Sometimes a little bit of jolty folk is just the ticket. An hour before they’re due onstage at the Bullingdon just down the road, Kent five-piece Keston Cobblers Club take to the stage in Oxford’s finest record treasure trove, Truck Store. Or, rather, they tuck themselves into the corner without mics and stomp and laugh their way through a short, sweet and very cosy set of acoustic numbers.
Laden with a limited drum kit (read: a sole snare), acoustic guitar and ukulele, the band could have been any ramshackle group of musicians pushed into this civilised setting of sofas and coffees amongst stacks of vinyl. But their somewhat alternative instrumentation adds an unforeseen flair: bass lines are taken up not by a typical string bass, but by tuba-playing Bethan Ecclestone, adding a depth and surprising bounciness to their buoyant, swelling folk-pop.
Covering Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ is a modern nod towards the folk tradition of sharing and re-playing songs. Sibling singers Matt and Julia Lowe’s harmonies burst through one another’s melody lines on this track, and castanets begin to get a-thumping.
Latest single ‘Win Again’ closes the set. Its lush syncopated vocal lines lead up to the dramatic, if slightly obvious, compound of ‘oohs’ as the harmonies now become four-part and really take centre stage. The close proximity yet stark deftness of these vocals is not to be messed with.
Brightly coloured children’s bells set next to a pineapple-shaped maraca highlight the crux of this band’s charm: yes, their folk-pop is easily-listenable, with catchy riffs and gorgeous swooping melodies. But they’re a folk band – they play music for fun. And through this pounding percussion and these raucous tunes, Keston Cobblers Club take the Oxford crowd far away from the corner of a record shop on a rainy November evening, and back to the Kentish tavern and the local fiddler-come-cobbler from whom the band get their truly folksy name.