Frequency at the Union (12/11/12)

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Last Monday saw the second Frequency of the year, with bands Fine Lines, Yellow Fever, and singer-songwriter Tom James taking to the stage at Level 2 of SUSU. As I offered to review the gig at the last minute, I turned up by myself (tragic) and after a couple of informal chats with the lovely Fine Lines and Yellow Fever, got myself a pint and settled down at the bar. Although there were familiar faces in the crowd in the form of the AIM committee, there was a decent turnout otherwise – it was good to see a good few enthusiastic first years. The event was filmed by SUSUtv and was also covered by George Edwards from Surge Radio.

First up was Fine Lines, a band who, in my opinion, could easily have been headlining the event. They told me before the gig of their vastly different music tastes, and how they try and bring it together to form something coherent; with influences as diverse as traditional Irish folk music, metal and Latin American music, the set was never going to be predictable. Launching into a energetic set, vocalist and song writer Gareth Ashworth’s description of the band as ‘folk-grunge’ suddenly made sense. Largely melodic verses would build up and eventually give way to a heavier sound; in fact, in places the band were truly original and innovative. However, many of the songs sounded similar and even it’s hard to recall anything specific; perhaps this is the curse of a band with a strong musical style. They were highly enjoyable nonetheless – previous sets at the Isle of Wight festival and Bestival indicate the band are going places.

Second act Tom James proved immediately popular; the singer-songwriter and Southampton student brought his own unique brand of guitar music to Frequency, rather than your standard acoustic fare. He immediately wowed with clever fingerpicking and impressive understanding of rhythm, which he beat out with his hands. After just a couple of tracks, Tom became insistent that his mic needed to be turned up; an issue which I personally was completely unaware of – judging by the bemused looks of some in the crowd, they felt the same. I thought this was a shame – it meant the set became somewhat disjointed and lacked momentum. However, although Tom is not necessarily my type of act – more for the Ben Howard fan perhaps – his talent was undeniable. He has an incredible vocal range and exerts amazing control over it – he had those at the front eating out of the palm of his hand.

Last up were the headliners, Oxford-based quartet Yellow Fever. I’d spoken to them earlier of the perception of Oxford as a musical hub, a place where bands such as Radiohead, Foals and Young Knives had started out, so I had high expectations. The band launched into an energetic, if slightly chaotic set. Unfortunately they were barely two songs in when a string broke on the bassist’s guitar and he had to request a ten minute break. The crowd waited patiently, having been given just a taster of the headlining act; they soon continued. Yellow Fever are an intriguing band; experiments with time signatures worked more often than not and their set was generally high quality; it was easy to forget they’re such young musicians (they’re all on gap years!). However it was very Oxford – this kind of Vampire Weekend-inspired, four-piece, dance-indie act might not be breaking down any barriers currently, but keeping in mind how young they are indicates vast potential – they have a long time to hone a more original sound. The more produced sound of the tracks – available to listen to on their Facebook page – works well cementing them as ‘ones to watch’.

All in all, it was a highly entertaining evening of musicians with great potential. Frequency might seem like a gamble, especially if you haven’t heard of any of the bands playing, but at £2 you can’t really go wrong.

Next month’s Frequency is on 10th December, when there will be a special ‘Battle of the Bands’ event.

 

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