Festival Review: Ritual Union 2017

Ritual Union 2017

21st October 2017, Oxford

Words: Nick Jacques

Prior to reviewing the brand new 1 day festival Ritual Union I had never been to Oxford so I was really intrigued to see what the music and venues had in-store for me. Wandering through these historical streets paved in prestigious academia, for a moment I forgot I was going to a rock music festival and instead to Hogwarts! I thought Ron Weasley was going to emerge and ask me to play quidditch! Thankfully nothing like this happened and I ended up with a pint of Guinness in the Bullingdon Bar (HQ for the festival) and got going with some serious head-nodding to TRAAMS, the first band I saw.

Their brand of menacing, bass-laden spikey indie rock was fitting for the dimly-lit exterior. The schizoid-like squeals from the singer and the strident bass-line riffs fitted well and they worked their noise with the solid support of their drummer into an impressive controlled frenzy. It was a satisfying start to Ritual Union indeed.

Afterwards we strolled on down to the venue the Truck Store. A cool record shop with a café all in one! And gracing the tiny stage at the time was the Irish folk singer Seamus Foggarty. There was also an impressive accompanying violinist who complemented his charming acoustic finger plucking nicely. Before we knew it, we were back where it all began watching Syd Arthur, whose music reminded me of being in a field on a sunny day and enjoying some psychedelic pop. I think it took a lot of punters to that place too, figuratively . . . . of course.

Then the Mellow Gang conjured up gorgeous shoegaze vibes and had the crowd falling for their cool celestial grooves. An afternoon delight. They’re currently supporting the Vryll Society who were also on the festival bill.

One the positives for the new festival was how close all the venues were to each other. This helped with the clashes on the band schedule as punters could easily pop in and out of all venues and still catch a decent glimpse of a band’s set without missing a great deal of it. Cowley Road itself worked well as a location too as it’s in the student neighbourhood and so there was a good vibrant atmosphere throughout the venues.

Unfortunately I missed a few bands I would have liked to have seen, these being Ulrika Spacek and Flamingods and I didn’t get to watch any acts in the Library venue either as the line-up in O2 Academy was just too god to turn down!

Acts such as Candy Says and Temper Cartel got the evening under way in contrasting but nevertheless pleasing fashion. The combination of synths and percussive instrumentation of Candy Says was a pleasure to watch, even if there issues with the singer’s guitar, they still managed to recover to deliver a memorable impression. The singer was passionate and expressed her opinion during the set which I thought was refreshing to hear.

Next we ventured upstairs to the o2 academy 2 and caught the first band Temper Cartel who provided a much needed wake up to the proceedings. They owned the stage with their confident fusion of funk/indie/rock and their humbleness was also warmly greeted by us and the audience. They definitely are a band who want to make an impression as I noticed later on that some of their fans were trying out new ways of promoting their merchandise with other festival-goers e.g. placing CDs and stickers in hoods, coats etc – albeit cheeky, I thought it was a bit clever too.

After them came The Vryll Society who have been making waves in the industry this year. Having seen them play at the Camden Assembly Hall earlier in the year, I was looking forward to watching them again. They didn’t disappoint. Their tight, ethereal set of Verve-esque atmospherics and the singer’s elegant vocal delivery was great to watch. They are definitely showing signs that they have the tracks to take it to the next level and play in bigger venues. It’s only a matter of time for these guys. The last track Deep Blue Skies was a highlight for me.

Then came TOY – a band which have been leaving audiences enthralled for a god few years now proved with this set that they are still have the knack for hitting the right notes and leaving the audience begging for more! Unfortunately their set, like most of the bands on the programme, were only half an hour so I was only really getting into the groove before they had to finish their set. Still they managed to play the fan favourite Dead and Gone which had several fists pumping with joy and the younger punters doing their Bez skits with pride!

Last but certainly not least, the enigmatic psych Japanese quartet Bo Ningen headlined the stage and they absolutely blew my top off! I was amazed by the wizardry which they performed. The rumbling bass lines, the exceptional lead guitar theatrics and the pin-point precision executed by the whole band. Their singer’s charisma spilled out in spades and I was lapping it up. They left me spellbound and wanting more!

It was an awesome way to finish off Ritual Union and I hope to be returning to these parts again for the next festival they put on!


It was a festival ritual I was more than happy to be apart of!

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