- Date: 2011-05-29 00:00:00
- Location: Dot to Dot
fred perry subculture has teamed up with dot to dot, the uk's leading inner-city new music festival, to bring you the best of 2011's emerging acts and headline performances. watch out for footage from this year's featured artists including hurts, we are scientists, dananananaykroyd, the joy formidable, guillemots, ...and you will know us by the trail of dead, the naked and famous, trophy wife, hyetal, braids, dom, swimming, get people, phoenix foundation, yunioshi and many more...
dot to dot - behind the music
Not content on just delivering fantastic coverage from Dot to Dot, we thought we would give you a little insight into one of our presenter's days. Coming to you in three instalments, stay tuned for more behind the scenes action.
Well, where do I begin. It has been a year since my first involvement for Dot to Dot, Interviewing the bands and generally having a frivolous time. How a year flies! So then. Dot To Dot 2011, a small behind the scenes account if you will, of the build and the day when I went Dot to Dotting.
As all good stories should start I will begin from the night before. Now this may not sound exciting, and if you were to live it may not have felt exciting, but that’s just it, this was the calm before the storm, or at least the calm before.
With the final day of prep behind me, everything in apparent order and an evening ahead to stay clear of mind and body, we headed to the pub for a drink, some football, and most notably some chavas (A Nottingham term I have recently become acquainted with which involves crisps and nuts laid open on the table for all to eat, similar you might say to the Spanish meal tapas). After a swift exit, probably due to the ever so rowdy company we were surrounded by, I headed for a photo exhibition, showcasing Nottingham’s creme de la creme of snap happy talent. After a glass or two of free wine which I’m sure had been regurgitated from a previous exhibit, I popped on my clogs and headed back to the flat for a fish curry, cappuccino and cigarette.
I arose early, perhaps too early, but a mixture of nerves and excitement couldn’t contain me to the confines of my bed. I decided on a bowlful of porridge and a spot of reading to ease me in. If there was any time to be the slightest bit literate it was today. A shower, a polo shirt and some brogues and I was ready to roll. I packed my question cards and 6 Chupa Chups (purchased the night previously in a ploy to win over The Naked And Famous) and headed on my way to Rock City for a day with some of the world’s best emerging new musical talent.
As I arrive, suitably suited and booted, the vintage bus pops in to site. A long, red and black beauty of a bus! If the site of it wasn’t enough for you, then the smell from within most definitely was. Musky upholstery and leather filled the nostrils, transporting me to a time prior to my very existence. I felt a small sense of irony, in the sense that a bus with so much history would lay host to bands only fresh enough to remember when the standard London bus fare rose from 40p to 50p…the travesty! Seeing it in the flesh with the Subculture Logo and infamous Laurel plastered to the side, sad as it may seem, was one of the highlights.
No matter how much preparation you put in, how much you psych yourself up, or the amount of times you rehearse, you are never quite prepared for how some bands will react to you as a person and what you might ask, however cheekily you may put it. This in mind, Shay, Lotti and myself waited on our first arrivals, local band Swimming, whom of which Lotti is acquainted with, so it felt more than appropriate to allocate her for this one. Just one problem, they were running late! Now, any self respecting band would tell you that turning up on time just isn’t good for image. Or what they believe to be Rock and roll! This was not why they were late though. The real reason was they broke a guitar, and as a colleague so rightly put it…what’s more important, an interview, or your gig?! OK, so, no need to panic, that’s fine, we will just switch slots and move on to HURTS…My turn! Although i was dressed to look like a third member of the Mancunian duo, they definitely stood out. They have an air of super stardom about them, an untouchable element that is not out of league with Madonna. To say I wasn’t nervous would quite simply be lying. After an initial “how’s your father?” we cracked on, straight into it…Months of prep and bam, you’re there, and before you know it, it’s over! They really surprised me though. There was no leeway for banter and light hearted tom foolery, something I really needed to get into the swing of things. This aside, they gave a really informative and polite interview. They know what they want from their sound and how to get it. They’ve worked with Kylie for pity sake! If that doesn’t scream huge to you then I don’t know what does.
So, after an OK start, things can only get better right? Well, not quite. Things were about to get a tad awkward shall we say when I met DOM on our very own Sub bus. Before we officially started, I thought it a good idea to introduce myself, get acquainted with the band so I wasn’t jumping into completely uncharted waters. Now when you meet someone, anyone, it can go one of three ways. You can hit it off straight away, which is what I hoped for, they could be a little unsure about you or worst case scenario which is the category I fell into is the, you say something incompetent, through no fault of your own, apart from your inability to play it cool and said band immediately take a disliking to you. No, not a great foot to get off on, even if I was wearing brogues. See, the conversation in question went a little along the lines of…” Where’s Bochicha?” “Bochicha?” they replied, “Yeah, you know, your cat. I thought you took him everywhere?” Silence. Their heads fell, and from this, I knew the next words to come were not words of joy. “He died.”… “Oh! “Are you ready?” shouted the camera crew. No, I thought to myself. First I need time to mourn and secondly I want to jump in the drivers seat and cruise into a large black void to swallow me up. In my opinion, that interview was not one of my finest moments. The following 5 minutes were no fun, no fun at all. All said and done, what I deemed to be the hardest interviews were out the way. It’s all down hill from here as they say.
