Less than a week after the abhorrent events at the M.E.N, Manchester grieves and ultimately unites with a fuck ’em spirit. This is Manchester, and this is music, and we will carry on. Excitement and dancing shoes couple up with defiance for Dot To Dot, as hundreds of bands across many venues around central Manchester pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives by giving us a party, one not blemished by the sadness and anger at recent events, but one enhanced by Manchester’s community and togetherness in response to this adversity.
Most of the venues open in the early evening, for the worker bees coming straight from the office. Honeyblood open The Albert Hall which slowly fills up during their set. They are the first signal that artists playing today are truly honoured to be here, extremely grateful for their position and actively encouraging a good-time. I’m a sucker for a Scottish vocalist, especially when partnered with a very talented drummer and a bit of fuzzy guitar. The two-piece win me over effectively, particularly in ‘Sea Hearts’ and ‘Babes Never Die’ where I learn the singalong elements quickly, and try my best to create an energetic singalong to which everyone responded with a reluctant ripple of “heys.” The mood certainly cautious but still celebratory.
Over at Old Granada Studios, Cherry Glazerr, the band I am most keen to see. The venue is really interesting, a warehouse space with excellent lighting and acoustics, which hopefully gets used for more events. Cherry Glazerr open with a misfired joke about muffins before playing half an hour of songs from Apocalipstick and Haxel Princess with very high energy and punk spirit. Sadly they are borderline irritating in their interaction and childish running around, but the songs are strong enough to make the set very enjoyable.
Back at The Albert Hall, Manchester’s own Slow Readers Club channel Editors and Joy Division, resulting in some catchy songs, some miserable songs, and some entirely forgettable. There is a very committed proportion of the crowd, transcending age, starting a gentle mosh-pit where there was arguably too much space for one. By the time Slow Readers play their by far strongest songs ‘Plant the Seed’ and ‘Forever In Your Debt’ much of the crowd is lost, but the committed proportion persist with their chants of “Readerrrrrs! Readerrrrrs!” even after they leave the stage. They are destined for some success even if only in this city, but I will probably never see them again.
Old Granada again, this time Pinegrove, the Americans describe how honoured they are to play in this city, especially after Monday in the most touching tribute of the day. Even after suffering lost guitar stands (which they replaced with borrowed ones from The Big Moon,) broken strings, and having to continue playing without replacing them they create stunning sounds allowing you to shed a tear and tap your feet simultaneously. A humble experience, which I hope will be reflected in their recorded versions.
The long trek to the Northern Quarter means missing a band or two, but is worth it to see some lesser-known delights. After the melancholy of Pinegrove we dip into Night & Day to watch George Ezra’s younger brother Ten Tonnes who lifts our spirits again with catchy, bouncy indie rock which feels almost nostalgic. A minutes silence for the victims of the M.E.N is touching, halfway through his set. The minute closes with a roar from the crowd, the remainder of Ten Tonnes set is indebted to this, a more defiantly joyous fifteen minutes then anything up to this point, the chorus of ‘Lucy’ a highlight.
After our ‘Wildcard’ Cuckoolander pulls out for unexplained reasons, we head to Band on the Wall, a Manchester institution that I’m shocked to be seeing for only the first time, where we catch the second half of To Kill A King. They are a better Mumford and Sons, less banjo and false optimism, more electric guitar and cautious optimism. Meticulous harmonies are very well suited to the room, I will be back here at the first opportunity.
Finally we head over to Gullivers, where Husky Loops undoubtedly steal the show. ‘Tempo,’ ‘Fighting Myself’ and other unreleased tracks cause the 50-strong crowd to erupt into energy. They are heavy, angry but precise and fundamentally a bit weird. Drum loops, voice-overs and overdrive are a winning formula. My biggest regret of the day is not buying one of their t-shirts.
Dot To Dot could have been a sad, nervous affair, and although venues didn’t appear to reach capacity, the mood was respectful, morale was high. This is Manchester. This is music. And, truthfully, you can fuck yourselves if you think you are going to stop us.
Highlights: Manchester’s Spirit