Having not heard of Oxjam before this year, I was pretty excited to see what it was all about. In essence, it’s a pub crawl/gig crossover where bands and DJs play at five venues spanning New Cross and Deptford from 5pm-3am. Despite only recognising a few names on the bill, it was a good chance to see various local talent and support some independent venues in the process.
Beginning at New Cross Inn, we managed to catch South-East London natives Danny and the Moonlighters. Looking like an Arcade Fire tribute band, the multiple vocalists and instruments were making the most of the limited stage space. Their catchy, upbeat, 1950s inspired indie-rock made sure the night got off to a good start. Unfortunately, the lack of a real dance floor in the Inn became more noticeable as people danced around wooden benches and stools, making for some interesting entertainment. Although the price of drinks in the Inn isn’t exactly easy on the wallet, the mix of students and locals, plus the convenience of the location for anyone in halls, more than makes up for this.
Afterwards, we made our way to the much-loved student centre that is the Amersham Arms. It is during the move from one venue to another that you realise how centralised everything in New Cross is, setting it apart from a night in central London where you could be wandering for miles in search of the perfect locale. It is easy to believe that the Amersham is a small venue, that is until you stagger through the crowded front bar (inevitably standing on multiple people’s feet) and enter the spacious back room. Upon arrival there, DJ Hollydale was doing his best to entertain the meagre crowd; regrettably, though, he was having difficulty. With Oxjam-goers clearly wanting something more than the mildly up-tempo beats he was spinning, it was almost a relief when bretonLABS took over. Technically this was just one member – Ryan McClarnon – of the London based five-piece band Breton. The band started out as a self-dubbed “multimedia artist collective”, making various forms of media including music and film from a disused Natwest building in nearby Elephant and Castle; however, they have also been equally successful under their DJ moniker, having done remixes for the likes of Alt-J, Local Natives and Lana Del Rey. The Amersham was therefore in good hands, and McClarnon’s skilful mixing of electro and dance tunes garnered a large crowd.
Finding it difficult to leave Amersham after such a brilliant set (although that may have been the fault of the alcohol) we headed over to Deptford Bunker to fill the remainder of the night with sets from Deptford does… DJs. Although initially sceptical about the proximity of this venue to the others on the list, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was less than 10 minutes away, just a quick walk down New Cross Road. An hour of mixed nineties/early noughties dance and R&B ensured the night ended on a superb – if rather hazy – note.
Despite venues being extremely well situated for this kind of one-night festival, it is the sheer choice of gigs on offer that are Oxjam’s downfall. Sadly, we only managed to visit three out of the five venues that took part in the festival, and sampled an even smaller percentage of the actual bands and DJs that were playing. However, judging by the talent of those that we did see I think I can safely say that wherever you might have ended up, Oxjam would have been a night to remember.