Described by John Peel in 1997 as ‘the very heart of Oxford’s music scene’, the Cowley Road has links with all the great bands that have come out of Oxford. The video for Radiohead’s first single (Creep) was filmed in the Zodiac (now known as the O2 Academy). Supergrass recorded their earliest single, ‘Caught by the Fuzz’, in the nearby bedroom of a friend, while two songs on their debut album (‘Strange Ones’ and ‘I’d Like to Know’) were inspired by the area.
Today it’s arguably the most cosmopolitan part of town; the one place which truly has the feel of a modern city, where the streets are not deserted past bed-time, where you can find a Polish produce shop (what English city is complete without a Polski sklep?), where the bells of Christ Church are (almost) out of earshot.
‘We’ve wanted to bring that SXSW vibe to our home town for ages – and now we have. We’re really excited about showing off just what the Cowley Road has to offer, and although it’s indoors, feel free to wear your wellies and get into that festival mood,’ says Robin Bennett, festival organiser.
And so it is that brothers Joe and Robin Bennett, the folks behind local festivals Truck and Wood, have teamed up with Oxford music promoters YouMeDancing! to honour and celebrate this most creative part of the city’s landscape.
On Saturday 10th October (the end of 0th week) OX4 will be taking residence at ten venues up, down, and just off the Cowley Road, from the Academy to G&D’s.
Anyone familiar with Truck, Wood or any of the other festivals put on by these guys will know to expect a whole assortment of events. OX4 Festival goers can confidently expect to get more than just music for their money. Expect anything and everything from music to comedy, workshops and debates.
Truck (pictured above) has come a long way in its eleven year history but remains unique and completely independent. Bands like Ash and The Lemonheads play alongside old timers like Damo Suzuki (of 70s krautrockers Can) and Garth and Maud Hudson (Garth having played organ for The Band). The main stage is still the back of a truck and the vicar still sells his homemade ice-cream.
Wood – a springtime eco-festival that’s been going only two years – is equally distinctive. Amongst its wonderful quirks are bicycle-powered discos, the biogesic pleasure domes, the make-shift loos, and, of course, the eco-friendly structures, including the entirely wooden main stage.
Less well publicised, though no less noteworthy, are the wild nights the Bennett brothers have occasionally staged at the Working Men’s Club in Wallingford, a picturesque Thames-side market town just half-an-hour’s bus ride outside Oxford.
The whole town shows up to get their faces painted and listen to live music , with a backdrop of classic movie clips – I’ve seen people go crazy over cheese auctions there.
OX4 looks set to fit right into Truck’s repertoire, with music of all different genres as well as an array of other cultural entertainment events and activities. Hammer & Tongue will be hosting a poetry slam (12.00-5.00 at G&D’s). Catweazle Club – an open mic event where anything goes – will be running in its usual location of the East Oxford Community Centre (7.00-10.00). There’ll be comedy in the form of ‘The Free Beer Show’, and creative workshops such as ‘Write a Film Script’, and ‘Design the Next Magic Numbers LP’ will be happening at various points during the day.
In the spirit of creativity and independence, OX4 is also the launch for Oxford’s first Un-Convention (a music industry event – see over the page for more details). Oxon Carts will also be on hand to rickshaw you about between the attractions.
‘Hard partying’ will bring the festival to a close. An OX4 ticket (priced at £15, or £12 if you’re under 18) gets you into Transformation at the Academy, where Trashy and Room 101 will also be happening. Alternatively, there’ll be reggae at the East Oxford Community Centre, or electro at Baby Simple.