Another year, another sold-out edition of If Not Now, When?, the all-day festival at Cowley’s East Oxford Community Centre and Fusion Arts. Three stages of talent curated by regular promoters Idiot Kind and Divine Schism showcased the best of indie and DIY music, both local and from further afield. INNW is a unique combination of summer festival and indoor gig, and on a scorching September Saturday it was difficult to think of somewhere you'd rather be: we headed straight through to the outside area, where music from the Glasshouse Stage was drifting dreamily out over a yard packed with a local, friendly crowd taking a break between sets.
Music-wise, there were more bands than we could shake a stick at (though no actual stick-shaking occurred) and organisers had elaborately planned the day so it was easy to see at least a portion of every set, avoiding the usual disappointment of line-up clashes. I was particularly taken by Chorusgirl's 60s-infused indie surfpop which hit the easy summer vibe dead-on, especially paired with a bottle of the dangerously drinkable INNW brew. Fortunately, Cheltenham-based pop-up people Seitan Grill were on hand with some much-needed vegan sustenance to take the edge off.
Someone on the Facebook event referred to the line-up as a "face melter", and checking out what was going down on the Community Stage, it was hard to disagree. Things got riotous with a little help from punk rock outfit Sky Lark, and Screen Wives upped the bar with some hectic post-hardcore. Later on, sets from Cincinnati-based bubblegum punk trio Leggy and Massachusetts indie rockers Pile showed the Oxford crowd how it gets done across the pond. The Glasshouse Stage had plenty to offer too, and it was impossible to resist the infectious energy and constant motion of former Fixers frontman Jack Goldstein, AKA the sweatiest man at INNW. Veterans Bilge Pump also raised the roof with a trademark noise rock barrage.
The Chris Roe-French stage, named in honour of a close friend of the organisers, had more of an auditory smorgasbord, and with an adjacent bar run by hard-working volunteers, it was the ideal place to plot up for a while and soak up the atmosphere. Local trio Theo mesmerised with melodic, keyboard-led tracks and soulful vocals which had me straight on Soundcloud come Sunday morning. Rattle entranced the crowd with their unique, hypnotic drum compositions, and later on, in spite of some minor tech issues, Natalie Evans' acoustic offerings were sublime.
A barnstorming closing set came courtesy of County Durham's garage rock crew Martha, and some rippers from their label debut Love Keeps Kicking were still ringing in the ears as everyone staggered out into the night. INNW marks the end of the summer season, but with this kind of talent on offer on Oxford's gig circuit, heading back indoors never seemed so appealing.
If you missed out, or want to check out your favourite acts from the day, check out the special If Not Now, When? playlist on Spotify.