Dot To Dot Festival 2015 – Cheshire and the Cat Steal The Show
A Decade of Dot To Dot
Sunday 24th May marked Dot To Dot Festival’s 10th birthday. The event is run by DHP and now takes place in Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester – all over the course of one weekend. The festival has gone from strength to strength since its inception a decade ago, becoming a leading name for unearthing new talent. The xx, Mumford & Sons and Jake Bugg are just a few of the acts that this festival has helped to put on the map.
This year marked another resounding success for the festival as it drew praise from audiences and critics alike. Saint Raymond was this year’s headline act and he did not disappoint when he took to the Rock City stage. Saint Raymond himself (also known as Callum Burrows) is an example of what Dot To Dot Festival is all about. Burrows grew up in Bramcote, Nottingham and started his music career by playing gigs and open mic nights around the city. Now, aged just 20, he is headlining Dot To Dot in DHP’s flagship venue – in front of a huge crowd and in his home town.
However, it was not just in Rock City that a crowd had reason to gather. As the festival seemingly wound down and Raymond’s set came to an end, one band was just about to begin. Across the road from the main event, Cheshire and the Cat had hooked up their amps, set up their drums and cleared their throats – ready to take Nottingham on a bouncy, brassy journey until the early hours of the morning. With just the pavement as their stage and the corner shop as their power supply, Cheshire and the Cat’s “guerrilla gig” turned into a street party that will live long in the memories of anybody that was lucky enough to be there.
The band’s funky blend of jazz and soul washed over the adoring crowd for at least an hour and a half – around half of which were encores demanded by an audience that would not be denied. Jack Hickman and Sally Stenning produced characteristically electrifying performances as lead vocalists, with the former donning what is now becoming his trademark lampshade. We were even lucky enough to be treated to some guest vocals from George Holroyd – the “husky voiced angel” behind the Peru EP. The cats were out in full force with a total of eight members present, although their ensemble seems to be growing by the day. The indomitable El Sparrow (Tom Alcock) got the crowd shaking to his saxophone’s tune as always. Add this to two trumpets, a bassist, a full drum kit, a harmonica, even a set of bongos and you have all you need to turn Talbot Street into a full blown bacchanal.
“A bouncy, brassy journey”
Once the night was done and the dust had settled, Cheshire and the Cat awoke to be greeted with showers of praise across social media:
“Literally made my night!” – Kerry S.
“Genuinely the best bit of my day by far!” – Tom D.
“This was the highlight of the day for me! Incredible!” – Laura E.
It really is hard to argue with these comments. Saint Raymond may have grabbed the headlines but no amount of confetti or dry ice can ever replicate the spontaneity and soul that this gig had in abundance. Though the crowd grew and grew, there was never a feeling that things were going to get out of hand – this was underlined by the fact that the police, who were present, saw no need to put an end to it. As the cats performed “Sax Song”, Sally Stenning sang “What happened to the love? What happened to the dancing?” – the answer was clear to see.
George Holroyd joined Cheshire and the Cat early on with an incredible rendition of Fat Freddy’s Drop’s “Wandering Eye”- George launched the Peru EP at The Bodega earlier this year. The launch party was a resounding success and Cheshire and the Cat were one of the acts supporting Mr Holroyd that night. The band will be hoping to emulate that success at their own EP launch next month which is also taking place at The Bodega. Anybody interested in getting tickets should head to the event’s Facebook page (click here) but be quick because we have a feeling that tickets won’t be around for long.
Fans who were present at Sunday’s festivities are already looking forwards to the launch gig – Lara Tysseling is one of these excited admirers:
“Still on such a high when I think about it [Sunday’s street party], Cheshire and the cat were incredible, without a doubt the best part of the day, the atmosphere was insane, everyone was loving it and on such a great level, was just so surreal – an 8 piece band having a killer street party, like something from a film! Can’t wait to hear to their new EP!”
We caught up with Sally Stenning to ask the lead vocalist if she had expected Cheshire and the Cat’s late night busk to kickoff such an incredible party. Here’s what she told us:
“I expected a bit of a crowd- we deliberately timed it so that people would be coming out of Rock City while we were playing, but I don’t think any of us expected it to get as crazy as it did. I certainly didn’t predict being showered with sliced bread from the flats above. I hope that means they liked it!”
Whilst we can only guess at the symbolism behind the sliced bread – “best thing since…?” (sorry we had to), we can certainly say that this gig was helped hugely by the power supply of Uni Express Convenience Store. The benevolent owner was one of many that were singing the cats’ praises:
“NOW THIS WAS A STREET PARTY, GREAT NIGHT AND HAPPY TO SUPPORT A TALENTED BAND!”
Whilst, for many people present, this was the first time they have had the pleasure of watching Cheshire and the Cat play, they have been around for a few years now. Over that time the band has developed a big cult following throughout Nottingham and beyond. Cailean Couldridge is one of the fans that have been following the band for quite some time:
“I remember first seeing Cheshire and the Cat perform three or four years ago, and it’s incredible to think how they’ve developed and grown, not just musically but also in terms of the sheer number of members. Over these years I’ve watched them countless times, but Sunday’s impromptu street gig at Dot to Dot Festival was really emblematic of the band as I’ve come to know them. Thankfully the corner shop allowed them to plug in with an extension, and then watched as the entire street filled with dancing. The band played on amidst the crowd for what I can only guess was about an hour and a half. It was totally exhilarating, and the level of spontaneity that they’ve become well known for during their stage gigs was ever present through the performance.”
After so many years and so many changes to their line-up we asked lead guitarist and vocalist, Jack Hickman, how it all began:
“It all started when we lived together and met in halls. I lived with Omar the Prince of Malaysia and El Sparrow a flautist/saxophone player, we had a little acoustic trio on the go. Omar has gone back home to carry out his royal duties but his spirit remains. Skip a few years down the line and now there’s 8 of us cats backed by a big old brass section.”
“At the current rate it seems we’re gaining a new member every month, if this continues maybe we’ll become an orchestra, who knows.”
Whilst the prospect of an even bigger ensemble may be a dream for tomorrow, there is certainly a lot in store for this band in the months to come. Cheshire and the Cat have reached the final of the “Future Sound of Nottingham” and are also launching their long awaited EP in the next few months.
We asked the enigmatic saxophonist that is El Sparrow about the band’s upcoming plans:
“We have the Future Sound of Nottingham competition final coming up on 14th June at Rock City. If we win that, we’ll get to play at Splendour at Wollaton Park in July. We also have an E.P. coming out imminently and a release party gig is taking place at the Bodega on 19th June. With other gigs doted about here and there as well, it’s an exciting time for us.”
Exciting is definitely the word we’d use. If like us you can’t wait until the EP arrives, then we’ll leave you with a little taste of what to expect!
If you’re interested in Cheshire and the Cat and want to stay up-to-date with what they’re doing, then don’t forget to like their Facebook page for all the news on their upcoming events!