Monday, May 25, 2009

Dot to Dot Festival 2009 - Nottingham

The Dot to Dot Festival, for those who are not familiar with it, takes place over two days in May in two cities, Bristol and Nottingham.  I had the opportunity to attend the festival in Nottingham, which spread around fifty bands across five venues.  Fortunately all of them are close to the city centre however I saw only the minutest percentage of bands (only seven!, which is pretty pathetic really) and, of course, there being many frustrating clashes where I had to choose.  Still I was very pleased with who I did see, and I liked skipping between the venues (most of which I had not been to before) with the aid of a red wristband, none of the mud or trouble with rain like a proper outdoor festival.

The Pains of being pure at heart were LOUD and reminded me more than a little of My Bloody Valentine crossed with a Sherbet Dib Dab, although they didn't make my ears bleed (fortunately as it was still only 3.30pm).  Very cutesy, very fun but not too twee!

When Maps first emerged they (he) made music from the bedroom, woozy and unfathomable.  Now Maps are out of the bedroom and onto the dance floor!  Whilst new touches to old favourites like 'Back and Forth' refreshed their sound, the new ones (including 'Let go of the fear') were a bit formula electronic for my liking, having lost some of the idiosyncratic melodic touches of 2007's 'We can create.'  One which had the repeated refrain 'Love will come' was downright sinister.

I wondered into the Rock City's basement venue to watch Telegraphs who were a bit too US Rock copyists to hold my attention for very long.  In the main room I found Mumford and Sonfour young men sounding much older than their years with a succession of folk-y songs played on acoustic guitar, double bass, steel guitar / banjo and piano.  The singer looked a bit like a young Stephen Fry as the group next to me had the pleasure of pointing out.

There was more than a shiver of anticipation for the next act Patrick Wolf; I confess I knew very little about him but it was evident from the moment he stepped onto the stage in leather leatherhosen, knee high socks, and most of Barry M's makeup range exploded onto his face that this is someone who is DIFFERENT, maybe a bit STRANGE.  Well my measure-stick of 'different' is 'Sulk' by the Associates and the music did not even come close to the bizarreity and bravery of that album.

Much of it was quite conventional if I dare say it, the addition of a violin giving an eastern European flavour which perhaps makes it different to other bands around at the moment.  Who can say?  Never mind, it was entertaining enough and Patrick had a fine pair of lungs on him.

Ladyhawke lurked in the darkness and barely came out from under her fringe, but who could blame her when for the first ten minutes there were about eight photographers sticking their camera lenses in her face?  When they had gone she seemed to visibly relax and even came out front for a guitar solo (of sorts).  Backwards-looking-but-future-sounding songs like 'Delirium', 'Magic' and 'Dusk til Dawn' were rousing and got the crowd going despite the vocals being washed out by the over-enthusiastic synths.

Omigod - Friendly Fires  - I was NOT prepared for the frenzy!  Nor the sense of euphoria despite the beer raining down and the crush of the crowd!  Starting off with the best song on their album - 'Lovesick' - it only got better and better, singer Ed Macfarlane drenched in sweat from gyrating so much, guitarist and drummer duetting on cowbell and shaker to the beginning of 'On Board', the mad hysteria to the arrival of 'Jump in the Pool'... as a total immersive experience it was more than enough to make me want to do it all over again when the final strains of 'Strobe' faded away.

To end on such a high it was difficult to go and watch another band after that, and Crystal Antlers really were not doing anything for me so reluctantly I gave up the pretence that anything could match the Friendly Fires!

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