Dork’s Day Out 2023 was our biggest live party so far, and it went like this…

Mosh-pits, singalongs, on-stage drinking games, a birthday cake, posters that are mysteriously missing come the end of the day (cheers for the clean-up help, guys) – and even a pop quiz thrown in for good measure. Turns out we can organise a piss-up in a brewery.

Words: Alex Cabré, Jamie Muir.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.

Dork’s Day Out 2023 is an unmissable day stacked with favourites; the Signature Brew Brewery in London embracing pop nonsense and kicking boring to the kerb for our biggest live party to date. Mosh-pits, singalongs, on-stage drinking games, a birthday cake, posters that are mysteriously missing come the end of the day (cheers for the clean-up help, guys) – there’s even a pop quiz thrown in for good measure.

Laughing in the face of morning downpours, Jo Hill takes to the stage to open Dork’s Day Out with the sort of blue-sky hooks that make her Very Exciting Indeed. Immediately pulling the packed room even closer, she blends the feel-good and vulnerable together into one joyful summer cocktail. The likes of ‘Off The 45’, ‘Stay At Home Girl’ and a triumphant cover of Caroline Polachek’s ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ set a marker for everything Jo Hill is about, but it’s the combination of a mid-set drinking game to ‘The Falcon’ and a soaring ‘Glastonbury’ that capture perfectly the balance of pop fun and bangers alike.

With Pixey, unfortunately, having to pull out of her set due to illness (get well soon, Pixey!), a hyperactive SOFY takes to the DJ decks for a sun-soaked set of top pop bops that David Guetta could only dream of dropping on a day like this – perfectly setting the stage for Talk Show, who rattle the cobwebs out of place with their intense brand of barbed-wire garage rock. It’s not even 5pm by the time frontman Harrison is top off, squaring up to Signature Brew like a madman with a thousand-yard stare. “What’s up, Dork! It feels a bit weird saying that…” he laughs before the foursome launch into ‘party-starter’ Cold House’. They amp the energy up by a mile, airing some unreleased material that’s all clubby basslines and dance breaks appearing fast enough to give you whiplash. It’s a kick up the arse that gets Dork’s Day Out well and truly underway, with indie royalty Cav from Swim Deep swiftly following with a DJ set that sees him tower across Signature Brew with an eclectic ride that has shuffling and swinging hips alike. The perfect mix.

Honeyglaze take the room to more ethereal places as they showcase their self-titled debut album from last year and some new cuts too. The outfit are a mesmerising stage presence, moving as one unit through the emotionally-charged set. When lead singer/guitarist Anouska forgets the lyrics at one point, it couldn’t matter less. Their lilting melodies and experimental instrumentation – bassist Tim plays using a bow in a few spots – offer the perfect space for an early-evening chill-out, and the crowd is firmly on their side.

Arriving with pure, unfiltered momentum, Swim School have become a punchy force of nature – the likes of ‘delirious’ and ‘BORED’ lighting up pogoing responses and ripping across Signature Brew with a crunchy oomph that can’t be stopped. Fans sing along (even taking on vocal duties at one point) as the trio light up the room with charm. The swooning ‘don’t leave me behind’ and ‘kill you’ add even more sprinkles of brilliance to everything Swim School are about – the sort of band ready-made to fall in love with. You’ll be seeing a lot more of them; that’s a guarantee.

With Picture Parlour making an unforgettable DJ debut and celebrating lead singer Katherine’s birthday too, they set the energy high for what to come: pandemonium. That may be the only way to describe Courting at Dork’s Day Out. From the first note, there’s a sweaty eruption of mosh-pits, swaying crowds and arms-aloft screams – showcasing just how far Courting have come since those early scrappy shows. ‘Tennis’, a mash-up of ‘Crass’ and Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, and ‘Jumper’ ring out with feverish fun. A sugar-rush tour-de-force in seizing their moment, as Courting enter their next chapter, it’s clear they’re becoming an essential band.

Taking to the stage adorned in a Signature Brew high-vis, it’s nice of Dork cover star Thomas Headon to take time out from brewing to serve up the sort of glorious pop celebration that finds him sharper and brighter than ever before. ‘How Do I Know?’ sees him climbing brewing platforms, ‘Georgia’ has devoted fans bellowing lyrics back and ‘2009 Toyota’ – one of many tracks dropped tonight from latest EP ‘six songs Thomas Headon likes and thinks you would like too’ – lands with a fizzing edge that packs an almighty punch backed by his band.

There’s unabashed freedom and joy when it comes to Thomas Headon live, especially on a Saturday night. With covers of Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and Hannah Montana SMASH ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’ thrown in for good measure, there’s no stopping a set bounding with superstar swagger. The spiky ‘wet tongue’ and hypnotic ‘i loved a boy’ perfectly mix with the celebratory one-two of ‘Nobody Has To Know’ and ‘UrbanAngel1999’ to close out a set that showcases everything right about thriving new music. Bursting with personality and overflowing with ambition, it’s an intimate night from a sensation who’s bringing fun to the front. Cheers, Thomas.

As Chris from The Amazons spins proceedings into the early hours, it perfectly brings to a close a popping box of everything Dork for another Day Out. See you in 2024; we’ll get the stage ready now.