Despite hours of searching we seemed unable to locate the promised table tennis table at Nottingham’s Dot To Dot, but the musical offerings more than overcame our saddening lack of ping pong. Spread over 5 venues and with a range of music for every taste, we set out to find out what Dot was boasting in the shape of female performers. Whilst most seemed drawn in by the likes of The Wild Beast and Mystery Jets, we lurked around in some of the smaller venues, trying to sample some of the newer acts on the circuit.
Having been disappointed to catch only the tail end of Boat To Row’s set at Wood last weekend we resolved to make them our first port of call. Although Dot to Dot’s main stages were all inside, you could be forgiven for thinking you were outdoors enjoying the summer sunshine throughout their set, rather than in the main room of the Nottingham Trent SU Bar. At times they reminded us of Indigo Moss, especially during stand out track Autumn Day, but fresher and with a boat load more commercial appeal. “This is the biggest stage we’ve ever played on” noted lead singer Mike, but the five piece rose to the occasion and really showed us what we had missed. Hopefully it won’t be long before they’re selling their debut album rather than cassette tapes at the end of their shows.
Another new act to watch for is Leah Mason, who has already made a name for herself supporting the likes of Ellie Goulding and Paolo Nutini. She played to a packed out Bodega, which is incidentally the venue she first performed in just eighteen months ago. Fierce and guitar driven she is a mash up of folk, rock and pop. At times reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson there were also softer moments, including Is There A Man, which had a lighter and markedly more acoustic feel. However it was stand out tracks such as Waiting On A Good Day which were the mark of her star potential, as we wandered away unaware that we will still humming along.
It has to be said that Islet were potentially the most confused band we witnessed at Dot To Dot. They seemed unclear how many drum kits a band should have, so opted for two only to decide mid set that drum sticks upon the stage edge made a far more resounding sound. They equally seemed lost about where the band should stand, suffice to say most members made their way into the audience at times. Add to this instrument swaps, each member taking turns on the drum kit, guitar and Fisher Price tambourines and a fair whack of screaming in each song and the audience could be forgiven for wondering if they’d wandered into a circus. Musically they were solid, with an interesting mix of beats, but they go beyond the realms of comparison as if Islet themselves are unclear about what type of music they’re trying make. In short, we can only conclude they’re then kind of band you have to see for yourself to form any sort of musical opinion and even then we suspect you’re likely to come away scratching your head, being so engulfed in the stage antics you’ll have totally forgotten what your ears heard.
Elsewhere we were pretty impressed with Kirsty Almeida’s cabaret style set, which boasted the most choreographed backing band we’ve seen to date. With a mixture of saxophones, trumpets, clarinets and steel drums she reminded us at times of Erykah Badu, whilst at others being more of a R&B version of Imelda May. Though she opened with a soul driven number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an Amy Winehouse album, her signature sound seemed to be the more upbeat numbers. Whilst her latest single Spiders (due for release on 14th June) seemed to be her weakest of the set, The Circle Song blew us away. If it’s an indicator of what’s to come, we epect her forthcoming album Pure Blue Green (due for release in September) will well received by those who favour more soulful sounds.
Ellie Goulding meanwhile seemed to divert everyone at Dot to the Rock City venue, all vying for a glimpse of the chart toping starlet and with this in mind we felt there was little choice but to follow suit. Ellie is someone who’s album feels like it’s lost to a realm of synthesised vocals, laced over the top of un-enticing pop rhythms and witnessing the set up of 5 different keyboards on stage, we’re soon lost to a fear that tonight’s set will go down a similar vain. Live it’s clear that Ellie deserves some of her acclaim, her vocals are strong and less irritating when free of the polish of studio mixing, but she still seems to be missing any sort of spark. Whilst the audience lap up Under The Sheets we can help but wonder if this is simply for its karaoke appeal, given how loudly most people decided to sing we doubt they could hear Ellie vocals over their own. Whilst she defies us to call her something more than a singer, adding her own guitar and drum kit to the set, these seemed to add little to the sound and though Starry Eyed rounds of her set elegantly, we still left feeling as though we’re missing the point of Ellie, unable to decipher what exactly it is that makes others rate her so highly.
All in all we have to say that Dot boasted and impressive line and which more than fuelled our quest to find the female artists of tomorrow and there were plenty more that we simply didn’t have time to see. Suffice to say Dot is the kind of festival that boasts just enough well known names to draw in the crowds and showcase those newer to the scene at the same time. Add to this a BBQ at every venue, DJ sets running to the early hours of the morning and well managed venues with a distinct lack of queuing and we really couldn’t ask for much more, except perhaps for someone to tell us where they hid the ever elusive Fred Perry table tennis club.