Dot to Dot Highlights Bristol's Music Scene

by Liam Hill

Photo credit: Morten Aagaard Krogh, Here Today.

This was my first time in Bristol and I have to say it was an amazing way to explore a city. With map in hand, my girlfriend and I bounced around the city, not looking for landmarks or nice restaurants but pubs, clubs and venues. The sun was out, our groove was on and Bristol was buzzing.

Whilst preparing for who to go and see at Dot To Dot, I had become quite excited by the prospect of seeing dream-poppers Parekh & Singh, an Indian duo set to play the top deck of the Thekla (by the way, this venue looked awesome, a boat come club in the heart of the city). Unfortunately, the capacity for Thekla is either very small or Parekh & Singh were incredibly popular, with us arriving just before they would begin their set and a one-in-one-out policy, we set our sights elsewhere. (P.S. go check out their stuff!)

Although this might seem to have set a downhearted tone for the start of the day, with the sun shining and the unity of the city shining through, we remained upbeat and set our sights on The Fleece to go and pay a visit to Ten Tonnes. The younger brother of George Ezra and aged just 19, he was immense. The Fleece, a dark and intimate cavern-esque pub was respectably full for such a young and largely unknown artist, especially as the venue was somewhat out of the hustle and bustle of the other main locations. This being our first performance of the day (note, we arrived later than anticipated) Ten Tonnes really set the bar high. His Maccabees inspired melodic guitar riffs, his captivating sweet yet bassy vocal and his charmful presence was inspiring; someone ever so slightly younger than myself owning a stage so confidently with such beautiful guitar-lead music gave a sense of hope in a time of such tragedy for musical events. His set included fan favourite Subtle Changes which saw Ten Tonnes go solo, just him and his guitar. This more emotional and touching track had a huge impact with his crooning vocal exploring through the raw and moving lyrics. Whilst Ten Tonnes also perfectly pulled off the stripped back ballad, newer release Silver Heat was a highlight with the crowd who were dancing and singing along; the professionalism, control and style of Ten Tonnes would never allow you to believe he was only 19, he’s not merely ‘one to watch’, he’s one I encourage you to listen to now. Go and show your support for a talent that young musicians need as a pillar of inspiration.

After Ten Tonnes we headed over to the o2 Academy where most of the ‘key’ action was. Here we caught the end of the magnificent set from Honeyblood, in time to see the full set from Louis Berry. This was possibly the set I was most looking forward to and in retrospect my favourite performance of the day. I first stumbled across Berry’s music around eighteen months ago, it was a live rendition of Restless, this also being a crowd pleaser in Bristol. The band were clad in black with conforming instruments, and as Berry took centre stage with his slick, soulful swagger, armed with a glistening white Les Paul style guitar, he simply looked cool. The band and him not only owned that stage but they made it their dance floor and their play ground. With rock n roll inspired anthems such as 25 Reasons and .45, the Academy was vivacious, and despite his attempts to create a somewhat serious persona, his humility and appreciation beamed through. My respect for Berry only grew after he defended his right to stay on stage; with a few minor technical difficulties, his set was going to be cut short, but after distinguishing himself from the rest of the acts in protest, they allowed him to play one more song, which he had earned and deserved.

Bandcamp favourites Pinegrove were elsewhere in the city which meant further orienteering to find our way to SWX and the vulnerability of their lyrics and sound was even more poignant with the crowd shouting their words back at them. Whilst Pinegrove were incredible live, with their studio recording in fact sounding largely indifferent, the change from Berry’s rock an roll to a somewhat more sombre tone with Pinegrove was an unusual transition, especially as we were then heading back to see the headliners, Sundara Karma.

Speaking of such, for a band who only released their debut album in January of this year, they were incredibly tight, commanding and mesmerising. Not only do their songs and musicianship sit perfectly at the head of the bill, the slightly androgynous, striking presence of Oscar alone was slightly hypnotic (and dare I say) he had a flair and performance how I envision Bowie would have had in person. Another band I have been following for a few years, this was a fitting and exciting end to the evening, with She Said, Flame and Olympia being some of my favourite “indie” tracks of the year, closing the night with colourful confetti and sweaty dancing, Sundara Karma deserved, embraced and rejoiced that headline slot.

NB, check train times in advance, we ended up missing the last train and waiting two hours for a bus to get us back to Exe, I must say this wasn’t how we envisioned the end to our evening!