Festival Review: Dot To Dot Manchester 2018

Dot To Dot

Various Venues Manchester 25th May 2018

Words: Gary Lambert 

Photos: Elena Katrina 

Dot To Dot Manchester has to be one of the highlights in the Popped Music calendar.  There is pretty much the perfect balance of favourite music acts, bands that you have wanted to catch, and the odd surprise here and there.  Plus there is the opportunity to sneak into Pieminster for an evening meal without having to go too far off course. Now if that place was large enough to fit a drum kit in…


One of the bands Popped Music has followed over the last two years is Stockport’s No Hot Ashes.  They were given an early slot at the Albert Hall in order to kick start events.  Elena was hoping to get there to see them, however, life and geography had other ideas. They also had other ideas when it came to getting her pass and getting in at The Ritz to catch even the last song of Cassia, and she was instead met by bitter disappointment and loads of feet moving in the opposite direction to hers. A sure fire sign that she had missed them too. Not to be put off she caught Gus Dapperton, an act she wasn’t planning on seeing but thoroughly enjoyed none the less.

A handy hop across the road found her also able to see The Regrettes, a band whose roots are firmly placed in the punkier side of rock. The venue was damp and sweaty, the lighting moody and the crowd, a combination of teenage hormoans (sic) and adults beginning to get to grips with their early weekend alcohol.  It became clear that The Regrettes had something to say and that the crowd was fully on board, a bouncing living organism that moved, not quite in unison, as the fractious nature of moshing would have it.  From what Elena told me, it was an impressive set and they are now a must-see band. And one I’m now unhappy to have missed – which I would not have done if it hadn’t been for Manchester’s rush hour traffic which is the one big letdown of holding the Friday leg of Dot To Dot there.


Whilst The Ritz is an old venue kept alive, Soup Kitchen is an old industrial building that was given a new lease of life, and is personally one of my favourite venues in Manchester.  Apart from the fact there is some delicious food upstairs, I love the lack of fuss with the big concrete basement and narrow stone stairs. And always the music feels loud so the chattering timewasters drown in textures and rock n roll.  It was at Soup Kitchen I was fortunate enough to catch Swimming Girls. The singer Vanessa demands the audience stay focused on them with a dominant and intense stage persona whilst the band create a musical accompaniment which sounds like the celebratory closing song to a Brat Pack movie.  Basically, I was reminded of Simple Minds but without Jim Kerr going waaa-aaa-oooh (other stadium rock cliché noises are available).


Desperate Journalist sounds like somebody has asked this particular blogger how he feels when he says anything related to press when queueing outside a gig.  Thankfully that is in name only as what they provided was a visceral outpouring of power which made me feel that my life had a Desperate Journalist shape hole in it, but I just hadn’t realised.  There are fewer things finer to send shivers down my spine than a band with controlled and directed aggression. This isn’t to suggest that Desperate Journalist were stood on stage fuming but not saying anything, but rather all their energy was invested into making the greatest sound possible without exploding into an attention grabbing frenzy that makes people forget about the sound as they try to grab a great Instagram for likes.


Now frenzy is a good way to describe events taking place in Gorilla as Bad Sounds took to the stage.  If you have never seen Bad Sounds before, I would describe them as two members of 1987 era Beastie Boys replacing David Byrne in Talking Heads.  Although at the time my notes said “clean cut three piece who have let their mates with ADHD join the band”. Now this is the sort of band that I demand to watch constantly, but there are not enough acts like this to go around.  I loved their set as it made me feel 17 rather than 37 and wish that I’d brought a spare pair of glasses with me so that I could join the moshpit at the front, middle and back of the room instead of being upstairs watching on like a cowardly general in 1914.  And whilst the combination of rap and rock music can lead you to expect Limp Bizkit and Sum 41, especially the latter given the age and on-stage antics of Bad Sounds, the music is far more nuanced and less designed for big singalong moments.


At the same time as Dot To Dot, there was another musical event happening in Manchester, Ed Sheeran was in town.  I wish that the mega-crowds at the Etihad Stadium had been able to take in the set of Dermot Kennedy.  After the energy of Bad Sounds, it took a bit of time for me to register interest in Dermot. To be honest, I was feeling like a child who had been taken away from the toy shop to go to get some new school shoes, but a recommendation is a recommendation so I had to follow it.  This was a much better performance with hindsight than I experienced at the time. The focus of the set was on songcraft and melody rather than trying to get everybody moving (other than emotionally). Dermot does not look uncomfortable either as he seems to thrive with the responsibility being on him.  Indeed one thought I had was that his backing band seemed slightly underused on stage. But they are the backing band, and Dermot is the one who has his name up in lights above them as they play. And with a song like Glory in the set, he is always going to be on to a winner.


Just like anybody who purchases a ticket for Dot To Dot next year will be.

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  • About Popped Music

    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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