The best acts at Dot To Dot festival 2023

...and where else to see them play this summer

  • Ben Jolley, TicketSwap Contributor
  • wo 28 jun 2023
  • Lists

CREDIT: @rafikistudio

Since launching in 2005, Dot to Dot festival has helped springboard the careers of many of the UK’s biggest artists and bands, including Metronomy (2008), Marina and the Diamonds (2009), Ellie Goulding (2010), Ed Sheeran (2011), Wolf Alice (2014), London Grammar (2013) and Dua Lipa (2016).

As proven time and again, D2D where you’ see the next big thing first – as was the case with the 2023 edition, which took place over the late May Bank Holiday weekend.

With this year’s gigs taking place at city venues including student unions, clubs and bars, here we pick nine genre-spanning highlights from the Nottingham leg and pinpoint where you can catch them live in the coming months.


Having opened a packed Rock City (the biggest venue on Dot To Dot’s line-up) Nottingham band Divorce eased the audience into a busy day. Despite only having four songs out in the world, the four-piece demonstrated huge potential. Their grunge-fuelled alt-country sound especially came to life during the punchy ‘Checking Out’, whose harmonies and lyrics made for an interesting duality. It was clear that the gig meant a lot to them, too, as the singer exclaimed “the most special place for us is our hometown”. Very soon, these local heroes will be finding new fans across the UK. Where to see Divorce this summer:

Bluedot, 20-23 July, Jodrell Bank, Macclesfield, United Kingdom

Splendour, July 22: Wollaton Hall, Nottingham 

49th & Main

If you’re looking for a live band who can start a proper party, this Irish indie-dance pair are for you. Despite an early set time, they brought sax-fuelled pop-leaning singalongs to a rammed BETA. A daring breakbeat-and-sax-sit-down came after just one track but, thankfully, the crowd was more than up for it. Their endless supply of festival bangers (‘Don’t You Like It’, ‘Catching Eyes’, ‘Never Gonna Stop’) had people clapping along and we left feeling as though they could easily have commanded a much larger stage. 

Where to see 49th & Main this summer: Otherside festival, July 7: Rock Farm, Slane, Ireland 

Surya Sen

House beats, hip-hop and personal lyricism. Those are the touchpoints of Surya Sen, the North London-based British-Bengali-born rapper and producer who managed to transform BETA into a club during his mid-afternoon set – no easy feat. As he brought songs from last year’s debut mixtape ‘At What Cost?’ to life, his rapping skills were undeniable – particularly the poignant ‘Buccho Ni Ba Bhai (Grindin’)’, which features all-Bangladeshi lyrics. The rowdy hip-house of ‘Earn It’ got the room bouncing, too, including a group on the front row who had their own dance routines. Even more impressive? This gig was his first in Nottingham. 


The substantial upgrade in audience size from ARXX’s last gig in Nottingham to their Black Cherry Lounge appearance proved just how far they have come. With a debut album now out in the world, the pair really gave it their all as they rattled through tracks from ‘Ride Or Die’.

Tirelessly delivering countless arena-appropriate indie-rock anthems with catchy choruses to boot (‘Not Alone’, ‘God Knows’ and the galloping title track), drummer Clara Townsend practically bounced in the air while playing. You’d never know that this was their fourth gig in as many days. As if they hadn’t already won the day, incorporating a punchy cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’ into the end of one of their songs certified it.  Where to see ARXX this summer:

2000Trees, July 5-9: Upcote Farm, Withington

Pop-Kultur, August 30 – September 1: Kesselhaus Und Maschinenhaus, Berlin, Germany

Hot Wax 

Hot Wax are one of the most talked about names in the alt rock scene right now – and it’s easy to see why. Having opened with the unforgivingly loud ‘Treasure’, the punk trio quickly filled out the Bodega’s intimate upstairs room. Giving very little time for stage patter, they instead roared through their snarling assaults on the senses, including the furious ‘Rip It Out’, in quick succession. This winter, they will be opening for Royal Blood on their US tour but, before that, their summer is stacked with festival slots. Where to see Hot Wax this summer:

Mad Cool, July 6-8, Madrid, Spain 

Away From Home, August 19, Parco BussolaDomani, Lido Di Camaiore, Italy

All Points East, August 25: Victoria Park, London 

Burn It Down, September 8-9: The Foundry, Torquay 

Hot Wax are one of the most talked about names in the alt rock scene right now
- Ben Jolley

Nell Mescal

Returning to Nottingham after supporting Phoebe Green at the nearby Bodega last year, Nell Mescall’s early evening gig upstairs in Rough Trade was expectedly busy. Her songs (mostly about “shitty friends”) showcased not only her impressive voice but also her storytelling ability. The indie-pop guitars of ‘Homesick’ also proved itself to be a real festival banger in waiting. 

Where to see Nell Mescal this summer: Kendal Calling, July 27-30: Lowther Deer Park, Penrith 

Lip Filler

One of the rowdiest gigs of the day came courtesy of new indie-punk band Lip Filler, with a sound that sits somewhere between Blur, Klaxons, Jamie T and Sorry. Longtime friends originally from the southwest of England, the five-piece now reside in a flat together above a chicken shop in Shepherds Bush.

The young but incredibly tight unit undoubtedly have the tunes and energy to take them very far, too; fans of Bloc Party will especially love ‘Haircut’. Fresh from releasing their debut EP, intimate basement venue Black Cherry Lounge was perfect for the sweaty chaos that ensued. Highlights included ‘Cool’ and ‘Monster Truck’ – and by the end of their set the ironing board that propped up their laptop and keyboard had collapsed… likely because of all that moshing up front. Where to see Visions this summer:

Visions, July 22: Hackney, London 


Prefer your hyperpop dark, emo and with an apocalyptic edge? Get Cryalot on your playlist  – right now. The Kero Kero Bonito frontwoman looked every bit the star when she made her Nottingham debut beneath a mirrorball at underground club Stealth. “We love noise!”, she proclaimed after introducing her DJ and producer Jennifer Walton. Extreme track ‘Hurt Me’ proved itself to be a total headbanger when performed live, while an as-yet-untitled snare-heavy track landed somewhere between Grimes and SOPHIE. 

Kofi Stone

If introspective, soulful hip-hop is your thing, Birmingham rapper Kofi Stone – whose late evening gig at Rescue Rooms felt like his own headline show – has you covered. His talent as a lyricist was next level, especially on the million-miles-per-hour ‘Busker Flow’. This was only his second time in Nottingham but the crowd seemed to lap up every moment. He had a powerful message to share, too – encouraging men not to bottle up their emotions during a performance of poignant Loyle Carner collab ‘It’s Ok to Cry’.

Edited by Kate Pasola

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