Dot To Dot Festival is now a fixture in the late May bank holiday weekend in Manchester. It moved to the Northern Quarter a couple of years ago due to the close vicinity of dozens of great little gig spaces. We trekked round the venues catching some of our favourite bands as well as some new ones avoiding most of the big names.
Opening up for us was Jordan Allen in The Castle. It's a remarkable transformation that he and his band have undergone in the past six months or so. So much more confident now as a four-piece, it feels like they've got a renewed sense of purpose and the packed room and Jordan's stage presence tell their own story - that they're set for bigger stages than this right now. The songs have always been there - new single Too Much Too Soon and the previous one Helter Skelter being two of the highlights, but there's not a weak song in the repertoire and the response he gets belies the fact it's three thirty in the afternoon.
Next up are one of our favourites LIINES in the Dive NQ bar, a place we've never been in before, but which converts to a decent gig venue. Their ten-song set confirms what we already know - that they're the fiercest, rawest band in town at the moment. Whilst they finish with that breakthrough moment Never There, they've got songs that blow your head off from the start, even with light streaming in through the doorway to the street. Raw, spindly bass lines, drum sounds that you wonder where Leila has created them from and Zoe's breathless vocals combine in a melting pot of noise through which strike out shards of razor-sharp melody, vitriol and confession. Go and watch them now.
We dash across Stevenson Square to catch what we hoped would be the second half of Lunar's set (great scheduling) but we're disappointed that they've cut their set short and we only get one song. However, when that one song is their debut single Our Way, sounding bigger, bolder and ripe for unleashing back on the unsuspecting concert halls of the land. We'll be seeing a lot lot more of them.
Next up we hike up the stairs in the back alley to Aatma for Feed The Kid. They're a band making quite a lot of noise on the local scene, but this is the first time we've seen them and we're impressed. A six-piece, they make a big anthemic sound that reminds us a little of first or second album Oasis in the size of their ambition, but without ever feeling like they're merely apeing their heroes as so many do and in front man Curtis they've got a leader who stamps his own personality and voice all over their work. Their next single Coming Back For You finishes off their set and it could well be the one that makes the breakthrough for them, but it's In The City that particularly appeals to us.
We've lost our timetable by this point so we try and get in The Castle, a venue that looks full, but in reality there's just people getting crushed at the back because some of the crowd are too self-absorbed to let anyone move past them to get closer to the band. We escape over the road to Gullivers, can't even see into the room where Mary Joanna is due to play so head upstairs.
That was the first of two lucky moves tonight, Cape Cub are an outstanding new discovery for us. They possibly won't thank us for saying it, but they sound like Coldplay did before the attention got to Chris Martin's head (we're talking Blue Room / Brothers And Sisters era). They write big heartfelt songs that feel warm and welcoming here but which could easily translate to the biggest halls of the land and they deliver them with a sincerity that you cannot help but fall for. They've got a variety to them as well, The Start covering the slow-burning lighter-waving ground whilst In My Head and Lifeline show they're equally adept at ramping up the guitars.
We then head to Black Dog NQ chatting to Clint Boon who's doing his Friday DJ slot in there to catch Dantevilles. Although it looks like their bass player is in a different room because of a pillar that divides the stage, they're an incredibly tight live unit, replicating that delicious sound from their Calm Before The Storm EP. Far from resting on their laurels though, they reveal their next single Perfect Place, due out at the start of July. Like what's gone before and after it in the set, it's a song that hits you immediately and holds you in its grip. Sea Of Change, from the Calm EP, is another highlight.
As we're leaving the venue we're accosted in the street by a gang of Scousers who insist that we go and watch them at Koffee Pot at eight o'clock. Given any sort of schedule is out of the window and we're intrigued as to how a band would work in there, we comply and we're treated to the magnificence of the bizarrely named Captain Buzzkill And The Oxymorons. They've only been together as a band a few months in this line up and whilst you'd expect a band to be feeling their way they just bludgeon their way through a half hour set of punk-inspired balls-on-the-line assaults on the senses. They don't tell us much about the songs - we think one's called Cassidy and another called Gems - but that's irrelevant as they're pretty awesome.
Next up are Night Beats in the Ruby Lounge and they fill the place with their psychedelic dream trip of songs that deserve a far bigger stage than the one they've been given. For a trio they make an enormous amount of noise, but rather than look down at their feet, Night Beats look you straight in the eye and that's why they've got a following that gives them back so much love including a stage invader.
We then make our way up to Kosmonaut for Brahma-Loka in the basement, an area probably not best suited for their tales of children being rounded up to be murdered and the black echo tunnels of Vietnam. They're a confrontational band that take no prisoners, they've got a bass player who finds it impossible to stand still and we find it impossible to stop watching him leap around. But it's their dark, foreboding sound that has us and their devotees rapt. They're the very antithesis of some of the mainstream repetitive rock bands that are headlining the bigger stages, but we know we were in the right place.
Dead on our feet, we make good our promise to go and catch Mayflower in the Koffee Pot before retiring. However strange scheduling means they're on fifteen minutes earlier as the venue has to close so we only catch the last two songs to a dwindling audience as the bar has closed. It's a shame because their beautifully crafted melodic songs deserve a much bigger crowd than they pull. We've missed most of the singles by the time we get there, but they've got new songs that more than fill that void and mark them out for us.
Jordan Allen's official website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.
LIINES' official website can be found here. They are also on Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud.
Lunar are on Facebook and Twitter.
Feed The Kid are on Facebook and Twitter.
Cape Cub are on Facebook and Twitter.
Dantevilles are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Captain Buzzkill And The Oxymorons are on Facebook
Night Beats' official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Brahma-Loka are on Facebook and Twitter.
Mayflower are on Facebook and Twitter.
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