at the close were at times dangerously high, for the most part the audiences were attentive and well-stocked thanks to a timetable that allowed for a refreshing lack of clashes.
The monopoly and centralisation of Nottingham's music scene also helps, with six of the venues being used for the festival situated within a three minute walk of each other and the final one, The Bodega Social Club, only a further five minutes out of the way. Many of the days best sets were to be found in the two stages of Nottingham Trent University's Student Union, situated in the confines of a disused sports hall and student bar.
Spotlight Kid open up the larger stage with an expansive dream-pop sound that manages to transcend the half-full venue. With each song and performance the band seem to be slowly shedding their traditional shoegaze roots and moving into something far more dynamic and interesting, at times sounding like Mew and at others Blonde Redhead.
Later on Braids compose a similar web of intertwining guitars and siren-like female vocals, but in a
way more befitting Animal Collective circa 'Feels' or Volcano!, with each track bubbling and blending into the next. At times their free flowing, semi-improvised sound loses focus but for the most part it
is spell-binding and delivered with true conviction, particularly on 'Lemonade', opener and highlight of their recent debot full-length 'Native Speaker'.
In the upstairs venue Colourmusic and local lads Koguzuma offer something a bit more weighty, with the formers' wild heavy-rock bringing to mind Winnebago Deal or Constellation Records' under-rated riff monsters Lullabye Arkestra in the live environment despite being slightly unremarkable and weak on record, and the latter, barely hindered by a last minute change of venue and set time, distilling the spirit of Black Sabbath in the approach of Can.
A perfect appetiser for ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, whose sonic maelstroms whip up the main hall of into a sizeable mosh-pit. Their set is a perfect selection from their seven full-length releases, with the explosive desert-punk of 'Caterwaul' and 'Another Morning Stoner' sounding much more vital with the band stripped down to a four-piece. They may spend less time dismantling their equipment than they used to but they are all the better for it, and offer a set delivered with as much passion in their sixteenth year as a band as most do in their first.
Problems with over-crowding begin to rear their head more often after ...Trail Of Dead lay waste to Trent Uni, with Guillemots' show at The Rescue Rooms proving impossible to get into without prior planning, and Cults garnering similar interest at the tiny Bodega Social Club. Before them, Lanterns On The Lake provide a welcome early evening respite with a hazy orchestral Alt-Country vibe that appears to fans of Mazzy Star and Camera Obscura alike, but is unfortunately hindered by a particularly loud level of crowd 'banter'.
Later on, Oxford's Fixers provide an intriguing summer-friendly mix of surf-rock, electronica and Americana that for all its nods to several hype bands of several years ago, Animal Collective, Yeasayer, MGMT and Fleet Foxes alike, is extremely difficult to pin down, and presented with such wide-eyed enthusiasm that renders criticisms of repetition redundant.
Their set, along with those of Swimming, Frontiers and Stagecoach, are prime examples of the festivals knack for presenting a wealth of bands who, independent of genre, are at the cusp of achieving something special. It certainly makes up for the dull, uninspired performance of festival headliners Hurts, whose knowingly 'epic' 80s-derivative pop reaches the point of parody with a po-faced cover of Kylie Minouge's 'Confide In Me'.
What was touted as many as being the worst Dot-To-Dot line-up in the festivals existence ended up offering plenty of life and promise throughout the days events, and cemented its reputation as a great place to witness some of the most exciting live new acts, even if they remain under the umbrella of a very uninspiring choice of headliners.