Dot to Dot 2017 @ Bristol, 27/05/2017

Dot to Dot - Confidence ManMan, Dot to Dot was weird this year. If you weren't tearing your shirt off on stage, tossing crutches over bridges, screaming at the audience to shut up, or serendipitously befriending talented young photographers at the wristband exchange, you probably weren't there.

We were there. It was awesome.



International superstar Vagabon, somehow scheduled for a late-afternoon slot, was my first port of call. Laetitia came out on stage alone to perform a devastatingly short set, nothing but her and an electric guitar to enthrall the Thekla. Despite sounding like she'd borrowed my first practice amp, the intimate set was a success, and the packed-out crowd responded enthusiastically to stripped-back renditions of "The Embers" and "Fear & Force".

Dot to Dot - Cherry GlazerrAfter that, I only had one goal in mind: Cherry Glazerr. How good are this band live? Let me count the ways. One: ridiculously good. Two: better than Nirvana. Three: seriously though. As we walk into the venue, frontwoman Clementine Creevy is shrieking at the audience in her biggest outside voice. "Shut up!" she yells. "Shut the fuck up!" The SWX crowd don't care; they're going to be making noise for days. They shred like nobody's business, and the crowd laps it up.

The Big Moon face the unenviable task of following Cherry Glazerr, but luckily they offer something different: where the latter chuck out heavy guitar riffs like they were caught shooting up in the bathroom, Juliette Jackson's outfit look more like they just got found with a cheeky spliff behind the bike shed. We knew they were solid live ("Beautiful Stranger" still graces the set), but tonight The Big Moon are bigger, louder, and better than ever. Jackson struts around stage in a denim romper, pausing to swig from her bottle of Peroni, and we can't help but dance along.

Dot to Dot - The Big Moon

Pinegrove arrive on stage soon after, perhaps the band I was personally most excited to see. I try to explain them to photographer Josh: "They're like an emo band, but they don't sound anything like an emo band." Good work, music journalist. Soon enough, the band arrive to assert their true status: a straight-up indie rock band, and a great one at that. I try to prepare myself for the emotional ballast of "Size of the Moon", and fail - tonight it's pitch-perfect, the musical equivalent of drunk-dialling an ex and finding out they're both physically and emotionally available for fresh mistakes. "Aphasia" also bruises, not least because this crowd don't just happen to be seeing an American band at a city festival, but are singing every word back to singer Evan Stephens Hall; like Vagabon, you sense they were added to this bill some time before the rest of the world realised they made one of the best albums of the last 12 months.

After Pinegrove, it's a quick dash across the road to catch local upstarts Sapphire Blues. Their singer lives up to his look (equal parts Tim Burgess and young Liam GDot to Dot - Pinegroveallagher) as the band race through a set of harmonica-fuelled indie rock, barely pausing for breath between each song. It's a gas.

But for some time now I've been nudging my companion about one act in particular. It's heading towards headline slot time, and we can't be everywhere at once: Sundara Karma, The Growlers, and Hannah Georgas, to name but a few, are all about to start. Nonetheless, we're headed to The Louisiana, because Confidence Man are playing there. By the time we muscle our way into the already-packed room, it's apparent that we're standing in the one room in Bristol that everyone else would have wished they'd been in. Their set is legendary, their command of the audience so complete and unspoken that when they shout "Get down!" the entire audience spontaneously drops to their knees in prayer position, face to the floor. When we're signalled to get up - again, without being explicitly informed - we get up as high as we can leap, confirming my prediction that the roof may almost Dot to Dot - Confidence Manliterally come off. By this point Josh is dancing on stage while snapping. No one cares. They're sensational.

Leaving after the giddying high of Confidence Man, it's time to grab a drink and a seat, and Hy Brasil Music Club (that's Start the Bus to you and I) provides a suitable tonic in the form of JAKL. To some extent, Jeff Buckley has become a lazy reference point for singer-songwriters with powerhouse vocals, but tonight it feels justified: the Margate-based singer blasts out songs to a half-dozen stunned onlookers, clearly playing to an audience ten times smaller than his musicianship deserves. He's followed by Otzeki, and it's a suitably bizarre set to end a wild night. Once again, the singer loses his shirt early on, and ends up stalking his way through the venue with the microphone, singing into the faces of unsuspecting bystanders while his bandmate churns out hypnotic electro.

The next thing I know we're outside, chatting to strangers, hugging and yelling, standing on a street corner busking "Everlong" to a crowd of bemused locals. What can I say? It was one of those nights.

All images courtesy of Josh Adam Jones Photography


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