All of us here at Daily Info were devastated to see The Cellar close after so many years as a stalwart of the local music scene. We hope that all the gig-goers among you are keen to get behind other local venues, so to help you on your way, here are some of our favourite small, independent gig spots in Oxford.
Because it stays open later than most pubs, it's easy to think of the Half Moon exclusively as somewhere to spend the small hours dutifully polishing off your final few pints of the night. Sometimes the music keeps going as long as the punters do, but more often than not it's a good idea to head down early to ensure a seat and catch some of Oxford's most accomplished musicians doing what they do best. Though they're very partial to folk, don't let The Half Moon's traditional aesthetic fool you; jazz, latin and indie nights are just as common and well attended.
The Jericho Tavern is renowned for bringing some of the country's best touring bands to Oxford, giving a platform to up and coming musicians before they transition to playing the bigger venues on Cowley Road. Going since at least the '80s, The Jericho Tavern has staged acts including Pulp and Lianne La Havas, home-grown favourites Supergrass and Foals, and hosted Radiohead's first ever show, when they were still known as On A Friday. The main gig area upstairs has a brilliant sound set up for such a small venue, and is also regularly used for comedy, spoken word and even drag nights.
If you buy a round at The Library, it's a roll of the dice... literally. If you're lucky enough get a double 1, 3 or 5 you'll be walking away with your drinks fully on the house! Situated between the much larger O2 Academy and Bullingdon, it's impressive that this smaller Cowley Road venue has managed to carve out its own niche. Their basement gig space is perfect for anything from sweaty, intense rock shows to intimate acoustic performances. They're always happy to chat to potential performers and DJs, so visit their website and drop them a message if you'd like to put on your own show or club night. This is one library you don't have to be quiet in...
On the Curtis Industrial Estate near Botley, you'll find Tap Social, a craft brewery with a passion for great beer and social justice. The team work with people who have spent time in prison and have since struggled to get back into education or training, providing them with stable employment and helping them on their way to effective rehabilitation. The brewery's communal space, the taproom, is gorgeously decked out with statement armchairs and rustic furniture, plus walls adorned with local art. This space is regularly host to open mic nights and jam sessions, live music, street food and restaurant pop-ups, quizzes, film screenings and DJs. Tap Social is a true community space, perfect for a gig that's going to feel like you're listening among (or performing to) good friends.
Truck Store is a cafe and record shop on Cowley Road with no time for musical snobbery, who rightly describe themselves as 'Oxford's Independent Music Hub'. Over the years they've hosted hundreds of live performances; bands heading over to the O2 or the Bullingdon later in the evening will often drop by during the day for a signing and an acoustic set. In addition to stocking an incredibly impressive range of vinyl and CDs, live music and the local music scene are at the heart of Truck Store's ethos and they're always looking for new ways to integrate themselves with Oxford's many up and coming musicians.
The Wheatsheaf is hidden down a narrow alleyway off the High Street and while the trendy bars and clubs in the city centre may attract the chic, young, hipster generation, the Wheatsheaf has changed little in the last few decades: the regular drinkers here have had tattoos and facial hair for years. The downstairs bar has pool tables and loud background music and often hosts free gigs on Sunday afternoons. Drinks are cheap and the wine list has both kinds. The upstairs room is a dedicated gig venue with a stage, PA, resident sound engineer and a bar. The Wheatsheaf is now the only purpose-built live music venue in the city centre and with a capacity of around 120 it can get busy, loud and sweaty. It hosts several gigs each week covering many musical genres - heavy metal, rock, folk, modern jazz and improvised comedy.