Live In Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham...

Clash's coverage of the annual, multi-city and multi-venue festival skips Manchester's fun to begin in the West Country...

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Bristol - Saturday

For this writer, Dot To Dot 2013 starts in a bowling alley. Bristol’s marvellously odd venue The Lanes is surely one of only a few places where you can hear rock 'n’ roll mixed in with the constant TCHOK of flying pins.  

Despite the noise and only a small crowd, Mustard Allegro do well. The surf-rock trio is decked out in Hawaiian shirts and armed with stuffed toys. Their songs are brief of length and odd of theme (Thomas The Tank Engine and trainspotting crop up). They are, in short, almost heroically uncool - which is all part of their charm. One girl in the audience is overheard saying, “This is the best band ever”. We wouldn't go that far, but they make for an enjoyably ramshackle start to the day.  

Across town, Bristol Academy stinks. That’s not a criticism of the venue (though, y’know…) - it literally smells. The odour of sweaty feet overwhelms the room that Finland's Satellite Stories are playing in.

Not that the band seems to have noticed – they're too busy raising the roof. The eerily youthful four-piece plays energetic indie-pop that’s a little bit Killers, a little bit Two Door Cinema Club; and also a little bit generic. Still, frontman Esa Mankinen has a lot of presence and a mercurial quality to his vocals. “Let’s go, let’s go to Mexico,” he suggests at one point. It’s an easy rhyme, but they make it sound like an attractive prospect all the same.  

Blackeye have been tagged as Britpop revivalists – and certainly their debut single, 'Spin', suggests that unhappy ambition. But live, they have a harder edge. They also bring a dash of glamour to the event. No, I’m not talking about the fact that singer Chloe Little is a girl. I’m talking about the guitarist’s Wolverine-like hair. Honestly, it’s incredible.  

Alas, we are forced to miss the end of their set to run back to The Lanes to catch GuMM. There’s a buzz around this band – and indeed the local Howling Owl collective they’re a part of – and they don’t disappoint. Noisy shoegazey types, there’s definitely a touch of The Horrors about them, particularly in singer Arthur Jay’s vocals. They play loud, filling the venue with squalls of distortion and make for the day’s most purely enjoyable show.  

If Dot To Dot in Bristol has a focal point, then it’s undoubtedly the Thekla. Here, Nottingham’s Kagoule make a valiant effort to resurrect the spirit of grunge. They may have a name that smacks of twee indie nostalgia, but they conjure up a ferocious racket. Original? Nah, the spectre of The Smashing Pumpkins looms large, but still: this is good, dirty, bass-heavy fun.  

Diversity has always been this festival’s great strength, so it’s kind of a shame that there's little in the way of hip-hop or dance on offer this time around. Still, the quality of the bands is high and the festival remains a highlight in the Bristol calendar.

Words: Will Salmon

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Nottingham - Sunday

After two dates of non-stop music across a range of venues in Manchester and Bristol, it’s now time to end the tri-city festival in Nottingham.

We start our journey in Bodega, and up the stairs to the small dark room that seems to take us a thousand miles away from the afternoon sun beating down outside. Here people of all ages have gathered to see one of the most controversial acts in the whole festival, Beans On Toast.

Beans steps on stage with his guitar five minutes early, playing a selection of simple chords and claiming it to be the only other song he knows. After this distinct introduction his songs amuse the audience, touching upon subjects such as Prince Harry in a helicopter, being skint and not being able to get into Glastonbury – which after this outburst, he is now lined up to play. But behind the humour there are serious political messages of equality and general respect for one another.

Inside Rock City the crowd moves to the mellow, psychedelic sounds of Swim Deep. The band takes over the main stage, playing melodic indie to the hyped room.

"I can’t believe it," says Austin Williams, as he looks out to the sardined audience. "It’s only midday and we’re playing a sold-out show." However, despite the lack of room, the crowd really moves and halfway through ‘The Sea’ things heat up so much that Williams tips a bottle of water over his head.

After playing brilliant hits such as ‘She Changes The Weather’ and ‘Simmer’, Swim Deep finish on ‘King City’ before taking off their shirts and leaving in style.

A piano is wheeled out into the centre of the stage, and we prepare for Tom Odell. With a double bass to his right and acoustic guitar to his left, he begins.

"I tried to get tickets to see The Rolling Stones from my manager," he says, taking a momentary break, "and he rang me back and asked if I wanted to support them, so this is our cover of 'Honky Tonk Women'."

As the night falls, many move to Jongleurs to watch Lucy Rose and her band. There’s a real intimate feel as she sits on her stool, centre stage. Rose’s atmospheric voice warms hearts, as she gently sings and plucks guitar strings to songs including the classic 'Night Bus' into the early hours.

From the calm to the chaotic, those that remain have gathered at Stealth to see the last acts of the night. However, none stand out quite like Bo Ningen. The acid-punk band storms the stage, looking almost processed as they play their instruments.

Fans watch in horror, as they swing their guitars around, bang into the cameramen. The lead singer finishes the set with a perfect jump kick from the drums.

The great thing about Dot To Dot is that there’s no right way of experiencing it. The festival is what the fans make it, with a range of different sized bands and stages. It's that very choice that makes Dot To Dot unique.

Words: Sophie Sparham

Photos: Lindsay Wilson

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