Live Review: Dot To Do Festival 2012

Wet and dreary weather blessed the first day of the Jubilee Weekend and second of Summer in Bristol, but thankfully Dot To Dot’s nationally-touring festival provided a suitable ailment. Bristol played first host (followed by Nottingham and Manchester on Sunday and Monday) to a line-up of internationally-recognised and local acts across seven of the city’s venues.

After settling in with a couple of beers at the festival’s HQ outside Thekla, I climbed on board for Lulu James whose soulful voice and quirky fashion made for a nice start. The short walk up Park Street took us to one of my favourite new Bristol bands, Seasfire. We featured their Post-Dubstep/Pop crossover debut single Falling a few months back and they now have a follow-up, Heartbeat, due for release on 9 July. Both went down a treat to a packed out audience at The Fleece. Seasfire have also recorded a cover of Lucy Rose‘s Shiver, who coincidentally followed on straight after at the O2 Academy. After seeing her play Louisana this time last year and tracking her supporting tour with Bombay Bicycle Club it was great to see how far she’d come and how effortlessly she and her band filled the larger stage.

Back to The Fleece and another affable young singer-songwriter in the form of Jake Bugg. Despite the excitable gaggle of even younger female fans, Bugg’s croaky country voice, mature beyond his seventeen years, was unfazed, assured and throughly impressive. Nothing could prepare me though, for the vocal humbling that was waiting back inside the hull of Thekla thanks to ex-X-Factor contestant and new XL-signee Willis Earl Beal. He was not out to win fans as he moodily introduced his set with a poetry reading and the exclamation that “I take myself fucking seriously”. Luckily for him, his thunderous voice had won the audience over by the end of the set, by which time he had relaxed somewhat and apologised for his initial hostility. It’s hard to do justice to quite how disconcertingly powerful Beal’s voice is, which has been somewhat hiding behind the muffled, reel-to-reel recordings of his debut album Acousmatic Sourcery (the player would also accompany him onstage). He seems to channel every ounce of his strength to his vocal chords through contorted, Elvis style movements and the result is pretty mesmerising.

Thankfully the next band were at Thekla as well, so there was no need to brave the ever-worsening rain. In what was their first ever festival, Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians (a.k.a The Internet) took to the stage for a performance much removed from their Odd Future shenanigans. The diminutive Syd appeared nervous at first but after slipping off her shoes and tidying away the iPod she’d used as a pre-show ritual, she made acquaintance with the audience and broke into song. Despite the Odd Future merch sported by Syd and the various laptops onstage, the band’s set-up is very different from the group that propelled them into the spotlight last year. Drum kit, keys and bass guitar replace the typical DJ and MC set-up of Odd Future’s shows, and the whole feel is very different too. Gone is the agression, mayhem and lyrics shouted so loud they’re almost incoherent. The Internet were  there to play some serious live music, have fun between themselves but also with the audience.

It was a fitting end to a throughly enjoyable day. In what was a pretty special weekend for music and culture in Bristol (with David Rodigan, Upfest and Love Saves The Day/Night also passing through), Dot To Dot stood well alongside them with a smooth running and eclectic mix of artists that triumphed over everything the weather could throw at it.

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