The Sound Of Music
In which we go to a festival, albeit a mud-free city centre one
As I keep, keep saying, it’s been busy, so busy. Not only was there that trip to Manchester; but also K’s been busy at work. And then, following it all up, we had visitors, and we had tickets to the Dot To Dot Festival, or, at least, the Bristol half of it. A long and tiring day of music, bands, and trips back and forth between various venues around the city centre; so many different bands that they start to blur together.
First up, we had planned to start with Marina And The Diamonds at The Louisiana; but, unfortunately, they were replaced with a local band, First Of The Giants. Who weren’t bad, just not what we wanted to listen to; still, we stayed through to the end. Before moving on: another venue, another band.
Tell the truth, we didn’t move straight on; we stopped off in The Centre for ice cream, before going on to The Academy for the main line-up. There, we started off with The Rogues, who wore leather jackets and sidled up to the mikes as if they were trying to be Pete Docherty.* They were solid and competant, though, and good performers. Maybe not a band we’d go to see, but a band we wouldn’t mind seeing again.
The Rogues were followed by Mumford & Sons, a rather good Americana band who turned out, when they stopped singing, to have American singing accents but British speaking voices. They’re coming back to Bristol in September, and we’ll make sure we catch them again. After the Mumfords came Cage The Elephant. The best think I can say about Cage The Elephant is that they were enthusiastic. They were also dull, pedestrian and tedious; and all their songs sounded the same. “He thinks he’s Jagger,” I overheard the people next to us saying, about the Elephant’s lead singer. “He’s fucked, and he thinks he’s Jagger.”**
The bookers of Dot To Dot certainly like contrast between their bands. Cage The Elephant were followed by Patrick Wolf, who was the real reason we’d come to the Academy. Entirely unlike Cage The Elephant, of course; but he rocked out a lot more than the last time we’d seen him, at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Then, he only had a single backing musician; at Dot To Dot, he brought a full band. He was dressed something like a glam-rock matador, with bright yellow quiff held in place with a lifetime supply of hair gel. He produced lively, sing-along music that still had meaningful lyrics, all expressed in his powerful, crisp and sharp-edged singing voice.
Next on was Ladyhawke, one of the best-known acts on the bill. Ladyhawke was a disappointment, and that was partly because of Patrick Wolf’s singing voice. Mr Wolf, we could hear every word and syllable of. Ladyhawke’s sound was all very mushy, not helped by a slightly mumbly voice.*** She was also a disappointment because there wasn’t much variation at all between her album tracks; we could clearly tell who in the audience had bought the album and who had only heard the singles. Personally, I can remember the ’80s the first time around; and we’re surprised that Chrissy Hynde hasn’t called Ladyhawke up and asked for her stance and hairstyle back.
We didn’t stay at the Academy to see the headliners, Friendly Fires. Instead we took a break, took in some unhealthy food,**** and popped over to the Thekla ready for Little Boots later in the evening. There was no queue, so we wandered straight in to the bar and came across the French band Naive New Beaters. We knew nothing about them, we didn’t plan to see them, and they turned out to be one of the best bands we saw all day. Certainly better than the band that followed them onstage, Pulled Apart By Horses, who thrashed about and rather suited their name. As the moshpit was between us and the exit, though, we were a bit trapped until their set finished. Looking out of the
window porthole, we noticed that the Thekla had suddenly become the hot venue of the night, with a long, long queue stretching back almost all the way to Prince St.***** Possibly because the other venues had, by then, started to close. Almost certainly not because of all the people rushing to see Pulled Apart By Horses.
I don’t remember much at all about the final act we wanted to catch, Little Boots. I was starting to get a bit sleepy, and the festival’s timetable was slipping further and further. The band before Little Boots went offstage over half an hour late, and by the time Little Boots herself appeared, the schedule had slipped by another half-hour. The crowd were getting restless, very restless, and her first song was accompanied by loud boos. I was well out of the way; as the air conditioning had failed, I’d retreated to the back of the room because I felt that if I didn’t I’d probably faint. We heard Little Boots from a distance, and occasionally caught a glimpse of her through the crowd. I know she sounded pretty good, but I have no memory at all of exactly how she sounded. If she’d come onstage at her booked time, we’d probably have really enjoyed it; our slightly-more-hardcore friends, who had more stamina, certainly did.
Overall, it was a bit of a mixed day. Afterwards, we felt as if we’d need a long, long time to recover. It wasn’t all good; but we’d never heard of several of the bands before in any case, and didn’t know what we were going to find.****** Is it something we’d do again? Well, maybe: it would depend exactly on who’s going to be playing next. Enjoying the day with friends was more important, in the end, than the music we were listening to as we did it. And that, by any measure, was a success.
* when he looked slightly healthier than he does now.
** At least, that’s what I think I heard. The singer certainly was staggering about the stage as if he was about to fall over.
*** “You couldn’t even make out what she was saying between songs,” said K. “Because it was in ‘strine?” I replied. “No, just because she couldn’t say anything without mumbling.”
**** except K, who had pitta bread with hummus and salad.
***** I’m exaggerating. But not by much.
****** The slightly-more-hardcore friends mentioned earlier are more engaged with the modern music scene than us, had done quite a lot more research, and planned out the itinerary