The Dot to Dot festival 2022 was a very well-organised live event that showcased the very best live music, with stellar shows from local bands, up-and-coming performers, and established acts alike. Alex Tearle reviews.
Before I review the individual acts I saw at this year’s Dot to Dot festival, it is important to first talk about how the festival was laid out. Dot to Dot festival is unique in this regard, taking place across Nottingham city centre instead of in a massive field, and using local venues for all the music acts. This allows the venues to showcase some smaller and local acts- a great chance for bands to make a bigger name for themselves.
Because of this, it is important festival-goers know where to go, who is playing and when, and that crowds have access to basic necessities like water. With festivals like Primavera Sound receiving flack for poor organisation, this isn’t nearly as simple as you might think. Dot to Dot, however, was impeccably organised, with all venues clearly signposted, and some fantastic promotional material, meaning I always knew where to go to see the acts I wanted to catch.
This being said, some of the acts were shockingly late. I understand what an organisational nightmare sorting the musical equipment must have been, but to have a 15-minute delay by the second act is completely unacceptable. As well as this, every act had a 30-minute gap after the end of each set, making Baby Queen’s appearance 45 minutes after her allotted start time highly irritating. This meant I wasn’t able to catch FEET, a real shame and something that should not have happened at a festival that clearly knew how to organise live music.
A testament to how great Nottingham’s live music venues are
Every act I saw was technically flawless though, with quick guitar swaps and excellent lighting- a testament to how great Nottingham’s live music venues are, and how slick Dot to Dot festival was.
I tried to move around to see as much live music as possible, but found myself returning to the Black Cherry Lounge. This room, usually delegated for the Rock City queue, is an exceptional live music venue, with low ceilings and huge amps that made every band feel loud and visceral.
The stage being the same height as the crowd worked wonders for Champyun Clouds, who opened strong with great guitar riffs and drumming, interacting with the crowd, and seeming very at home. It was great to see a local band tear up the stage here, and the duo did so with serious prowess, a sign that Champyun Clouds will go far.
Though I didn’t catch the whole set, these guys had a fantastic sound, with some particularly funky bass riffs, and some great lyrics that the mounting crowd clearly enjoyed.
Just Mustard have been making waves recently, playing a live show at Rough Trade Nottingham on the 1st of June, and releasing their new album, ‘Heart Under’, on the 27th of May. Despite the band appearing as if they are doing very well, their live set on Rock City’s main stage was meagre, disappointing, and felt as if it dragged on for far longer than the 30-minute setlist would suggest.
As if they weren’t aware how excited the crowd was, or what a prestigious stage they were performing on
Katie Ball (whose vocals were far too muddy to even discern) appeared disinterested and unappreciative the entire time, as if they weren’t aware how excited the crowd was, or what a prestigious stage they were performing on. Just Mustard’s drummer (Shane Maguire), however, deserves particular praise, with an absolutely colossal performance that was genuinely impressive; a far more enthusiastic and talented performance than some of the other band members.
Just Mustard have a unique and cool sound (which would have been excellent for the soundtrack of something like Fight Club), but it seemed as if the band thought they were above their 2:45pm set time, and performed with a real lack of vigour throughout their set- a real shame.
By complete contrast, King No-One put on an incredible set at The Level in the Trent Student Union; a highly admirable performance that had the whole crowd jumping and laughing along with the band. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know us, just have a vibe!” Zach shouted, a testament to how fun and likeable the band are. The show was exceptional, a genuinely enjoyable time on a great stage, that drew in crowds very early on in the day.
Zach is a real showperson
Alcatraz was met with appreciative cheering and a tentative mosh pit, suggesting this band’s cult following is well- deserved. Zach is a real show-person, holding hands with a few crowd members and climbing the rigging, the barriers, and even their band mate’s drumkit, to raucous laughter and applause. This show was a great time, and I found myself appreciating the band’s music throughout their set, with particularly excellent guitar work from the band.
King No-One really surprised me at Dot to Dot festival, and I’d absolutely recommend seeing the band if you can.
Cassia are a band I’ve seen a good few times in the past, and they are yet to disappoint, creating a happy and relaxed vibe on Rock City’s biggest stage, and filling the venue. The band were clearly quite surprised so many fans had come, reacting with a combined sense of shock and relief, a very endearing reaction to the huge mosh pits and whooping the band garnered. Their new material was met with the same vigour as their classics like Right There, showing how much fun these guys are.
