By Gigantic Tickets
Posted on Monday 16th May 2016 at 13:20
Dot To Dot Festival brings together the best new alternative acts and is a great place to see the next big thing. This year’s line-up includes Mystery Jets, Augustines, The Temper Trap, Rat Boy, The Sherlocks plus many more.
Taking place at various venues in three different cities, the festivals runs from 27th till 29th of May, starting at Manchester on the Friday, moving to Bristol on the Saturday and finishing in Nottingham on the Sunday
Promotions Director Anton Lockwood is the one of the original instigators of the exciting event. Initially an independent promoter, he is now a key figure in the DHP Family - the highly successful music promotion business which is the driving force behind Dot To Dot.
We spoke to Anton about how he first became involved in the industry, what goes into organising such a unique festival, how they select which acts to play and more.
How did you become involved with DHP?
Really I started promoting gigs in Nottingham in 1991. Silverfish at the Trent Poly as it was. And we did a bunch of shows just independently as a hobby. Mostly because at the time Rock City didn’t have the more underground bands, we were fed up of going to The Princess Charlotte in Leicester all the time to watch things.
Fast forward fourteen years, in the meantime I was working for Boots The Chemist doing IT and various things. Essentially two things happened at the same time. One, I got made redundant from Boots (and) I did two shows within a couple of weeks at the Social as it was, now the Bodega, one of them was a band called The Strokes and the other one was a band called The White Stripes. Doing shows like that got George who owns Rock City – DHP wasn’t a thing then – it got his attention. And said “Well look I’ve got this crappy sports bar that’s been closed for a while next door to Rock City and I went to make it into an indie rock venue. Do you want to come and do it?” and I was like “Oh right. So I’ve just been made redundant from my day job and you’re saying do you want to make my hobby my job? Go on then!”
How did Dot To Dot first get started?
We eventually took over the Social, now the Bodega, we bought the Thekla in Bristol and we started saying “Well we’re doing these venues why don’t we start promoting more shows around the place?” And so we did.
Dot To Dot became a key part of that really because at the time we then had Rescue Rooms and we had Stealth, we had Rock City. “Well, it’s just been SXSW; Can’t we do that here?” We’ve got all these venues so we started doing that.
Originally actually, I don’t know if you remember Ricky Hayley from Liars Club? And Gavin Poole who now plays in You Slut and originally played in Amusement Parks On Fire and whatever. It was the three of us originally started and then Dan Ealam got involved pretty soon after. And started doing this city festival and then we said “Well we’ve got this venue in Bristol. Let’s start doing it in Bristol! And Manchester. We put on loads of shows in Manchester. Let’s start doing it in Manchester!” So it became the three headed beast it is now.
We’ve always been “If we can do this; why can’t we do this?” It’s a small company, relatively small company and we’re able to move quite quickly.
What is your role regarding organising the Festival?
The way it works now, myself and Dan Ealam are effectively the Festival Directors. And then we’ve got Dan Roberts as Festival Manager. Our role is everything. Choose the venues. Choose the bands. Decide what the ticket price is going to be.
Obviously there is a whole team of people doing this stuff, not just us. So we’ve got extremely talented artwork people but we make the decision on which artwork we’re going to use.
Working with the production guys, marketing, ticketing and all the other people working behind the scenes to make it work.
Between Dan and myself and the other Dan, we decide running orders. All of that.
Who are your favourite acts who have played at the festival in previous years?
Saint Raymond headlining Rock City having started out playing first on the acoustic stage like three years before was great.
Go on the Mumford & Sons Wikipedia page, I think this is still true, the photo is of them playing the Bristol Dot To Dot.
I remember Santigold headlining in the Thekla. It was one in/one out and she actually tore the roof off.
Pulled Apart By Horses in the top deck of the Thekla which is a stage about an inch high. Absolute chaos and carnage with crowd surfing. That was a particular brilliant one.
There’s always different moments each year when someone pulls it out of the hat.
Is there anyone you are tipping to make it big following their performance at Dot To Dot?
Of course you’ve already interviewed on your new website two of the ones we would like to say we tip and that would be Crosa Rosa and EYRE LLEW. Of the current crop of Nottingham acts, that’s for sure.
Dua Lipa who I think is going to be a huge star. She’s already taken off very quickly anyway. But I think she’s something pretty special. It’s pop music how I like to think of pop music. Which is pop music with a bit of creativity, with a bit of something about it that’s not just throw away. But it’s still absolutely sing along to it. Sing in the shower to it, if you like. And also she’s keeping it live. She’s got charisma.
The thing is everyone we pick for Dot To Dot we pick for a reason. We don’t just pick them to make up the numbers. Whether you look at Barns Courtney, Spring King at the noisy end of things doing really exciting things.
