The Night Café - Tara Lou

Dot To Dot festival, Manchester, UK (26th May 2017)

Words: Tara Atkinson and Charlie Hyland – Photography: Tara AtkinsonDot to Dot festival is an iconic fixture every year, not only for the audiences turning out, but also for the bands who are given a platform to progress in the music scene itself. With speculation about whether it was going to go ahead after the tragedy of the terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday, it is clear to see the strength of Manchester as a city to look to music as a way of pushing forward, thus perpetuating Manchester’s brilliant musical vignette.

Larkins were the first band to play at Fopp for Manchester’s Dot to Dot festival- showcased as up-and-coming talent from the city, they then played a second set at half past 4 in the Ruby Lounge as the initial masses began to arrive from work or school. Consequently, they gained a substantial crowd, even though few knew who Larkins were and what they were capable of. After finishing just a few shows in Europe, Larkins had gained a lot of confidence to deliver their fresh new sound to any audience; following the first few songs, the crowd kicked into the spirit and really started to join in as Larkins portrayed their superb pop rock style. They advocate superb guitar riffs and a quirky vocal range from Josh Noble, the lead singer. They took the challenge of opening the festival perfectly, really showing off the superb talent Manchester has on show, and certainly getting the crowd excited for what was to come!

Cassia were on at the same time at the Band On The Wall stage, and despite being on early the crowds came out in full force to see the trio pack out the venue. Having just supported Clay at their headline show at Gorilla last week, Cassia are another band that have been showcased as up-and-coming talent, bringing such a good vibe to start the day off right for many. Dubbed as ‘another indie rock band’, I have to say otherwise. They’re more than just ‘indie rock’, they bring an almost tropical sound to the stage, something that hasn’t made it to the mainstream as of yet… although Cassia could be the ones to do so. One of their biggest hits ‘Moana’ depicts this perfectly; addictive riffs, rapid vocals, plus a little bit of the bongos!

After some technical difficulties, Yonaka played an amazing set at Manchester’s backstreet venue Aatma. Despite it being a smaller venue than what the band are used to played, they really took centre stage and wowed the audience with their spectacular performance – consisting of some of the best hair flicks of the festival season so far and some wicked dance moves from lead vocalist Thersea! Female led vocals are somewhat of a rarity in the indie rock scene, but Yonaka rise above and beyond expectations when it comes to their music. Fiery vocals, heavy riffs and booming percussion along with some fantastic lyrics, they’ve really crafted their own sound over the years and it seems to be paying off!

Honeyblood, a two-piece female band, showing off their feminist views through their songs, packed out the albert hall. They turned out to certainly be an audience favourite. In their own words, “we are about girls fending for themselves” clearly voicing their views, which really rallied the largely female dominated audience. Honeyblood, after the release of their second album Babes Never Die, have really stepped it up, reaching out to a much wider audience and bagging themselves a multitude of festivals for 2017: Leeds Festival, YNOT and Kendal Calling to name a few.

Tender brought such a refreshing vibe to the Ruby Lounge on Friday night. Their downtempo sound let everyone have a break from the pushing and shoving in the mosh pits and have half an hour to just relax and really feel the music. With their debut album on the way later this year, Tender are sure to see themselves soar to new heights. Deco up next at Dive NQ, despite a small crowd the quartet still brought their fresh sound to Dot to Dot. With upbeat riffs, relatable lyrics and Max’s instantly recognisable vocals, along with their first headline show coming up this June, the indie rockers look set to make their mark on Manchester’s music scene.

Amber Run wowed us as they came out in style, initially stating to the crowd that they had had a difficult time as a band, with the crowd and in particular the song ‘No Answers’ keeping them together. After recently finishing their UK tour earlier in 2017, Amber Run were a hotly anticipated band at Dot to Dot, and they really got the crowd going for later bands to come. Even getting into the swing themselves with lead singer Joe Keogh putting his guitar down so he was free to dance! On the back of their second album release ‘For a Moment, I Was Lost’, Amber Run have culminated their mellow, addictive sound even more and tailored it to make their own unique sound, which has been greatly publicised on the radio, and with consistent festival listings, 2017 just seems to be Amber Run’s year.

You couldn’t have fit more people into Kosmonaut if you tried when Marsicans took to the stage at 7 o’clock. The quartet deserved a much bigger capacity venue, but playing to a packed out crowd in a small basement made it all the more special, and most probably something you won’t get chance to see again as this is a band that is set to succeed! The quartet from Leeds created an amazing atmosphere, captivating each and every member of the audience into their indie pop dream world. Their latest release ‘Friends’ epitomises what Marsicans are; ingenious lyrics, beautiful harmonies, catchy riffs and impeccable vocals. Expect to be hearing a lot more about these lads in the next few months.

