REVIEW: Dot To Dot @ Manchester - 04/06/12 3

REVIEW: Dot To Dot @ Manchester – 04/06/12

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City based festivals are such a good idea. Or at least they are to me. Sleeping in a field next to a porta-loo because you’re too drunk to find your tent is fine, but not for me. I’m here for the music and I really like the idea of Dot To Dot bringing it all home to a city near you. The biggest names on the bill are people you would travel a distance to see – The Drums, Summer Camp, Pulled Apart By Horses  – but are still of a fan friendly size and status that makes it a family affair. Further down the bill there is tremendous strength in depth, and all the shuttling about means that you keep bumping into people, and it all adds to some sense of community between the bands and those there to see them. In the picture above, Two Wounded Birds are busily exchanging notes with Broken Hands, which seems to sum it up. That’s Johnny and James of TWB giving me their best ‘model’ look, but Ally wasn’t to be distracted. She’s seen the picture and says she was “too busy chatting up boys”. We’ll forgive her.

The only down side of being day three, the Bank Holiday Monday after the festival had already been to Bristol and Nottingham, was the attrition rate. Mary Epworth cancelled, as did Summer Camp, who I really wanted to see; likewise Neon Indian. Given Summer Camp‘s high place on the billing at the biggest venue, the Ritz, fair do’s to Bastille, who when I last looked were all set to do their advertised slot at 4.45 then go back on again later to cover for Messrs’ Warmsley and Sankey’s absence. According to the rumour mill, this was down to Elizabeth’s voice, and anyone who knows them will agree, they don’t back out of things lightly. Maybe the answer is to swap the order of cities now and again?

Prepared for a long day, we picked up wristbands at lunch-time and headed for our first band Embers. This was in the dimly lit cellar of Sound Control, which had stages on 3 floors. The band were a late addition and therefore not on any of the listings. One for Facebookers and Twitterers then. Embers were a damn good start to the day, with a brooding rumble and some emotive pull, particularly as the set wore on.



This Many Boyfriends were in the Ritz, and that had the school fete feel of a half empty venue at lunch time. They were fun, spikey and jumpy, but I have to say I’ll reserve judgement until I see them in a better setting.


This Many Boyfriends

Another quick dash then over to Zoo to catch up with Milk Maid. I know they’re a very Manchester band, made up of other Manchester bands but they felt ever so American Punk, more Josh Homme than Greenday in orientation. Melodic thrash with loads of stage presence.


Milk Maid

 Back in the Ritz for Patterns. I have to admit I found them pretty average indie. One thing in their favour though – they had at least two of the audience dancing in the aisles.




Feeling that so far we hadn’t really seen the best of it, we wandered blinking in the sun back to Sound Control, but to a different floor this time, directed by some not-to-be-argued-with security people that we must first go down into a cellar, then across the bowels of the venue before being allowed back up more stairs to a room that quite frankly we could see just down the corridor from where we stood debating by the open door. No matter, the reason for our labyrinthine quest were Wonder Villains, from Derry, Northern Ireland. They proved worth the trek, a new band with a definite something to offer. I like that their online blurb proclaims that they are Pop music, with a capital P. They’re new enough that their bandcamp still has a demo track up there from their EP, and I’m convinced they’ll be fun to watch as they progress.


Wonder Villains

Speaking of progressing, 2:54 are a band I haven’t seen since late 2010, when they were opening for Warpaint. At that time, they were at an early point, and while there was a big buzz around them from the London cognoscenti, they were at that ‘promising’ stage and I wasn’t immediately smitten. All I can say is that the promise is well and truly fulfilled. All though it was still only 5.30pm this was feeling like a big deal, the big room packed and straining. Back from Europe for the UK festivals and with their album out only that week,  sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow proved they could hit it out of the court and then some with their pallid balefulness.

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I then got dragged by friends to see a band at their very strong insistence, that being Two Wounded Birds. They operate pretty strictly in a paradigm of pycho-billy with a side twist of punk. Speaking of which, especially set against an essentially pub back-room afternoon setting, the unreconstructed mohawk-sporting gentleman in the audience was the nearest thing to a one man mosh pit you’re likely to come across this side of the second coming of (insert name of someone long gone since 1979). I was worried at first that they were up some sort of cultural creek without a paddle, but once I got over myself, really enjoyed their set.