All three band members had their own drum kits
I knew this set was going to be good, but Cassia really excelled, putting on a wholly unique set that was a real highlight. A particularly brilliant moment came when all three band members had their own drum kits, building a huge percussive section that sounded fantastic live and really drew the audience in.
Cassia are consistently good but they were exceptional at Dot to Dot festival, proving why they are often given headline spots at big festivals. The band will be returning to Nottingham on the 16th October to play in The Bodega, and I can’t recommend them enough.
As a bit of a break from the large stages (and to get some food), I decided to visit the Rescue Rooms acoustic stage, catching most of Jimmy Evans’ excellent performance.
Acoustic music isn’t particularly my scene or area of expertise by any means, but I really enjoyed Evans’ style of vocals and instrumentals; a very relaxed and captivating performance I liked far more than I thought I would. It’s easy to forget these smaller stages exist at festivals like this, but they’re well worth a visit, especially when acts as good as Jimmy Evans are playing.
I returned to the Black Cherry Lounge to see Coach Party, one of the acts I was most excited to experience. The band put on a loud, raucous and thoroughly entertaining set, with the crowd drumming on the ceiling and shouting the lyrics back at the band.
A huge amount of confidence behind every lyric
The room was absolutely packed, so much so that it was hard to see the band, but their set was absolutely excellent, with driving guitars and a huge amount of confidence behind every lyric. The audience were absolutely enraptured by this performance, and Coach Party deserve high praise for such an excellent set.
EVERYONE YOU KNOW
Ironically, I didn’t know this band before their set, despite their name. The group were quick to make new fans though, with a drum kit and drum machine combining to make some hugely enjoyable beats and classic dance style synths, making the evening feel like a particularly memorable club night. The lyrics were fast paced and anxious, the drums were thumping, and the bass was pounding, making a great set overall.
This performance was incredibly visceral and dynamic
Everyone You Know gained particular favour with a fantastic cover of Sam Fender’s Play God, the lyrics fitting this style of act well, and feeling at home in their setlist, despite the genre shift. This performance was incredibly visceral and dynamic; an absolute pleasure. I feel I could easily recommend this group to fans of groups like Easy Life or dance music, as Everyone You Know are absolutely excellent live.
Rhys and Harvey had an incredible stage dynamic, doing a frankly impressive amount of shots, and soaking in the applause after every track, clearly loving their time at the festival. I feel that even if this style of music is not your usual taste, you could very easily find some enjoyment from an Everyone You Know gig- a testament to how much fun the group were.
Baby Queen was my most anticipated act of the festival, and she absolutely did not disappoint. The queen of indie pop has grown exponentially after her influence on the Heartstopper soundtrack, but her unreleased music was equally as incredible as classics like Wannabe, showing her skill as a songwriter. Arabella Lathum’s stage presence, flow, crowd interaction, and music were absolutely standout; an incredible live act.
Baby Queen seemed particularly excited to play, despite this being her second show of the day. She made quick friends with the crowd, with Lathum admitting, “The events of this song happened in Lenton!” and laughing as she exclaimed, “Oh sh*t, I’ve forgotten the words to my own song!”, making her seem very human and lovable.
She jumped into the crowd several times
Baby Queen’s whole set was absolutely perfect, despite its minor flaws (like her leaving to be sick offstage, only to come back for an incredible performance of Want Me), a hugely endearing experience that only proved how far she will inevitably go. This was her first show in Nottingham, and she jumped into the crowd several times to “get to know us”, a surreal experience that only made me love her even more. The entire crowd could not get enough of this performance, screaming relentlessly at her throughout her set as she played her absolute heart out.
This performance really felt like seeing an edgier and younger Taylor Swift before she was famous; an absolute highlight of the festival that I can’t recommend enough.
Dot to Dot Festival was an incredible experience, with a huge number of great acts spanning so many different genres, unlike any other kind of festival. Despite some organisational flaws, the festival was a fantastic experience, featuring small local bands alongside international juggernauts- a fantastic blend that is only available here. I love that this review is completely unique, as any other reviewer could have seen completely different acts with completely different styles. That said, I’m sure they’d reach the same conclusion: that Dot to Dot festival is absolutely brilliant.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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