Gathering Festival in Oxford is now in it’s second year. After the huge success of their inaugural event, you wouldn’t have thought it would be able to top last year. However, once again Gather Festival managed to provide a great line up of music and venues. Taking place in a whole host of locations up and down the Cowley Road, Oxford, the variety of venues was one of the best things about this festival. Ranging from the obvious choice of the O2 Academy, to the slightly less obvious of the truck store, to the completely unobvious (but genius) choice of St John The Evangelist’s church.
We began at Truck Store where we saw singer-songwriter Eloise Rees open the festival. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, violin and stripped back percussion, her voice and lyrics really shone out in the packed shop. We next saw Lucy Taylor, aka Pawws, at The Bullingdon. If you’ve not heard of her, you soon will. Pawws lent her voice to Kele’s (from Bloc Party) Hunter EP on single ‘What Did I Do’ and lists Huw Stephens among her fans. Her bouncy electro pop was reminiscent of the 80s; flanked by her incredible band she was the perfect antidote to the rain outside. Pawws was followed by Jake Hart, whose interesting guitar rhythms and grunge undertones were a nice change from all the pop we’d seen so far.
Chloe Howl was the lady I was most excited to see at the festival, and she did not disappoint. Strutting on stage in the best dungarees I’ve ever seen, Chloe commanded the crowd from the moment she set foot in the venue. Blasting her way through a set of pop gems (my particular highlight was ‘Drop In The Ocean’), she got the crowd dancing and singing along, and was truly captivating to watch. If there was any one act at this festival to watch, it’s Chloe Howl. She’s well and truly making her mark in the industry, and rightly so.
The most disappointing part of the evening was London Grammar. Not because they were awful (from what I’ve heard, far from it, check out Grace’s review of them in Brighton), but because we couldn’t get in. Arriving 15-20 minutes before their set, we couldn’t get through the door and there was a queue right down the road, as the venue was already at capacity. It’s testimony to how well the band are doing at the moment that they packed out the Oxford O2 Academy (a venue I’ve been going to for the past 6 years, and have never seen at capacity). We waited for the whole hour of their set to see if we’d be let in, but nobody was leaving, proving that everybody who went in was truly captivated by their performance. Although I was devastated I couldn’t get in, it’s a brilliant thing for the upcoming band to have such a reception.
To Kill A King were on in the beautiful St John The Evangelist’s church. This is a venue with incredible booming acoustics, but these acoustics really didn’t work with To Kill A King’s sound. The first song they played was a mess, with sound reverberating all over the place. When they stripped down to an acoustic set up, they were really affected by feedback. None of these things can be held down to the band and their music, but really damaged the quality of the set.
Headliners Local Natives had a great set, with an incredibly light show to match. The bands harmonies really shone (especially the a cappella sections in ‘Warning Sign’), and their set really showcased what a great live band they are. If you aren’t already, you can check them out at SUSU on October the 29th.
Temples came on stage in the most eclectic outfits I’ve ever seen; fringing, glitter, the works. Their live show was fantastic, with 60s style lighting and musically interesting tracks. Shortly after Temples, Drenge played the Bullingdon, which was packed out when I got in. During their set I saw the first real mosh pit of the event, with people managing to crowd surf in the small venue. Singles ‘Face Like a Skull’ and ‘Nothing’ translated particularly well from record to live show, and the brothers made a huge sound for just two musicians on stage.
We finished our night with Wolf Alice, a four piece from London. Their own brand of female fronted, grunge was an odd thing to be hearing in East Oxford Community Centre, but strangely the venue worked for them. Chilled track ‘Blush’ was stunning live, and their set was the perfect end to our Gathering experience.
Gathering is an emerging music festival, and their hugely successful second event has further cemented the event onto the map. With the incredible range of acts this year, I look forward to seeing what next year brings us!