Saturday 23rd May saw the musical madness that is Dot to Dot Festival arrive in Bristol, following its first day in Manchester the night before and ahead of the third and final night in Nottingham on Sunday. University Radio Bath were out in force, covering as many of the 15 venues across the city as we could manage. Dot to Dot provided a wonderful variety of music across their line up, with popular headline sets coming from Saint Raymond, Josef Salvat and Nothing But Thieves.
URB arrived in Bristol to beautiful sunshine, which really showed the city in the best possible light. Every patch of grass or riverside was covered with relaxed people, and the sounds of live music were never far away.
Thekla provided a hub for festivalgoers and artists, with the performers all putting in an appearance to cash in their food vouchers at the stalls outside. A highlight being the Grillstock tent, a local barbeque joint perfect for meat lovers, which is rapidly expanding. URB wasn’t sure who to stare at first, with Amber Run, Seafret and Laura Doggett (all URB faves) hanging around or waiting in line for their pulled pork. But, with so much amazing music to see we didn't have time to stay at basecamp and were quickly off to our first venue of the day.
First of all we made a new musical discover in the form of Natalie Holmes who was the opening act in the iconic venue The Fleece. The audience, and URB, quickly warmed to the local singer-songwriter whose upbeat acoustic tracks and excellent gnome puns kept us amused for her short but sweet set. We definitely recommend checking out her EP Over & Out, it's super catchy!
Second was Dark Waves, who was doing his first set of shows in the UK. Project of Nick Long, a seasoned American musician with a punk background, Dark Waves is an exciting blend of what has been called ‘electro-romantic’ music. Nick is the one consistent member of Dark Waves, with him regularly bringing in his musical friends for shows and studio sessions to fill out the sound, but at Dot to Dot he did a solo show, accompanied by his laptop (which he joked his 15 year old self would have been dismayed to witness) but it worked well. After the show we caught up with Nick for a chat, which you can listen to here:
Meanwhile, in a cool vintage store in the heart of Bristol, Irish indie-rock group Walking On Cars met us for a chat, and we were immediately charmed by their cool sense of style (we are incredibly envious of Paul’s hat collection) and passion for all things music. They played a secret acoustic set shortly afterwards, taking the concept of a musical takeover of Bristol well and truly to the next level. They are playing Reading festival this year and have promised good craic (typical Irish) so we recommend you catch their set. Our interview with them is coming soon, so watch this space!
Seafret opened the main O2 Academy stage at 15.30. Seafret consists of singer Jack, and guitarist Harry, and together they are making waves (pun intended) in the new music scene. Support comes from Radio 1 and Radio 2, and URB has no doubt that they are set to be successful. The set was varied; slower numbers combined with more upbeat ones, with the powerful and haunting vocals plus complex guitar work remaining consistent throughout. URB met the pair when they played in the University of Bath SU, and they stopped by the studio for a chat, which you can check out below.
Following a long and sweaty drive down from Manchester, in the sunshine and heavy traffic, URB managed to shut themselves in a van with lead singer of The Riptide Movement, Mal, to get the low down before they played The Fleece.
Next up was Rhodes, a singer-songwriter from Hertfordshire, whose impressive vocals easily filled the O2 (which given its 2000 person capacity is no easy feat). Having recently supported Sam Smith on tour, Rhodes is no stranger to playing to big crowds. The new addition of the live band was a welcome change, adding a punch to his set, but it really is Rhodes’ uber powerful voice that is the center point of the show. Off touring Europe at the moment, he’ll be back in the UK for a number of festivals, including Glastonbury, Blissfields, Barn on the Farm and Citadel, and we thoroughly recommend you put him at the top of your must-see list! After his set he stopped for a quick chat with us where we managed to get the scoop on his debut album Wishes which is due out in September, listen here:
Scottish trio Prides managed to pull a huge crowd, and, despite facing a myriad of technical challenges throughout their set, anyone who knows the band knows they put on a great live show. Best known for their role in the Commonwealth games closing ceremony, the synthpop group have done a lot in a short space of time, and we absolutely love their sound.