Time for some highlights now I think. The afternoon would lay host to fun and surprises. Now perhaps this was a mental state, that I had convinced myself the bands in the afternoon would be more open to jokes and flawed interview techniques. Perhaps if I had gone into the morning with this frame of mind then things might not have got so uncouth. However, people are people and will hold their disposition regardless of what you may or may not preempt about them. It just so happens that the bands in the afternoon were more, my kind of people. After a touch of vox popping, scouting out the beautifully eclectic array of characters that a city festival draws in (including my neighbours, who gave a lovely take on their experience) we were approached for an interview by The Suzukis, a band consisting of some extremely likely lads and beers to accompany them. Lotti took over from the role of roaming presenter whilst I leant up against the bus with a group of guys I knew nothing about. But if you can’t improvise in this game, you shouldn’t be playing. After a quick on screen get to know you and a pitch of their upcoming EP, The lead singer took it upon himself to groom me. After running his hands through my hair and giving me a “Superman” curl he proceeded to pick me up and inadvertently kiss me up against the bus, before running off with me down the street. As insight goes, we didn’t delve into that much, but funnily enough, this may have been the best interview yet. It certainly made for good viewing and I think it was all down to their inebriation.
Taking example from a bunch of lads from Wigan, I head back to The Rig for my final run of interviews and a swift half to wet my cockles and relieve me of any inhibitions I may of had in the morning. I was really looking forward to the following interviews. We Are Scientists were a band who were a pinnacle part of the indie revival in the early 2000?s. They sat along side The Killers, The Rakes and Razorlight, the drummer of the latter now a permanent member of the band. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them! They were a great bunch. It is apparent they are close friends. They all share similar jokes and imitate delivery, in turn creating an almost comedy panel type banter. They do not do this on purpose though, they are naturally innate with each other and genuinely funny, down to earth guys. I must say I learnt a lot from this interview. I think I was so en captivated by their in jokes that, not completely, but was more interested in their comedy. Looking back now I think for the future I will definitely at the appropriate times be a tad more informative. Although when put in that situation, it is easy to get carried away with yourself.
Up next were The Naked And Famous, a new band from New Zealand who were not Naked, but certainly on their way to getting famous. This band took a lot of chasing in preparation, but were not ones I was willing to give up on as I really like them and was dying to meet them. Selfish, yes, perhaps it was slightly, but I wanted also to give them the promotion they deserve. I also wanted to give them a lollipop each that were purchased the night before. If there is one way of easing into a conversation, it’s with a lollipop! It was also one of the band members birthday, how appropriate it was that I should come along with arguably the greatest birthday sweets! Again, these were a really great bunch of guys. All very down to earth and willing to give a great interview. When the band are relaxed, it in turn helped me to feel comfortable in asking what (and perhaps not what) I needed to ask. I do believe that went quite well.
I suppose that my next interview was a pretty big deal. The Guillemots were one of the headlining acts and had just released their third and highly anticipated album. This needed to go well. I wanted to get the best from them, learn about their approach to music and the mystery that is Fyfe Dangerfield (what a name). I will admit to getting nervous again over this one. I think it was mainly the fact they are a very respected group of musicians and also, judging on the photos I have seen of them, they hold a slightly imitating presence. How wrong I was. They were by far the most relaxed, smiley bunch of people I had met all day. Fyfe, smaller than I imagined (even though he must be at least six foot three inches) with unkempt hair hiding under his hood. I would gladly cast him in a mythical film set sometime in the 16th century. The rest of the band also held a very warm presence. It was clear they had been friends for a while and had gone though the musical notions. All of the interviews were meant to be no longer than 5 minutes, the problem is, when it is all flowing so smoothly and you are in control of rapping, things can tend to go on longer than originally planned. For me, this was not just work, or a stepping stone in my career that had gone pretty well, this was like meeting new people down the pub that you just strike a chord with. I would happily buy Fyfe and the gang a few rounds (as long as they were to break into impromptu sessions between packets of crisps).
