Ritual Union Festival – O2 Academy, Oxford

Saturday 20th October, 2018

Another chance to see Gaz Coombes, plus Nadine Shah and Ghostpoet. Well, I wasn’t going to turn that down was I? In lovely Oxford, at the O2 on the Cowley Road. Yes please.

I was supposed to be photographing again, but in a spectacular fail, I left the camera battery in Bristol and didn’t realise until 20 minutes before I was about to start. Despite all the other photographers being really kind, no-one had a spare that would fit my Nikon. I vainly went into the pit for Nadine Shah with my phone, figured I had nothing to lose in trying!

I had to watch the rest of her set from right at the back as the place was packed (being a Mercury nominee clearly makes you a draw) and the sound wasn’t great. This venue has odd acoustics and sound (it’s a chain place, they are more interested in making you pay over the odds for a beer) which is a shame as I really like Nadine’s stuff. It was hard to make a judgement on her performance when I couldn’t hear her well and could barely see the stage. I could make out the passion in her voice, I respect this woman and what she stands for.

I then lost my jacket. The recently purchased, vintage satin bomber jacket with the beaded sleeves that I love. So I wasn’t having a great night. I made my way to the front for Ghostpoet anyway, hoping to stay there for Gaz and salvage something of the night. I’m glad I did because I really liked his set. It got stronger as it went on and the later tracks were better for me (again, the sound wasn’t great) and a tipsy Nadine Shah came into the photo pit right in front of me and we had a chat. She took a selfie with me, which I am sure she will be bemused by now! It was so lovely to see her being a fan. To see an artist you admire loving the music as much as you. Pretty ace.

Julia Happy Cakes came to find me between sets and it was really lovely to see her. Enthusiastic, passionate people are always welcome to be my friend. Plus she makes awesome cakes. Who wouldn’t want know someone like that?

The major benefit of forgetting the battery was that I got to purely be a fan for tonight’s Gaz gig. I got to stand in the front row and simply get lost in the music and nothing else. I got to actually enjoy Hot Fruit, instead of chasing the lighting and photo opportunity and it’s a corker of a tune. Filthy mind, but a cracking song. The sound was much better for Gaz, this is a difficult venue to get good sound in, so well done crew.

It was a similar set to the night before, with the addition of The Oaks, which is another one that usually makes me cry. The plaintive howling of the chorus is beautiful. I don’t mention how good Gaz’s voice is often enough, he is a great singer on top of everything else.

Nadine was still there in front of me, along with some mates and one of the festival organisers who had tried to help me rescue the camera situation earlier on. She asked how I was doing and I said I was sad but still having a great time, as I am such a huge fan of Gaz’s music, “oh, I’m so pleased you are having a good time. You can watch from the pit if you would like” which is how I ended up watching the end of Gaz’s set sat in the press pit with Nadine Shah! Which is one of those moments I will never forget. It was surreal and thrilling. To be so close, no barrier, and have the music drive through me like a wild horse was just incredible. I may have been sat down but there was no way I wasn’t going to move and dance like a possessed banshee. There may have been air drumming, shoulder shimmies and what I was doing to make my neck hurt this much I do not know. Frankly I don’t fucking care. I got to be a fan and then I got to be in that amazing, fantastic and brilliant position at the end.

There was no way it could have been as good as Cardiff had been, but it was a memorable night all the same.

Thank you Ritual Union for a well put together event, run by people who clearly care. Thank you Gaz, band and crew once again for making my little holiday from real life so special.


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