The Big Moon, another band recently entering the bigger scene of music after their new debut album, filled the Old Granada Studios with a fully expectant crowd. The more the evening progressed, the larger and more exhilarant crowds came out. The Big Moon were one of the first acts to see this, and thankfully they have created such fantastic music to delight each and every member of that crowd with their perfectly put together music, accompanied with a superb lyricist: Juliette Jackson. The 4-piece largely showcased their debut album ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’, which has really attracted a lot of attention having only been released nearly 2 months ago on the 7th of April. We will be sure to hear more about The Big Moon and their wonderfully diverse lyrics and style, as they are picking up a support slot with Marika Hackman, starting on the 31st July.

Another band squishing as many people as they could into a venue was the brilliant RedFaces at the Castle Hotel. The quartet from Sheffield brought their rip-roaring sound to Manchester, along with an insane amount of heat… each and every person coming out of that gig was drenched, an example of just how good of a show RedFaces can put on even in a small venue. Having just released their new single ‘Wise Up’ featuring Harry’s brash vocals (not too dissimilar from that of The Beatles), fuzzy riffs and raucous percussion, RedFaces are preparing for a huge year ahead.

The Ruby Lounge venue, after a superb set from numerous artists throughout the night, was yet to see some of the most exhilarating artists until along came the new indie sound – The Night Café. The four piece, on the back of their debut EP release ‘Get Away From The Feeling’, had created a large fan base, especially through the hyped ‘You Change with the Seasons’ that had brought them success during their support roles with the likes of headliners Sundara Karma. This led to an evening slot at Dot to Dot fest for a sizeable crowd. Their heavy drums and addictive guitar riffs were almost irresistible to dance to, with mosh pits opening left right and centre just to prove the enjoyment from the crowd. With Tom Grennan to come, The Night Café got the crowd ready for anything other artists could throw at them.

From a very hard hitting rock pop band, to the stand-alone vocals of the amazing Tom Grennan, was a radical transition to say the least. However, it really gave the crowd a break from the pushing and shoving and something to delight the ears instead. Tom Grennan, dubbed to have similar vocals to those of Alex Turner (lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys), was not going to disappoint. His deep vocals really make him stand out when singing songs in his conventional set, especially with tunes like ‘There’s Something In The Water’, a clear fan favourite to really showcase his talent, yet his style and vocals stand out from the rest anyway; many couldn’t even see past his rather jazzy trousers!

To Kill A King have become regulars for the Dot to Dot showings, particularly in Manchester. They finished their third showing for the festival in three years on Friday, where they truly have worked their way up the ranks, with 2017 being their year to headline ‘Bands on the Wall’. To Kill A King bring a very emotional sense to their heartfelt tunes, something quite similar to Bastille, a band that To Kill A King are very close and friendly with, and therefore you can see the similarities in lyrics. Due to their very skilful 5-man musical amalgamation, To Kill A King substantiated a large crowd even with headliners Sundara Karma on at the same time at the Albert Hall. From the activity of the crowd it appeared that the majority were strong To Kill A King fans, this set the band up perfectly to break the big news of a new album to be released soon. They corroborated this by playing some songs that would be professionally released later in the year, such as ‘Choices’ and their new single that will inevitably be on the album ‘The Good Old Days’. Mingling these new releases with their best-known songs, to truly keep the crowd amazed and expectant, they played such songs as ‘Funeral’ and ‘Bloody Shirt’. Closing the Band on the Wall venue as the last act to feature, Dot to Dot did us proud to finish on To Kill a King they were a superb, emotional end to a fantastic evening.

Parcels were the final act to grace the Soup Kitchen stage on Friday night. This is a band on a completely different level, their funky sound is something that is almost none existent in the UK’s current music industry but with this first show in Manchester, that could all change in the not too distant future. Playing the whole of their EP along with a couple of unreleased tracks ‘Conspiracy’ and ‘Comedown’ got everyone grooving. It’s hard to describe a band with such an original sound, not to mention the dance moves, exhilarating harmonies, addictive riffs and irresistible keys that made it hard not to dance along to. If there is any band to check out from Dot to Dot this weekend, it’s definitely Parcels and they will have without a doubt gained a bunch more fans along the way, making it easy for the Aussies to return to the UK in the coming months.

During Parcels’ set was a very emotional moment for the people of Manchester, following the horrific events on Monday night music venues across Europe held a one-minute silence “remember the victims” and then one minute of noise “we will not be silenced”. An extremely heartfelt moment, and one that every person who partook will never forget. I overheard somebody say “once you’ve made it in Manchester, you’ve made it everywhere”, and this couldn’t be more true. Following the events, to see thousands of people turn out to celebrate music in the city was incredible, and made this years Dot to Dot festival something more important than it ever set out to be.

Words: Tara Atkinson and Charlie Hyland – Photography: Tara Atkinson