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Dot to Dot festival is one of the most important dates in Bristol’s diverse music calendar. With the recent passing of the very successful Simple Things festival that saw the likes of Grimes, Squarepusher and Simian Mobile Disco perform over the May bank holiday weekend, the more Indie based Dot to Dot had big boots to fill.

There was an absence of union flags and excessive bunting that provided a welcome alternative to the Queens Jubilee celebrations, which was a relief. Lovely jublee in fact. Dot to Dot was a proper celebration – a celebration of really great artists playing in a really great city, Bristol.

The event aptly named Dot to Dot was dotted about various venues in Bristol: The Louisiana, The Thekla, Start The Bus, The Cooler, The Fleece, Stag and Hounds, Trinity and The O2 Academy all hosting artists. The Louisiana – split into two performance spaces for the festival – kicked off the days music downstairs in the bar area with Simon Anning, Outsiders and Dead Elms. A big crowd was gathering upstairs prior to Matthew & Me. It was hot, humid and sweaty – and inside wasn’t much better. Matthew & Me played a very sweet and much loved set. Their hooky, summery songs providing the perfect accompaniment to a warm and sunny afternoon. ‘Modern Life’, showing off the bands ability to write a very catchy tune whilst shortly after, downstairs in the Louis it was Casimir who kept the energy levels high with a very noisy, very entertaining, Explosions in the Sky influenced set.

Bluesy American folkers Pearl and the Beard started their show on the top deck of The Thekla by running about the crowd. All three great vocalists sung and clapped their way through ‘Douglas Douglas’. A very well thought out performance visually as well as musically and one of the highlights of the festival. In true festival fashion the rain began to fall and quite suitably, as the weather got wetter, the music got better. The O2 played host to Lucy Rose, the up-and-coming folk starlet playing to a full O2 arena. Starting with her breakthrough song ‘Middle of the Bed’ and backed by a band, this performance was well worthy of the O2 and excellently executed with her new material also sounding superb. She seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the fact that such a venue was full for her.

The Fleece won the prize for the longest queue of the evening to see Jake Bugg, the young acoustic folk artist on his way to some big things. Having had his profile boosted immensely after appearing on Live with Jools Holland and after his upbeat single ‘Lightning Bolt’ was named Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record in the World, the boy had confidence on stage with an air of cocky swagger – Brit Pop style. Bugg’s set was brilliant and he proved that he isn’t just another acoustic singer/songwriter as he swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric telecaster and blasted his way through the end of the set.

Headlining the festival was The Drums. The O2 was once again full, waiting in anticipation for the very casual indie LoFi boys. The performance kicked off with lots of energy and blinding lights, however as the energy levels dispersed, the blinding affect of the lights did not. It was sadly a sub-standard performance from the American beach poppers.

After a quick sprint through the town centre in the pouring rain to see Last Dinosaurs, it was certainly worth the soaking. Like a more mature Two Door Cinema Club, the imaginative indie pop band had an amazing sound and was one of the unsuspecting standout acts from the festival. Everyone was dancing like crazy – doyouthinktheysaurus? Terrible pun, very good band. Below deck The Internet took the stage and proved that you can have an awful band name yet still be a great band. This broad-band taking strong influences from jazz, hip-hop and funk with infectious grooves and creative lyrics

Canadian dance trio Doldrums hit the top deck hard with a confident, extrovert and expressive performance. A mix of heavy beats and constantly evolving time signatures sounded at times very sloppy, but simultaneously kind of euphoric, especially ‘Egypt’, a wonderful song on record and just as impressive live. Friends seemed to be the definition of a ‘hipster’ band. Trying way to hard to look cool rather than to sound unique. After getting through the initial endearing qualities that the band possessed at the beginning of the gig, the remainder of the set felt as if they simply stuck to the same formula of writing and performing for every song that made it hard to differentiate and engage with the pretentiousness on stage.

It was getting late. Clothes were wet with sweat, rainwater and beer but it didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the late night DJ set from the Metronomy man himself, Olugbenga. His mix of modern club hits and classic dance tunes made it a fitting end to an impressive festival.

Words: Jack Jago

Photo: Laura Palmer