On Saturday 18th October, Oxjam took over some of Liverpool’s hottest venues for a day packed with live music. Raising money for Oxfam, more than 50 local acts volunteered to play one of the seven venues scattered across Liverpool. LSRadio were invited to go along…
City Festivals have a certain air about them which is very different to that of Glastonbury, Reading, Download etc. There is a sense of familiarity to them in that they occupy the spaces which you know intimately, yet they are transformed into an endless showing of various strands of music. Sometimes, it can result in a slightly ad-hoc feel, a sense of dislocation between event and setting. Oxjam however have refined the art of such a thing, and with this year’s line-up, it promised for very rich pickings indeed.
OxjamHub, Oxjam’s base for the day, was located in EVAC’s newly revamped bar, appropriately positioned at the epicentre of the city. Liverpool’s Oxjam venues stretched from vintage-loving student-favourite Bold Street, all the way to the penumbra of the city in the form of the pulsating creative hub that is the Baltic Triangle. So it makes sense that their main office for the day was a regular haunt of Liverpool music aficionados.
Tucked into the corner was a tiny stage, if something of such a size can realistically be called that. However, it’s not the size but what you do with it that matters, so the old adage goes. First act of the day, LIPA duo The Witty Featherstones made for strange viewing. Chris Mohan, belts out lyrically introspective traditional folk music over a fairly modest selection of chords, whilst Django Holder – son of Noddy Holder, of Slade and ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ fame – acoustically solos and shreds in a manner appeasing to his glam-rock lineage.
An early impresser was next act, local singer/songwriter Eleanor Nelly. Displaying both confidence and maturity, her set featured her own music as well as sublime covers of both ‘’Jolene’’ and ‘’Ho Hey.’’
Upstairs similarly proved to showcase a slew of impressive acts, with Seprona bringing their modest selection of indie gems to the show. There were some technical issues regarding the lead guitar, but the band continued undeterred. With a dreamy mix of hazy guitar tones and commanding drum sets, Seprona did themselves justice, and despite a patchy audience (it was still only around six o’ clock), the local lads can come away proud.
After a good deal of wandering some of our team discovered Sound Food & Drink, one of few venues where no wristband was needed to enter, and the audience appeared to reflect this. Sound boasted an impressively diverse bill and we arrived just in time for opening act, Cheskimo, a bohemian and altogether colourful duo comprised of a percussionist and an auto-harp playing vocalist. Adorned in face paint and bathed in an appropriately resplendent glow, Cheskimo enchanted and at times dazzled with magnetism and idiosyncrasies aplenty. Sophia Ben Yousef also raised some eyebrows, with a stripped back ensemble and some wonderfully impressive tracks including a cover of Drake’s ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’.
For those with an ear which isn’t drawn towards the Freak Folk genre however, Maguire’s Pizza Bar was the place to be. A raucous line-up included Taws, The Hyena Kill and (atlas), all of whom delivered sets packed with distortion and passion in equal measure, complete with an array of ridiculous facial expressions from Taw’s guitarist Sturle Sandvik. However, the surprise set of the night from Maguire’s came courtesy of grunge/punk trio Asterisks. From the high-octane brilliance of their ‘’Hip-Hop’’ cover through to their own furious compositions, most notably ‘’Tell Me Something,’’ they never let up the heat or intensity which accompanied their performance throughout. Expect to hear plenty of these guys over the coming months.
Following this, our arrival at House was somewhat of a relief, as it represented a more refined, less visceral roster of acts. However, it was Deliah who really caught the eyes (and ears) of those attending. Stripping back their usual R’n’B sound for a purely acoustic outing, the band were nonetheless able to give a strong flavour of what has turned them into one of Liverpool’s most enticing prospects over the last few months. A powerful cover of ‘’Feeling Good’’ alongside original material, most notably new track ‘’Any Last Words,’’ meant the band were able to present themselves in an unconventional format but one that certainly showcased them in an extremely positive light.
Having spent the day roaming Liverpool, and arriving in the fairly chilled atmosphere at TheBrink, the team felt they had earned a drink. What we had not learned before arriving there was the glaringly obvious fact – to seemingly everyone but us – that it is a dry venue. The horror.
It’s not all that bad though. By the time we had settled down with energy drinks and tap water, Emilio Pinchi’s set was about to begin. Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Emilio relies solely on captivating songwriting and stirring lyricism to hook his audience. In this, he excels. Equipped with a poignant and unflinchingly honest throng of tracks, Emilio’s vocal alone is enough to inveigle even the most stoical of audiences into an emotional response.
The soulful jazz melodies of Helena Johnson followed. Having seen her perform recently, brass-band, backing vocalists and everything else aplenty, the bare bones take on tracks ‘’No You Didn’t’’ and ‘’Take Me Home Tonight’’ translated impressively well. Though, speaking to her afterwards, she wasn’t so sure – “I bloody hate acoustic sets!” Grace Hartrey closed our trip to The Brink with an undoubtedly catchy yet unnervingly Macabre take on folk-pop.
Despite Oxjam offering many options for evening entertainment, the most obvious lay outside of the city centre, specifically in the BalticTriangle. Greg Wilson was performing as part of his Super Weird Happening tour at Constellations/The Observatory. Encompassing a mix of artistic forms, the set was comprised of a twelve hour (!) event full of talks, DJ’s and live music from Blind Arcade. It brought together various elements in a unique and eclectic fashion, and showcased them as a colourful and lurid celebration. Whether it was Greg DJ’ing to his fervent fans, Kermit Leveridge performing with his new band Blind Arcade, or a range of other artists including Danny Fitzgerald and Derek Kaye, the event set within the timber-laden beauty of Constellations made for a special end to a very special festival.