Live Report: Dot To Dot, Nottingham

Few festivals offer this much value for money…
The Pizza Underground

Over the course of just under a decade, Dot To Dot, the brainchild of Nottingham-based live event promotion mafiosos DHP, has grown from a modest three-venue event in its organiser's home city to a travelling three-day trek again supported by Fred Perry Subculture, which also sets up shop in Manchester and Bristol. It is in 2014, however, when it finally feels like a festival that truly embraces its location, as well as being embraced by it.

This is part of a wider, and much welcomed, attitude that has been felt across the city for the last couple of years and one of the reasons, along with step-ups from independent promoters and venues like I'm Not From London at JT Soar, that so many of the most talked about performers at the festival are local acts.

Gallery 47 and Sleaford Mods bookend the festival with gorgeous acoustic strumming and politically-motivated, punk-infused hip-hop respectively, while Kagoule, April Towers and The Cult Of Dom Keller are equally impressive and are vying with Ronika and Indiana to be the city's first breakthrough act since...well lets move on.

Before the festival's gates open, a lot of talk surrounds Macaulay Culkin's The Pizza Underground (pictured), suggesting that a lot of attendees are casual to say the least. This suspicion is realised when the band's set is cut short after 15 minutes after several drinks (chiefly beers, priced at £4 a pop) are thrown at the band.

Their set puts paid to the old adage that, to paraphrase Terry Funk, every gig is a great gig until it begins: the rapturous audience falls into silence before the end of the first song and soon turns violent in a manner more akin to a home crowd seeing their team concede a last minute equalizer. Still, the band members seem at peace with their inherent cheesiness, and at yeast they've earned their crust and will be able to use their raised profile to garnish attention for any upcoming side-order projects.

Drenge fare much better in the Rock City main hall – they’ve come a long way since earlier performances at venues such as The Chameleon. Their heads-down rock is indebted unashamedly to the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys, but where their forefathers shined up for radio play, Drenge add another layer of black paint, and are beginning to approach the Sabbath worshipping of Gonga and Uncle Acid & The Dead Beats, while retaining an ear for a straight-forward tune that keeps the curious, student-heavy crowd happy. One can only hope they continue in that direction.

Afterwards the one-two punch of the aforementioned The Cult Of Dom Keller and Sleaford Mods proves the festival's real highlight. Local boys done good after years of toiling across the city, at The Corner they may be playing a venue that has a capacity barely in the hundreds but every inch of the room is covered with sweat and flailing limbs, and both sets feel like long-overdue launch pads.

As the night draws to a close one criticism of the festival's 2014 edition, particularly being as it is on a Bank Holiday Sunday in Nottingham, is that the official after-hours entertainment on offer is somewhat lacking. But with the main hub of the festival being embedded in the heart of the city it doesn't present too much of an issue for those who still can't get to grips with the idea of a Silent Disco.

This is a small complaint when concerning the festival as a whole, however. While the line-up is padded by a considerable amount of chaff across a count of venues that now reaches into the early teens, at a price of £20 and with the rarely-experienced delights such as well-managed sound desks and real toilets there are few festivals, small or large, that offer such a competitive return on your investment.

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Words: Jordan Dowling

Related: read our pre-Dot To Dot interview with Drenge

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