Started in the summer of 2006 by an assorted jumble of Mumford and Sons’ mates and hanger-ons, Communion’s Oxford franchise is more or less exactly what you’d expect. Having moved above ground from the Cellar to the Jericho Tavern, the set is largely banjo and acoustic guitar driven, for a crowd who are largely ex-Etonian (or hoping to marry one). A night for fans of Nick Drake, James McMorrow and the Arcade Fire.
This isn’t necessarily such a losing combination, though. Sunday’s evening featured a mixed (though consistently very pleasant) set of Josh Flowers, Amber States and Oxford-local Will Maule, with cherry-on-the-top headliner King Charles. The set risks being a little samey, but this is testament to the fact that all of the above are just quite good at what they do. It feels painfully ‘indie’ at times – I almost wondered whether novelty knitwear was an entry requirement. The atmosphere is gentle, though, with ample volume control for polite conversation, and the location a well chosen one. Think squishy sofas, no limit for cards at the bar, and lots of cool kids looking smiley.
While I enjoyed the line-up (particularly Mr. Maule, who played a solid and enthusiastic set to only a few of us needy early arrivers), like almost everyone else, I’d come for King Charles. The Tavern is small enough that he spent most of the hours leading up to his performance loitering by the bar with feline grace. At quarter to eleven, he made for the stage, and played a charming half-hour acoustic set. An especial highlight was ‘Love Lust’, which unsurprisingly turned into a bit of a sing-along. Solid vocals; pleasant guitar work; whimsical lyrics (something about someone being the prickliest pear): plenty to like here. Though length evidently isn’t everything, I do wish he’d hung around, playing more lovely music for just a little bit longer.