Gathering, East Oxford - 'East festival is Gathering pace'
Written for The Oxford Times [25/10/13]
Charlotte Krol dives into Oxford's Gathering festival
Oxford gets its fair share of buzz bands and international stars, but sometimes a quick journey to London is needed to satisfy musical needs. When Gathering comes to town, however, it’s all eyes on us.
The festival, now in its second year, sees more than 40 acts descend on the city for one night of explosive music across different East Oxford venues. It’s a real treat for music lovers.
First on at the Cowley Road Methodist Church was singer-songwriter and St Edward’s School alumnus, Nathan Ball. His lulling, acoustic songs are reminiscent of British songwriter Alexi Murdoch, with his half-whispered vocals and warm guitar chords. Nathan was nervous of playing to a tiny crowd in a giant room, but it did the intimacy of his songs great service. A brisk walk up the Cowley Road to The Art Bar (formerly The Bullingdon Arms) found 80s synth-popstress Pawws entertaining a lively crowd. Lucy Taylor’s vocals were crystal-clear and the energy rose once she beckoned the crowd to move closer to the stage for Slow Love. Impressive, upbeat pop.
Laura Welsh was the evening’s game-changer over in the East Oxford Community Centre. Her take on modern soul (akin to electro-soul goddess Jessie Ware) is astonishing, and it’s easy to see why she drew a big crowd. Taking things up another level is Rhodes, who plays to a busy crowd in Truck Store. The Hertfordshire singer-songwriter only picked up a guitar in January but, coupled with his beautiful vocals, it’s like he’s been performing all his life. He completely unravels onstage, tugging at many a girl’s heartstrings with striking balladry.
One of Gathering’s low points, as to be expected at an urban festival, is venue capacity. You have to queue for a good 45 minutes to see the bigger acts and you might not get in.
This was the case for many London Grammar fans. The O2 Academy was crammed with excitable gig-goers. Opener Hey Now sounded sublime, with Hannah Reid’s arresting vocals soaring high. Restoring any faith lost in technical issues were Temples, upstairs in the Academy. Close your eyes and transport yourself to the 60s; here lies flowery guitar, prog-rock basslines, electronic organ and supple harmonies. They were the slickest act of the evening.
NME favourites Wolf Alice brought their 90s rock to the East Oxford Community Centre. Singer Ellie Rowsel’s raw vocals helped to build mini mosh pits – a sure-fire way to leave everyone satiated.
Despite inevitable, though frustrating, logistical problems, Gathering is slowly starting to establish itself against the big one-day festivals. We’re more than lucky to have it in our humble abode.