Gathering is a one-day festival featuring over 30 bands at six venues across the Cowley Road area of Oxford. Offering the cream of the indie music scene’s crop, this event provides punters with the opportunity to explore key Oxford venues such as the Bullingdon and the O2 (Zodiak), along with a variety of key emerging artists.
The line-up includes a wide mixture of bands and genres, but the trend that ties most acts together is that they are young, talented and up-and-coming. Bigger acts such as Local Natives and Temples are obviously notable, but it must be said that every band that I personally caught was full of interesting and accomplished musicians, and I enjoyed every performance.
Particularly notable acts included a late night set from the gorgeous Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs, who rounded off the night at about 2am, and Local Natives, who offered a charismatic performance full of polite charm, accompanied by passionate harmonies, vibrant percussion and garishly patterned shirts. The key band of the night though was clearly London Grammar, who are so, like, so hot right now. Huge queues built up in anticipation of the performance, and they were certainly the name on everybody’s lips. Much hype has been building this entire year regarding the band, and they certainly did not disappoint. Lead singer Hannah Reid really captures the attention of the audience, quietly and eerily transfixing the room with her idiosyncratic vocal style. This is accompanied by complex, swirling synth sounds, to create angst-filled anthems riddled with tales of early 20-something uncertainty, which was clearly popular with the crowd.
As with many of these multi-venue festivals, there is however a slight fear of missing out. You cannot get to all the bands you would like to see, and certain stages are running faster than others are, so you might find yourself arriving at the tail end of a set you really wanted to see. The festival also seemed to be severely over-subscribed – queues at the O2 were long, with many punters being denied entry to London Grammar. Even late in the evening, watching The Reun Brothers at 11:30pm, we were crushed into the community centre hall, cheek to jowl with sweaty armpits and drunk festival goers.
This is my second year at Gathering, and I must say that while I have consistently looked forward to this event and am always impressed with the line-up, the event has once again had a number of organisational problems. That the event has been over-subscribed is a significant issue in itself, but this problem has also been badly managed – one-in-one out policies are never good and neither are venues so crowded you are standing far outside the door, trying to get a peek at the act on stage. This type of thing happened at every performance we watched, which was very frustrating. Another problematic element which must be mentioned is the presumption on behalf of the organiser that this is (to paraphrase the League of Gentlemen) a local festival for local people. There was no information on the festival website regarding maps or venue information, or the actual whereabouts of the wristband exchange, and the program map was beyond basic. On a personal level, I may know where all the live venues are, but I certainly do not know where all the churches are, and of course they are never on Apple Maps. Gathering Festival has so much promise, but the organisation of the event seems to continually let it down, and really must be worked on for everyone’s unimpeded future enjoyment of the festival.