Oxford has long been a breeding ground for exciting new music and the city prides itself on its rich musical heritage. Its credits include Foals, Radiohead, Stornoway and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, to name just a few. Tonight’s performance goes to show that Spring Offensive are clearly one of the best new bands to come out of the city and will be added to Oxford’s hall of fame.
St Pancras Old Church provides a stunning setting for tonight’s gig and one that suits Spring Offensive’s sound perfectly. Following a captivating and refreshingly original support set from fellow Oxfordians, Count Drachma, the headliners are ready to take the stage.
Dressed in shirts and smart sweater vests, in classic Spring Offensive style, the boys look as though they’ve come straight from the office. They open the intimate set with their latest single ‘Not Drowning But Waving’. Its dark narrative fuels the tension that the band create and frontman, Lucas Whitworth’s, fixated, vacant gaze adds to the stirring energy coming from the stage. They powerfully end the track without any mics, chanting the mantra-like lyric “I will be blamed for this”.
Spring Offensive manage to convey such emotion in their performance it’s impossible not to connect with their music - and not to liken them to recent breakthrough, and Sony-signed artists, Dry the River. Whitworth, himself, is also intriguing. He has an air of awkwardness about him, yet his enviable voice seems to flow from him with such ease.
Continuing along the water theme, Spring Offensive play out a rousing version of ‘I Found Myself Smiling’. The jolt of the rhythm is entrancing, coupled with menacing guitar riffs and bitter lyrics it’s impossible not to be swept along with the dark tone, “As the water rose around my knees, I found myself smiling”.
Perhaps it’s the setting but new, acoustic track ‘Red Oak’ seems to have a strangely Christmassy feel to it as the boys’ gentle harmonies fill the room with warmth. Whitworth announces that they’re going to “make use of the acoustics” and the band files down off the stage. To their credit, the impressively attentive crowd falls absolutely silent as they arrange themselves around the band members. ‘Carrier’ begins with just the aid of an acoustic guitar and the atmosphere becomes so delicate and beautiful that it’s breathtaking. The church setting couldn’t be more perfect for this staple-moment as the intricate decor is illuminated by soft candlelight and each individual voice resonates around the building.
The guitars bounce, the drums pace and “Oh me, oh my” fills the room. ‘Worry Fill My Heart’ re-awakens the crowd and is followed with the atmospheric ‘52 Miles’.
At times it’s frustrating to see the band’s seemingly formulaic approach to songwriting. The same elements appear time and time again, which has led to the tension/release technique becoming their signature style. Despite this, each track still evokes such a strong emotional response and has a clear narrative that they manage to find their own identity. And hey, if it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it.
Words by Sarah Williams
Photo by Alexa Gibben