How do you select which acts play at Dot To Dot?
We talked a bit about Nottingham bands, but we also very much want to bring on Manchester bands and Bristol bands as well.
We want to encourage local talent in those cities. We have a programme where local acts in each city can become part of the festival. If they’re doing well then they’ll play all three.
In terms of selecting the main programme essentially Dan Ealam, Dan Roberts and myself. We look at what we’re working on, we talk to the agents, we’ll look at who is coming up, whether its thing like the BBC Sound Poll or hearing what’s been going on at SXSW and we’ll check them out and whittle down as to who we thinks gonna work.
We try and get a mixture. Its indie. Its pop but the cool end of pop. Its dance music but the kind of live end of dance music. We, in fact, occasionally have DJs things but that’s the core of what it’s about. So we’re looking for artists around those areas but we have some breadth. Dua Lipa is very different from Augustines but they are both people in their fields doing something interesting. Connecting though the audience. Years & Years, for example, played Dot To Dot. As did Ellie Goulding. As did London Grammar.
Looking back, are there any acts you wish you had of booked?
We always have a few headliners and very very happy to have Augustines, Mystery Jets and The Temper Trap on board this year. But it’s not really a case of always trying to find THAT kind of historic band. I was very chuffed when we finally got And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead… to play a few years ago. My favourite band so I thought it was great to have them.
It’s not a case of “Oh we really want Neil Young to play”. The people we want to play are the people I don’t know about yet. That’s really what it’s about.
What is the most difficult thing of running a multi venue metropolitan festival across three days in three cities?
After three days it’s a physical challenge running around!
It’s just finding the venues. We’ve been doing it a long time now and we know what we’re doing.
We decided to move in Manchester to the Northern Quarter rather than around The Ritz and the kind of Oxford Road area because we found the Northern Quarter was more lively and vibey. And we wanted to up the ante for the festival in Manchester a bit.
In Bristol the challenge is geographic. It’s really nice in Nottingham we’ve got Rock City, Rescue Rooms, Stealth, Spankys, Trent Uni, a little walk and you’re at the Bodega and the we’ve got all the other smaller venues that are playing a part all within ten minutes’ walk from each other. Just the way it is in Bristol it’s not that. It just happens the venues are much further apart and so the issue we’ve had, we’ve had to make the tough decision of not using Trinity which is a fantastic venue. But it’s just that bit further out and it takes away from the vibe of the festival. That’s probably been the biggest challenge.
Different challenges. A venue closes down or wants to charge more money. Or another event comes along and tries to compete with us. Different things at different times.
Do the three days have a different feel in each city?
Yeah. To an extent. We believe in our venues. We hate the idea that every venue should be the same. Be like a Premier Inn where it’s all branded the same, looks the same, feels the same, you know? It should have its own character.
They definitely do and they are all great in their own way. We try and tie it together and work with the particular quirks of the particular city to make it into a good event.
Would you ever expand into any other cities?
Would we do another city? Maybe.... We’re doing a three-day weekend; Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We try and have much the same line up in each one. So, we did originally do Manchester on the Bank Holiday Monday and we struggled a bit with that because obviously people have got work and college the next day so we moved it to Friday and made it a bit of a later night thing. So it would mean doing the Monday and I would have to be very confident it was worth doing. But the thing is, the point of Dot To Dot isn’t to be Glastonbury. It’s not meant to be a huge event. Other metropolitan festivals seem to want to grow bigger and bigger and add more stages and get 20,000 people there. We’re not really about that. What we want to do is be a leading new music festival.
What has been the secret to Dot To Dot’s success?
Sometimes when we’re booking bands the agents will be like “Why is it not just the same line-up?” Because the venues are different. We spend a lot of time thinking about this band playing here and this band playing here, we don’t want them on at the same time and it’s a ten minute walk so we need to put them in (that) slot. We take a holistic approach.
The other thing we do, we run it on a relatively small number of stages over a long time so you can come at 13:00 and leave at 03:00 but there is stuff on all the time. You have the chance to see a lot more stuff.
We try to make it feel like a proper music fan event and not just an exercise in branding.
What is the future for Dot To Dot?
Really the future of Dot To Dot is to keep finding the best new acts. One thing I always say when I interview about Dot To Dot : Every year’s line-up is the worst because you’ll look back and you’ll go “Oh Ed Sheeran played!" Or "London Grammar played!" Or "Jake Bugg played!” but you look at this year and think “Who the hell are all these people?” But in a years’ time you’ll look back and go Barns Courtney played! Whereas at the moment you go “Who the hell is Barns Courtney?”
So each years it’s about the new music and about introducing new music. Obviously we have our headliners and you’ll see your current favourite band in the evening and your next favourite band in the afternoon.
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