Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dot To Dot Bristol 2010 for Gigwise

Hi Blog-lovers here's a review I wrote for Gigwise about Dot To Dot Bristol 2010. Enjoy.

Dot to Dot fest 2010 returned to Bristol for the sixth time this year and despite a distinct lack of really big names on the line-up, exciting new-comers like Egyptian Hip Hop, Washed Out and Alan Pownall certainly made up for that.

It all starts out with the inevitable queuing for wristbands at Thekla but once the queues are left behind, a thrilling evening of new music is about to kick off.

Even though The Crookes at Academy 1 perform to a semi-empty venue, it doesn’t hamper their retro-tastic allure. With quiffs neatly styled and shirts so nicely tucked in even your grandma would be impressed, the Crookes are in equal parts jangly surf riffs a la The Drums and nostalgic 50s Rhythm and Blues styled on teenage retro-popsters Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. The singer’s erratic dancing and the sharp riffs of Crookes’ guitar man ensure that the girls in the front row keep dancing. And we all know once the girls are dancing, most boys will follow suit, which turns Academy 1 into nice afternoon swing fest. With praise coming from high places such as Steve Lamacq, who reckons that “...a band this good are unlikely to remain obscure”, The Crookes are likely to have a bright future ahead.

Next on are Bristol’s very own Kill Kassidy in the Academy upstairs. Their pop-punk-pastiche might be well-received by home-grown fans, but, quite frankly, the singer’s constant wailing and the band’s utterly unimaginative melodies are more Avril Lavigne than Ariel Pink. Singer Tim throws himself around on stage like an ADHD kid on too much cough medicine and combined with the sonic assault coming out of the amps, this experience can only be described as traumatic.

After quickly making our way back downstairs to catch Blood Red Shoes, we discover that the venue has filled up considerably. Kicking off with former single ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’, Blood Red Shoes showcase their usual blend of angry pop and pissed-off punk. But possibly, instead of investing all their energy in complaining, they should rather put it into writing some proper tunes for once.

The band gets close to doing that with ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’, but their sound is nonetheless rather generic and samey. I know Laura-Mary is really hot and most of the male audience are here because of her, but when she yowls “Repetition is killing me” on ‘It Is Happening’ it strikes a bit too close to home. Maybe in 2008 grunge-esque, rocked-out tales of angst, alienation and boredom were terribly en vogue, but in 2010 they are just terrible.

Wild Beasts ensure that lovers of more elaborate and intricate soundscapes get their share of good music with their Battles meets Sigur Ross appropriation, but they don’t really manage to wow the crowd.

Moving on to watch London hotshots Fiction at the tiny upstairs bar in Thekla, we get the first idea of what a really exciting band sounds like. Springing from the arty New Cross scene, Fiction blow off the roof with their sonic double-drumming and gloomy, reverb-heavy beats. Conveying a ferocious intelligence, the band mix the playful with the hard, the dissonant with the catchy and by the end of their set, everybody in Bristol has a new favourite band.

Playing the main room in the Thekla, incredibly young freak-funk popsters Egyptian Hip Hop are already necking their cans of lager. Despite the fact that they are all underage, they sound like a band having gained several master degrees in music. The band turns the sterile venue into a tropical funk P.A.R.T.Y! Egyptian Hip Hop’s nonchalant dream-indie / slacker-soul / noise-techno / freak-rave does not only portray a band that has liberated itself from genre boundaries, but also a troupe that is having fun with music. Take note all you Blood Red Shoes out there. Single ‘Rad Pitt’ sits comfortably between the loafer antics of Beavis and Butthead and the melodious insurgence of noise-kinks such as Liars or even Atari Teenage Riot.

Long-awaited returners to the live circus The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster should have been the perfect closing act to an overall diverse and musically challenging festival, but they are unfortunately (and to put it politely) too ‘sozzled’ to fulfil their infinite potential.

The new material is well-received by a devoted crowd, but it doesn’t justify the fact that the audience know all the lyrics better than lead-singer Guy McKnight, whose state can only be described as ‘dilapidated’. Fantastically well-crafted gloom-goth single ‘Love Turns to Hate’ isn’t showcased properly as Guy’s constant stage-diving hinders every song to be brought to a proper closing. With only three original band members left, Eighties Matchbox are a mere shadow of the gloriously talented and positively bizarre band they used to be back in 2002. It’s unnerving to see them become a parody of themselves and whilst I will always love every single album they released, it breaks my heart to say that they were in absolute shambles live.

Clearly the highlights of Dot to Dot were the great organisation that guaranteed no queues at most times during the event, the refreshingly different approaches to music by new bands such as Egyptian Hip Hop and Fiction and THAT quarter-pounder at half past midnight. Roll on Dot to Dot 2011!

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