It was a Saturday; the sun was shining gloriously and the spires were dreamy as ever. The people of Oxford already had very little to complain about, but then along came Gathering festival which really made sure they had no reason to grumble. With a plethora of the most exciting names in music from Local Natives to Chloe Höwl dotted across the famous Cowley Road, there really was something for everyone. Judging from the positive vibes radiating out of various coffee shops, record stores and impromptu venues, it seems like everyone got something. Highlights of the day ranged from super-intimate acoustic sets to blow-out performances from the night’s headliners. First up was Fyfe who managed to attract a capacity sized crowd in Oxford’s favourite record retailer: Truck Store. Smashing out a string of subtle ballads with forlorn and meandering melodies that drifted effortlessly over the smitten crowd, the performance culminated in his spellbinding single, Solace. Mt. Wolf were a powerful presence in Iffley Road’s St. John the Evangelist Church. Bathed in red light, they filled the unconventional space excellently, and as the day wore on things continued to heat up even further. Wolf Alice and Drenge with their high expectations washing beneath them both lived up to their hype and packed a heavy punch with their intensely loud and charismatic presence. However, the highlight of the festival had to be from none other than the Californian melody makers Local Natives. They killed it with a set that showcased both the maturity of Hummingbird and the frenetic energy that they’ve maintained since their earliest shows. Their gig came to a stirring climax for the emotionally charged ‘Columbia’ as the crowd began to sentimentally embrace each other and passionately cry out the lyrics “am I giving enough?” The night concluded on a jubilantly high note as Brummie boys Troumaca treated the groove hungry Oxfordians to bass heavy beats and tonalities that were as tropical as slurping milk straight out of the coconut.
There may be something surreal about walking past Temples on your way to grab a katsu curry from your local Pan-Asian restaurant on Cowley Road, but that is precisely the charm of Gathering. For one day the familiar becomes unfamiliar, and around every corner can be found a pop-up show or ‘that guy from Spring Offensive getting a coffee’. Making the most of the perma-party location that is Cowley Road, Gathering had a real sense of community about it – for a fleeting moment likeminded music lovers from across the city congregated to dance, drink and appreciate great music. In only its second year Gathering has already demonstrated its prowess in hosting a party even Gatsby might feel a little jealous of. Our fingers are now tightly crossed in the hope that next year can deliver the same wild, electric buzz.