Let me tell you a little bit about Hoxton Hall in East London. Firstly it's a charming, unrestored, listed building that's a high-ceilinged, music hall theatre (built in 1863), so it's seen 145 years of historic music. To me, that's pretty exciting; so it was an absolute pleasure to be invited down to see the equally as charming Oxford five-piece Spring Offensive, whose intimate performance to a thoroughly awestruck crowd will stay in my mind as timelessly as the old Victorian stage on which they stood. Spring Offensive also did a great job in selecting some fresh talented artists to come down and open for them. First up was South London’s quirky, humble, home grown one to watch out for, Kimberly Anne - who treated the crowd to a fine selection of what's been dubbed as “afro-folk”. Merging urban and acoustic, Kimberly Anne's rich vocals, cutting melodies and influential lyrics leave you feeling a little bit violated! Next up were self-proclaimed “progressive R'n'B” Oxford four-piece Pet Moon who kept the audience captivated enough with an ambient, synth-pop infused set, that for all intents and purposes did exactly what it said on the tin within its own genre - but received grumblings of being a little bit repetitive from some of the crowd within ear shot of me, and electronics that seemed slightly out of place within the authenticity of the old hall.
It was a moment of pure, unadulterated glee when Spring Offensive took to the stage, wearing what seem to be their trademark outfits of smart shirts and trousers, which wouldn't leave them out of place having Sunday dinner at your nan's, to perform ten top-notch tracks. As the fairy lights that hung above us were finally turned on for the first time that evening I nearly squealed with glee as the set began with chilled and slightly summery, 'Synapse to Synapse' which instantly debuted the sheer emotion and earthly radiance that clearly goes into the band's live performances, where lead singer Lucas Whitworth vocally gives 110% every single time as he stares blankly and disconnectedly into the crowd, seemingly overwhelmed by the music. Not only are these guys talented in an exciting, encapsulating, ethereal sense, their simple yet efficient stage presence is completely mesmerising leaving you wondering what strange voodoo has just occurred. 'No Assets' was next to follow, a plunky, eerie, drippy number full of a darker sort of energy than the previous song. Then by the time 'Ridgefields' and 'The River' were done and dusted the guys were pretty much sweltering under the lights in the very warm hall and Whitworth was sipping water like his life depended on it, still containing a very strange, awkward yet dignified air about his every move! Whitworth then got on the microphone to request the back doors were opened, much to everyone's delight and addressed the audience with “Sweaty people, are you all okay?" receiving much laughter all round.
Up next was clattery, guitar-looped, 'Speak' (currently available as a free download from their SoundCloud page), which was popular with the crowd and received many cheers. Combining elements of electronic, indie, acoustic and folk, these guys really are a master of their craft. 'Carrier' followed, taking a purer acoustic direction, as the guys stood in a line singing perfect, heart-wrenching harmonies of “oh oh oh”. Such an emotional song that is sung so rootedly with so much gusto it contradicts lyrics such as “I feel burnt out, I feel dried up.” Then there was very indie-rock-esque 'Hengelo', a quick shout out and a massive thanks to Kimberly Anne and Pet Moon for sharing the stage with them. Then came Worry Fill My Heart', funky rhythmic guitars, upbeat drumming and the standard pensive vocals and lyrics from Whitworth carried the feel of Bloc Party. Slow-paced, sombre yet atmospheric, '52 Miles' closed the set… but oh wait. As we all looked at each other sad it was over, the crowd began stamping their feet like a stampeded of about five billion elephants shouting for an encore, and out these brilliant men came again to give an absolutely incredible, epic ending to the night with 'Not Drowning But Waving'. Catch Spring Offensive live if you can or forever regret it, because thus far, this has been my favourite gig of the year.
Synapse To Synapse
Worry Fill My Heart
Not Drowning But Waving
Spring Offensive's website
Catch them live:
FRI 12 JUL Leefest 2013, Warlingham, UK
FRI 19 JUL Deer Shed Festival 4 2013, North Yorkshire, UK
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