By Bronagh McManus
As the rain lashed down upon Manchester’s busy Oxford Road on Friday 23rd May thousands of music lovers congregated in thirteen venues across the city to experience fourteen hours of back to back live music. The growing ‘Dot To Dot Festival’ arrived in the city in full style as singer ‘Jake Mattison’ opened the festival at 2.15pm in ‘The Thirsty Scholar’. The day’s activities were concluded at 2.30am with ‘Betty Who’ in the ‘Sound Control Loft’, ensuring that all attendees got their money’s worth (each ticket costing £25).
At 6.10pm the club turned venue ‘Gorilla’ saw the Hertfordshire singer songwriter ‘Rhodes’ take to the stage as he performed a short set rich in dulcet tones which nourished souls with its perfected beauty. Rhodes’ soft melodic tones were welcomed by late comers to the festival who were straight out of work, school and university. Having supported the Australian singer Vance Joy on his February tour and with supporting sets booked with Sam Smith and London Grammar in June, Rhodes should look forward to a long and prosperous musical journey ahead as audiences appreciate his indulgence sounds.
Next up was ‘Emily and the Woods’ at 6.30pm in the dark and somewhat dingy ‘Joshua Brooks’ club, a setting more commonly used as a venue for student based club nights. The four musicians took to the small stage and performed a range of new material which demonstrates an odd departure from their earlier, softer and somewhat more enjoyable, work. Their new style showed experimentation in both instrumentation and genre which imitated a sort of a reggae style unsuited to my liking. It was disappointing that the group did not perform even one song from their early, much loved, EPs.
As audiences made a quick dash through the damp weather, some were able to catch the end of ‘The Midnight Beasts’ performance in ‘The Ritz’ (the headline venue of the festival). The group are renowned for a good live show which is always accompanied by crude, yet entertaining, backing dancers dressed in morph suits. Basing their comical lyrics on parodies and a mockery of everyday life, the 10 minutes or so left of their show were enough to remind any late comers why the band deserved to play the main stage. With an abundance of confidence and enough catchy choruses to last their half an hour long set it came as no surprise to see a majority of the audience jumping frantically around to their upbeat tunes. The Midnight Beast were one of the more memorable acts of the festival activities as lead singer Stefan Abingdon concluded the set by showering the audience with a spray of confetti which was released from a long foam device, which signalled yet more hysterical screams from the fourteen year olds whom had pressed themselves eagerly against the stage’s barrier.
Roughly 70m away from The Ritz, ‘The Thirsty Scholar’ hosted the massively underappreciated ‘Adam Barnes’ who played a short but sweet set. Barnes’ vocal tones have been modelled for a quiet and appreciative venue and audience yet the fairly noisy pub paid little justice or respect to his beautiful work. Given an appropriate setting, Adam Barnes would undoubtedly prove himself as one of the UK’s greatest contemporary singer songwriters.
From the Thirsty Scholar it was back to the Ritz again for an unexpectedly rowdy reception for the Welsh rockers ‘Catfish and the Bottlemen’. Having performed several months ago in the city’s ‘Ruby Lounge’ the musicians effortlessly gathered a good several hundred to watch their indie rock reperformance. Without any tempting from the group itself the audience expanded in a fury of mosh pits whilst enthusiastic crowd surfers aimed to reach the stage itself. The musicians displayed a great deal of gratitude to the audience for their wild appreciation of their rock sounds.
Shortly after Catfish’s performance, downstairs in the ‘Ritz Basement’ a quasi-electronic duo ‘Barbarossa’ entertained audiences with their synthesized keyboards and drum kit collaboration. For two men they made a relatively complex sound which engaged the audiences’ focus for half an hour.
Up next in Sound Control’s Loft was the awe-inspiring ‘Lauren Aquilina’, an eighteen year old singer songwriter who deserves more praise than can be dedicated in this short review. As Aquilina sung she proved herself to be a true asset to the Dot to Dot Festival and a musician we should all keep our eyes on. Her lyrics documented the lows of a relationship and the bitterness formed by a break up. Performing an outstanding cover of The 1975’s ‘Sex’, Aquilina’s performance earned the audiences’ respect. The young singer will easily match the fame of Adele and Ellie Golding in years to come; a bold statement to make yet from just one listen you’re bound to anticipate her potential.
In a dramatic change of genre, it was back to Gorilla to watch the stage being torn up by London rockers ‘Wolf Alice’ who raged with venue with their grungy guitar sounds. Having supported The 1975 in January, the venue squeezed roughly three hundred or so fans into the small space. With a bold onstage presence and raw, ruthless talent, Wolf Alice performed with intensity and passion. Despite averaging an age of about 22 years old, Wolf Alice easily rocked the venue, proving their worth as musicians.
The evening concluded for me in the quirky cool ‘Zombie Shack’, a Hawaiian themed bar with Brighton based ‘Fickle Friends’. With recordings from Abbey Road Studios and a festival or two booked for the summer months, Fickle Friends are well on their way to success. Their feel good vibes are the sound of summer and their upbeat pop music will have you dancing round, tapping your feet, within no time at all; guaranteed. The small venue harboured an excellence performance by the group which was demonstrated by the active audience who danced away to their sugary hits.