As the barrage of students return and Oxford lives up to its academic reputation, the city once again becomes a thriving hub for young musicians, artists and gig-goers. With this, Oxford becomes a regular fixture on many artists’ tour schedules, with local promoters Future Perfect bagging two acts, Loyle Carner and The Magic Gang, who are unquestionably primed for the big time. Both young, both tipped by the likes of Radio 1 and DIY to be hot property within the next few years and still playing relatively intimate venues, these two were a hot ticket.
Grime has made such a huge impact on the cultural landscape of Britain in the past 12 months and attributed to the success of many break-out stars such as Stormzy and Lady Leshurr, yet Loyle Carner comes from a different angle. The sensitive and confessional style that he administers has always been popular, yet never had too many mainstream stars. Yet at the Bullingdon, Carner’s affable persona and heartfelt stage-presence give him an irresistible warmth as he introduces tracks like the earnest ‘Cantona’ about his now-passed father, or ‘Florence’ – in which Carner gushes for a lover over minimal beats and jazz chords. The audience tonight, mainly under the age of 25, express their unadulterated love for Carner to, what seems, his genuine disbelief. His underground appeal has been evident for some time, but the reaction from this sold-out Bullingdon crowd seems to show that Carner’s stock is undoubtedly on the rise.
Brighton pop-rockers, The Magic Gang, are also carrying the same excitement. They last played Oxford in April, before a summer of storming festival shows at the likes of Latitude, Reading & Leeds and Oxfordshire’s own Truck Festival. Kicking off with ‘Lady Please’, it’s immediately obvious that their popularity has been boosted in the preceding six months. ‘All This Way’ – a song released less than a month before – is hollered back with all the passion and fever it deserves, while older tracks like ‘Alright’ and ‘No Fun’ more than hold their own in amongst the fresh tunes from inventively-titled ‘The Second EP From…’. Their short – only just over an hour – but sweet set leaves everyone at the O2 Academy desperate for a little bit more. With a contract with Warner Brothers under their belt, an album should not be too far away for these boys – I’m sure it will be welcomed with open arms.
As well as the high-profile shows across the city, it’s important not to forget the vast amount of student-promoted gigs that often slip under the radar. This month, the Varsity Club was packed out with hundreds of students in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust and while there was a number of acts on show, it was Logic Lane who brought the most versatility to the evening. Their blend of funk-driven pop and anthemic rock brought a welcome change to the usual humdrum of acoustic singer-songwriters that crop up at every turn, while singer Jack Fairbrother is a confident and commanding presence onstage. It is this kind of performance that reminds how important grass-roots shows can be and more importantly, all for a great cause.
Jack’s Pick for November
TRAAMS – 3rd November – The Bullingdon