Review of Dot To Dot festival in Nottingham on 24th May 09.
This year Dot To Dot has gone back to basics. After last years bloated, and uniformly indentikit, line-up it has retreated to a one day bill and trimmed off much of the fat, pushing quality instead of quantity. Last years two main problems remain; local bands are still treated as an after-thought and many of the most hotly anticipated bands don't end up playing, but in regards to the latter at least they drop out before the festival commences, leaving people less miffed about the absence of White Lies, The Hold Steady and The Big Pink than they were about the no-show of Alphabeat and numerous others at last years event.
It is upto the local lads to kick things off. Human Hair deliver their usual high-octane assault roughly twelve hours too early whilst Mint Ive put in a strong performance at the Rescue Rooms, their set evolving from the Boxer Rebellion esque indie-pop of 'To No Avail' to the pulsing drums of the as yet untitled closer, a track that bears a closer resemblance to post-metal overloads ISIS (namingly the track 'Dulcinea') than the label of 'trainergaze' which is often half-humorously tagged onto the band.
At Trent University Chik Budo make like The Rumble Strips trying to be Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart just about carry the intimate appeal of their C86y pop into the vast expanse of the downstairs venue. They are helped out by an unusually (for Nottingham) active crowd who sing back every word and greet every song with a knowing cheer, despite the absence of several favourites (play 'Teenager In Love' next time please?)
At this point the overcrowding, which until now had nearly been a nuisance, becomes a major problem. Putting Maps on at the upstairs venue at Trent University, which has the smallest stage out of any venue used for the festival, was never a good idea and means a heavy percentage of the people wanting to see the electro-gazers miss out, including myself.
A quick respite is taken advantage of to catch the tail-end of the days footballing action before My Vitriol take to the stage. Any fears of this being a paycheck performance before the band retreat into the abyss again are blown away within one song; the band are as gloriously loud and energetic as ever, throwing out classics such as 'Losing Touch' with as much teeth-baring enthusiasm as they ever have before.
Elsewhere Patrick Wolf does just about enough to keep the main hall happy. He. is Contactmusic's only venture up to the largest venue used for the festival, and his occasional moments of brilliance are worth the trip. After this things begin to become a blur. The pairing of Girls and Crystal Stilts put put in solid performances at the Bodega Social, but the effects of heavy alcohol consumption and a heaving crowd mean their crunching guitars sound more like a death knell than an explosion of sound.
So a quick trip is made across the city centre to see Future Of The Left, as good a band as any to close a days worth of gigging. The rock city basement is the perfect environment for the dirty Welshmen, and their potent mix of huge punk-riffs and black-eyed humour has never sounded more vital, and that's including their previous incarnation.
This is the year that Dot To Dot truly made itself, the first year that it became more than just a 'festival for the city'. Let's hope the trend continues and the emphasis over quality over quantity is maintained.