Gathering Festival @ Cowley Road, Oxford 19.10.13

Oxford independent festival returns for its second year

Oct 19th, 2013 at Cowley Road, Oxford / By Dave Reynolds
Gathering Festival @ Cowley Road, Oxford 19.10.13 Oxford’s burgeoning Gathering Festival returned for its second year of Cowley Road based rambunctiousness. Last year’s line-up saw a motley crew of acts that have gone on to scale lofty heights, with the likes of Peace, Jake Bugg and Bastille becoming something approaching household names. This year’s line-up brought together the same heady mix of the well known and the soon-to-be-superstars. The fun lies in stumbling unexpectedly across the latter, as this is a festival that focuses largely on highlighting exciting new talent.

One of the nifty features of an urban festival like this is creating a little subversion in existing spaces. And so the festival started with a can of Red Stripe in St John The Evangelist’s Church helping to chase away a White Russian induced fuzz from the night before. Oh, and there was music too! A two piece with a little help from some friends, Chasing Grace have recently been opening up for Ellie Goulding on her UK tour. They showed off some melodic chops with their engaging brand of pop. Their cover of Disclosure’s ‘White Noise’ literally got the audience to their feet (they were sat down before), while ‘Trust’ sounded enormous bouncing off the acoustics lent by the church’s architecture.

A hop, skip and a jump across to the back room at The Bullingdon saw electro outfit Gold & Youth (pictured) take to the stage. They held a brooding and melancholy presence, at times comically punctured by a particularly prodigious smoke machine. There were moments of concern as to whether there was actually a fire breaking out somewhere. But in between moments of a crowd familiarising themselves with the nearest fire escape, tracks like ‘Time To Kill’ and ‘Jewel’ showcased their downbeat Chvrches / marginally-more-upbeat The XX sound.

Then the somewhat inevitable moment of ‘city festivals have max capacity stages while fields generally don’t’ moment duly arrived. The overwhelming eagerness to see Local Natives meant standing in a long queue snaking along Cowley Road while London Grammar played their set to a full O2 Academy downstairs beforehand. And yet, spirits were high as said queue dwelling revellers were able to jump across the road to a large supermarket chain to keep those alcohol levels high.

Coincidentally, Local Natives live show has very recently been reviewed on this site, so there’s no need to get too deep into how close to perfection it was. The only difference perhaps is that this was a festival crowd, perhaps reflected in the moment when I was grabbed into an arms-around-shoulders swaying moment with a group of strangers during ‘Columbia’. After the euphoria of what in essence was the headline act of the night, the excitement of some late night revelry led many back to The Bullingdon to see Drenge.

The scuzzy two piece starting at 11.10pm was the perfect recipe for a little rowdiness, and so it proved. Blitzing through tracks from their recently released debut, an overabundance of crowd surfers had to contend with low ceilings and low hanging flat screen TVs. Inevitable craziness erupted during the likes of ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Backwaters’ as manic drums and grunge inspired guitars blared forth from the stage.

Those that stuck around after were fortunate enough to see Swearin’s first UK show straight after. Fronted by the sister of Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield (also on the bill earlier in the day), Swearin’ put a modern twist on mid 90s indie, and sound on to a winner. Turning out favourites from their first record like ‘Kenosha’ and ‘Just’, along with new music such as the excellent ‘Dust In The Gold Sack’, their takeover of the U.K. started here.

As a live music fan that spends a decent amount of time watching live music around the Cowley Road area in Oxford, Gathering Festival helped to create a special and unique festival atmosphere. Beyond that, the line-up itself was an excellently curated mix of the big and the small, a great advert for live music in general.