HUNDREDS of bands, artists, fans, industry insiders and fun seekers packed Oxford’s Cowley Road on Saturday for the city’s biggest day of live music.

With 45 bands playing five stages over the course of 12 hours, the Ritual Union festival is among the best one-day multi-venue festival in the country. And its third instalment proved to be as popular as ever, with gig-goers descending on East Oxford for a feast of pop, indie, punk, funk, folk and very loud rock.

The event brought together local and national talent, with shows taking place at on two stages at the O2 Academy, The Bullingdon, The Library and the Truck Store record shop.

Oxford Mail:

Jack Goldstein of Fixers in The Library - Picture by Fixers bass player / photographer Jason Warner (

Highlights came in the form of buzz bands Teleman, Another Sky and The Murder Capital; Oxford’s Premium Leisure, Candy Says, The Cooling Pearls, Jack Goldstein and Pet Semetary; infuriatingly-titled rockers Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs; Afro-funk outfit Ibibio Sound Machine; South Asian-flavoured psychedelic rockers Flamingods; and The Comet is Coming.

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Making a welcome return were local heroes Young Knives, who emerged with a sky-scraping new punk-fuelled sound and were joined by Zahra Tehrani and drum-weilding members of Oxford’s Young Women’s Music Project for a rousing finale of percussion.

Among those enjoying the music was Burford-based photographer Jason Warner formerly of alt-rockers Fixers. His former bandmate Jack Goldstein played to a capacity crowd in the basement of The Library with a thrilling, and eccentric show which saw him performing on the venue's basement floor..

Jason said: “It’s the jewel in the city’s musical calendar. It’s well curated and it’s great that local performers get a chance to shine too.”

Oxford Mail:

Another Sky. Picture by Tim Hughes

Simon Bailey of Crosstown Concerts promoted the event. He said: "That was the best Ritual Union ever. Was great to see so many pals and so many smiling faces. Saw some incredible performances and created a few memories, I think."

Among those watching the bands was Tim Bearder, a former presenter on BBC Oxford's local music show The Download (now BBC Music Introducing) - and a member of Oxfordshire County Council. As a champion of new music, Tim and his co-presenter Dave Gilyeat, who still presents the show, gave many up-and-coming local bands a leg-up onto the city's music scene.

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Buzzing in the O2 Academy. Picture by Jason Warner (

He said: “It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to immerse myself in the Oxford music scene and so Ritual Union presented the perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with the latest.

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"It was fantastic to see all the venues alive and packed to the gunwales. The two highlights for me were Jack Goldstein’s one man musical meltdown. A sweat drenched performance skating and pirouetting magnificently on the tightrope between genius and madness. The other was The Young Knives’ thunderous drum-fuelled closer. They were joined on stage by the Young Woman’s Music Project, what seemed like 20 young drummers backed the band in an effervescent cacophony fit to finish the day.

"There has always been a throbbing music scene in the city and it was a delight to see that it is very much alive and kicking."

Oxford Mail:

Pigs x7 (Tim Hughes)