The Oxford Punt

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Review by Ed Dyer AKA Gig Monkey

One of my highlights of last year was The Punt, so I jumped at the chance to join in with Oxford’s annual venue crawl of local musical high-lights. And I do mean I actually jumped. But, would 2015’s Punt live up to it’s predecessor?

For Team Ocelot this year’s Punt extravaganza started at The Purple Turtle with a wee taste of The Shapes, their blend of pop, rock and R ‘n’ B reminding me somewhat of the Beautiful South. Fun, upbeat and a nice way of easing into the night, but we had other artists we wanted to see so sprinted over to Turl Street Kitchen where we  were lucky enough to catch most of My Crooked Teeth. Beautifully suited to this cosy, intimate space, ToLiesel frontman Jack Olachawski’s Americana tinted rootsy music flowed beautifully under highly intelligent lyrics of hearbreak and adventure. The packed room loved it, I loved it, and I shall be checking out some more of this guy’s solo and band stuff.

The one band on the bill I had seen before were Indica Blues (see last month), and I had a hankering to check them out again, so back to the Turtle and their lack of decent beer it was. Playing in what is basically a hole in the ground really does suit this band and their cavernous sound, the sludgy, heavy as hell riffs sounding majestic in the tight space. Although, amusingly, the brightness of that damn white light in the middle of the room was emphasised by the ridiculous sight of a girl in sunglasses, underground. Yeah, really.

After this sonic assault we swapped venues to catch some of Peerless Pirates next door in The Cellar Bar, who I have to say were damn good fun. Their upbeat, groovy shanty rock got the fancy-dressed front row jigging along and it was hard not to join in, the tunes proving as infectious as herpes, but a whole load more fun.

Things had been good up to this point, maybe not as exciting as last year had been, but as the crowds ebbed and flowed with people moving around the venues; full rooms emptying at weird times and vice-versa. Moving over to The Wheatsheaf (which for our visit last year had been one of the more empty venues at the time) things suddenly seemed to click into place. We arrived to a room only a third full, grabbed some drinks and pondered if it was going to be like last year and stay like this. Needless to say, it didn’t.

We had gone to check out Little Brother Eli, intrigued by the promise of amped up blues on steroids, a promise that was kept in some style as they rocked through a blistering set of tunes that sounded more accustomed to the dingiest of back street bars in Memphis.’ Whats more, they played this set to a room packed to the rafters and totally rocking out as everyone Punting seemed to have snuck in behind us quietly all at once.

The atmosphere was so electric we decided to hang around and see what Maiians had to offer, and whether the sharp U-turn in musical style would affect things negatively. It didn’t, if anything more people seemed to arrive to throw some complex geometric shapes to the searing electro-groove of this twin drum dance monster of a band. Exhibiting some seriously clever synthy atmospherics that lead into bass and drum driven grooves that even Nile Rogers would be proud of the band proceed to blow my brain halfway down the High Street. Trippy, funky and huge all at the same time, this is a live act you really need to see.

It was at this point, due to the realities of day jobs and the fact that I had to go and retrieve my brain from somewhere out towards Cowley Road, that we had to call it quits. So apologies to those at The White rabbit for not getting up to you. But for me, Punt 2015 was a belter, and for this year, The Wheatsheaf was where it was at.

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