Dot to Dot 2008: Day 1

Dot To Dot Festival, Bristol
26th May 2008

The weekend kicked off in glorious fashion in blazing sunshine, not a cloud in sight but unfortunately a fair share of hay fever induced sneezing from this weekends companions Mr Flowers and Anna. Three ice creams, three wristbands and one coin toss later we found ourselves in a rock pub called The Fleece on the East side of town ready to watch the first band of the weekend.

Hatcham Social to be fair, have a long way to go if they are going to move up the bill from this early afternoon slot. Musically they started raggedly but the rough clatter brought a certain charm after your ears had recovered from the excessive noise levels. Vocals were pretty poor and the few catchy tracks were driven mainly by the guitar lines. More touring necessary I think!

After carefully traversing a neighborhood of plentiful massage parlors and blacked out windows, we thankfully arrived at Trinity Music Centre (TMC). To my shock and surprise this was actually a church converted to a music venue, not an arena usually reserved for booze and rock and roll I imagine! However I’m sure the lord would have approved of the next band we saw, Ida Maria.

Ida Maria, a Scandinavian female fronted indie band with a keen eye for melody and an Ikea sized warehouse of cracking songs. Lead singer has a cute kitsch aura surrounding her and her Kate Nash-esque vocals (thankfully with better pronunciation). She commands the stage as the band more than get this church o’bopping. Instant happiness and breezy melodies tied to contagious chorus’s on tracks such as I Like You So Much Better When Your Naked, Oh my God and Queen of The World make this a super uplifting set. Can’t wait for their Debut album!

After hightailing it to The largest of the weekends eenues, the Bristol Carling Academy, we settled down the front to catch my only “must” see performer of the festival. Not before we strayed upstairs into academy two to witness a gabbled mess of electro and processed beats played erratically and Wee’haaay too loud by The Death Set. Not unexpectedly… we left!

Frank Turner, did not disappoint in the slightest. The rough around the edges hardcore punk rocker turned acoustic anti-folk hero was a commanding presence with his laid back rock and roll ethos. His new material sounded awesome, good time tunes with his characteristic heart on sleeve transparency.

Frank is immediately likable in a “you must have some crazy stories kind of way”, some of which he sung about here this afternoon. Set highlights included The Real Damage which documented one such boozy weekend, Fathers Day with its melodic grace and Back in the Day retraced to his angry youthful punk days (which he clearly still clings onto quite a lot).

However the show stopping track was the heartstring tugging, uplifting anthem for a lost friend that showcased his poetic no-nonsense songwriting at its best.Long Live The Queen is a perfect tribute to someone who clearly meant a hell of a lot to the guy. As the final chord rung out of yet another cracking tune The Ballad of Me And My Friends, we shuffled out knowing we’d witnessed the best the weekend had to offer!

Back over to TMC we trotted to catch the alt country duo Two Gallants. Their unique take on country music with finger plucking noisy fuzz riffs sounded great. The lead singers weathered vocals were not the strongest but what they lack in power they regained in character. This was rather enjoyable and one of the most un-formulaic bands of the weekend, but they did little to totally inspire the crowd, which is a shame really.

A pretty lengthy walk to Fiddlers later we settled down and caught some terrific piano indie pop in the shape of Golden Silvers. They put on a fantastic short set which had the crowd totally enthused and they were not short of style, melodies or catchy vocals either! Unknown to me before now, until now!! Watch out for these guys!

The real reason we were here was for Anna’s choice, the 80’s loving popsters of Palladium. Being honest I didn’t expect much more than a few cheery pop numbers, but this was a whole heap of fun. I just truly hope that their tongues were in cheek as their outfits were truly Duran Duran inspired. I was keeping a firm eye on the sublimely over the top keyboardist (complete with silver glittered visor) prancing around trying to be cool. To put it bluntly, he missed woefully and induced more than a few belly laughs. Anywho with all this lightheartedness it would take a pretty depressive band to lower the vibe….they duly arrived.

