A forest of new stars, old favourites and plenty of mischief at one of the UK’s fastest rising festivals. Various Venues, Nottingham (May 25-26)
Ballooning faster than the career of a Ting Ting in an iPod advert, Nottingham’s Dot To Dot is fast establishing itself as the best urban new music festival there is. Now a full weekend with sister events popping up in Bristol and London – the Nottingham leg takes in five venues, hundreds of eclectic bands and a boozy bank holiday atmosphere. Dirty Pretty Things and Spiritualized play top billing to pull in the punters, but it’s lower down the line-up that the real treats reside – and Saturday throws up a trove of them.
Cheeky Cheeky And The Nosebleeds open the Rescue Rooms stage, tearing about like The Bash Street Kids having made off with The Futureheads’ instruments. Their tongue-in-cheek art-rock sets an energetic tone, and as singer Rory throws the venue’s decorative Dot To Dot balloons about the crowd, there’s no doubt this festival is conducive to mischief. The frivolity continues next door in Stealth, where The RGBs’ almighty fem-pop hits the eager crowd like an eccentric blitzkrieg wallop – leotard-wearing singer Becky channelling the spirit of just-as-mad pop sensation Robyn through the bass-heavy disco-biscuits beats of their awesome ‘New House’.
While glam-hop poet Saul Williams gyrates wearing a crown of feathers in Rock City, next door in The Rescue Rooms, Ladyhawke is looking miserable as her set is dogged by technical problems. Dirty Pretty Things make up for their lack of crowd-communication back in Rock City by grinning from ear to ear as a never-ending wave of crowd-surfers re-enact plate tectonics during ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’. The songs from forthcoming album ‘Romance At Short Notice’, too, are well received, but it’s in The Rescue Rooms that Chrome Hoof explode with real volcanic vigour, rounding off the night with the weekend’s most spectacular performance. Orchestrating their progressive disco/jazz/metal amalgamation to an awestruck crowd, people only stop dancing to cower in terror as the bassist dons a metal mask and growls into the microphone for absurdist death-metal harbinger ‘Mad Air Punch’.
Sunday lunchtime sees Nottingham punk leviathans Lovvers thrash out punters’ nasty hangovers in Rock City, proving it’s never too early to FUCK SHIT UP. There’s more brain-bending over at Trent uni, where London B-movie beatniks Haunts mix Hammer-horror synths with insistently catchy pop hooks that’ll either pave their path to stardom or confuse the hell out of everyone. Mystery Jets prove they’ve done away with the irritating wonky indie of their first album, and win over a new legion of fans with their more exciting second album of certified wonky pop. A mass singalong greets ‘Young Love’, while ‘Two Doors Down’ stakes its claim as single of 2008. Spiritualized are majestic as ever in Trent University, Jason Pierce’s set peaking as much with the newer likes of ‘Sweet Talk’ as it does with a climactic version of Spacemen 3’s ‘Take Me To The Other Side’. Yet while the audience sway serenely, it’s a different story over at The Rescue Rooms, where real chaos ensues as people struggle like worms in a bucket to get past each other and the blocking bouncers to see a rammed Santogold show. Inside, hype alone carries her performance. Although her backing dancers give the show a visual edge, sonically it strays towards a disappointing monotone. The crowd still go wild for ‘LES Artistes’ and ‘Creator’, but you wonder whether that’s partly because they feel obliged to after all that struggle to get in.
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Finally, after powering on until sunrise with Buraka Som Sistema DJs, we leave in bleary-eyed amazement. The only thing more tempting than a bank holiday spent recovering in bed is the thought of doing it all again next year.