The day was almost over but I felt as if I had just warmed up. One more interview left, and what better way to end it than with my friend Alex Glovers’ band ROMANCE. I have known Alex for a little over 8 months, through a friend I knew back in London and also through people i lived with. It is funny how small the world can seem at times. This was the first time I had met the rest of the band. Even though I know Alex, through images I have seen, the rest of the band do look a tad, how can I put this, stand offish. Once again I was wrong to pre empt. I met up with them briefly earlier on in the day whilst out and about vox popping and they were a sound bunch to say the least. I was particularly taken by Jamie, the frontman. A small wiry figure, with the type of london accent Michael Caine would be proud of. This was shaping out to be a fantastic way to end the day. After trying and failing (due to certain angles we were shooting at) to get me in the middle, apparently for a more intimate experience, they kicked off proceedings by cracking open a bottle of Moet, kindly provided by Jamie’s Auntie, what a nice lady! All being of similar age and friendship groups to myself, this really flowed. We shared jokes, but also got to the core of the band as a whole. How they got to where they are, what they are about and also where they want to be. I didn’t initially go into this one with the intention of getting to the soul of the band as a unit, but through an atmosphere of ease I must admit, this was by far my most enjoyable interview.
So, how do I summarise such an event? Trying to do so in its entirety and give the day real credit would be longer than this article, but I will give it a stab. Imagine meeting a band that is just about to perform. Not just that, they have also been on the road for about a month. They haven’t slept properly, haven’t been eating properly and more often than not, they are fuelled by alcohol and adrenalin! Now times that by twenty and that is what the day felt like. However the band were feeling, or behaving, you almost felt like you had to match that, or somehow get onto their level. I almost felt like I had lived twenty separate lives.
Even though I didn’t get to see any of the bands perform, I feel as if I got the better deal. As I sit here writing this, I can see the footage of the gigs we filmed as raw material, from varying angles, from different perspectives. So in a sense, I didn’t miss out. I gained a wealth of experience that has helped me grow as a journalist and a person. I must give thanks to everyone who made this possible, Our production team, our camera men, our sound designers, our DSLR crew and everyone I may have forgotten about. I hope this has given you a voyeuristic perspective of my day. There are things that I may have missed and perhaps things I should have left out, but I must be honest, and this is as honest account as any. To end in the same vein of truth, the last thing I must add is by saying that this day will stick with me for the rest of my life, corny as it sounds but it is true. I am not saying that the day didn’t go without a glitch, but it has definitely made a lasting imprint in my brain that if I last that long will be a story I will surely tell my Grandchildren. Or better still, I will give them this article.
from dot to dot and back again
A big thank you to Alex Mitchell who has kindly written his account of his day spent at the Dot to Dot festival in Nottingham! For those of you who didn’t attend, the review will give you an insight into what one of the UK’s fastest growing inner city festivals has to offer. As for the rest of you who did attend, then this may be a chance to find out what you may have missed with so many bands to see in one day… Enjoy!
A May bank holiday in Nottingham can only mean one thing. Music lovers unite for the city’s very own Dot to Dot festival, now in its seventh year. A day when hungry-for-it young acts will break through and already-on-their-way newcomers sit fairly at the top of the bill. Whilst the festival has spread to Bristol and Manchester in recent years, Nottingham is its home and this is my account.
If there were ever an excuse for a street party (royal weddings aside), Dot to Dot would be it. I approach the nucleus of the city’s main venues Rock City, Rescue Rooms and Stealth to see Talbot Street cordoned off and strewn with bunting, clothing and food stalls and people everywhere. Fourteen hours of live music deserves a setting like this. I stop the nearest passer by and ask them what the festival means to them. Nic, 23, from Nottingham thinks for a while then replies intently “It gets better every year”.
My first stop of the day is Rock City; considered by many to be the UK’s number one live music venue. If ever a band is on the right side of popularity, they’ll be sure to grace this venue. Dot to Dot gives this chance to so many bands it’s a real blessing. I make my way to the basement to catch Foreign Office do their thing. Sounding like Huey Lewis and the News, they could be the most ear opening act today and the band really deserves a sun soaked rooftop party in LA. Either way, their preppy nerdiness is infectious and you can’t escape the party atmosphere. I make a point of circling the floor and see a smile on every face. The eighties tinged drums and bass that drive debut single “Leaving The House” widen these smiles even further! When they finish I grab a word with Alex, 30, from Derby. “What does Dot to Dot mean to you” I ask? “Great new bands like this” he replies with a grin!
