Stumbling across some fresh talent is not difficult at Dot to Dot Manchester, where an abundance of the city’s many venues plays host to an array of upcoming artists. From the Albert Hall to Band on the Wall, there is no absence of insanely gifted individuals – it is fundamentally a challenge of finding as many as you can in just a day.
Opening O2 Ritz were indie-pop four-piece, BLOXX. Enthused and angsty, the Londoners deliver a set bristling with classically catchy riffs; though at times it borders on predictable for the genre, the band are filled with youthful vivacity and this carries them through, bouncing around on stage with palpable excitement for the day. A cheerful start, BLOXX have their crowd grooving and ready to continue doing so throughout the night.
Albert Hall is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful venues in Manchester – a restored chapel, the backdrop of stained-glass windows is a stunning backdrop for the eccentric, innovative The Orielles. The 80s influences for the Halifax natives absolutely shine through – their set is a whirlwind of synth-heavy, charming bops and nostalgic, dream-like guitar hooks, and it works wonderfully for them. Having never listened to them prior to their set, songs like ‘Sunflower Seeds’ cemented The Orielles as a pleasant discovery of the day, and one that undoubtedly deserve a place on your playlists.
Although Band on the Wall involves a trek halfway across the city, it is completely worth it to see at least part of an empowering, emotive set from Manchester-based Phoebe Green. A self-confessed ‘over-sharer’, Green’s lyrics are candid and confessional, her distinctive vocals rising over dreamy indie-pop wonders like ‘Watercolour Envy’ magnificently. With a handful of fresh songs that she hints could be released soon, Green is a prime example of the incredible artists Dot to Dot has on offer: on the edge of a soaring career, there is the sense that this could be one of the sets that you’ll feel quite glad to have caught in years to come, if songs like ‘Dreaming Of’ are anything to go on.
The Night Café seem to have gained fans by the masses over the last couple of years, on the verge of releasing their debut album and delivering infectious sets left right and centre. Returning back to Albert Hall, where they will play a headline show in autumn, they lift the room with their shimmering, romantic tunes. Attracting a crowd comprised of so many under-15s that it is enough to trigger an existential crisis, it is their heartfelt, laidback melodies and consistently impressive releases that means their crowds are not a deterrence – instead, the focus is solely on the band as they race through everything from old favourites like ‘Addicted’ to tender latest release ‘Endless Lovers’.
Scottish rockers Retro Video Club have a sound and stage presence that hark back to indie-rock staples of the past: electrifying and anthemic, the charmingly accented vocals of lead singer Liam Allison set against the raucous guitar is impressive. Their ambition shines through a set featuring highlights like ‘Chemistry’ and a new release that Allison claims is the ‘only love song I’ve ever written’. The Edinburgh four-piece mix tongue-in-cheek lyrics with explosive energy and the crowd at Night People certainly seemed enticed by the chaotic, galvanic set they delivered.
The final set of the night was the most eagerly anticipated of the festival: New Zealand’s finest, Jordan Rakei, graced the stage of O2 Ritz much to my absolute delight. Without sounding too dramatic, it could well be attested that Rakei is one of the most insanely talented individuals in the music industry right now. From the very beginning of his set, he bounced between instruments and loop pedals effortlessly, all the while showcasing some ridiculously flawless vocals. Forward-thinking and absolutely drenched in talent, Rakei’s set is euphoric and dumbfounding: ‘Sorceress’ is without a doubt the most beautiful, evocative moment, the epitome of Rakei’s talent. With the new album, Origin on the horizon, there’s a high chance the artist won’t stay so criminally underrated for long – his set at Dot to Dot testifies why you should be hopping on the Jordan Rakei train right now. He is nothing short of phenomenal, and a perfect way to end the day.