Oxjam2010

Leicester Oxjam Takeover 2010

This article was originally published in Arts in Leicester magazine and is included now, as part of  our archives project.

Music raises funds for charity. Oxjam breathes new life into Leicester’s live music. Oxjam is a month-long music festival organised for the charity Oxfam. All around the UK, hundreds of music events are being organised to raise funds for the charity. These events are put on by people who know and love their local music scene.

This is our report on the 2010 Festival held in Leicester.

Kevin Gaughan sums up the day (see below)

The Oxjam Takeover festival took place in Braunstone Gate on Saturday 23rd October 2010. It was an astonishing success, both musically and in raising nearly £16,000 for the Oxfam charity.

With three stages playing some of the best bands in Leicester, it would be a hard task to say which was best. All the bands seemed to put on particularly excellent performances. For me, personally, the highlight was the appearance of The Manhattan Project at Natterjacks. I say this because it was a surprising and exhilarating experience. The MP were a well respected and liked band not so long ago but they have been off the road for over a year and half. After a period of being in a sort of musical chrysalis, they emerged today, an even more wonderful creature than before. The transformation has been spectacular and their comeback set this afternoon took place in a packed room. Their fans welcomed them back with cheering as soon as they took to the stage. From the immense opening bars of the first song, you knew this was going to be special. After a long, slow instrumental intro, building up the tension, the band burst in with the song. Big, bold, beats poured out from the stage, peppered with scorchingly good guitar riffs. Their sound is heavier and much more strident than before but still redolent of their classic rock roots. They put on a storming performance, their fans clearly loving every minute of it, packed with jubilant melodic lines and throbbing backing rhythms. Songs with strong rock appeal, anthemic melodies and crashing, vigorous, upbeat backing, it was an adrenalin pumping set, produced with lashings of power and energy. The fans went mental, dancing, singing along and waving their arms in the air. Not what the normally genteel Natterjacks is used to, but this was something special.

The Aromattics, playing in Natterjacks in the evening, put on a fine performance. Featuring the ear pleasing and vibrant vocals of Callum Goddin, well supported by the expertise of Jordan Birtles on the drums and Mickey Burnage on base. Full of delicious rhythms and catchy harmonies, their set was laden style and vitality. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Headlining the day at a packed Looking Glass, Ashdowne, gave a wonderful performance of their beautiful and evocative songs and ballads. A band that really stands out for their musical excellence and superb song writing, it was a tantalising set of top class music. Outstanding.

The wonderful Dumbfound playing some infectiously dancy ballads at Natterjacks. A trio of quality musicians led by the sparkling vocals of Bobby Hawkins. Natterjacks was so full, people were queuing outside, waiting to get in. They began their set with Footsteps, which you can hear on their Myspace page, an enjoyable and pleasing song. They got an enthusiastic response from the crowd, who clearly liked the solidly good songmanship and well crafted backing including some big keyboard solos. A wealth of talent taht was met with sustained cheering from the crowd.

The Furies is a great band. I have seen them before and I love what they do. They played a really good set at Natterjacks, where a good sized crowd had gathered to see them. They pounded out some strenuously ballsy beats with robustly strong vocals carrying well over the crowd. Scintillating guitar riffs poured out over the backing, it was an absolutely beltin’ set.

Young Leicester band White Ashes were on fine form for their set at the Looking Glass. By this time the crowd was building up and lead singer Joe told me they had enjoyed their performance and could hear themselves quite well.

I really enjoyed listening to the Working Projects at Natterjacks in the afternoon, where the crowd was building up and I suspect some people were hearing them for the fist time – I hope they will agree that this is a fine band. They have three good front singers and their drummer was at the back also with a mic to help produce those great delicious layers. Lead singer James Sides has a fine voice and does some great stuff on the Harmonica. All the band members contribute to the vocals. Superbly good.

The Stiggz played at the Looking Glass to a capacity room. The band delivered a set of their engaging indie songs although the set was troubled with some technical issues. But you can’t hold a good band down and they gave us some of their much admired songs, all delivered with a good helping of their vitality.

The Looking Glass stage saw an excellent set played by The Hordes. A band that has grown considerably since they first appeared on the Leicester scene and they are now performing some amazingly good songs.

Punk legends First Wave took to the stage at The Looking Glass to deliver of set of their hard edged songs. The trio’s electrifying set was a first class celebration of punk, fast, surious and exhilarating. Their songs were laced with scintilating guitar riffs and it was good to see this really great band keeping the spirit of punk alive.

Echo Location playing their set of alternative songs at Natterjacks.

