The event kicked off on Thursday and commenced my adventure at The Latest Bar, one of the key partners in the The alternative and the first band I saw there was the impressive AK/DK which was an great start to the festival. See our review at the Green Door Store for more about them live.
You may be forgiven for thinking a band with the name 'New York Dollies' would be a female cover band of the New York Dolls, well these dollies are much more than that. Yes it is an all female punk cover band… but with a difference! Instead of doing straight punk covers this is much more in the vein of Nouvelle Vague or Dread Zeppelin, bands who mash different styles together. New York Dollies do punk covers in '1950s style close harmony', with a lot of humour thrown in, think of bubble-gum pop with lots of do-be-do-wop, sha-la-la's and the like. With each of the dollies dressed in bold 50's primary colours they certainly look the part on stage.
The festival kicks off at midday but the first band I managed to see was not till 2pm. Well I say 2pm but it was closer to half past by the time they started paying as they were plagued with technical difficulties. First up was 'grasshopper', a band I had heard a lot of good things about. I was not disappointed. Although all the members of the band look too young to be in a pub, they put on a solid competent show at The Seven Stars. Last time I saw a band there the stage was on the raised area at the back of the pub. Today they had the bands playing at the front which I thought worked better. The band's music is reminiscent of the 80's/90's Goth/Rock sound but has a nice laid back quality that makes it very easy to listen to. Certainly a group of musicians to keep an eye on as they develop.
When Grasshopper had finished I headed down to the Oxjam hub in the Brighton Dome Theatre Cafe as I was running late and had not picked up my wristband yet. I was pleasantly surprised by 'Bella Kardasis' who was there playing instrumental tracks on her acoustic guitar. She used the guitar to its fullest providing interesting melodies, harmonies and percussion. The music has a nice melodic rambling style and kept me captivated for a few tracks although there was a lot of background noise as it was also where people were picking up their wristbands and chatting. So after a few songs I headed of to the next location but I'll be keeping an eye out for the next time Bella plays and will try to catch her in a better venue.
Next up was the impressively named 'Supermega Schwarzenegger' at the equally noisy Moksha caffé. They are usually a duo but unfortunately the venue was only set up for solo acts so Oliver Croome mainly played solo, though his partner Benny Brooke also joined in for one song. The music sounded ok though it was not easy to hear over the hustle and bustle of the cafe. Sort of laid back rhythmic songs with a hint of rockabilly and a little splash of country in there.
After a short break to grab some food and recharge my batteries I started the evening session with the most bizarre band of the day. 'Laboratoro' at the venue 10 below, which is below The Smugglers pub. The performance included one person producing strange audio accompaniment from a laptop while another was doing a spoken/shouting vocal performance. A very avant-garde performance, it did hold the attention but after a few tracks I needed a break and headed down the road to see what was on at The Seven Stars.
There I stumbled upon 'Nova State' who was an interesting band with that 90's US collage rock sound. For a couple of tracks they switch instruments where the bass player went on the drums, the singer/guitarist picked up the bass and the drummer went onto vocals/guitar. Which gave them a different sound for a couple of tracks before switching back. So it was like seeing two bands for the price of one.
Next I headed back to 10 below to catch 'Wolf Lung' who had impressed me when I saw him a few months ago. I was pleased to see he was even tighter now and even had a few new tracks. It's a very bluesy sound but sung with real passion. Screaming into the microphone from time to time. The original tracks have a nice flow to them with dark interesting lyrics that draw you in often with a dose of cynicism. These are played alongside a handful of cover songs, like David Bowie or Tom Waits, which sat well alongside the original tracks.
For the final band of the night I dashed through the pouring rain to The Hobgoblin to see 'Fragile Creatures', a band I've seen many times before. This set was quite different to usual, as they were also playing the night before at The Komedia where they mainly did their slower songs and the faster more upbeat songs this night. Which was a good call as the crowd soon got into the swing and the band kept them dancing the whole night long. Fragile Creatures are a hard band to describe, ask a dozen people who they sound like and you will get a dozen different answers. There is a bit of 70's rock in there, a bit of 80's pop and a good dose of 90's Britpop all blended together in a way that just works. They put on a good show and it was a nice way to finish of a long day of music.
Over all the Oxjam event is a good idea and a great place to check out some of the local bands around although the organisation seems all a bit last minute and a bit amateur at times. Whether you settle down at one of the venues and watch the bands there or tear around town from venue to venue I'm sure it won't be hard to found something you like. Let's hope it happens again next year, after all it is for a good cause.