Review: Dot to Dot Bristol 2011

29 05 2011

Everyone will have had a different experience at Dot to Dot in Bristol. With a day-long programme of live music from dozens of bands in multiple venues, it is impossible to present a conclusive round-up. So this is my personal experience, a day which started in the Louisiana, finished in the Fleece, and had two brief interludes from the music, first at the Ram on Park Street to watch Saracens beat Leicester in the rugby Premiership final, with a scintillating conclusion, and later at a friend’s house in Leigh Woods to watch Barcelona convincingly beat Manchester United in the Champions League final.

Rugby and football were the principal distractions and perils of a day when two of the biggest sporting events of the year coincided with one of the biggest days in Bristol’s musical calendar. But it gave me plenty of exercise on the bicycle, cycling up and down Park Street not once but three times during the course of a fun-packed day.

Due to a line-up change, my first music of the day was not Bristol’s own Towns, originally due on in the Louisiana bar at 2pm, but Bristol’s own Kayla Painter‘s electronica, played while hunched over two bar stools, on one which was balanced a lap top, and on the other which was balanced a small keyboard with all manner of knobs and buttons . Kayla played a non-stop set of twinkles, beats, heavy vibrating bass and recorded female vocals reminiscent of Underworld circa A Hundred Days Off.

It was next upstairs to an already-packed Louisiana to see Cajita (right), aka Jay Chakravorty, a big fan of loop pedals. Jay’s songs were nice enough, especially when he harmonised with himself using the loop pedal, but it was his inter-song banter that made his set memorable. “I cultivate the impression that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing,” he told us. There was a Bjork cover in here somewhere, as well as a song about feeling guilty you have got your friend hooked on drugs. A most-enjoyable half-hour.

For me, Allie Moss‘ appearance at the Thekla was the biggest disappointment of the day. Standing near the bar, I was not able to hear any of her talking, just catching mention of “internet” and “ukulele”, due to the constant chatter. Sat in the middle of the stage, accompanied by a guitarist for a few songs, the New Jersey native’s singing was more audible, but unfortunately not enough to write anything positive about.

After an excruciatingly tense game of rugby, it was to the Fleece, in the vicinity of where the previous night I was being chased by zombies, for Swimming, a very earnest young band from Nottingham, fond of feedback and echo. If they were a swimming stroke, they would be the butterfly, a difficult stroke to master but one that can look effortless. My friend Kristan became a convert to their sound, downloading their album on his phone as we watched their set.

Next it was up Park Street to the Anson Rooms for Benjamin Francis Leftwich (left), a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from York. It was that time of the day that if you wanted to sit down, you could, and the Anson Rooms had ample floor space. Benjamin’s folky stylings were very pleasant, a particular favourite being Pictures from his most recent EP, about crashing a car into your best friend’s house.

Playing to a rather sparse audience in the Louisiana was Various Cruelties, featuring among their number a leather jacket, glasses, moustache and dreadlocks, sported respectively by singer, drummer, guitarist and bassist. One of the songs they treated us to, imaginatively entitled The New Song, was only written last Sunday, and had the refrain, “I don’t want to waste your time”. This band were deserving of a bigger crowd.

Back up Park Street, on my way to Leigh Woods to watch the Champions League final, I stopped off at the Cooler on the way to watch The Chakras. Inside, I met up with a few friends, one of the best things about Dot to Dot, where you bump into people all over town. The Chakras, who had a touch of the Charlatans about them, had at least one fan, a man jumping about like a lunatic at the front of the stage.

After seeing Manchester United humbled by Barcelona, I hurried back to the Academy to see Hurts, the band who were my gig of the year last year, and who were given headline billing on this year’s Dot to Dot promotional literature. There was no way Hurts could disappoint. Dressed as their usual immaculate selves, a particular highlight was new song Happiness, hopefully a foretaste of a just as wonderful second album.

Last stop of the day for me was to a capacity and sweltering Fleece for Guillemots (right), reformed earlier this year after lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield took some time off to go solo, including a trip to the Thekla last September. I arrived as one of their best-known songs, Trains to Brazil, was playing. Unfortunately, I was outside in the queue but could just about see what was going on through the window. Fyfe and gang romped through the rest of their set, bringing a fun-packed day of music and sport to a brilliant conclusion.


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