Tonight’s headline act Glasvegas (Elvis quiffs et al… ) have now been labeled the best new band in the country by NME. They did their very best to spread misery, angst and depression. They succeeded spectacularly! Their moody noise rock melodies were atmospheric and suitable dark and with lyrics like your dad he’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone… these guys set to take on Morrissey for title of pop music’s grand miserablists. I will have to disagree with the stamp place upon them by NME, but then… that’s not particularly a big surprise.

A downbeat but no less impressive end to a cracking opening day…. Day 2 coming soon

Shout Out Loud!!

Shout Out Louds, The Brunettes @ Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush, London
21st April

Lighthearted pop was the game this evening and what better way to start off the evening with some New Zealanders vagabonds, namely The Brunettes. I was quite disappointed given the name of the band that there was only 1 woman in the ensemble and she was blonde (can you call a guy Brunette?). Despite the false advertising The Brunettes were lets say “pretty” with plenty of quirks and fun little pop melodies. Substance was not at stake here as most tracks drifted gently over the too cool for school crowd.

Live they sounded better then what I imagined given it’d heard a few album tracks (which they were only plugging quite annoyingly every 30 seconds), but nothing to write home about. Given their home is so far away too, i’d save the postage money.

The Brunettes
The Brunettes

Shout Out Louds are another band who mis-advertise themselves. Without a raised voice or strained vocal in sight these Swedish indie pop maestros take the stage. With a bag chocked full of mega infectious inspired tunes they cant help but radiate fun and danceability. The usual array of odd twee instruments were in display here, with my favourite being the Cowbell on their single Impossible.

Shout Out Louds
Shout Out Louds

I fell in love with these guys after their first album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, and they satisfied my hunger for those tunes by playing rocky strummer Please Please Please, electro fueled Don’t Call It A Comeback and the funkalicious Shut Your Eye’s. This was a feel good set of happy pop tunes which drill deep into your subconscious, so much so they played on a loop in my head the whole way home! Sweden has never had it so good!

Shout Out Louds

The High Party

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists @ Borderline, Soho, London
20th April 2008

Quick apology for the lack of photos! I’ll put them up as soon as I can!

Upon arriving at Borderline this evening I felt a huge sense of relief that the doors were even open! What made me so nervous? Well quite simply old age must be taking its toll on poor old Ted Leo as he has cancelled his 2 previous scheduled London shows without citing any explanations to my knowledge. Enough for any fan to pack up bags and detract from his band of indie rockers. Not me however as third time turned out to be lucky, time to see if the patience paid off.

A packed lineup was kicked off by Wakefield trio The Research. Poppy vocal melodies rang over chiming guitars as they blatantly ripped riffs from hometown fav’s The Cribs. Pretty? Maybe… Inspiring? Not in the least… Good? Elevator Music…

I can’t imagine what the next band were using at the time they decided to call their band Large Mound, but it must have been pretty trippy! Still, they have thankfully come down from those highs and produced a set of fuzz riff fuelled alt rock in the same vein as Dino Jr. and Sebadoh with a pretty high RPM (Riffs Per Minute, in case you were wondering.) They were pretty good, highlights were punchy and catchy at the time. Looking back though… I only have a vague recollection of them, they clearly made no impression.

Unmemorable is one word I cannot use to describe Ted Leo, even if me and Mr Flowers spent 20 minutes arguing if the balding dude setting up on stage was actually Ted himself. I was wrong, slightly to my dismay as the “guitar tech” turned round, guitar loaded ready to rock with his Pharmacists in tow. They were running slightly late and this transformed what could have been a pedestrian run through of hits, into a punked up, adrenaline fueled romp through indie rock at its stripped down finest.

Each track was played at breakneck speed as Ted’s strained falsetto did its best to actually get the lyrics sung in time, such was the tempo of these songs. Guitars were great as expected from a well seasoned performer, but his lack of crowd interaction was somewhat of a letdown. Set highlights included the superb pop classic Me and Mia, melodic strummer turned Thin Lizzy strutter Counting Down the Hours and the punk-folk musings of Bottle of Buckie.

We might have waited a loooong time for this gig, but it was sure worth the wait!