SUPER EXCITING MUSICAL NEWS ALERT:
Amy Studt is returning to the music scene with her new single, being released this month. She played on Thekla, a wonderful music venue situated within a boat, moored up and now a permanent venue. URB are very excited about this one, so we sat down with Amy to find out more:
Next up, another tour van hangout, this time filled with the boys from Pretty Vicious. The young band have recently landed a record deal with Virgin EMI Records and are looking forward to increasingly bigger shows as the year progresses. They confessed that their show on Thekla would not only be their first time performing on a boat, but also their first time actually on a boat… Continuing this theme they revealed that when they play at the Isle of Wight Festival this summer (kind of a big deal) it will in fact be the first time that they have ever been to a festival of this kind. They exude enthusiasm and passion for their music; it is the only thing that they want to do with their lives, and it looks like they will be very successful in doing so. Check out the full interview here:
Another URB fave, Martin Luke Brown, was worth the dash back over to the O2 Academy. Martin’s first EP Take Out Of Me has been playing on loop in the URB studios since it came out just over a month ago so it was great to hear him perform it live, as well as bringing out some new tracks (have a listen to the lead track below). Martin quickly got the crowd moving, switching between a guitar and keyboard base for his tracks, and stopping in the middle for a ballad. By the end of his short set he had stolen the hearts of most of the room, being mobbed by gushing girls after his set.
Heading downstairs URB couldn’t stay away from Hudson Taylor (but can you blame us?) who are consistently amazing live. Their set was typical high-energy Irish pop-folk, with a highlight being Gabrielle Aplin’s appearance on stage to lend her vocals to two songs. Singer Hannah Grace, signed to Aplin’s record label, also joined the gang on stage; providing the wonderfully feel-good vibe that is so typical of a Hudson Taylor show. You can listen to our chat with Hudson Taylor from their last Bristol show here:
More power walking ensued as URB returned to The Fleece for The Coronas and Amber Run. The Coronas are another Irish import, with growing popularity in the UK. They had many fans in the audience, with a rock filled and vibrant set. The set change for Amber Run also saw an audience change – surprising, as the bands are not dissimilar in style. Amber Run started their set with a haunting and stripped back version of I Found, and got ‘rockier’ as their set went on. The five piece are headed up by singer Joe, whose vocals are beautiful and unique, and complimented by the harmonies coming from Will, Tom and Henry on guitar, bass and keyboard respectively. Of course we can’t miss out drummer Felix, whose energy and performance was unfailing.
URB’s headliner of choice was Saint Raymond (many other options were available, but we all ended up here. Sorry) the stage name for Callum Burrows, a singer-songwriter from Nottingham, who, at the age of only 20 is experiencing much success in his field. From signing his record deal in 2013 he went on to complete major tours with Haim and Ed Sheeran. At Dot to Dot he appeared on stage with a full band, and brought a high power set to an excited crowd, that had packed out the O2 Academy. Amongst the crowd were Hudson Taylor and half of Amber Run, who we stood sandwiched between near the back silently screaming inside with excitement. Some well-known hits, combined with new songs, provided the perfect close to a long day at Dot to Dot Festival Bristol, with plenty of opportunity for dancing, as captured by Hudson Taylor's Harry (see above). Saint Raymond’s debut album is due for release soon, on the 29th June (WE CANNOT WAIT!)
By the end of Callum’s set it was time for us to make another dash across Bristol in time for the last train back to Bath, but the party at Dot to Dot carried on until 2:30am across a number of venues, so it truly is an all-day affair.
With so much amazing music going on we couldn’t make it round to everything we wanted to see (not going to lie we were pretty tempted to sneak on someone’s tour bus and ride up to Nottingham with them to do it all over again!) There’s always next year…