Highlights: Nottingham's Dot-to-Dot Festival 2008

James Brindle | Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Highlights: Nottingham's Dot-to-Dot Festival 2008

The Nottingham leg of the dot-to-dot festival 2008 was a game of two halves as a Saturday tinged with disappointment was eclipsed by a breathtaking Sunday.

Arriving at the rescue rooms on day one looking forward to a joyous double header from the Little Ones and wonky pop sensations Alphabeat, I was met with the news that both had been forced to cancel.

The Little Ones' place was taken by Sheffield band The Hosts who looked like they'd been plucked from a wedding to fill the void right at the last minute. Suited to the nines, their soaring, Britpop-inspired tales are destined to find an audience. Like a more matured version of The Enemy, The Hosts can write a terrace anthem like the best of them; 'Wake Up' being a perfect example. But it was their softer moments that really made an impact with the crowd.

Without my fill of summery pop for the day, I ventured into the city’s market square where a separate free festival was creating some interest. On the bill were the masters of life-affirming pop, the Delays. Unfortunately, as the set got underway it was a case of music by professionals but sound by amateurs as singer Greg Gilbert’s microphone failed to register during 'long time coming'. Steadily, though, vocals emerged and material from the brilliant new album Everything’s The Rush found an appreciative audience. The driving baseline of 'Friends Are False' was a particular triumph. Closing the set with their storming single 'Valentine', the band certainly left the stage with new admirers.

Next up were Athlete, so I headed to straight for the festival's base at Rock City. Dirty Pretty Things had drawn a sizable crowd and though the show was technically tight, the songs came across as nothing more than adequate. Drummer Didz was impressively frenetic as usual and of the new material showcased, 'Plastic Hearts' stood out. 'Deadwood' and 'Bang Bang You’re Dead' unsurprisingly sent the crowd into a frenzy. But as signature tunes they are rather mediocre. To their credit the gig ended with what undoubtedly takes the prize of the best feedback of the weekend.

Sunday promised an intriguing line-up. Scotish band Sons and Daughters opened the evening with their terrifically sinister blend of pop and dark, angry lyrics. They had no trouble impressing a crowd arguably there for the more well-known headliners yet to come. Frontwoman Adele Bethel snarled lyrics at the crowd as if someone amongst them had stolen her credit card.

Mystery Jets were next up and there was a real sense of anticipation in the room. The band hit the stage to loud cheers, clearly down to the abundance of fans in the room. Those unfamiliar with the band could be forgiven for thinking they were at a rave as the pulsating 'Zoo Time' provided an epic start. The set was packed with new material. Previous singles 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis', 'The Boy Who Ran Away' and 'Alas Agnes' all missed the final cut as tracks from new album Twenty One dominated.

That is no bad thing when the material is as impressive as the enchanting 'Flakes' and the dynamic 'Half In Love With Elizabeth'. The stunning double header of last single 'Young Love' and new single 'Two Doors Down' all but brought the house down. The latter track produced a real unforgettable festival moment. Without doubt the single of the year to date, it could well see the often overlooked Londoners hit it big when it's released in the coming weeks.

After witnessing such a euphoric moment I made my way to Nottingham Trent University to catch Spiritualized in the hope more musical goodness would follow. A 25-minute delay ensued as more sound troubles caused some crowd unrest. A rather bloated and long-winded start led to some in the audience to look elsewhere, and with a highly anticipated finale at the rescue rooms rapidly approaching I too was a short didtance behind.

One of the festival's smaller venues, the Rescue Rooms, was completely rammed for what was arguably the most-hyped act of the weekend, Santogold. The doors were locked and any late comers were left disappointed as Santi White took to the stage to thunderous applause. The Mystery Jets had earlier demanded that we dropped in to see Santogold and it was clear many had taken their advice.

Santi, full of energy and enthusiasm, has a magnetic stage presence and launched into a set full of pounding beats and no shortage of credible tunes. Impressive single 'Les Artistes' was dropped in early and suffixed a devastating assault of potentially massive singles.

'Say Aha', a mix of MIA and Gnarls Barkley, is a sure-fire dancefloor filler and brought the best out of Santi’s captivating backing dancers. The spiky 'Shove It' showed a hard-edge, eccentric wit. As the relentless half hour came to a close the crowd departed with excited murmurs of what they had just witnessed. Tonight was evidence enough that Santogold are the must-see festival act over the summer.

Glasvegas arrived on stage dressed all in black and launched into the noisiest set of the weekend. Unfortunately this was to their detriment as the deafening guitars drowned out the distinctive vocals of James Allen and struggled to captivate the twitchy crowd. When the guitars did take a back seat during the colossal 'Geraldine' and the sublime 'It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry', the true power of Glasvegas shone through.

The festival drew to an end in beautiful style with the incredibly moving 'Daddy’s Gone'. A stunning song which sent me into the night with a lump in my throat but a smile on my face.