Leicester indie band The Fazed played at the O Bar. Vocalist Dave Sherratt told us “It went well. We had a few people in. Takeover is a great idea.”

Leicester electro indie band Raptor Captor drew a lot of interest for their set at the O Bar. A set with plenty of atmosphere, compelling rhythms and passionate singing from Garry Greenaway added to the beautifully orchestrated tunes. Fiendishly good.

It was good to see dub/reggae band the mighty Megadub playing one of their greatly enjoyable sets at the O Bar. By this time the room so full I had to listen from outside. Those who managed to squeeze in were clearly having a grat time, jumping to the infectious rhythms.

I made a special trip down to the basement of Sumo Bar to see one of my favourite metal bands, the wonderful Cosmic Vortex of Doom. Moody songs bulging with big sounds and tantalising guitar passages, shot through with lots of pedal effects, they delivered an explosive set of songs.

By the evening all the rooms were rammed. At the O Bar, the set by SuperEvolver was particularly popular. Here is Mab putting on a fine performance.

The Chairmen played at the O Bar. I didn’t get any photos because I couldn’t get in but I did listen to some of their set from outside. I could hear Jonny’s voice singing Twenty Twenty Vision, which reminded me just how good a song this is. It was that full I couldn’t even squeeze in through the front door and the door staff were making people queue, letting one in as one came out. I could hear the crowd joining in with the song and lots of cheering at the end. The Chairmen are an iconic band with a set of top songs and are still writing new material. Good backing vocals from the other bands members, it was a superb set.

Oxjam was not only about bands … there was also a line up of solo artists and acoustic players.

Russell Brooks reports:

When Oxjam’s Takeover Festival landed in Leicester on Saturday, Braunstone Gate was transformed into a thriving hub of talented performers from across the county and beyond. Interested to see what Leicester’s folk and acoustic scene had in store, I headed for The Loaf, which was hosting the ‘Nice Slice’ acoustic event. The basement of this warming bistro was an appropriate venue for the genre, where the close-quarters setup really brought the fans onto a personal level with the artists. This being my first taste of a Leicester folk event, I could actually imagine myself in the basement of London’s Troubadour, or a back street lounge somewhere in New York’s Greenwich Village. This must have been down to the buzzing vibe and exciting atmosphere, not to mention the fantastic line-up that had been prepared.

Chris Gibson was the first act that I managed to catch, accompanied by Robin Lister on the sax. Chris’s sound was comparable to Clapton or Springsteen, with his steady finger-picking rhythm, soulful voice and creative lyrics. His cover of ‘St. James’s Infirmary’ was thoroughly enjoyable, and ‘Season of the Witch’ had the audience tapping along in no time. Robin Lister really contributed to the sound with his accompaniment, adding a bluesy feel with a great sax solo towards the end of the set. I would describe the duo as English folk meets southern blues, with a certain jazzy overtone. Overall Gibson and Lister were not to be missed, and their performance was amongst my personal favourites of the afternoon.

Next up was Fran Taylor, a solo act who appeared to pull the crowds. As she opened her set with a cover of ‘Caledonia’, the basement of The Loaf seemed to come to life. Fran immediately captivated onlookers with her flawless vocals, witty lyrics and memorable stage presence. Her own material was certainly well received, with songs like ‘Something about You’, ‘Home’ and ‘Blue Skies and Daydreams’ going down extremely well. I thought her style was similar to that of Joan Baez or even Amy Macdonald, although I might say she actually sounded better. It was difficult to compare this artist though, who was certainly the highlight of the afternoon. There was one downside to her performance however; I didn’t hear any mention of a CD!

The final artist I managed to see was Siobhan ‘Shed’ Mazzei, a solo guitarist from the local area. Shed’s technical guitar work and powerful voice made her the most interesting act of the afternoon, with her unique style and impressive vocal range doing her many favours. Her own songs reflected her creative ability and were very well written; I would find it difficult to compare her to another musician! I was aware of Shed’s talent prior to the Takeover Festival, but her performance on the afternoon justified the many compliments I have known her to receive. Shed is definitely one to watch, and knowing her personally I’m sure her passion for music and performing will take her far in the future!

One or two solo performances also took place in other venues.

Alex ‘Rooster’ Van Roose,  from The Heroes,  sang at O Bar. When not playing guitar for the The Heroes, Rooster is out there with his guitar and a set of his own very agreeable songs. Fresh back from being kidnapped by The Twist and taken up to Sheffield to sing with them at one of their gigs last night , the young singer was still ready to pick up his guitar and delight the audience at the O Bar. His set was followed by Connor Evans from the Weekend Schemers. The Doyle also sang. I noticed that whilst alcohol has a deleterious effect on the vocal chords, it leaves the ability to play an instrument intact. All good fun.

