Touring Festival Dot To Dot Kicks Off In Manchester
The Ritz Basement is the very definition of a sweat box; the humid air so heavy and dense that the piped-in dry-ice ‘atmosphere’ quickly coagulates into a plume of foul smelling chemical aromas.
Birmingham’s Jaws have the unenviable task of getting this sweaty mass of room moving, and their calypso tinged funk-bass numbers do so fairly effortlessly. Festival headliners Peace are spotted nodding their heads to their B-town brethren’s bangers at the back of the room, and Jaws certainly share more similarities than just location, coming off like a lazier version (Connor Schofield’s vocal is delivered perfectly lackasdaiscally throughout). It’s all very laid back, and the low ceilings and view obscuring pillars seem to make way for tropical climbs as Schofield sings “Take me where the gold drips from the sun to my back” on ‘Gold’.
The Zombie Shack is tucked away among the arches of a railway bridge that seems to house a multitude of venues in exactly the same point in space. Its tiki-bar interior is once again swelteringly hot, perhaps warmed by the flaming cocktails the group of hen night participants who seem to have charmed their way through the festival’s wristband system are enjoying. It’s a strange place for a gig, but Honeyblood have drawn a formidable crowd.
The Glaswegian duo’s sultry blues-grunge comes across a lot chunkier live than it does on record, and the band’s simplistic get-up of baggy jumpers and Doc Martens seems at odds with the soft focus middle-distance pouting of their press shots. Perhaps some kind of seedy marketing ply is behind it all, trying to grab the attention of as many people as possible for the admittedly pretty Scots, but really their scuzzy lo-fi guitars should be speaking for themselves. When Stina Tweeddale adorably coos “I will hate you forever/You really do disgust me” on twee-est break-up song ever ‘Super Rat’, the heart’s of the room immediately melt and fearfully skip a beat.[caption id="attachment_60427" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Honeyblood @ Zombie Shack[/caption]
The Bohicas on the same stage are all the leather jacketed boisterousness of the laddier end of mid-00s indie-rock, but a hell of a lot heavier and with added guitar pedal noise to boot. ’XXX’ comes on like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on speed as front man Dominic McGuiness wrangles all manner of nonsensical tones from his instrument.
LSA may be playing to a by now fairly empty Z-Shack (new nickname right there), but they still give it their all. Vocalist and lead guitarist Will White shares more than a passing resemblance to The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, oozing with New York cool/arrogance (he’s from London) and only breaking his steely frown once when a young couple make the astute observation of “Jesus on the drums!” between songs (and it is an astute observation). Destined to share the same success among the teeny-bopper indie-schmindy types (White already has his own tumblr: see fuckyeahwillwhite.tumblr.com) as the aforementioned Jaws and Peace.
Drenge over in The Ritz’ main room may be hampered by sound problems that murk Eoin’s bluesy guitar (we’re not quite sure how having less members makes it harder to do the sound for the tech guys, but it always seems to be the case) beneath the pounding tubs of brother Rory’s drums. Still, The Ritz responds enthusiastically, the alarming give of the room’s old-style wooden dance floor aiding in breakouts of mass pogoing as the two-piece showcase choice cuts from last year’s self-titled debut such as ‘Nothing’ and ‘Face Like A Skull’.[caption id="attachment_60431" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Drenge @ The Ritz[/caption]
You know a band are getting a bit too big for their boots when they spend so much time fine tuning their equipment that they overrun their allotted stage slot. That’s exactly what Wolf Alice do over in the adjacent Gorilla, though from the moment the London grunge quartet launch into ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ the opening track from recently released EP Creature Songs, it’s clear there is nothing particularly special about this band. Sure, they can write a fairly crunching grunge chorus (see ‘Storms’ or ‘Fluffy’ for that), but the other side of Wolf Alice is one where quiet minimal guitars are king and Ellie Rowsell’s delicate coos are talked all over by the audience. It’s not much better than the current scourge of trendy chillwave electronica but with guitars and hair scrunchies.[caption id="attachment_60433" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Wolf Alice @ Gorilla[/caption]
Peace’s headlining set in front of a modestly sized crowd over in the Ritz suggests their shine may have faded somewhat in the year or so following debut album In Love. That most of the new tracks aired tonight from an as yet untitled second album feel about as by the numbers as you can get when compared against the already fairly by-numbers hits of the debut probably doesn’t help. On the one hand ‘World Pleasure’ feels simultaneously like the most challenging track the band have produced and the most memorably catchy tune in their arsenal, sticking around in the head for hours after the show. But tracks like ‘Money’ drown in baggy drumbeats and cheap lyrics; “Money/do you need it/do you eat it when you’re hungry/does it taste good?” presumably sounds like a scathingly satirical take on the attitudes of fat cat bankers in the mind of Harry Koisser. In reality it’s a laughably bad line in a track full of duff moments.
Tracks like ‘Wraith’ and ‘Follow Baby’ do still resonate live and perhaps on the stages of more ‘traditional’ festivals (that is, the larger outdoor spectacles) is where these tunes really belong. We await album number two with anticipation…