Oxford’s Gathering Festival, a multi-venue, multi-gig, one day festival located in the Cowley Road area of Oxford might not yet be as established or well known as comparable but bigger events such as Great Escape, Camden Crawl or Swn, but in what is widely perceived as a difficult year for festivals, it sold out and more than held its own against the competition.
Here are 10 things we learnt at Gathering, Oxford, 2012.
1. Using a church as one of the venues helps reduce hangovers.
It’s easy for these multi-venue urban festivals to simply turn into one monstrous pub crawl with the music acting as a backing track. Thankfully Cowley Road Methodist Church acted as a shield to this, with no alcohol being allowed in the venue. Hence we witnessed silently engaged audiences for both Karima Francis & Nina Nesbitt. “If you’re drinking, don’t drink too fast,” Karima suggested to the audience – certainly god was ensuring that this advice was heeded whilst in his house.
2. The music of Wall is as vulnerable and sparse in real life as it sounds on record.
Playing on the smallest of stages in a record store / cafe ( the Truck Store ) the three pieces subtle, minimal and intimate sounding music was as comforting as the smell of coffee that wafted through the room. No Secrets (streaming below) was just one of several adorable moments that left us sighing with warm infatuation.
3. Some punters are only there for the ‘hits’.
You had to feel a little sorry for Nina Nesbitt. The moment after she’d finished playing current single Boy in the Methodist Church a good 20% of the audience left, we assume to ensure that they were at the O2 Academy in time for one of the days main pulls Bastille, who we understand it eventually became one in one out for.
4. Some groups wear their influences (not just on their sleeves) as well as play them.
With one of their number wearing a Dinosaur Jr t-shirt, scrappy noise merchants Poledo opened Gathering at East Oxford Community Centre with a bunch of forceful riffs and tunes that sound like a lo-fi version of that very group. Credit to their bass player for pulling some jerky axe hero guitar poses during their set rather than just standing there looking bored like many bass players do.
5. Don’t judge a band by their appearance.
Swiss Lips might have looked like they’ve just rolled out of Urban Outfitters or some other hipster styling booth, but by dipping their heavily electronic influenced sounds in a pot of hooks and energy it was impossible to judge them as anything but pop gold , albeit the audience had to wait quite some time to discover this with the bands set being delayed by what appeared to be technical problems.
6. Don’t judge a band by their appearance #2.
The Other Tribe may look like a warped version of rejects from the Klaxons and the lost illegitimate children of Adam Ant with their tribal face paints and gangly dancing, but their non-stop crowd-pleasing dance mission provided an elated hands in the air party of beats, grooves and sweaty smiling euphoria.
7. Gathering is the easiest multi-venue festival in the world.
No trudging all over the city to arrive at the gig only to find it’s at capacity and then face a long walk somewhere else. Every venue at Gathering was just a stone’s throw from each other.
8. Never write off an artist on the basis of one album or performance– everyone deserves a second chance.
Back in 2009 Blackpool’s Karima Francis was being touted as a ‘next big thing’. It never happened and her debut record The Author failed to create sparks. Likewise when we saw her last time, her Joan Armatrading-esque open confessionals left us thinking ‘so what’ and unmoved. Yet playing to a busy seated crowd at Gathering everything makes sense. Karima’s voice was raw and soulful, her bands simple acoustic sound rich and immersing. Karima struck back.
9. Dan Croll might be a very popular young man.
His set at Gathering saw temperatures rise and a packed venue. The question is was this because some of the other venues weren’t open yet and everybody was just looking for something to see, or is Croll actually a rising star?
10. No matter how levelling and good for your sense of community a muddy field, some portaloos, a tent and not washing properly for three days is, there’s something to be cherished about a festival where in between bands you can nip to Costa Coffee for a sit down and a cappuccino.
We rest our case for this type of festival right there.
Gathering 2012 was undoubtedly a success. Same place same time next year then ?
Here's one of our highlights:
Wall - No Secrets