Monday 30 September 2019

LIVE: Sofar Sounds Oxford at The Rowing Club Bar & Cafe (24/9/19)

For the three years that I studied in Oxford from 2014 to 2017 one of my favourite things to do was helping out at Sofar Sounds shows in the city. I started volunteering as a photographer at the shows a couple of months after moving there and got to see lots of brilliant artists in various intimate (and often bizarre) venues around the city - a bicycle cafe, an independent cinema, a museum and an art gallery to name a few. I had some time off work last week and headed back to Oxford for the first time in a couple of years. It was really great to be back in the city and luckily my trip coincided with a Sofar - it was a treat to be back!

China Bears

If Sofar Sounds is new to you - they're an organisation run mostly by volunteers, curating live music events in over 400 cities around the world. Originally set up to combat the issue of people talking around you and using phones etc at gigs, they create an environment for people to sit and discover new artists away from distractions. As the line-up and venue aren't announced until close to the show, there is an element of mystery and the opportunity to discover something new - it's a real joy to be part of! 

Tuesday's show took place at the Rowing Club Bar & Cafe at the City of Oxford Rowing Club, overlooking the Thames. I took a beautiful walk along the river from the centre of town to get to it. It was great to be reunited with my friends on the Sofar crew, as well as to meet some of the new volunteers and we had four brilliant artists on the line-up.

Opening up the show, it was a real pleasure to catch local (ish) guys China Bears playing their first ever Oxford show. I blogged about a couple of their songs recently and I'm really enjoying their debut EP I've Never Met Anyone Like You which was released via Fierce Panda Records back in August. Giving us a stripped back set showcasing their honest songwriting and indie influences it was a really fun way to open the show, and really sweet to meet the guys after the show. They're fans of the blog so I may be a little biased towards them... here's a video of them performing the EP title track from a Sofar London show!

Next up and hailing from Vancouver were duo Momento. I'm a fan of a violin at a gig, but what's better than one violin on stage? Two violins! Though their live set is now more electric in nature, they offered us a stripped back set (because they couldn't carry all the extra kit on the train, I think) covering popular tracks. Their immense talent and stage presence was obvious immediately and they very quickly got the audience on side - it was a really typical Sofar set, something that you might not expect and might not have usually gone to see, but which everybody seemed to love. Watch a cover of The KillersMr Brightside below!

Having travelled down from a show in York the night before especially for the night, next up was Sofar veteran Kim Logan. She's played lots (upwards of 70, I think?) Sofar shows and helps curate Sofar Paris as she currently lives between New York and Paris. Also (do you sense a theme?!) delivering a stripped back set and promising that her usual show was a full band rock affair, Kim sang a set of country and blues infused acoustic tunes. There's a video from Sofar Long Island below, featuring live dancing. Very Sofar.

Last up and after a long day exploring the gorgeous museums that Oxford has to offer, the lively set I needed to wake me up - Oxford favourites of mine, Little Brother Eli. It was the third Sofar I've seen the guys at, and my ninth time seeing them in total. I'll never tire of the infectious energy of frontman Alex Grew and his impressively broad vocal range, while backing him up, Josh Rigal and Adam Stowe offered superb musicianship and lovely harmonies. They're a well oiled machine and a local favourite and you can catch them playing at the O2 Academy Oxford for their Christmas gig on 21st December (tickets.)

Overall it was a really lovely show and is one of my favourite ways to experience live music - a really calm and inclusive environment where you're likely to leave the show having seen something you didn't expect, and lots that you loved. Long may shows like Sofar Sounds continue - I think it is clear that fans and artists alike love these shows! Check out the Sofar website here to see if there are shows happening close to you and take a chance on an evening of music discovery - you won't regret it!

Follow China Bears - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Follow Momento - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Follow Kim Logan - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Follow Little Brother Eli - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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