Upstairs @ O2 Academy Oxford – 18/06/11


I have to admit, my Saturday began terribly. Having been away on my jollies for a week, the one thing I was looking forward to more than being reunited with English Breakfast tea was the recent episode of Game Of Thrones lurking in my Sky + Planner. Having settled down, well in the mood for watching a bit of Ned Stark being a badass, by the end I could only curl up in the foetal position on the sofa, a broken man, as probably one of my favourite television characters of the last five years was killed off; ruthlessly beheaded in front of his teary eyed children. Damn you George R. R. Martin. Luckily, there was a chance to salvage my Saturday with the second BBC Introducing In Oxford Upstairs at the O2 Academy taking place that evening.

Still suffering with a heady fug of melancholy, I entered the doors of the O2 desperately hoping for something to lift my mood from the deepest pit of sorrow and anger and hopefully crack a smile on face (which was as stony as the set of Game Of Thrones). Luckily for me, Oxford’s local music scene was there to pick me up where I fell.

Message To Bears took to the stage first and gently lifted the mood with their idyllic, instrumental soundscapes. Adam’s guitar has never sounded so illuminating or impressive is it did tonight and the set closer ‘Bird’s Tail’ complete with glitchy, electronic drumbeats, choppy changes and Jerome frantically strumming his ukulele (ahem) had the crowd enthusiastically nodding along.

Message To Bears - O2 Academy Oxford 2

Cat Matador didn’t let a bit of crackle-jack (technical term) dampen their spirit early on in their set and, once the issue had been resolved, delivered a great performance full of drama and noise. Suddenly Sean Bean was a distant memory in mind, as I looked around and saw how much support was being given to the bands onstage tonight, this scene truly is blessed.

Cat Matador - O2 Academy Oxford 2

I think if there was an overriding theme of all the bands tonight (except for headliners Spring Offensive) it was noise over poetry. Most of the bands tonight certainly prioritise making a right old racket over writing reams of profound lyricism, whether that be the delicate beauty of MTB or the full scale sonic assault of the next band, Deer Chicago. They were the only band on the bill I hadn’t yet seen live and, boy, was I impressed. It seems to me that the band were eager to nail their sound before hitting the local touring circuit and, if that is the case, it has paid off. The guitar sound was huge, the drumming was delivered with heroic gusto and real inventiveness and front man Jonny Payne (winning the award for comic book character name of the evening) gave a performance full of confident energy and a refreshing cocksure stage presence. Perhaps it’s because I’d never seen them before and it was such a pleasant surprise, but Deer Chicago stole the show for me tonight.

Deer Chicago - O2 Academy Oxford 2

Phantom Theory took to the stage with less actual members than any other band on show tonight, but knowing that they have the ability to make 100x more noise than all of them combined. Songs from the new Delayed And Decayed EP sounded awesomely boisterous and catchy, riff heavy numbers such as ‘A Long List Of Methods For Evading Black Hand’ gave the crowd something unique for the evening.

Phantom Theory - O2 Academy Oxford 2

By the time headliners Spring Offensive got up to play, the celebratory mood in the building was electric. Partly because everyone by now was well and truly pissed, but it was also because everyone present were basking in the brilliance of this little city’s overabundance of musical talent. Worthy headliners, Spring Offensive has grown into a live monster. In terms of energy, the band gives up every drop of sweat in their body in order to deliver an arresting performance, musically they get tighter and tighter and there is even the odd singalong from the crowd. The songs are well structured and the lyrics have been thoughtfully constructed, there’s no denying that Spring Offensive are a quality British indie-rock band; the perfect remedy for those suffering, as I was, with a case of PostNed Depression.

Spring Offensive - O2 Academy Oxford 2

Photography by Daniel Paxton

2 thoughts on “Upstairs @ O2 Academy Oxford – 18/06/11”

  1. Jack_OMB

    Great review, Tom! Agreed about DEER Chicago as well, cracking set with loads of potential to grow as well. Definitely the best I have ever seen Spring Offensive as well, the lyrics really stand out, great to watch a singer who has taken his time with his lyrics in that way. All the bands were brill though, one of my fave gigs in a long time! Go Oxford.

  2. AndrewKatz

    Great review of a great evening. Thanks Tom. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have such a great local music scene.