28th October 2017
Leicester Oxjam Takeover review
Report and photos by Trevor Locke, Keith Jobey and Kevin Gaughan.
Leicester’s Oxjam music festival took place today in the city centre and included musical events in five venues. There was also events that took place at Curve as part of the Inside Out series of events.
Tickets for this event were on sale at the advance price of £8 for a wristband that gave access to all the venues that were on the programme. This is the eight year that Leicester has hosted an Oxjam festival. This year’s event was managed by Beth Piggott.
Oxjam Leicester Takeover took place on Saturday 28th October, when five venues around the city’s Cultural Quarter hosted some of the best music from Leicester and beyond. The purpose of Oxjam to raise money for Oxfam. The festival was entirely run by volunteers, with all of the bands, venues and crew volunteering their time so that all of the money raised on the day went towards Oxfam’s life-changing work to build long-term sustainable solutions to the root causes of poverty and inequality.
The weather was dry, if overcast. Outdoor festivals are always prone to bad weather but this year the sky was good to us.
Our report is ordered, more or less, in the order in which we saw things.
Manhattan 34 bar, in Rutland Street, was one of the first venues to get going. Joe Doyle, better known as ‘Homeless Shakespeare’ was hosting an open-mic session. One of the artists who joined Joe was Omar Emara. The first thing to say about this singer is that he had very fine voice. Vocally, very ear-pleasing, finely tuned words and a pleasing and attracting personality as he sang and played the guitar, sometimes accompanied by Joe Doyle.
John Fryer, The Ale Wagon. This was the first time I have managed to catch John Fryer playing live. We got a set of well-chosen, entertaining covers from him today, with a few originals added into the blend. He did a haunting version of Eleanor Rigby which seemed very apt as I looked around the venue.
At The Exchange bar, opposite Curve theatre, Toby Leonard was singing to his audience, in the basement room. Always a good experience, Toby is a singer and song-writer whose performances we have reported on before in this magazine. It’s the content of Toby’s songs that stand out – heartfelt, impressing and sometimes challenging lyrics, all set to appealing melodies. A performance by Toby Leonard is always worth attending and often quite unforgettable.
With five venues to cover there was little site to settle down; you had to keep on the move to sample the rich variety of musical treats that were continually on offer.
The first band of the day was on stage at The Shed when I arrived. Day of the Moon. Six young musicians from Leicester delivering their set of indie, alternative rock songs. This is a band we have seen before and have reviewed in our previous pages. Lively music led by the vocals of Tom Davis were very pleasing and provided a brisk and vibrant start to the day’s line-up of groups, here at The Shed. With plenty of vibe and energy, the band put an ample sound into the room. It was a pleasing performance from this up and coming local band; one we urge you to see if you get the chance.
A quick dash to the Ale Wagon, the real ale pub on the corner of Charles Street and Rutland Street and it was time for one of the highlights of the day’s programme. Leicester singer and song-writer Kevin Hewick came to the mic to give us an outstanding performance of his songs. It is always a great music experience to hear Hewick in concert. Almost a legend in his time, he was written some of the great works of Leicester’s musical heritage. Incomparable. At artist with considerable presence. Normally Kevin can do a set of two hours plus but today he was limited to 30 minutes so how would he cope? With ease of course. In a set full of songs taken from his latest album ‘Driven By Love, Driven By Hate‘ Kevin never failed to impress.
A few yards along the road and I was at the LCB Depot. A former bus depot, the building was converted into one of the Cultural Quarter’s flagship projects to provide workspace, offices and meeting rooms for the creative industries.
Ro Jordan – LCB Depot. Ro Jordan’s set was already underway when I entered the LCB Depot and I was immediately struck by the quality and intensity of her voice. There were a number of covers but she finished with two originals which slotted in well with the earlier tunes. A young singer, songwriter and guitarist to watch, a talent on the rise.
Singing, also in the cafe area of the Depot, Mikey Kerslake gave us a very agreeable set of songs, glued together with his wit and chirpy sense of humour. A singer with a fine voice, Kerslake has been delighting audience in Leicester with his solo act for several years now and before that he was in a band. Kerslake’s engaging lyrics could be clearly heard and he had a loop pedal that turned his sound into the likeness of a full band. But then, he is a very talented and skilled musician, with an acute sense of timing. An excellent performance.