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Two Wounded Birds

I’d made a list, and as you do, found out that it 99% corresponded with the friends I’d arranged to meet at Dot To Dot. At this point though, I struck out on my own to see Pond. Just look at the picture – the expression on the face of vocalist Nick Allbrook says more than any review can. Here in the Deaf Institute it was rammed and they were pleasing all of the people all of the time. Call it an off shoot of Tame Impala, call it psych, call it what you will, in reality it was hanging on in a tornado and just as wild. The rest of the band are fun loving pros, but in Allbrook they’ve caught hold of a goblin and dressed him for decency in tramp’s clothes. Someone buy him some pants that fit. Please.




A quick nip back to rejoin my mates hunkered down the front for Polly Mackey’s new band Deaf Club. Counting Ms Mackey herself, there’s three out of the five from her first band the Pleasure Principle, but they sound a whole lot different. The voice is and always was the star, but there’s a new and pleasant sense of brood and portent in there.

Deaf Club

Cloud Nothings. What a fluffy name, and what a huge noise to dispel any of the wrong ideas that you might have about them as a result. Sweat, smoke, aural bombardment. You get the idea


Cloud Nothings

Kyla La Grange – confession time – I had initially put her on my list as ‘maybe’. However, yet again I listened to the exhortations of my friends. They’ve obviously got great musical taste, Kyla was amazing and I won’t hesitate next time. Lots of power in the delivery to take her way beyond the average girl-with-guitar.


Kyla La Grange

The Hundred In The Hands. I’d been really keen to see these guys from Brooklyn, and they didn’t disappoint. On record, they sound punchy but well balanced. Live it was exciting to instantly see that they were much more raw in their delivery, especially when Jason Friedman gets all dramatic and thrashy on the Rickenbacker. Eleanore Everdell was in attack mode on keys too, at least what you could see past the flailing hair. I’ve included a link to their video for Pigeons, just because it’s a tiny bit disturbing and 100% worth your time to watch and listen.

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The Hundred In The Hands


The Drums. These were obviously the big draw, and for many people, worth the twenty five quid wristband fee all on their own. Hell, there was even crowd surfing. They’ve obviously got something and are very clearly pop-tastic. To me , they sounded pleasant enough. I’m sure I’ll get shot for saying this but I couldn’t really see what the fuss was about.

There’s a thousand photos of The Drums on the internet, or go HERE to look at mine. On the other hand, this photo is a good summation of their set tonight

By now we were ten hours in, and dashing back and to between venues was starting to take its toll. I’d even found myself nipping across the elevated section of the  Mancunian Way motorway at one point. Don’t ask me the reason for this, none spring to mind, but it happened. The only problem was when other Dot-to-Dotters started following me. I got myself over to Joshua Brooks yet again, where Lulu James was packing them in, the throng hot and sweaty. She is maybe a little off the radar for many indie kids, setting out her stall as ’21st Century Soul’. I think the main thing about her was the genuine charm that oozed out of her pores, more than enough to carry a room. That and her fine collection of festival wristbands.

Lulu James
Lulu James

By now the night was winding down, although maybe not for the crowds waiting to get into Fac 251 where the clubbing night shift was ready for action. It was almost a relief that Neon Indian had cancelled, but I had one more set in me, and was keen to see Sunless ’97, who were playing only this leg of the three Dot To Dot cities. I hadn’t seen them before, a friend had, at Sound City, and said they were good but had engineering issues. He should have been with me tonight, no such issues to mar an excellent set.  They’re a 12″ dance mix sort of band, going in a Dirty Projectors / Grizzly Bear and occasionally jazzy direction. I loved the way that they all hit the programming, and swapped the vocals back and forth between Edward Eke and Alice Davies. It was like a darned co-operative, free of any front-person schtick and they were clearly having a whale. Truth time – they’re another band I was watching based on rep and a few hurried YouTubes, and they’re the ones I’m listening to right now, in the aftermath.


Sunless_97_-_08 Sunless ’97

….and then we were nearly done, looking forward to loading up on Red Bull for the drive home. All of a sudden a vision appeared, some sort of echo of the jubilee celebrations that were gripping the rest of the country in forced grin bonhomie. It was a miracle I know, but there before us, in the shadow of the UMIST car park, we were visited by not only Her Majesty herself, but also no less than the King. I still can’t quite believe my eyes. (Bizarrely, they’re both wearing Dot To Dot photo-passes)

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If you would like to look at ALL the photos that we took, click HERE

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