Oxjam 2018

13th October 2018

Leicester Oxjam Takeover review

Pens: Trevor Locke. Lenses: Kevin Gaughan and Trevor Sewell.

One of the most important things about this years Oxjam Leicester Takeover was that it happened. Continuity. It counts for a lot. Miss a year and it is so much harder to get started again.

Four venues provided stages for this year’s event – The Exchange, Manhattan, The Shed (both the Main Room and in Vault, downstairs.) Sadly The Ale Wagon was unable to be included this year owning to building works. As in previous years, the Oxjam office was in The Exchange. This year there were no line-upa at The Soundhouse, as in previous years. I know I always say this but… thanks are needed for the teams of sound engineers who spent the whole day at the venues making sure that the audiences had something to listen to.

Staff from Music in Leicester magazine attended the whole day. Hopefully, we saw all the acts that performed. If we missed a couple, then apologies to them and to our readers.

What I liked about this year’s festival was that I discovered several news acts that I had not seen before. Saviours of Music, Unseen Underground, and some of the acoustic acts.

Also, I saw bands from outside Leicester. Most of the acts on the line-up were local but a few had travelled quite some way from outside the county boundary to be with us today. Bands such as the one from Leeds – Atlanta House. Across all the venues, a wide variety of musical styles were on offer. Enough range of genres to please most people. What struck me about this year’s Oxjam, in particular, was that it provided a cross-section of local music; a portrayal of the rich diversity of musical talent available in out locality. A section through the various strata of musical styles that are readily available each week in our Leicester venues. Except of course for Caribbean, Africa and Asian genres which have never been well-represented either at Leicester Oxjams or in line-ups of our venues, most of the time. The one big exception to that are the Cosmopolitan and City Festivals, not to mention the annual Caribbean Carnival and the Mela events in the city and county.

The weather was kind to us this year, the day being dry throughout with a mild temperature of eighteen degrees for pretty much all the day.

Photo: Kevin Gaughan

In Orton Square, outside Curve theatre, a group of artists entertained the public with an unusual puppet show.

Oxjam is a national event. The nationwide series of local festivals has been raising money for Oxfam (the international charity) since 2006, across the UK. The aim of the annual event is to raise money for Oxfam. As far as I can remember, the first Leicester Oxjam took place in 2010 and was held in Braunstone Gate.

Blue Haiku

Blue Haiku Photo: Kevin Gaughan

The first act to appear at The Exchange, Blue Haiku was one male singer – Scott Howard – with a guitar. He sang some of his own songs and did a cover or two. He also played the harmonica – Dylan-style.

Shaun Clark

Shaun opened the programme at The Shed’s Main Room. We enjoyed Shaun’s lively-paced songs. Having started in 2011, Clark is a singer and songwriter whose work has been influenced by The Levellers and Gaz Brookfield. His home town is Letchworth Garden City, in Hertfordshire. Despite having the opening slot, when as yet few people are around, he demonstrated both his musical ability and amiable sense of humour.

Lucy Spencer

Lucy Spencer Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Singing and playing her ukulele, Lucy Spencer entertained the audience at The Shed with a selection of cover songs. Part of her musical career is spent as a wedding singer.

Tony Alles

Tony Alles Photo: Kevin Gaughan

One of the finest interpreters of the blues, certainly in Leicester, if not the whole Leicestershire, Tony Alles is a veteran of Leicester Oxjam festivals. Today he was as good as he ever has been. His performance was exceptional. He is a fine singer and gifted guitarist.

Dust and Debris

Dust & Debris Photo: Kevin Gaughan

At the Glastonbudget festival, earlier this year, we saw Dust and Debris playing on the LoCo stage with musician Les Eastham, leading the group in a selection of ‘rock’a’ blusey’ country soul in a mixture of covers and original songs. Plenty of funky tunes today as they performed at The Exchange bar.

Hobo Disco

Hobo Disco Photo: Kevin Gaughan

When Hobo Disco gathered on the stage at The Shed, I recognised them. Previously known as The Whiskey Rebellion, this group has a prestigious track record on the stages of Leicester. When they are performing at parties and functions, this band provides people with popular classics with a twist of folk and gypsy. I remember seeing Whiskey Rebellion in August, at The Soundhouse, when reviewer Lydia Till commented, in her review of the show, ‘With an already considerable following, it was no surprise that they drew in the biggest crowd of the night. The band managed to incorporate instruments like the violin and banjo and give them a rock sound, something I have never witnessed before. The ability to blend these different elements together highlighted the talent they have. ‘ [Music in Leicester magazine]

Today they provided The Shed’s Main Room with a lively, delightful selection of songs delivered with much fun and good humour and musical magnificence. The band’s set even included a rendition of a song originally by The Spice Girls.

