Family Machine, Jess Hall & more @ The Bullingdon 29/03/13

Tonight’s gig was a charity event organised by Jess Hall to raise money for Christian Aid. She is also running the London Marathon. You can find out more and make a donation here.

To start off the night, Dan Rawle performed a mixture of light-hearted and emotional songs to a largely empty room. It wasn’t really my sort of thing, but I’ve got mad respect for anyone who can stand up and play to only a few people. He did a good job of warming up the room and, as usual, his mates and colleagues from PMT (Oxford’s largest music shop) heckled throughout (they’re all nice chaps)!

Next up was Matt Chanarin. He had a strong voice and his lovely acoustic hand-tone and dirty, jazzy fills were fantastic. The only thing that really detracted from his performance was his affected Jamaican lilt.

My Crooked Teeth, solo project of Toliesel frontman Jack Olchawski, was next. I really enjoyed the way he attacked his guitar, but I felt that some of the songs would sound better with a band. Vocally powerful and lively onstage, Jack’s was the best performance so far.

A band who have garnered a decent local following in recent months is Empty White Circles. Their particular brand of soft Americana has been described as parent-friendly, and I would largely agree. As well as being the band’s other main songwriter, Sean Duggan is their poster boy; his adoring fan club were out in force. Also of note was a surprising cameo from Jeff Wode’s lead guitarist. His gyrations and searing noise solos made for quite a spectacle.

Bethany Weimers had a kind of sexy, intense PJ Harvey thing going on. Her performance was quite unsettling, but the songs, particularly those later in the set, were solid.

My least favourite of tonight’s offerings were The Cooling Pearls. It’s still pretty unusual to see a girl playing in a band, so it was nice to see a lady violinist up on the stage. They had some nice arrangements but they were sadly let down by some uninspiring vocals.

Up next was Jess Hall. Again, not really my cup of tea, but she had a great voice and some nice songs. Impressively, she managed to silence the now-crowded room with an a capella traditional folk ballad. Her love of folk was also reflected in her choice of this evening’s acts, all of whom were of a folky bent.

Family Machine’s creative use of a Korg Kaos Pad, a weird electric glockenspiel instrument, tight basslines, solid drumming and spot-on harmonies made their performance the best of the night. They were fucking great.