I played twice at Wadstock: once near the beginning, and once at the end. With the memory of the after-dark performance fresh in my mind, I can’t help but imbue the earlier gig with memories of sunshine, warmth, comfort, blue skies, warmth, and above all, sunshine. However, here it’s important to do what we all should do when using words we’re not entirely confident about, and look them up. The first definition the OED gives for ‘imbue’ is: ‘to saturate, wet thoroughly.’ Wadstock is a unique festival, in that it has managed to rain 5 out of the last 6 years. At a gig where rain is invariably more constant than the audience, some people might think, what’s the point? In the end though it’s the atmosphere, it’s the spirit, which makes Wadstock great. In an age where you can’t say ‘I’m all about free love, and shit’ without it being auto-tuned, Wadstock may be the last great bastion of the hippie world – a new, improved and, above all, less attention-seeking Woodstock.
This Saturday week saw Wadham gardens open up to the joys of April Showers, festival wellies and the great and the good of Oxford’s student music scene. Poncho-clad students spent the day drinking Pimm’s whilst being entertained at the college’s annual day-long music extravaganza which played host to all types of local talent, from music, to performance poetry, improvisational comedy and everything in between. This, in true Wadham style, included space-pirate storytellers that interjected their epic cosmic tales with glorious bouts of stringy folk. Anyone suffering from the chill of wind and rain was warmed up by some mid-afternoon SOUP (the Society of Oxford Ukulele Players). Finally, for everyone who had managed not to let 12 hours of leisurely drinking get to them, the headliners – Oxford’s favourite funk band Dot’s Funk Odyssey (DFO) – got the whole crowd dancing to upbeat classics, including a fabulous and unmatched rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ by DFO member, and Oxford’s number one soul man, Andrew McCormack. DFO drew the entire event to an magnificent climax with their version of the Specials’ ‘Nelson Mandela’, Wadham’s end of bop anthem. Whilst it may not have been a day for getting to work on that Trinity tan, everyone had a great time, with the weather just making the Woodstock theme seem all the more appropriate.
The plan for Wadstock was Pimm’s. Barrels and barrels of the stuff, brewed in the way only Wadham knows how (but still tasting uncannily like the real thing). Even Sex on the Beach was mixed up. The whole of the Wadham back garden was visualised as a beautiful sunset with exotic cocktails, warm weather and sweet funk. Oh how this was not to be the case. The Pimm’s and the Sex on the Beach proved to be useful tools for the imagination of the spectators (even if the clientele were very specific about not wanting any ice given the cold; understandable but still frustrating given that resulted in a much higher alcohol consumption per glass), but the weather meant that it was the hardy Celtic Six, and the dour Long Island Ice Tea that seemed the most weather appropriate. The unmitigated disaster of the drinks was my own invention; a cocktail dedicated to the previous Bar Secretary which contained litre after litre of lime juice diluted by lemonade (a not very inventive attempt at a Kamikaze). The former Bar Secretary was offended because he was approached by so many unhappy customers castigating it in front of him, and the next day I was blamed for causing ulcers across College by a medicine student.
The pick of the pack to put on your playlist. If you’re looking for good student music, then these are the guys to watch:
“Manatees are the best aquatic mammals and not just a really good band” claims Jamie Cruickshank, the brilliant banjo-player that strums along to fellow Manatees’ member Sarah Thewlis’ sweet, sweet chirrups. If you like a spring in your easy-going step and thoughts of playful laziness in the afternoon sun, then you should get listening to this mellow folkiness.
Catch them: You can catch the manatees at The Cellar on May 13th alongside Marvellous Medicine and St Hilda’s Jack and the Beanstalks. All profits go to Travelaid: China 2012.
A two-piece whose electronic music warps and wraps around the air. Combining guitar and keyboard with computer wizardry, these two boys produce a sound as slick and slippery as their namesake.
Catch them: If you want to witness these mellow maestros then visit The Cellar on May 27th. Rainbow Shark will be teaming up with Dad Rocks, Robots with Soul and Count Drachma in a special show for Somerville Arts Week.
When you think rapper, do you think of a white, hipster Oxonian English student? You should. Marvellous Medicine go down cooler and smoother than a big sweet spoon of Calpol.
Catch them: Catch Marvellous Medicine at the Wheatsheaf on May 18th alongside super student funk rock band Crisis, What Crisis?
Regulars at The Cricketer’s Arms on Iffley Road, this four-piece band brings together classic guitar lines with haunting blasts of trumpet, and contrast cutting, caustic vocals from Dan Nicholls with the haunting notes and whoops of trumpeter Emily Norris.
Catch them: Tanuki Suit can be caught playing on May 7th at Port Mahon alongside fellow Wadstock performers Government Man, as well as acts Camena and Midnight Blink.
Jack Powell and James Pullinger