Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ship Shapes And Bristol Fashion

Dot-to-Dot Festival, Various venues in Bristol, Saturday May 24 2008 and Sunday May 25 2008, 2.45pm-11pm.

This is your erudite explorer's first time at Dot-to-Dot, and on only our second expedition to Brizzle itself, and special thanks are due to new city resident Alison for providing the hospitality, company, laptop access and orienteering skills as we traversed the city in search of indie-rock thrills. Bristol seems almost unfairly blessed with unusual venues, with things kicking off on a moored-boat-cum-nightclub Thekla, and other sites including a converted church (Trinity) and prison (the appropriately named Fiddlers), all adding to the sense of adventure and discovery.

All aboard the good ship Thekla, our first band of the fest were Telepathe (pronounced by the band as telepathy as if spoken in a foreign accent) who featured (running theme alert!) an androgynous lead singer who looked for all the world like a cabin boy until she opened her pipes. Technical difficulties bedevilled the New Yorkers' set, which had something of a shambolic air (the sexy drummer abandoned her instrument for most of the set), but somehow through it all, by combination of sullen cool and some beautiful, fascinating songs, they seem to just about get through it all with their allure intact.

Then caught a couple of songs by serious young men The Detachments, which was enough to make you walk the plank, so headed off to rockpub The Fleece where Dublin's Fight Like Apes turned Bristol into the Wild West for half-an-hour, striding across the bar counter and wrestling each other in the moshpit during a cathartic and hugely enjoyable set, with former Parallax View Single Of The Week 'Jake Summers' the crazed centrepiece amongst their other harder, slightly grungier material. FLA also afforded us our first encounter with Bristol's most noteworthy superfan, a tall ginger bearded fellow called Geoff/Jeff whose propulsive stage-front duracell-dancing antics were a significant ongoing feature during festivities.

Downstairs at local roots venue The Louisiana, Sid Delicious were offering some skewed, off-beat thrills, while upstairs met back up with Alison to catch some of Eugene McGuinness' more traditional folk fayre, which should offer some appeal to fans of the Norwegian troubadour Sondre Lerche. Much more to our liking was Esser back over at Thekla, who looked tetchy and preoccupied during the soundcheck, but with his band got everybody dancing with jerky, infectious, and ever-so-slightly ridiculous pop music all set to create waves everywhere if there was any justice in this world.

We should have followed Geoff/Jeff's purposeful gait towards the Fiddlers, but instead got slightly lost and so despairingly missed Southampton's Thomas Tantrum performing former Parallax View Single Of The Week 'Shake It! Shake It!' (dispatching your most famous song early in the set seems to be another emerging trend) although what remained was nevertheless impressive, albeit more conventionally rockin' than their strop-pop SOTW. Top marks too to the very pretty lead singer for taking the time to publicly thank Geoff/Jeff for his sterling dancefloor exertions, and the dishing out of the free badges afterwards.

We elected to stay in Fiddlers to catch Micachu, who've been recording with Matthew Herbert and are starting to make a noise in London. They make heavy weather of the start of the set, the singer appearing to be in the 'attitude' stage of a day's drinking, and our attention wanders to the consideration of whether the drummer is a boy or girl (the former, if you're interested). Things do improve as the set goes on, and maybe in the studio with a disciplined producer their recorded output might be worth exploring.

Sunday morning was spent trawling MySpace to identify some bands worth catching, and the day eventually took us by surprise in terms of offering an even wider array of thrills, despite getting lost in one of Bristol's less salubrious spots in search of Trinity, where we saw a couple of uninspiring bands kick the day off amidst the anti-climax of Team Waterpolo pulling out. Much better was to follow, however, with Woodbridge's Cheeky Cheeky And The Nosebleeds proving a genuine revelation back at Fiddlers, despatching urgent (East-Angular?) guitar pop with energy, enthusiasm and that raw fearlessness you get from a band that's twigged they're on the cusp of something transformative. Daft name, then, but brilliant choons, particularly the marvellous anthem 'Slow Kids'.

This inspires your adrenaline-rushed arsehole to stuff in quick snatches of bands during an intense period of shuttling between venues and a strict three-songs-and-then-you're-gone policy which we only break for Red Light Company at Fleece, because they are excellent value, because 'With Lights Off' is a majestic classic, because the lead singer looks like an even skinnier Tom Petty, but also because by this stage we're knackered. Bonus points for the ecstatic group hug afterwards, too, which seemed genuine and this gang mentality will serve them well in the music industry travails that are sure to follow.

Around RLC we also found ourselves rattled by the rush of Pack AD's butch, bruising take on modern blues in Louisiana; impressed with the colossal high-energy post-rock guitar squalls of Leicester's Maybeshewill at Fleece; smiling like a silly-'un to the giddy 80's guilty pleasures of Cornwall's Rosie and the Goldbug at Thekla and left feeling slightly cold by moody Swedes Dag for Dag back again in Louisiana.

Things were then topped off in Thekla with The Mae Shi nearly stealing the whole weekend in a suitably scurvied piratical style, their jittery, attention-deficited noise-pop keeping everybody hugely entertained. We've heard of bands canvassing their fans before, but we've never seen it quite so literally demonstrated as when the band haul a sheet of tarpaulin over the moshpit and all dive inside under it, where they find themselves, amongst others, rubbing pneumatic shoulders with the omnipresent Geoff/Jeff. All in all, a wonderfully in-tents performance, then.

Cutting Pink With Knives have the opposite effect to The Mae Shi's inclusive gestures, in one of their last ever live performances, with frightened punters scampering away for safety as the lead singer took off his shirt and attempted to bully those at the bar into the moshpit. The music was slammin' and powerful in a kind of Beestung Lips-with-the-brakes-off intensity, and although we weren't really in the mood for it, it was kind of fascinating to watch as a piece of theatre, even though the search for anything remotely resembling a melody proved a fruitless task.

Then it was back to The Fleece for our last show of the festival: Metronomy, who seemed to be trying to be Klaxons so hard it hertz, wacky light circles emblazoned on their chests, and all. They were OK, to be fair, a reasonable soundtrack to the last few drinks of the weekend, but nothing to write home about in comparison to The Red Light Company, The Mae Shi, Fight Like Apes, Cheeky Cheeky And The Nosebleeds, Esser, Rosie and The Goldbug and Thomas Tantrum, who made up my magnificent seven from this delightfully dotty weekend.

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Anonymous Alison said...

Very fair review methinks, though it took its time!

Guess what? There are still tickets for Glastonbury and it's going to be sunny!! It's the truth!!

9:57 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

The "three-songs-and-then-you're-gone" policy - like it. If I've seen three songs, I feel justified in saying I've seen the band. Always good to maximise what you see (though obviously I'll also make exceptions and see entire sets from certain bands).

Sounds like a busy weekend, with lots of new things to capture your attention. Must give some of these MySpaces a click.

12:52 AM  

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