Gathering Festival – 20/10/12

Gathering Festival
The hot news on the street recently has been about Gathering: Cowley’s very own mini- Glastonbury. On Saturday 20th October, a disgustingly drizzly and blustery October evening, Oxford’s new music festival went ahead – and it was sold out. For those not in the know (who ARE you?) Gathering is a small festival with a whole host of cutting-edge bands performing across 6 venues in the OX4 area. Below is what our writers Bethany Bagnall-Ainslie, Bea Macdonald and Daisy Gibbons thought about it.

Dan Croll

I hadn’t heard of Dan Croll before, but after a brilliant performance I’ve decided to consider myself a fan. With a folk feel to his music, his songs were uplifting and even managed to get the fairly passive audience swaying to his songs. His vocals were flawless and his band perfectly interweaved percussion, guitar and piano. BM

Bruno Charles

After finally picking up my wristband from the East Oxford Community Centre (I walked straight past it twice. It looks like a church, ok)? I decided to bumble on down to the Truck Store to get a look at Bruno Charles. I don’t know about you, but one of the main themes at Gathering this year seemed to be messy hair; what with Bastille’s majestically tall barnet, Nina Nesbitt’s blonde mane and singer-songwriter Bruno Charles’ abundant facial hair and curly black mop. Hair was definitely in. Hair aside, Charles’ velvety voice and understated guitar playing was one of the real gems of the night. It took me a couple of songs to warm to him, but after the upbeat ‘Bones’, he played a couple of unusually expressive, serious songs about breakups and heartaches – all nicely offset with a good bit of cheeky banter in between. He finished off with a cracker about his ex-girlfriend. DG

King Of Cats

At the Port Mahon, King Of Cats graced the stage with a heavy guitar, bass and drum combination, replete with screaming vocals. I didn’t know quite what to expect from the band but I was incredibly surprised by the band’s expressiveness and the energy they could produce from the pub’s small stage. There was a group of people at the front of the stage shouting out all of the lyrics, which proved that the band has a small, but strong fan base. King Of Cats weren’t quite to my taste, however. BB

Nina Nesbitt

Everyone was sat down awaiting Nina Nesbitt’s performance at the Cowley Road Methodist Church, which was somewhat reminiscent of old primary school assemblies. The acoustics of the church perfectly supported the singer-songwriter’s sweet melodic voice and gentle guitar playing. Her songs varied in tempo and emotion; her more cheerful songs were light and accessible, but some had a stronger emotion like ‘Jessica’ – a song written about her friend who fell seriously ill. Overall, her songs made a nice easy listen, but they perhaps lacked the depth or clarity akin to singer-songwriters like Laura Marling. Towards the end of the set, a massive group of people walked out (I’m not particularly sure why) but the Scottish singer didn’t let that deter her and ended by asking everyone to stand up for her last song. BM

Lewis Watson

I decided to see Lewis Watson at the Cowley Road Methodist Church despite Bastille playing at the same time at the O2 Academy, and I wasn’t disappointed. A small crowd was awaiting their set, most of which were girls armed with cameras and phones at the ready. Watson is another guitar-and-voice act who, with his poetic lyrics and polite manner, can be compared to likes of Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard. The songs from his EP It’s Got 4 Sad Songs on It BTW are filled with heartache that clearly means something to his fans because they were all mouthing along as he strummed his guitar. Even songs that hadn’t been released at the time of the gig (from his new EP, Another Four Sad Songs) had the audience swaying.  Watson’s softly sung vocals will be winning the hearts of girls for a long time. BB

Bastille

Next stop: the O2 Academy, to catch pretty-boys Bastille. The inside was pretty unnerving; it was swarming with 15 year old girls (with the odd unwilling boyfriend) and the air was so thick with steam and hormones that I almost passed out upon entry. However, despite my doubts, it turned out to be a pretty fun gig. Bastille managed to immediately rile up the crowd with their poppy beats, earnest lyrics and nifty little riffs. It was an energetic (i.e. VERY sweaty) performance, but you gained the sense that by the last couple of tunes, the boys had run out of puff. Despite this, ‘Flaws’ and the funky ‘Of the Night’ got us all dancing. DG

Wild Swim

Wild Swim took to the stage at the O2 Academy 2 with a large crowd in eager attendance. At first, the Oxonians could pass for a regular indie band trying to make it big, but, as the gig continued, the songs altered the atmosphere with octave-leaping vocals, rich textures and intricate compositions. Their new single, ‘Echo’, closed the set which saw the band playing at their most creative. Wild Swim are definitely worth watching out for, they are going to be big. BB

Dry The River

Dry the River gave a rather unexpected performance at Gathering.  Physically, they appear rockier than their album suggests, with thick beards and tattoos. That said, they still held onto their folk edge live, their electric instruments complimented by a violin and a brass band. During the set, they often built up songs using vocalist Peter Liddle’s beautifully fragile vocals and haunting, musical atmospherics, where climaxes were filled with intense guitar riffs and drum crescendos.  For some of the quieter songs, the band stepped away from the microphones and managed to get the whole audience singing in unison. It created  a beautifully eerie feel.  Everyone was completely absorbed, either moshing like crazy or tearing-up at some of the slower songs, just like the person stood next to me. Dry the River had their audience captivated – so much so that peopled passionately demanded an encore – to which the five piece happily complied. BM

Spector

Due to a bit of a crowd crush, we all had to sprint to Spector and run past the security guards (I didn’t tell you that). It was a decent gig, but the air up there was so hot and thick with sweat that everyone was wilting before the band had even come onstage. It was pretty uninspiring, especially since the band were not really playing at their best (a little inebriated maybe)? The guitars were drowned out by the bass and poor acoustics, and the singer’s voice seemed a little weak and lacking in force to carry the gig. In the end, after a getting a pint of cider chucked in my face accidentally, we thought it best to retire. DG

Liars

They came, they saw…they wandered off. With sound issues plaguing the band’s 45 minute sound-check, probably the best band on the bill left Gathering Festival with a bitter taste in the mouth. Finally starting their set at 2am, the band played ‘Brats’ to a sparse smattering of punters at the Bully. The sound cut out half way through, they tried another sound check, they weren’t happy, so they left. What should have been the ultimate crescendo to an amazing evening turned out to be a tired and frustrating damp-squib. TJ

Photography by Harry Lawlor