If you’re looking for a good time in Oxford, Skylarkin Soundsystem’s monthly reggae night at The Cellar is a sure thing.
There aren’t a lot of loud, rowdy nights in Oxford. Trying to find a venue full of people jumping and winding in a relaxed good-time atmosphere can feel like a bit of a lost cause amongst Oxford’s abundance of indie, folk and heavy-metal. But as last month’s Nightshift attests – reggae is the one beacon of hope that has been keeping a steady beat in Oxford for the last 50 years.
Count Skylarkin is instrumental in maintaining these easy vibes in our city of dreaming spires and he really knows how to put on a good club night. He is, of course, helped by a venue ideally suited to such an occasion. The Cellar is a little bit scruffy, as manager Tim Hopkins himself says– perfect for the laid-back ethos of roots music – and the low ceilings and lack of windows mean the bass sounds great.
I’m going to be honest here - I am seriously under equipped to comment on the various jungle, drum and bass, and dubstep subsets of reggae that were vibrating though The Cellar on Friday, but they sounded great and I am most definitely equipped to comment on a damn good night out.
The evening officially kicked off around 10, but we got there at about 11.30 just as the crowd was trickling in and things were starting to get good and sweaty. A rum and coke later (sometimes a cliché is worth indulging in), 2NICE came on the mic while Dublin-based Dirty Dubsters took to the decks – both riffing on the Oxford vibes and spreading the gospel of ‘one love’.
There was no self-conscious shuffling to the edges of the dance-floor: people were right up on the stage, banging the ceiling and skanking their socks off from the start. Sometimes you just need to shake it out, and last Friday, The Cellar was the place to do it.
After a set of rapped songs, 2NICE switched to biggin’ it up with shout-outs to the ganja crew and the Oxford ladies, who he wanted to see ‘winding it like you’re looking for a new boyfriend.’ And so the night continued, with Count Skylarkin returning to the decks to keep the party going until our tired feet finally disappeared into the early hours.