Dot to Dot Festival 2019


For this bank holiday Friday, Dot To Dot is back in Manchester to celebrate its 15th anniversary. In 19 venues over Manchester city centre, several dozens of artists of different genres are performing.

The first gig I decide to see is Northern indie rock band Broke Casino at The Venue. So far, they have only released one single (‘Bleach’) but it sounded really appealing when I listened to it before so I really wanted to see them. I don’t know if it is because it is only 4 pm, but the venue is rather empty. That doesn’t stop the five guys, though – they put on a really dynamic show. Especially singer Ralph Schofield is fully in his element: I can’t help but thinking that he definitely was made for the stage. Schofield’s vocals find the perfect balance between soft melodic singing and sounding what reminds me of the early Arctic Monkeys. Even when one of the guitar strings snaps they can’t be stopped and just continue in their cheerful manner. They have a lot of potential I’m sure we’ll hear more of them in the near future!

From The Venue I wander up to Retro on Sackville Street. I’m a bit confused because unlike most of the other venues, who have had posters hanging for days, there is nothing to indicate that there’s a festival happening downstairs. But at least a few people have made it here to see Elephant and the Rider. The four guys make a somewhat dreamy kind of indie pop and singer Phil Cochrane’s soft voice fits perfectly with it. Although I cannot really get into their sound, I quite enjoy their set, mostly because they just seem really relaxed and as if they’re having fun. Especially the bass player dances around as if he has the best time of his life and makes this a really enjoyable performance.

My next plan is to get some food and catch Dream Wife at Albert Hall, however, Manchester traffic and bad planning skills make me miss this. Instead, I’m now heading straight to Band On The Wall to see Phoebe Green. She independently released her first EP in 2016 and has been getting a lot of attention since. Her band consists of her and four others, supporting her on guitar, bass, synth and drums. They have a dreamy pop sound and her soft and yet powerful voice goes beautifully with it. Her songs are quite intimate and create a warm atmosphere, and I could just listen to them for hours. Unfortunately, I have to leave a bit early to make sure I can make it to Sons Of An Illustrious Father at Night and Day.

I expected it to be really full, since none other than actor (and queer icon) Ezra Miller makes up one third of the band. But although there are a lot of people in the audience, it’s not as packed as I thought. The crowd cheers vigorously as the trio gets on stage. Miller starts the set on the drums, Lilah Larson on the guitar and Josh Aubin on the bass and keyboard. To me, their sound is rather experimental and hard to pin down. There is Miller’s coarse voice trying to harmonise with Larson’s and Aubin’s more soft ones, and his almost ecstatic drum playing with what sounds like randomly added piano keyboard notes. Their dynamic, especially between Larson and Miller is really impressive and fun to observe. What’s also impressive is that they casually swap instruments, first just Aubin and Larson, and then Miller and Larson – I haven’t really seen that before! Their cover of The Pussycat Dolls ‘Don’t Cha’ is definitely a highlight of their set, even though (or because) you hardly recognise the original song. By mixing lively drum playing and experimental keyboard notes they create a mystical sound and make you forget that they’re covering a 00’s pop song.

Next stop is Porij at AATMA. The young four piece from Manchester only released their debut single ‘I Like That’ in April, and although I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, as soon as I enter the venue I realise that they have something fascinating about them. With a synth, a bass, a guitar and drums, they are able to mix together elements of different genres which result in a funky electronic jazz. Their soft vocals blend in perfectly and make it sound a bit like indie pop at times. Both the audience and the band are in a very good mood and almost everybody is dancing. They put on a really fun performance and I am waiting to hear more of them!

Still deciding on where to go next, I stay at AATMA just long enough to hear a few song of rapper Sweets. Only a few people are in the audience, and he himself says that basically all of them are his mates. He raps on new school beats which have a bit of a dancey vibe and seem to have been self-built. Although I am not a fan of the beats, his technique and flow are surprisingly good and he is very energetic on stage.

I really want to see Viagra Boys but decide to make a stop at Jimmy’s to see Tamsyn. Although the indie rock band from Manchester actually only consists of four guys, one of their friends is on stage with them as bonus guitar and bass player. To be honest, if the singer had not mentioned it, I would not have realised – they are well attuned to each other (although the stage does seem a bit too small for so many people). Tamsyn have a proper Mancunian sound, mixing indie rock with pop-ish post-punk elements that remind me of The Smiths. I wish for a bit more energy on stage though, they seem a bit reserved. I think I’m not the only person thinking so, because when I leave their set a bit early, I’m not the only one.

Viagra Boys

One of the bigger headliners are Swedish post-punk band Viagra Boys who are playing at Gorilla. I get there a bit late and the venue is so packed that I barely find a good spot. What immediately strikes me is that from teenagers to people appearing to be in their 60s, every age range seems to be represented and enjoying the show equally. The band on stage is made up of six, including a saxophone and a bongo player and wow – do they put on a show. Vocalist Sebastian Murphy looks like a proper rock star, with his shades, topless and fully tattooed. He has a special kind of cool, as he is casually dancing and strolling on stage while his bandmates create this guitar- and bass-heavy post punk sound. When they start playing their song ‘Sports’ the crowd goes fully crazy and everybody is dancing, one guy is even crowdsurfing, and not long after Murphy stage dives himself. All in all they put on an incredibly energetic show.

After frequenting so many venues and so much dancing, I get a bit tired and decide to go home. It’s been a great day with loads of good music, and I can’t wait to see what next year’s line-up will bring!

Dot to Dot Festival: Official | Twitter

Dahlia Owusu

My decision to leave Germany and move to Manchester was most definitely influenced by my love for music and going to gigs. I came here in 2018 and am now studying English and Journalism at Manchester Met. When I’m not at a gig, you’ll usually find me reading or in a café.