Paula Driver was at The Loaf.  The Weekend Schemers played an acoustic set at Natterjacks. Joe Doyle (bass), Andy Cooper (guitar and vocals) and Connor Evans (Guitar), from the Weekend Schemers, played an acoustic set at Natterjacks. Playing some of their own songs, they put on a performance that was vibrant and enjoyable. Andy’s vocals were strong and clear, with some backing from Connor, and the strings were well blended. Their rocky, indie melodies were very appealing. Just a little two late is a Schemers song that is particularly listenable and their acoustic version of it did it justice.

General report

The Takeover festival took place in Braunstone Gate. The street was closed to traffic for the day. Eight local venues took part: The Looking Glass, Loaf, Sumo, Natterjacks, O Bar, The Hub, Venus and the Bowstring and a couple of others. Each venue hosted a day long programme of music, covering all styles and genres. Over 75 bands played and 25 DJs.

In the street were dancers, fire eaters, a stage with a variety of acts (including the Kane Gospel Choir and the Ukelele Band) as well as variety of stalls and side shows. Entrance to the festival street was free and entrance to all the venues was covered by a wristband costing £8.

In addition, there were evening events at a variety of city centre venues including the Soundhouse, Spectacular – a live alternative cabaret taking place at the old Phoenix Arts Centre and Moon Safari – at Fabrika (near Life Night club and The Shed).

It was an urban festival. No mud, no tents, no midges, just warm venues, an ample supply of hot food, as much (variety of) drinks as you could afford at a range of prices and a constant line up of the best bands and artists from all over Leicester/shire. The Oxjam Takeover was a resounding success. Huge numbers of people turned up for it. The weather was kind (only one short shower) and it was a well organised event (lots of volunteers in Pink Ts helping to keep things going all day.)

Musically the festival included some outstanding performances by bands and solo artists. The venues were intimate (small) and although the sound systems varied in quality, this was, in many ways, the best way to see live music. You could see your favourite artists playing in front of you (if you were lucky enough to get a place at the front of the crowd, that is.) By the evening, all of the venues were rammed. We are used to gigs were the rooms are half empty and we complain about the poor attendances at many of the shows in Leicester. Tonight, we could complain about the venues being too full! By the later part of the night, people were queuing to get into some of the more popular venues!

What ever your taste in music, you would have found something pleasing at the event: from the sweet, charming songs of solo singers through to the ear-bleeding, head banging beats of heavy metal, it was all there. The spread of musical styles was amazing: just about everything there is was on a stage somewhere at some time during the day. Not only music, but poets, dancers and other creative artists were there, if you could find them. You could spend your time in just one venue seeing the processing of bands come and go, or rush round from one stage to another, trying to catch the best acts on the programme (like we did.)

Many people told us there was a really good atmosphere at the festival. Lots of people enjoyed it and almost everyone said they would like to see it take place again, next year. We certainly hope that this festival can take place again next year. It will be a seriously good addition to Leicester’s live music calendar.

Out of town bands

Although the majority of bands and artists that played were from Leicester/shire, a few were from Out of town:

Tales of George (Brighton). Tales of George, from Brighton, whose punky rock songs were well received by their Leicester audience, played at the O Bar. They launched into their set with a thumping opening and delivered a ballsey that was well received by the crowd. They told me “It smells of sick in here”, which was true; someone had done a really bad one in there at some time. James, Dan and Joss have supported The Automatic and their energetic set was rich in foot stomping beats. When I asked them if they would like to come back to Leicester they said: “We would love to play at the Strawberry Fields festival”.

The Twist (Dundee). The O Bar was packed to the gunnels for these Dundee dudes. Their songs bristled with energy and cracking riffs and several musicians commented afterwards on the excellence of their playing. A bunch of totally crazy guys with thick scottish accents, they were an treat to meet. Lovely, lovely guys, oozing fun and friendship, their four day trip to Leicester was one long party capped by a dazzling peformance today at Oxjam.

Out of Date (Hull).  Elliot Smales (vocalist) told us “This has been our first time in Leicester. We played a good set. A few new people saw us. We have had a great time.” A young band all the way from Hull, they clearly had a lot of fun during their time at the festival. They played at the O Bar. Hopefully they will make it down to Leicester again. Their set of catchy indie tunes has plenty of vitality.

