We Are Your Friends

The Bullingdon, Oxford

September 2, 2018

We Are Your Friends this month returned for its third instalment, bringing another impeccably curated line-up to the Bullingdon.

Headlined by one of the standout artists of 2017 in Kelly Lee Owens, and raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity, this really was an all-dayer like no other.

Ask around at any alternative or indie night in Oxford and it won’t be long before you find someone with fond memories of the Abort, Retry, Fail? nights that boasted early performances from the likes of Foals and Youthmovies. Carry on chatting and you’ll hear the name Michael Barry – the man behind these almost legendary nights, who passed away in 2016 after being diagnosed with a brain tumour a few years earlier.

We Are Your Friends was set up by those closest to him to celebrate his life, keep the spirit of his nights alive, and raise money to fund vital research to fight this cruel disease.

With a line-up of prominent Oxford artists, We Are Your Friends treated Sunday daytime revellers to the avant-garde rhythms of Despicable Zee (the solo-work of Young Women’s Music Project founder Zahra Tehrani) and the debut outing from Social Order, featuring former Trophy Wife/Jonquil member Ben Rimmer. Glass Animals dropped in too to watch their guitarist Drew hush the crowd with his heartfelt and understated chamber pop, and there were also performances from r’n’b upstart Zerowe and local rockers The White Lakes.

Perhaps most in keeping though with Abort, Retry, Fail? were the two final acts, Dagga Domes and Kelly Lee Owens.

Dagga Domes silhouetted their way through a non-stop electronic repertoire of bubbling, cerebral dance, bringing to mind the best of Disclosure and the sadly defunct London duo Walls, staking their claim as bone fide ones to watch.

With the crowd fully limbered up to dance their way into the new week, headliner Kelly Lee Owens ramped things up further with an audio-visual techno feast. Having produced one of the standout records from last year, her appearance showed the extent of Michael’s influence.

Covering the full breadth of the techno spectrum, from therapeutic and ambient to euphoric and confrontational, the performance accentuated how diverse her music really is. She even managed to throw in a cover of Aaliyah’s More Than A Woman – much to the bouncing approval of the audience.

Despite only having one solo record to her name, Kelly Lee Owens is destined for even bigger things in the next few years, and so catching her live in an intimate Bullingdon, for such a personal gig, was a rare treat.

However, once the gig finished and the crowd staggered their separate, semi-intoxicated ways into the new week, it was the sense of community, and of the thriving Oxford scene that was to truly endure.

We Are Your Friends is doing sparkling work to keep that going.