Review of Dot To Dot Festival held in Nottingham on June 3rd 2012

Arranging a festival on a bank holiday weekend is always tempting fate, and inevitably after a week of golden skies a near-continuous downpour greeted the Nottingham leg of Dot To Dot. With 75% of the festival (technically) held under one roof the problem is somewhat alleviated, but first impressions do count, and queuing on a closed road whilst still working down a Sunday dinner is by no means the perfect introduction to a full day and night of music. Neither for that matter are the drinks prices, with brandy and cokes (for example) over o1 more than the typical charge at the same venues. Fortunately with over 12 hours of entertainment there is plenty of opportunity for things to change for the better.

Dot To Dot

Something that was immediately apparent when perusing the line-up of Dot To Dot was an atypically large quota of local bands, and whether through necessity or benevolence a lot of focus was placed on the Nottingham scene, in both the day's schedule and the pairing with sister events such as a 'fringe' festival taking place throughout the city. Moreso than the yearly Oxjam festival held annually, it finally had the feel of a centre-point for various strands of the city's music scene, which can only be commended. Indeed two of the festival's early highlights are local acts; I Am Lono, who fuse the unhinged, prowling heart of Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster into slabs of dead-eyed electro-krautrock, and Kappa Gamma, who transpose the schematics of Mew into a west-coach beach landscape. Both sound surprisingly and consistently strong in the downstairs room of the Stealth venue, once home of the worst sound in the city and a death knell for bands heavy on effects and interweaving melodies, as does Kwes much latter with a set of restrained storytelling electronica which sits as comfortably next to The Antlers' recent Burst Apart as it does to the non-dubstep of his peers, if you can gaze past the pulsing percussion that obscures its' core.

Outside of Stealth, Clock Opera are a highlight. Hard to put down, they match the ambition of Wild Beasts but choose from a much wider palette, at time matching the chiming majesty of early Guillemots whilst at others showing a penchant for the scouse-pop of The Lotus Easters et al. The end result however isn't one of a band trying to confound or confuse; they channel everything into the type of soaring, if knowingly so, indie that has made Elbow a household name. Live they deliver the myriad highlights of their deb£t album 'Ways To Forget' flawlessly and inject a further sense of humour. Like fellow breakthrough act Django Django they have an intelligence that is unusual particularly for its appreciation of fun.

Later, and returning to the festival's home, Jake Bugg is given the main stage of Nottingham Rock City after a triumphant set from compatriot Petebox. In a short time he has gone from being an artist talked about with reverence in the city to becoming a genuine mainstream concern, however in doing so he has lost some of power. Presumably at the behest of his label he is now backed by a touring band and his meandering acoustics have been replaced for the most part by mid-tempo alt-country workouts such as new single 'Lightning Bolt'. It is a loss to hundreds but admittedly a gain to thousands. Fortunately in a noisy bar Gallery 47 quietly takes his place, offering a hushed but affecting set that suggests a similar step into the spotlight.

Due to the weather fewer steps outside the main hub of the festival are made than perhaps should have been, but Wavves are well worth getting wet for, and their set at Jongleurs is the most energetic of the day. The San Diego surf-punk quartet are always a treat, and they stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the days proceedings in the best possible way, and whip up a storm with blasts of angular singalong powerchord noise-pop such as 'King Of The Beach'.

All of which, despite being a slight false economy due to the price of a shot and mixer, is somewhat of a bargain for the princely sum of £20, especially when coupled with headline sets from acts such as The Drums, Pulled Apart By Horses and The Internet that Contactmusic just couldn't be bothered to see. Not many festivals in the United Kingdom can truly be called value for money when you consider what percentage of a line-up it is physically possible to see, but Dot-To-Dot is certainly that, come rain or shine.

Jordan Dowling

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