Elysian – The Exchange. Although Elysian are now a full band, it was the original duo playing today in the seductive darkness of the Exchange basement. Settled into a comfy sofa with a beer is a great way to watch Elysian. They’re a likeable and engaging act with a sound built around singer Celia’s powerful vocals. One of Leicester’s more original acts.
Prism Rules – The Shed. Time for a bit of noise. Prism Rules are a guitar and drums duo but are not just a crashing cymbals, thrashing guitar pair. They are a bit more considered, a band perhaps on a voyage of discovery still as they hone in on their on style. Plenty confidence and ability so another band to pay attention to.
One act I could not miss was Alex Van Roose at the LCB Depot. Singing some of his own songs and a couple of cover songs, his set caught the moment. He broke into one of his own songs, one I immediately recognised, Oh Slovenia; it is a song that reveals the skills of Van Roose’s remarkable ability at making tunes. “The Libertines are one of my favourite bands”, he told the audience before giving us his rendition of Don’t Look Back Into The Sun. Many will remember Van Roose as the lead singer of Leicester’s Midnight Wire band; Alex told us that the band will be re-launching itself in December, after an absence of a couple of years. He then sang one of the band’s songs. An altogether enjoyable experience.
At the Shed, we heard from Leicester band The Scrubs. We saw them here at last year’s Oxjam. A group of teenagers with a lead singer who puts plenty of effort into his performance. This young band has come a long way since they started, so it was gratifying to see they are still around and still going strong. You cannot fault their enthusiasm, energy and lively music.
Before I forget, let me mention the sound technicians at the five venues taking part in this year’s festival. As I have said before, without the dedication, skills and support of these guys, there would be no live music. They all deserve a massive ‘well done.’
Also playing at the Shed, a band called FiveHead. Oddly named? Only four of them on the stage. But they gave us a very vigorous start to their set. They put a lot of effort into their music-making; their first song, in particular, had unbridled welly.
Another of the solo artists who stands out for me is Michael Vickers. I saw him at the Exchange bar. Vickers can always be replied on to provide a good set of songs; he threw himself into his performance and gave some very entertaining songs. Vickers is an artist who frequently appears at festivals and gigs here in Leicester. He always delivers his music with plenty of personality and presence. The other thing you get to know about Vickers is that he is a ‘working artist’ – one who is constantly bringing out new songs, some of which he sang for us today. As he told us, he has a new one coming out on 17th November. He is a creative powerhouse, an all-round good egg. He “banged a few out” for us today.
Tony Alles, at Manhattan34. One of Leicester’s finest blues guitarists and singers. A set of extraordinary musical excellence. Hugely enjoyable. I remember seeing Alles in January, at Duffy’s bar; I said then ‘It was a spell-binding performance and was a superb opening to a night of quality music.’
You might not have heard of Lambone Splinter. A Leicester band with a peculiar name. There was nothing peculiar about the set of tunes they played for us at the Exchange today. They even covered a song by Kasabian. Always enjoyable; by this time, the room downstairs had become full. People were even dancing at the front. It was a party atmosphere.
Many stuck around for the next act. The Fazed. They started a little late because the audience would not let Lambone go with an encore. This is when the party really gets started. Two really good bands in succession, in the same room. When I was at the Simon Says festival, in 2016, I walked around to the garden with the band stage. On it members of Leicester band The Fazed were playing and I heard the singing of Dave Sherratt leading them in the songs. Long have I been a fan of this group, I said, and have admired the fine vocals of the lead singer. What I heard is music that has immediacy and appeal. Seeing them today brought back many happy memories of gigs gone by. So it was good to see them again here at Oxjam. Their music is full of tantalising rhythms, engaging melodies and ear-licking sounds.
It would have been nice to have hung around for the rest of the night… but duty called and I have to scurry off to Dryden Street for Act Two of the day.
See our review of Goldwater at Dryden Street
Many thanks to Kevin Gaughan for taking the photos; and to Keith Jobey for his notes and photos.
Acts that took part
The following is a list of the names of acts billed as taking part in Oxjam Leicester 2017. This list has been compiled from the programme sheets published by Oxjam prior to the event.
21 Armstrong Lane
Alex Van Roose
Cars That Ate Paris
Day of the Moon
Faith in Casino’s
Paul J Roberts
Small Blind Chris
The Hunting Circus
Just because a name appears on this list, that does not verify that they performed at the event. It is possible that some acts might not have been able to play at their allocated slot. The above list does not include any of those who took part in performances at Inside Out at Curve. MIL reporters were not able to be present at every performance that took place at all of the five venues.