Festival Review: If Not Now, When? at East Oxford Community Centre ft. Martha, Pet Crow, Leggy, Nervous Twitch, Chorusgirl, Secret Power, Junk Whale, George Crowley + Limpet Space Race

If Not Now, When? has established itself as an unmissable DIY one-day fest on the UK’s indie festival map. The brainchild of Oxford promoters Divine Schism and Idiot King, this year’s #INNW is bigger, louder and more fun than ever with headliners including Martha and Pile, and gems like Leggy, Chorusgirl, Nervous Twitch and Secret Power amongst others scattered through the line-up.

The last rays of summer sunshine warming our faces, we arrive at East Oxford Community Centre, a rare find among venues. Its rustic and rugged and an old primary school feel forms a perfect setting for an independently run event with buckets of love and passion from everyone involved. Eager to explore, we stumble upon our favourite stage of the fest, The Chris Roe-French Stage, in that moment taken over by Oxford locals Limpet Space Race, who steal our hearts and turn out to be the highlight of our afternoon with the experimental sounds of hand-made instruments woven into a fabric of sweet pop melodies and layered, synth lead basslines.

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We hang around the Chris Roe-French Stage for a while, captured by its cosy setting, old patterned carpets and dusty frames with the sun slowly pouring in only half lighting the room, to catch a beautifully intimate show from George Crowley. Cowley’s music brings to mind all your favourite jazz-lead 60s European soundtracks like an enchanting time capsule into the classic jazz romance. Cowley himself is a one man jazz multi-instrumentalist and composer, on this dreamy Saturday afternoon delivering a set that’s unique, charming, intriguing and stands out with its slowly built jazz numbers.

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The day is packed with excellence and as we run between stages, we make sure to catch a glimpse of the fantastic Junk Whale, a fuzzy pop rock quartet bursting with energy and catchy pop choruses. The three stage set up is brilliantly arranged and taken care of with this extensive and impressive line-up scheduled so that, if not delayed by bar offerings or delicious vegan food on site, it’s possible to feast your ears on everyone #INNW has on offer. Secret Power lure us in from a little break with their post-punk soul goodness. They’re instantaneously charming and fun, taking us along on the ride of harmonious vocals and soothing drum beats.

With the Glasshouse Stage full to the brim, Chorusgirl deliver their fantastic guitar dream pop and jangly guitars with an energy that’s electric and infective and the vocals that I have fallen in love with every time since I first heard them in 2014. They also manage to cover Kraftwerk’s classic ‘Neon Lights’ in a way that clamps my heart and bursts it into little pieces, landing on a list of personal favourite covers of all time. I haven’t got much time to recover before punk sweethearts Nervous Twitch take to the stage and sweep the room with their punchy Ramones beats mixed with surf melodies, leaving wide smiles across all faces and feet sore from dancing.

Back at Community Stage, hailing all the way from Cinccinnati, Ohio and having just rocked Highbury’s Garage at the most brilliant Spook School farewell, Leggy take Oxford by storm. The trio are a brilliant ball of ripping lead guitars, surf and garage influences all drowned in an absolute powerhouse of vocals. Pet Crow pick up our happy, punked out pieces, whirlwind us into their infectious blend of new wave, garage and surf pop and spit us all out into the dark, starry night to cool down and process all of today’s brilliance.

Anticipation builds as Martha step on the stage and start tonight’s last musical feast. All our hearts erupt with the first drum beat, bodies ready to jump and throats starting to sing. The “queer, straight-edge, vegan and anarchist” quarter from Durham have been in everyone’s heads and hearts ever since their debut Courting Strong and it’s such a pleasure to see them storming through the set with excitement and joy of the newcomers. With a mix of the new songs and absolute indie anthems, Martha command the crowd with ease, love and the punk dream we’re all in for the duration of the set.

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As we walk out into the bustling Cowley Road, Martha still ringing in our ears, we wish there was a second and a third day to #INNW and we let ourselves wonder just how utterly nice it would be to exist at the East Oxford Community Centre and within the spirit of the DIY party for just a little bit longer. If Not Now, When? – grow bigger and grow stronger! We already can’t wait to be back next year.

Review and Photography by Anna Siemaczko
facebook.com/ifnotnowhenoxford

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