Shoegaze – as with grunge and post-punk – might be a sound of yesteryear, but if Nottingham’s recent offerings are anything to go by then we might have somewhat of a revival on our hands. The return of ringleaders My Bloody Valentine with their surprise third album mbv, some 22 years after their second, was simply the icing on the cake of a genre confidently brooding with new talent.
With handfuls of impressive Nottingham bands on show at Dot to Dot Festival last week, one could be forgiven for being unaware of Spotlight Kid. On the circuit since 2006, they are the product of former Six by Seven frontman, Chris Davis. Originally intended as an instrumental outfit, the band soon recruited vocalist Katty Heath, and have since released two LPs, Departure (2006) and Disaster Tourist (2011), as well as taking to the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury.
Before they could lay down their stall, the Bodega welcomed Birmingham’s Sunrise over Europe. Playing to a sparse crowd only briefly, the screeching guitars and dramatic switches between loud instrumentation and isolated vocals became hard to ignore. Making do as a four-piece (without usual violinist), the Birmingham band, despite clear vocals, hinted at a post-rock influence. “This is a song about sad things” was the frontman’s deadpan introduction to one number. Another, later in the set, inspired by “attending your own funeral”. Despite being called Sunrise over Europe, they were bringing none into the Bodega. Name change required? Yes. But otherwise, a captivating performance. One to keep an eye on.
Spotlight Kid open with ‘Budge Up’, a new single that embodies their shoegaze appeal. Competing sounds battle it out; the sweet, innocent “Oh, oh oh” vocals of Katty Heath complementing the harsh, bruising wall of sound guitar of Rob McLeary. Indeed, while McLeary and bassist Matt Holt work up a sweat, with chests repeatedly perpendicular with legs (shoestare, more like), Heath innocently jigs and dances. The latter suggesting a sunny field of dandelions, the former a polluted, concrete jungle.
It’s certainly an appealing dynamic, mastered best by the seminal My Bloody Valentine. No doubt Shields et al are a strong influence, but by no means do Spotlight Kid conform to the tendency of shoegaze acts to be wearily immobile on stage. Putting on a show, Spotlight Kid have a lead guitarist willing to front the band as much, if not more, than the singer.
The set peaks with ‘April’, as Heath lets her hair down to bright flashing white light and increasing decibel levels. McLeary – who had been taking to the front of the stage from the outset – jumps up onto the drum kit, and then, with Fender Jaguar in hand (naturally), out into the crowd.
The set finishes with an intense rendition of ‘Haunting Me’, but the most recognisable ‘Forget Yourself in Me’ is left for another day. McLearly recommends hopping across Market Square to the Chameleon, where Splashh are playing conveniently late. The young grungers deserve the attention of a review themselves, but by no means were they willing to let the evening’s standards slip.
Great bands at different venues across Nottingham? The principle of ‘Dot to Dot’ has by no means left the city.
…Robert is listening to Sigur Ros – Kveikur…