Monday, May 30, 2016

Dot to Dot Festival, Manchester, 27th May 2016 8/10


This city Festival has been an annual event for me since 2011, when it was centred around the University district and the Academy. Since then, as well as moving geographically, the number of acts and venues has expanded, and this year the festival sold out. This success is a mixed blessing, as this year there were some significant organisational issues. The two main venues filled up early in the evening, which led me to abandon plans to see Augustines. In addition, my carefully researched plans were thrown into disarray when the scheduling went awry. The first act in the second largest venue overran, and technical problems led to Lauren Aquilina coming on almost an hour late. Yet, other venues ran to time, leading me to miss acts such as Estrons and Cloves, and loud background chatter irritated at multiple sets. I discovered Ardyn had pulled out when I arrived at the venue, and Japanese House mysteriously disappeared from the final lineup. So, whilst I hope that Dot to Dot runs more smoothly next year, it seems churlish to complain when this festival gives the opportunity to see exciting new talent for an extremely modest sum (I spent around one pound per band). The close proximity of bars in the Northern Quarter means it's easy to move between the 20 venues on the lineup, and see an amazingly diverse array of artists.

1) Diet Cig 9/10
This New York garage punk duo are such a delight to watch: Alex Luciano's energy and movement on stage is so energising, and coming close to midnight after I'd been on my feet for eight hours, this was most timely.

2) Little Green Cars 8.5/10
I last saw this Irish indie rock band at the Soup Kitchen in Manchester in 2013, when they were touring their first album. Their music isn't groundbreaking, but it is uplifting, and made for a positive close to my 2016 Festival.

3) Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers 8/10
This Canadian folk group from Nova Scotia is charismatic, rootsy, and Ben Caplan has a remarkable deep, gravelly voice, and a striking presence. I'm keen to catch the band at greater length on their promised November UK tour.

4) Dua Lipa 7.5/10
This British singer's synth pop style isn't entirely to my taste, but her stagecraft was energetic, and she engaged the crowd with great skill, encouraging participation.

5) Jones 7/10
Londoner Jones is difficult to Google, and performing in a lesser known (though excellent) venue she deserved a far larger audience for her soul music, which is mainstream in appeal but well executed.

6) Lauren Aquilina 6/10
Alas, Lauren was let down by the stage crew and technical issues meant that after an interminable wait,  her band was jettisoned and she performed just four songs solo. Clearly upset at the situation, she managed to deliver them sensitivity, and demonstrate her vocal ability.

7) Warhaus 7/10
The side project of Maarten Devoldere of Belgium band Balthazar, its use of samples made this one of the more experimental sets of the festival, which deserved a more spacious venue.

8) Girlfriend 7/10
This local, Manchester 80's inspired pop band opened my festival to a surprisingly large crowd who gave up some rare sunshine for this dark basement. They even inspired many to dance despite the early hour.

8) Skinny Living 6/10
The Yorkshire based band were plagued by background chatter from the crowded Night & Day Cafe: they had great rhythm and sounded tight.

10) Dancing Years 6/10
Originally school friends from Leeds, I found their music melodic and appreciated the inclusion of a fiddle player, yet sadly by this point when the festival's headliners were playing elsewhere, the crowd was thin, and the level of chatter, even near the stage, distracting.

11) Babeheaven 6/10
From London, this band felt sincere, and brought electronics to soul and trip hop influences creating a laid back, hazy sound.

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