Hartland County

Heartland County Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Five musicians gathered in the performance area at The Exchange to present their programme of country and western songs. By this time the room was full of people and everyone enjoyed this set of musical offerings. The band was Ken Kovach on Lead, Sid Prescott on Pedal Steel & Fiddle, Dave Lloyd on Rhythm, Kevin Turner on Bass, Ernie Smith on Drums.

Lambone Splinter

Lambone Splinter Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Veterans of Oxjam Leicester festivals, this band with the odd name has been around for a very long time. We are always pleased to see them and hear their entertaining music. We have seen this band before at several festivals. Their foot-tapping folk music is always enjoyable.

94 Gunships

This Nottingham band played at the Shed, and today, they were in the Main Room. I saw them before at The Shed when they played in Vault. Having seen them a couple of times, I have always liked what they did. Back then I said “wrought together blues, indie, pop and rock to form a musical amalgam that was both vocally attractive as it was rhythmically appealing.” Once again I was drawn by their funky beats. I saw them on 7th September, noting, in my Blog, that their set was loaded with sounds adding “A fusion of blues, indie, pop and rock that worked extremely well. Hugely good rhythms.” Once again they delighted music fans with their energy and musical inventiveness. Like very many Nottingham bands before them, 94 Gunships have regularly played here and have added our local fans to their following.

Unseen Underground

Unseen Underground Photo: Kevin Gaughan

A band from Leicester that I had not seen before. Having spotted them on Facebook a few days before the festival, I was keen to see what they were like. The quartet of musicians provided an ear-pleasing set of alternative rock tunes. With its strong lead vocalist, this band played some of their own sings and a cover of one by The Beatles – Come Together. Very enjoyable. Fast-paced melodies got the audience clapping along to the beats. They also played their latest recorded number called Calligraphy. Post-punk, alt-rock. Listen to this song on YouTube.

I feel sure we will see plenty more of this band.

The Markus Reeves Brotherhood

The Marcus Reeves Brotherhood Photo: Kevin Gaughan

A group, from Leicester, led by Markus Reeves. They were at The Exchange. Think Wilco Johnson, Neil Young and Billy Bragg. A bit of folk and a bit of mod.

Saviours of Music


Saviours of Music Photo by Trevor Sewell.

The two musicians who comprised this act were people I have known for a very long time. Tom Haywood is better known as the front man of Leicester band Not My Good Arm. James Robinson was once a member of the highly successful Indie band The Utopians. This newly formed act saw the two singers performing rap songs to backing tracks. Both of them are well experienced lead singers from bands. To be honest, I thought they could have done better. Their performance lacked stage craft. As a rap duo, they would be up against better established acts such as Scribble Victory and long standing solo artists such as Jonezy. There was no shortage of impactful lyrics and sharp spits. But, I found the words were not easy to hear and got lost in the somewhat out-dated backing sounds. They are both experienced musicians so why they did not play guitar and drums, as other rap duos do, was not easy to understand.

JNCTRE

JNCTRE Photo: Kevin Gaughan

From Derby, formed in 2015, playing electronica, dark pop, and indie. The band played in April 2017, at The Shed. Our review said ‘The three-piece group provided sumptuous vocals and melodies and delicious songs with resonant rhythms. Delightful music; ardently atmospheric. Cleverly inventive phrasing, the ambient electro songs were controlled from the lead guitarist’s pedal board.’ [Music in Leicester magazine] Adding ‘Beautifully orchestrated instrumentation. Enthralling ‘. The band played at Oxjam Leicester in 2016.

Barefoot in Baltimore

Barefoot in Baltimore Photo: Kevin Gaughan

It was in July 2017 that this band appeared in the pages of this magazine. They played at The Shed. I commented “A healthy dose of alternative rock from this Redditch-based band. They clearly demonstrated a real passion for their music. Their song Something Witchy is available on Bandcamp and they also have songs on Soundcloud. Lively, engaging and ear-pleasing.”

The Docs


The Docs Photo by Trevor Sewell.

One of the foremost punk band of Leicester, The Docs, played at Vault. We have reviewed this band many times before, both when they have played The Shed and at other venues. What they give us is the raw grit of punk. A lively performance by their lead singer Miss Mae Gilly. The band formed in 1981. after splitting they reformed in 2013. Since then I have seen them several times. Think of The Ramones, The Clash and The White Stripes.


The Docs Photo by Trevor Sewell.

