Dot To Dot: Don't Lose The Plot

Eight per cent scrumpy, soft porn on the dancefloor and a blissful shrub waving serenade - the best and worst of Bristol's Dot To Dot festival.
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I’ve never felt so dirty as when I walked into O2 Academy Bristol last Saturday evening. I sold my last scrap of dignity by being persuaded to go and check out sickly-sweet popstress Ellie Goulding over US rockers Liars, allowing my pal's love for Goulding (the face not the music) guide us into a cesspit of touchy teens and overenthusiastic mothers attempting to dance like it was 1989.

For the uninitiated, inner city shindigs like Dot To Dot are not like your bog-standard festivals, where you buy a ticket and can see whoever you want providing you're not too plastered to amble over to a tent and name a patch of grass as your own. Instead, the likes of Camden Crawl in London, The Great Escape in Brighton and Dot To Dot which now spans three cities, book some top talent to reel in the crowds, but unless you queue for hours on end the closest you'll get to hearing your favourite artists is through the cold, hard brickwork of the numerous venues dotted across town - some of which are bus journeys apart.

So if you’re at Dot To Dot next year, albeit Bristol, Nottingham or Manchester, don’t bother with the likes of Ellie Goulding as you’ll spend more time queuing than at a Spearmint Rhino next to a sex rehab centre.

Instead, check out bands you’ve never heard of. Yes you’ll infect your ears with some shite along the way, but it’s these leaps of blind faith that will soundtrack the next year of your life. And everyone loves the satisfying smugness of telling your pals you heard of their favourite new band months ago when you stumbled into their set after eight pints of something cheap and awful.

Anyway, my stand out moments at Bristol (apart from sipping on 8.4% Old Bristolian while aboard The Apple cider boat) went a little something like this:

Start with The Cheekat Thekla, with the indie-punkers looking all the more refined since scrapping their juvenile moniker Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds, and frontman Rory Cottam’s dapper display was a far cry from the last time I saw them at Camden Crawl in 2008 - a gurning mess of a set that was topped off with Rory losing the function of his legs and tumbling into the drum kit.

"Don’t bother with the likes of Ellie Goulding, you’ll spend more time queuing than at a Spearmint Rhino next to a sex rehab centre."

Next up - Blood Red Shoesat O2 Academy, a furious affair as the band were thrust on stage minutes after arriving in Bristol. Although not their usual happy-go-lucky approach, the Brighton boy/girl duo’s anger actually played into the hands of the audience, who lapped up their display of smashed drums and hoarse vocals.

After a couple more drinks at arty watering-hole Start the Bus (where the mood was hilariously shattered by a group of boozed up hens demanding piggy back rides and a flash of our navels), it was back to the Academy to begrudgingly see Ellie Goulding, who unfortunately met every expectation in my mind. Although vocally sound, she is just another pop singer trying to dip her toe into the consciousness of NME readers. In reality, she’s not that far removed from the likes of Pixie Lott and Duffy, and by the cross-section in the audience revealing either the uber young or unnervingly old, she’ll certainly make a dent in the pop charts (as shown by her ‘critics choice’ Brit award – exactly what critics remain notable by their absence), but I don't see her making a lasting mark on the face of music.

After enduring Miss. Goulding, and the vomit inducing personal displays of affection of a couple before my very eyes (it was like a bad homemade porno) came Mystery Jets, who fortunately made such harrowing experiences worthwhile. Cue a romping set of 80s nostalgia, as new songs ‘Flash a Hungry Smile’ and ‘Serotonin’ suggest their new record is going to be a corker when it drops in July.

Finally, a sprint back to the floating sweatbox that is Thekla found the blissed-out mastery that is Washed Out for only his third ever UK show. Although slightly overworked on stage alone, his knob twiddling and laptop fiddling was made complete when joined by his backing band. The chillwave pioneer soothed the ears of all in attendance, even if it did result in one girl being so hypnotised by the relaxed vibe she started waving a small tree around, but hey - each to their own. As the epic euphoria of ‘Feel It All Around’ closed proceedings, the perfect sleepy serenade to see off the evening.