Tonight is the launch night for the brand new single from the ever popular, local five-piece Spring Offensive. ‘A Stutter And A Start’ is their second release this year, hot on the heels of the acoustic EP Between Me And You, and their first single since 13-minute epic ‘The First Of Many Dreams About Monsters’. However, before the headliners grace the stage, there is a three-phase showcase of some of the best sounds the Oxford music scene currently has to offer.
Adam Barnes opens the night, standing onstage (for the first time in a while) all by himself, not supported by his band. It’s in this situation singer/songwriters can really show off their craft, and Adam Barnes is a master of it. His songs all with a slight melancholic twang, warm your heart as he fills the room with the passion he clearly has for his material. He manipulates the microphone as powerfully as he manipulates the crowd.
After Mr Barnes, comes three piece Deer Chicago. Over the course of their set they hint at influences all over the map of 21st century Rock, from Sigúr Ros to Foals to Jimmy Eat World. They clearly subscribe to the loud-quiet theory of song writing and are perfectly beguiling. Some of the songs fail to distinguish themselves within the set, but then xylophone comes in followed by a wall of jagged delay-covered noise, and the audience is pulled back into the band’s world.
Up next through loops, distortion and feedback screeches come the twitchy wall of noise that is Gunning For Tamar. Their sound, though it evokes (the now defunct) Jetplane Landing or the recently resurrected Rival Schools, it is not stale. Instead they bring vigour and fire to a sound some would reject as passé. Their set bounds through delicate moments and outright flailing, with intertwining guitar melodies and driving complex percussion.
Then, after a long wait, comes the main event; Spring Offensive. They open with the searching first track from Between Me and You, ‘Bail Out’, which is both gentle and full of poignancy, as it’s guided along by Matt Cooper’s haunting piano line. They move through the two studio tracks from their latest single – ‘A Stutter And A Start’ and ‘The Well’ – which the tightly packed crowd receive happily, onto the track ‘To Burn or Build With’ which featured as a session on BBC Introducing In Oxford, last week.
Of course, the ever popular ‘The Cable Routine’ and the song the brought them attention from so many, ‘A Let Down’, get more of a reaction from the crowd but this shouldn’t be taken to demean the new material; it just hasn’t truly bedded down in the hearts of Oxford indie scene yet. They finish with last year’s ‘Every Coin’ which possesses a drum beat that nearly finished off the exhausted Pelham Groom, but the effort on the band’s part is clearly worth it from the huge smiles all around, and the frantic cheers for an encore, which sadly the curfew forbids.
Tonight really showed the diversity, and creativity of many of the Oxford bands gracing stages all over this city, and the entire country at the moment. Every single band that performed tonight deserves your love and fandom, even if Spring Offensive did steal the show a bit.