We Be Beasts

We Be Beasts Photo: Kevin Gaughan

They formed in 2017. They play alternative, indie, rock. The drummer is Dan Wright – a notable member of previous local bands. The band is auditioning for Glastonbudget festival next year, at The Soundhouse on Friday October 19th.

Smack Jack & The Many Grams

Smack Jack & The Many Grams Photo: Trevor Sewell.

This is band that I follow with considerable enthusiasm. This Leicester band is doing a lot for creative musical expressions. I have reviewed this band several times before and have gone to some lengths to extol their originality and highly impactful stage craft. Fuelled by the electrifying energy of the lead singer and the rapid double bass drum pedal sound (I used to call this ‘Kalashnikov-sounding’), the music exploded into the room with relentless power.


Smack Jack and the Many Grams. Photo by Trevor Sewell.

I find it hard to compare this band with any other that I know. That might be a good sign. Theirs is not a clean sound; it incudes much distortion from the guitar pedals. Even so, some of the riffs coming from the lead guitar are those familiar to classic rock. It was a peerless performance that had me glued to my seat throughout the whole set.

Last Hounds

A five-member band with three vocalists. Agro, punk, hip-hop group from somewhere in the Midlands. Loud. Time to put earplugs in. The lead singer spent some time on the floor. It was the kind of set I like to call ‘volcanic.’ Lots of guitar amp feedback (also known as technical problems.) They certainly knew how to shout. Hard core. Or possibly grimecore or metalcore. Cor! What a noise. Eardrums notwithstanding, it was set bursting with energy. Olympic-standard dancing from the lead singer. Last Hounds is due to play at The Shed on 26th October.

DMU Jazz


DMU jazz band Photo by Trevor Sewell.

A group of musicians from the DMU Jazz Band played at Manhattan. Some of them were well-known instrumentalists from the Leicester music scene.

See our page on Jazz in Leicester.

Atlanta House

This indie rock band came all the way from Leeds to play for us today. I was very glad that they did. This was the band’s first visit to Leicester. I was easily grabbed by their pleasing melodies and engaging rhythms. This is definitely the kind of band you would want to see again. They have been going since 2014. In some of the songs I could see musicians singing together. Readers will know that I rate singing bands very highly. On stage, they looked like a band that really enjoyed playing. That counts for a lot. Their debut EP was released on September 29th 2017. I thought they were pretty damn good. A band I would definitely like to see again.

Our City Fires

Lead singer from Our City Fires Photo by Trevor Sewell.

Leicester’s Our City Fires played at The Soundhouse, in August, and our reviewer, Kashif Hussain, said of them ‘While they sounded notably different & less heavy than the rest of the bands they still put on a good show with rhythmic guitar work and catchy vocal melodies.’ [Music in Leicester magazine]

I thought the performance by lead singer Danny Richardson (previously the vocalist with Little Dead Town) was sensational. This fairly new quintet gave us pounding drums from Kieran Langley, bouncing beats, punch sounds. It was altogether a rocket-fuelled performance. Hugely head-banging rhythms. Good to see guitarist Harry Pentony on the stage with them. Music with movement.

The Jav’lins

The Jav’lins Photo by Trevor Sewell.

It was well worth sticking around to see the last band of the day at The Shed. The Jav’lins stands out, for me, as one of the best indie cum blues-rock bands in the city. It was another dazzling performance from singer Tom Iliffe. This is a group that exemplifies the art of the trio. And they all sing. Bryn Stilgoe brings his snare drum on to the floor and bashes six bells out of it. On the floor of the stage, large assemblages of guitar pedals. This band was founded in 2010 and, since then, have given some of the most outstanding performances by bands we have seen on the platforms of Leicester.

See also

Reports of previous Oxjam Festivals for the years 2010, 2011 to 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.

All the acts that took part or were billed for this year’s Leicester Oxjam

94 Gunships
Adam Robinson
Andy Griffiths
Atlanta House
Barefoot in Baltimore
Blue Haiku
DMU Jazz band
Dust & Debris
Goldblume
Groove and the Bathtub Pings
Guano
Heartland County
Hobo Disco
Inlak’esh
JNCTR
Kait Baker-Smith
Lambone Splinter
Last Hounds
Lucy Spencer
My Mate Dave
Our City Fires
Plato
Prism
Sarpa Salpa
Saviours of Music
Shaun Clark
Smack Jack & The Many Grams
Sweatbox
The Docs
The Jav’lins
The Markus Reeves Brotherhood
Tony Alles
Undercover
Unseen Underground
We Be Beasts
Willow Tree Revival