LIVE: Dot To Dot Festival 2021, Bristol

Pound-for-pound, Dot To Dot is definitely one of the best day fests in the country, and its tightly-packed lineup of the UK's most promising new bands made up for all the gigs we've missed out on in recent times.
Posted: 27 September 2021 Words: Jim Howells Photos: Jamie MacMillan, Sam McMahon, Nic Pedron, Jonny Nolan

120 bands playing across 16 of Bristol's venues in one day is a logistical nightmare. There's no point in trying to fight it, but learn to accept that you won’t see everyone at Dot To Dot Festival and you’ll have a great time.

It should be said that Bristol isn’t known for having a great public transport system, in fact, quite the opposite, so expect a lot of walking back and forth between venues. But hey, you might get lucky, and all the bands you want to see are in a couple of venues nearby. 

However, strategically placed trips to corner shops for street cans and non-participating pubs for toilet breaks are all part of the fun. 

As with any day fest there are a handful of standout performers, such as headliners Sports Team, Palace and Girl Band but the meat (or plant-based substitute) is in between the first acts and the headliners (sorry newcomers, but your time will come, I promise) which realistically gives you about three hours of musical seitan to sink your teeth into. 

Disappointingly, however, minimalist, Leeds-based rockers, Yard Act were nowhere to be seen, but when life gives you lemons, you squeeze it on your tofish. Onwards and upwards.

Previous years lineups have included Ed Sheeran, Lewis Capaldi, Dua Lipa, and Wolf Alice so there's a lot to be said about the kind of lineups Dot To Dot puts together: maybe you saw the next big thing? Maybe you saw the next Ed Sheeran? Hopefully not.

The day starts at the iconic, nay legendary, Bristol boat, Thekla, with the wristband exchange, where eager festival-goers line up to gain access to a day of music, via wristband. The more savvy punters may have crept in to see EFÉ, the lo-fi Dubliner who brought her bedroom soul-sound to a swooning bottom deck. Very cool.

One may have headed over to The Fleece to catch Tungz, the Bristol golden boys who are still hot, riding the wave of 2020's EP, Why Do Anything?, bringing a much needed tight-funk-groove to the day.

Heading back to Thekla one may have caught The Cool Greenhouse for some entertaining yet dense, bizarre monologues from the London-based quintet, who, and it should be said, have a handful of releases on Lumpy Records, perhaps the greatest punk label in operation today.

Chubby and the Gang met to pretty poor response until about halfway through their set at the O2, until a near scrap at the front opened up the pit (I think that's what they say). Their sound was big, tough, and  new album Mutts Nuts translates really well live. Chubby Charles’ stage moves are strong. Nice and strong. 

A personal highlight came from Theklas' top deck, which was packed tight, like sardines in a tin...or crowd in a small venue, for Joe & The Shitboys who brought their self-proclaimed “Queer, Vegan, Shitpunk” all the way to Bristol from the Faroe Islands. Incredibly high energy and inclusive fun meant for a posi-peak at around five o’clock. Possibly the peak on the day? We’ll see. 

Do Nothing who packed out the room, played an absolute belter. Since emerging through 2018 and 2019, and with debut EP Zero Dollar Bill released in 2020, the Nottingham lads have fast become one of the talking-over-music-music-scenes (not a dig) most exciting prospects. 

While at first I was skeptical of Sports Team headlining a festival of so many band who i thought equally deserving of the coveted slot, they really did shut it down, their high-octane performance was met to an insanely appreciative crowd, it made me wonder if maybe it was me who was out of touch? No can’t be. A great finish to another great year of Dot To Dot. 

With day festivals like this, a lot of the appeal comes from ‘stumbling-across’ new bands and new venues, but with such a tightly-packed lineup, spread across so many venues it's hard to accidentally stumble across anything. There simply isn’t enough time, but that's hardly a major gripe which so much good music on the bill. 

Pound-for-pound it’s definitely one of the best day-fests in the country, and with most festivals of this format popping up all over the place it’s looking likely that making up for all the gigs we’ve missed recently might actually be possible.

Read more: Dot to Dot Festival 2021: Ones To Watch

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