I agree with him and make a dash over to another of the quintet of venues hosting bands today; Nottingham Trent University’s Student Union. Its cavernous hall has the potential to swallow up acts this early on in the day and as I enter, I catch Benjamin Francis Leftwich hypnotising a respectably sized crowd for this space with his delicate acoustic tunes. Whilst the fragility of songs like “Pictures” doesn’t quite sound right in a huge and near empty room, there’s definitely something of value here. Leftwich’s songs have that rare talent of sounding sincere and never coming across as clichéd which is a constant threat with indie-folk. Have you ever heard a lyric like “If you crash a car into your best friend’s house…”? Me neither. I look up and notice the balcony is packed full of people with camera phones aloft suggesting the empty floor has betrayed how promising he is. It’s clear from “Pictures” and lead single “Atlas Hands” from Leftwich’s upcoming debut that he’s destined for big things.
By the time I head out of Trent University to make my way back to Talbot Street the sun has broken through the usually impenetrable Nottingham cloud and we get the balmy bank holiday everyone wanted. I arrive at Rescue Rooms where walking through the gated entrance is like being transported to downtown Manhattan’s SoHo district. It’s an exercise in slaloming through various hipsters and impossibly beautiful people (the sun must draw them outdoors). I stop and think to myself that this is what’s great about the festival; rubbing shoulders with every type of person imaginable.
Headbands and skinny jeans aside, my best band of the day award goes to Is Tropical. The first thing I notice is how good they look. All in black with their faces veiled by scarves, the London trio march out onto a stage that’s notably not lit by anything. Then the music starts. Synths fight with samples that fight with bass that fight with guitars – all filtered to make them sound as filthy as possible. Think The XX if Tim Burton got his hands on them. Tracks like “Seasick Mutiny” define this band; samples everywhere, looped synth lines and reverb soaked vocals. With an intensity present right from the off, Is Tropical’s songs follow each other relentlessly leaving half of the crowd standing open mouthed like me and the other half stomping away. Veiled faces, electro smash, filthy bass; all present creating a sort of down and dirty rave that even next door’s Stealth would be proud of…
Having spoken of Stealth, that’s where my journey follows on… I make my way through the rabbit warren of stairs and corridors. It really captures the feel of Dot to Dot; something exciting to see and hear at every twist and turn. I make it downstairs to watch Niki and the Dove. It turns out that festival headliners Hurts were bang on when they championed this Swedish band. A Goth infused mixture of Lykke Li, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks makes for a mystical air circulating in Stealth’s basement. Hearing the euphoric “Under The Bridges” and knowing that the sun is still shining somewhere above me makes me feel that this somehow works very well. I think to myself that being tucked away down here reflects part of the charm of what today is all about. Mia, 19, from Leicester tells me that she stumbled across this room completely by accident; “It’s what I love about seeing bands in Nottingham”.
Boasting a “before they were big” ethos, The Bodega Social Club has opened its doors to the likes of The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Killers and many other ‘The’ bands. If you live in Nottingham it’s most likely you’ll see this intimate little venue as a mecca for what is emerging from the underground and in-vogue. I arrive at The Bodega at around eleven and emerge and just over an hour later after having seen Fixers and Cults. I’ve never seen a gig there as busy and the place is literally one in one out!
Fixers will be compared to the Brooklyn school that spawned MGMT and Animal Collective but shouldn’t worry though as their British take on their style of music sees them right. Whilst those Brooklyn schoolbands give us moments of accessible pop genius, Fixers are much happier with meandering opuses that radio won’t touch. This five piece from Oxford take that pop genius by the scruff of the neck and run with it. Songs like “Crystals” are way too good to ignore and a set of dreamy Californian sounds will surely earn them a load more downloads tomorrow morning from a satisfied sea of people.
The Bodega somehow feels even busier by the time Cults take to the stage, hoping to mesmerise with more songs touched by America’s west coast sound. It’s the first time today that I’ve felt an awe of anticipation before a band emerges and I see people actually biting their lips. Once Cults begin, it feels like good indie pop of the highest order; think Camera Obscura but in warm weather. You could half imagine Phil Spector backstage pulling the strings. Sound problems plague their set though, meaning sure fire hits like “Abducted” lose their power and even cause a packed room to thin a little. This is disappointing as it’s a problem that’s out of their hands. I can even see the frustration etched on singer Madeline Follin’s face.
By the time Cults finish, there’s a little room to breathe and I can hear voices amid the crowd starting to talk about Stealth. I rush back to the venue caught in a flow of bodies, all with the same purpose, to ensure a spot for SBTRKT. It turns out to be a mass migration between the two venues and I enjoy the feeling of being swept along. SBTRKT are brilliant! Sounding like Autechre on a soul tip but with such intensity. The live drums do something to the crowd, as I see the first few rows of fans succumbing to a primal sway dictated by the tribal masked duo.
As it all washes over me, my body tells me it’s time to exit Dot to Dot 2011. I make my way up and out, leaving it in the hands of those with the stamina to last out what’s left of the day’s fourteen hours of music. Roll on next year!