Friday night saw Dot To Dot Festival hit Manchester. With venues across the city from the Ritz and Albert Hall to old-school favourites like The Castle and Gullivers in the Northern Quarter, the festival showcases up-and-coming bands both nationally and locally. We stayed around the smaller venues to catch Lynchs, Matter Of Mind, Narrow Margin, Phoebe Green, Rews and Woman You Stole.
Lynchs open up the stage in Gullivers. With a backdrop of video of the Strangeways riots playing on a screen behind them. They have an unshakable air of confidence about them, declaring before their final track Waxwing "congratulations on having watched the best band of the festival." It's a bold statement to make, showing some of the arrogance that many great Manchester bands possessed in spades, but Lynchs have plenty of that and having announced their biggest headline show to date earlier on in the day, recently won a Kendal Calling slot in a nationwide competition and with a close to full room whilst most festival attendees are still at work shows that it's not misguided. They've got a real edge to their sound, aided by what seems like a deliberately uneven mix that suppresses front man Breb's vocals a little, on tracks from their debut EP The City and as yet unreleased ones that show they've got plenty more in the locker.
Matter Of Mind open up proceedings in Jimmy's and immediately have problems with the bass amp that finally blows a couple of songs in which makes things difficult for them, but they soldier on as they're now tight enough to be able to shrug it off and still deliver a powerful set that feels like a greatest hits. The room, empty at first as it's still before knocking off time, fills up as their set progresses. It reminds us just how many great singles they've released so far as they reel them off one after the other - State Of Mind, Stay, Blindside, Far Too Wrong, Sunken Revelations and Sanity - as well as their next one Sparks In The Blood, which sees them heading into heavier territory. They finish with Jordan in the crowd eyeballing members of the audience in a performance that deserved a bigger crowd and working equipment.
Next on our list are Hyde's Narrow Margin. The five-piece play an impressive set at Band On The Wall, clearly demonstrating their ability to craft songs with personalities of their own rather than half an hour of indistinguishable bangers even though they only have one single to their name so far - their set-closer Oxford Road, which demonstrates the sort of Manchester-savvy lyrical observation that characterised early Courteeners songs. They're a completely different proposition to them musically of course, but the likes of Slow Dance, She Said and Louder Than War ("about the power of music") shows that the single isn't a one-off and there's plenty more to come from them. They have the nous to change the pace of the set without losing control or losing the audience's attention and very much mark themselves down as a band to keep an eye and ear on, and the response they get suggests that we're not the only ones of that opinion.
Next up is Phoebe Green and the audience has filled out as she charms them with a set of songs from her self-released album 2am as well as a few new songs including her recent single Dreaming Of. With a five-piece band the songs are fleshed out without losing the bedsit intimacy of the likes of Sagittarius and Maniac and it all feels a lot more confident and assured than Phoebe's early shows even in her engagement with the audience. The songs swirl around the room, drawing you in rather than attempting to bowl you over, a brave move in these days of low attention spans, but she has the crowd captivated from the opening bars. With university out of the way, her new songs to back up an album that's still got plenty of shelf life left on it and the attention she's getting with Dreaming Of growing by the week, that's likely to become an even more common occurrence.
Later in the evening we head to Gullivers to catch the new line-up of Rews. We have to admit to thinking the loss of Colette from the duo was going to be a massive body-blow, but what Shauna has done very smartly is to try not to replicate the set-up, but to capture the tumultuous energy that they created with their debut album Pyro and to remodel it. By bringing in Ellie and Conor she's done just that. The set draws heavily on Pyro of course, with the likes of Violin, Your Tears, Shake Shake and Miss You In The Dark the highlights of a set that never seems to pause for breath. There's wonderful interaction between Shauna and Ellie, who provides backing vocals, and a real fire to the set, like the excitement of a new band starting up, feeding off each other as they learn to play together in front of a crowd. They get a well-deserved rapturous response at the end of a set that leaves us in the crowd feeling a little breathless, such was the breakneck speed and energy. This version of Rews is different, but equally as brilliant as the first incarnation.
Our last band of the night are the trio Woman You Stole in the basement of the Peer Hat, one of Manchester's hidden gem venues. With only two singles under their belt - Frustration and Excuse My French - they have the unenvious job of introducing the rest of their set to a curious audience that's filled up the venue. This doesn't prove to be a problem at all as the other songs possess the same raw energy and passion of the two singles, with Hayley's vocal delivery giving the songs both gravitas and edge. The songs are raw and unpolished, as much of the best music is because it keeps its integrity and passion, and they go down a storm with the packed crowd and you sense the band feeding off the crowd's response as the set progresses. Shake and the fabulously titled Public Pervert are the two stand-out tracks of the others as Woman You Stole add their names to the list of vital bands that might not fit the mould that the self-proclaimed tastemakers of the city's scene have set, but which are keeping its core traditions and values very much alive.
Woman You Stole are on Facebook and Twitter.
Rews' official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Phoebe Green is on Facebook and Twitter.
Narrow Margin are on Facebook and Twitter.
Matter Of Mind's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Lynchs are on Facebook and Twitter. They headline The Deaf Institute in Manchester on November 15.
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