Dot To Dot Nottingham stormed into its eighth edition with a kaleidoscope of bands, booze and...well...storms. We were certainly extremely glad that the festival was taking place inside to allow us to shelter from the elements, but less pleased that we had to brave the incessant rain whenever we wanted to get from venue to venue.


Dot To Dot has always prided itself on identifying upcoming new talent, with acts like Laura Marling, Ed Sheeran, Bloc Party, and Klaxons all having played the festival. And it felt like the organisers had pitched the event even more at connoisseur music lovers than usual in this credit crunch hit era, with the cost of early bird tickets falling from last year’s £25 to £20. Indeed, the crowd was a very clearly a well-informed bunch. Nottingham is a really wonderful city for music lovers in general, with an abundance of fantastic venues ranging in size from the tiny Tilt bar to the enormous Ice Arena, and Dot To Dot made the most of this compact city’s facilities, with live acts playing on eight stages across five venues. We loved that the city’s small size meant that we could go for a pit-stop at Nandos at dinner time, rather than coping with a soggy falafel wrap or disappointingly processed burger for our tea!

We started off with Lucy Rose in Rock City. Lucy’s dulcet tones have most famously been used by Bombay Bicycle Club on their third album, A Different Kind of Fix. The songs were all catchy and well thought out, but to start off, we felt that she lacked a little bit of presence. By the end, we were just enraptured by her voice, and it really didn’t matter what the band and the singer were doing. Lucy’s voice is undoubtedly unique, but it’s probably best described as a soprano Laura Marling. She’s tipped for big things, and we can certainly see why – and she can only get better with that talent.

The Festival also boasted its very own eclectic fringe festival, which included film showings, craft workshops, open mic sessions, and live graffiti. We headed down to the quirky vegan eatery Alley Cafe to try and sample some of their spoken word event but nothing seemed to be going on, so we sloped away, having failed at finding our cultural fix!

Next, we headed to The Bodega to catch Aussie four-piece Last Dinosaurs. The band’s dance infused sound was well appreciated by the packed room – although we felt that they probably would have excelled with a later slot and a bigger space. Curiously, they brought with them an exercise bike where you could listen to their album whilst working out. Quirky, green and health conscious - we like it!

We wandered back to Rock City to catch Willy Mason, who brought a sombre country influenced sound to the space. The sound was a bit thin at times, and the energy lacking, so we decided to grab some dinner before the next act.

Fully refuelled, we decided to check out a couple of smaller venues. A real surprise highlight was Charlotte Carpenter at the acoustic room of Rescue Rooms, whose earnest yet convincing voice brought an intimacy that drew the audience in. It felt like she was your first girlfriend singing you some songs she’s just written whilst perching on the edge of her single bed – engrossing.

The proximity of venues is a real strength of the festival’s setup, and this really showed as we wandered back into Rock City. Sensing that something was kicking off in the Rock City Basement, we decided to check it out. Random Impulse’s guitar rock infused grime is high energy and immensely catch, and whilst their sound wasn’t quite as polished and commercial of some of the headlining acts, the crowd rocked out a lot more than in some of the other performances.

The real highlight of the day was undoubtedly local boys Dog Is Dead in Rock City. Their sleek and clean sound and fantastic energy complimented beautifully constructed indie-pop numbers. The band’s newest single, Two Devils, particularly brought the house down, and it was a real testament to both the quality of the performance and the crowd’s open-mindedness that the reception to this song was even better than their older tracks. The gig felt like a home-coming for the West Bridgford based quintet: managed as they are by the venue’s owners. The band loved every second; and the crowd loved the whole thing even more – watch this space.

We’d heard a lot about Wavves and were looking forward to sampling a bit of California surf-punk to try and evoke a bit of sun, sea and sand and counter the depressing rain. The sound in Jongleurs was a bit thin and over-amplified but the energy was palpable from the foursome. The high power of punk combined with the chilled out surf sound they brought to Jongleurs was refreshingly original.

Next I headed off to see The Drums. The band’s recorded sound is extremely distinctive, combining their electronic and guitar-pop influences with a healthy dose of reverb. This didn’t really come across in the live show, and the energy felt a little lacking – perhaps a result of their incessant touring schedule over the last few years. They felt like they needed a bit of a break…

Back I went to Jongleurs (you see why it’s called Dot To Dot now!) to catch the end of a band with a much-vaunted live act, Pulled Apart By Horses. It was like walking into a scene from an apocalypse film, with zombie like bodies rocking out everywhere. To coin a phrase, they destroyed it.

A superb day of exploring new music – highly recommended. Bring on D2D 2013!!!

Review by: Tom Philpott