Subkicks (Birmingham).  I hadn’t heard of Subkicks before. I managed to sqeeze my way into the back of the O Bar and actually found where to sit down. I didn’t know which band was playing but I just needed a rest and a chance to catch up with my notes. After a day spent walking around and standing up listening to bands, this well earned rest was a relief. I found my ears filling up with the most exciting sounds. Big, pounding songs, laden with atmosphere, this seriously good trio of musicians poured out some high level rock to an audience that was clearly absorbed in what they were hearing. Long, complex passages with taught guitar work were being rocketed out with considerable power. It was a beltin’ set of electrifying tunes.

Cardinal Jack from London played.

Oxjam – a personal view of the day

by Kevin Gaughan

I was looking forward to Oxjam, I knew a good selection of the bands on offer and I was looking forward to seeing some new ones. Of course Oxjam wasn’t all about the music, it was about street entertainers, the Caribbean Carnival Bumper Crew and raising awareness and funds for the amazing work that Oxfam do. For me, however, it was mainly about the music and dropping a few coins in an Oxfam bucket when one passed by. The bands all played for free and it only cost £8 for the whole day, which included entry into all the venues. Beer was extra but was still sold at the usual pub prices. Fantastic value for money, especially considering the top quality bands that were performing, they really were Leicester’s finest.

The weather was grey, cold and I think it rained a few times but I was in various venues so it really didn’t matter. I got there especially early, 1 p.m., to see one of my favourite bands start the show in O Bar: Skam#. I absolutely love these guys. As it was early, there were only a few people watching but Skam still put on a full show, cramped in a tiny corner in O Bar. Ok, there were only three of them but they made a fantastic, good, solid rock sound with Matt on bass guitar up to his crazy antics as usual, just getting into the music and Steve doing his incredible guitar solos while standing in the middle of the street and on top of the tables in the pub! Steve’s witty banter between tracks, just kept me smiling. Must not forget the drummer, the ‘X-Ray’, did a fantastic job of bashing the living daylights out of those skins and keeping the band together. Looking forward to seeing them whenever I can up until Christmas, after which, they told me, they may lie low for a bit during the first quarter of 2011 for a bit of respite.

Still grey, cold and wet outside, but time for a couple of beers, and a bit of a relax while watching a bit of the Weekend Schemers’ acoutsic set in Natterjacks, then down to Loaf’s basement where I found some quality acoustic artists. I could quite happily have spent most of the day down there. The standard of the artists was amazing.

Soon on was Gemma Lakin, her thought provoking lyrics and expertly played, usually up-tempo guitar playing set this young lady apart from the crowd. Her songs had plenty of atmosphere and her voice was infinite in it’s flexibility, transmitting the mood of the music perfectly. Very well written songs, an engaging experience, a ‘must see’ on my Glastonbudget 2011 list.

Couple more beers, checked out a few more acts, spent some time in the Looking Glass’ basement only to catch one of my favourites, The Stiggz, a young four piece from Coalville. The place was absolutely heaving and it was only four in the afternoon. The sound down there is usually touch and go but it wasn’t at it’s best for the Stiggz, however, they played their tremendously catchy set of youthfully inspired, wonderful songs.

The Stiggz were closely followed by The Hordes. They don’t do much on stage, but by god, they don’t have to, the music does it all. The haunting guitar from Wayne was hypnotic at times, occasionally breaking into fantastic guitar solos accompanied by Aaron on bass. Both work in harmony, both playing equal parts providing a good, solid bass line complimented very nicely by Alex on vocals adding to the unique, haunting but punky sound this band has to offer. I really like the sound of this band and look forward to seeing them again.

Next up, after a breather, checked out some street entertainers and had another beer, back into Loaf’s basement for another fine young solo acoustic artist by the name of Paula Driver. Although crammed, the basement was totally silent while this angelic young singer performed her show. Paula’s voice, very light on the ear and easy to listen to made me think I could quite happily spend the rest of the day listening to her. Everyone in the basement were totally absorbed, you couldn’t help it, she has a childishly innocent aura that you can’t help but like. What a really wonderful performance that left me wanting more.

Not just a local thing

From Aberdeen to Bournemouth, this year’s 28 Takeover events will feature nearly 900 bands and DJs in 145 venues . From the folk-rock-dub-reggae-indie-experimental themed Sheffield event to the eclectic mix of street performers and comedians in Newcastle, The Oxjam Takeover events will be taking place this weekend on 22-24 October 2010, all around the country.

See also:

Our report on Oxjam Leicester in 2011 and 2012

Our report on Oxjam Leicester in 2013

Our report on Oxjam Leicester in 2014

Oxjam Leicester Takeover 2015