Ley Lines Festival – 15/10/11

Ley Lines Festival descended upon Cowley Road on Saturday 15th October as the reincarnation of last year’s OX4 Festival, an event which also featured a similar mix of upcoming foreign-to-Oxford talent and inside-of-Oxford talent. So up and down the Cowley Road, meandering members of the music going public faded in and out of The Bullingdon, O2 Academy Oxford and the Truck Store (which isn’t closing down any more, hooooray!) to get their aural fill of guitar noise and synthesizer warbling. One Note Forever writers Trev Williams and Bethany Bagnall-Ainslie had a wander around to see what they made of the festivties and the bands hidden within.

Gunning For Tamar certainly wake us up, tight powerful hits on tracks like ‘Brothers And Sisters’ and syncopated polyrhythms make me summaries their set using the numbers 5 and 7. A more commercial track ‘Bonfires’ is also well received by the early crowd, and although they don’t normally make friends before 4pm or indeed haven’t yet had their lunch, I think everyone appreciates the energy! Unfortunately the Old Boot Factory venue didn’t happen, and indeed there was a lack of a community type venue for acoustic acts. The Truck store, which is, for the time being at least, staying open, ran an in-store gig to coincide. James from Alphabet Backwards was in good voice, playing his summery pop tunes, and they don’t seem out of place at all with this blazing October heat! (TW)

Vixens didn’t really do it for me, their sound was too cluttered, couldn’t hear the vocals and it all sounded a bit like bad Morrissey. Their song ‘Dead Sea’ unfortunately was quite descriptive of the crowd who dispersed to the O2 or indeed picnic in the sunshine in preference. The Cellar Family, sweaty Pixes punk, were heard shouting their heads off all the way down Cowley road. Community police officers were even seen to come into the store half way through (presumably to see if everything was ok!). Next Bullingdon act Troumaca were an eclectic and diverse mix of sounds, a 5-piece with electric/synth kit mixed with live drums, keys, guitar, bass and 3 vocals. Elements of Dub, Reggae, indie and electo-pop. I enjoyed the variety a lot with the highlight song Fire, although the crowd were not overly engaged, perhaps a little incoherent, a bit like a crazy mixtape with no common vein. (TW)

Kill Murray, a new collaboration containing members from Phantom Theory, 50ft Panda and Dial F. This was their debut gig, and I’m optimistic about what’s to come from this performance. A sound mixing grunge with bands like Them Crooked Vultures, I hear The Red Hot Chilis Peppers and Graham Coxon in there also, and certainly it’s trendy. There’s still a little tightening to do, but ‘Pheromones’ and ‘Miracle Man’ could well become future hits. (TW)

Unfortunately, I arrived slightly late to Lewis Watson’s set whilst he was performing ‘Grade 8’ by Ed Sheeran, the guitar chords breaking through the dark room. Comparisons could be made to Ed Sheeran for Lewis’ smooth voice harmonising with his guitar and his coolness on stage. Lewis was quick in thanking his audience after finishing the song; I don’t think he quite grasped the idea of having such an adoring crowd before him. Lewis then played a cover by City And Colour; the atmosphere was chilled within the venue with the simple strumming of his guitar and his gorgeous voice floating around. Lewis then enjoyed some gentle banter with the crowd including the possibility of getting naked for a beer, this alone showing the easy, chilled mood of his set. Lewis went on to perform ‘Windows’, a song of his own and then the long awaited ‘#3’, another creation of his. Possibly the most incredible moment when performing this song was when Lewis was able to stand back from the microphone and let the audience sing his own song back to him. It was obvious that Lewis did not expect this kind of response and kept smiling and thanking the crowd. After a well-deserved encore, Lewis finished off his set with a cover of ‘Skinny Love’ by Bon Iver. His talent on the guitar and singing made his set a truly enjoyable experience, Lewis Watson is definitely one to watch. OMB contributor Cydney Yeates interviewed Lewis Watson at Ley Lines, an interview which you can read here. (BB-A)

Little Fish have unfortunately taken to singing about how crap the music industry is, or indeed writing books about it. And although in another mood I totally agree and would happily wallow with them in the harsh pity of reality, I feel today I must find something a bit more optimistic. Catherine AD was a nice classical break, a string trio of violin, viola and cello accompanied by Catherine on Piano. A sore throat and cold meant a somewhat gravely voice, which may well have been a bit lower also, but it’s only noticeable when she talks and her voice still remind of Regina Spektor at its best. She informs us that their next date is at the National Portrait Gallery in London, a somewhat different gig to the sweaty beer stained back room of the Bully! A pleasure to see them here! (TW)

Dog Is Dead opened with ‘Head In Your Hands’, one of their well known tracks with its simple but very effective harmonies and afro pop guitars likening to Vampire Weekend. Dog Is Dead responded to their adoring audience with gratitude, then playing two more songs that had the crowd dancing and singing along. When the chords of ‘Young’ began to play the crowd reacted with screams and shouting, this track seemed to float between the quirky tunes of Two Door Cinema Club and the cool, gorgeous and simply breathtaking tendencies of Mumford & Sons. The crowd screamed louder still when they performed their famous ‘Glockenspiel Song’, everyone was singing along to this unpredictable yet original track with its glorious builds, crescendos and breakdowns. Dog Is Dead went on to perform a final song, their soon-to-be new single, ‘Hands Down’, and left the stage with every hint of professionalism, no backward glances and the last notes of the guitars ringing on.(BB-A)

I only caught the end of Alt J but it was clear that everyone wanted more, Latin and rhythmic and really happy, a nice upbeat way to keep us going. Theme Park followed them and built on the late highlight as things became more club and dance orientated. I’m reliably informed that they are Calypso indie! But equally a summery sound in the dead of night. It would have been nice to have a band like this on earlier as well! But a happy way to end the live music. (TW)

Downstairs, Jamie Woon was in full swing with his set, despite the audience not responded so. His music had good beats and had ambient tendencies but I personally prefer James Blake and found it hard to relate to Woon’s tunes. The crowd also didn’t seem to be feeling the vibe, however, when ‘Lady Luck’ started playing they began to bounce about and become alive. This continued into ‘Night Air’, another of his better known tracks. However, when he went back to play not so well known songs the crowd again backed down and didn’t show much enthusiasm. I don’t know what I expected from Jamie Woon but sadly, didn’t get it.(BB-A)

Finally, the surprise act of the night took to the stage, The Big Pink which I can only describe as a true disappointment. Whether it was the fact that there was a very small crowd in the large downstairs venue at the O2 academy or that one or two of the members of the band weren’t feeling great, The Big Pink didn’t seem/look like they wanted to be there at all. The noise being projected from the stage was so incredibly loud compared to the few people in the audience, and the strobes and background guitars just made a jumbled up noise of clashing and irritating sounds. Even ‘Dominos’, the song that through The Big Pink into the spotlight was a letdown, with its messy sounds and a lack of enthusiasm from the lead singer, Robbie. The last song of their set was by far the best and that’s saying something, the jungle beat had everyone dancing or at least bopping their heads. Sadly, The Big Pink did nothing to impress me and left the night on a slight downwards slope.(BB-A)

Photography by Tom Johnson