Diana Vickers, Pearl And The Puppets, Liz Lawrence - Oxjam, Dalston London
Oxjam is the name of the month-long event put on each year by Oxfam. It's a music festival that takes place all around the UK throughout October, all organised by people who know and love their local music scene.
To help promote the event the charity puts on a quartet of intimate gigs, all taking place in an London Oxfam shop, the venue's location remaining secret until only a few hours before the performance. I attended an excellent show last year in Tooting featuring Marks and Spencer's own VV Brown, Master Shortie and Just Jack. This year's event took me to a dirty looking Dalston (the place - not the lovely spacious Oxfam shop filled with goodies!) to take in a headline set from X Factor's Diana Vickers.
Diana was playing alongside two other acts, with Scottish band Pearl And The Puppets opening proceedings. There was a smallish line of people waiting to get in when I arrived at the venue but they still managed to take up the first two or three rows of the petite stage area by the time I entered so I settled on a position down the right hand side that gave me a half decent angle for picture taking. Lead singer Katie and her boys eventually took to the stage producing a very enjoyable set considering it was the first time I'd seen the Kirkintilloch band. Going by the set list I caught a glimpse of after the show it seems most of the material was taken from Pearl and The Puppets "Because I Do" EP and "Make Me Smile" single, with both title tracks sounding great on first listen. The band should hopefully do alright in the coming months as they're very "current" as pop music goes, with frontwoman Katie Sutherland more than capable of battling it out with the likes of Eliza, Ellie, Marina and co. in the lower regions of the Top Twenty! The audience seemed to think so anyway as the band received a great response for an opener.
Acoustic playing songstress Liz Lawrence was up next. Liz's set was a bit more introspective than the act before her but her songs captivated the crowd predominantly made up of Diana fans. Liz kept her onstage banter to a minimum but she seemed extremely pleased with the audience reaction, although she did mention that we were very close at the end of her set!
I've seen Diana Vickers playing five times already this year, mostly at festivals and always enjoy catching her performance and photographing her as she's quite lively onstage.
Her debut album Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree is a good pop collection and has received many an airing in my household since its release. The venue had filled up a bit by the time Diana was due to take to the stage and the place was swarming with complaining photographers as they had arrived too late to get any sort of decent positions to shoot from. Eventually it was decided that the crowd would move back a bit for a few minutes, allowing photographers to cover the first song from the front row. I squeezed myself into a position and started firing off a few shots the second Miss V appeared, starting proceedings with "The Boy Who Murdered Love". As the song ended I returned to where I'd originally been standing as "You'll Never Get To Heaven" started but there was confusion as to what was going on as some people were saying we could shoot the next two songs as originally planned while others were saying put our cameras away and head to the back of the venue. It was a bit puzzling and I just ended up shooting again once I saw my fellow photographers carrying on.
I eventually settled down to take in the gig properly just as Diana was thanking Oxjam for having her, mentioning that she was flattered as it was really great to be part of it all and it also gave her a chance to look round the shop to see if there was anything she wanted to take home! Miss Vickers followed this with her regular airing of her take on Snow Patrol's "Just Say Yes".
Diana delivered an outstanding performance throughout the night but I was slightly dissappointed that she didn't bring anything new to the table for her Oxjam show. At £25 a ticket she was obviously preaching to the converted and although they were lapping up the extremely intimate set I'm sure the evening would have been even more special for them with the inclusion of a song that's not normally aired or another choice cover. I was expecting to hear a rendition of her forthcoming single "My Wicked Heart'. It's a bit bonkers so I'm sure it would have been a special moment but it wasn't to be. Mind you, I did read in review elsewhere that she did play it at the Oxjam show. Not at the gig I attended anyway!
There was still plenty to enjoy though, with the track penned with Nerina Pallot "Put It Back Together" probably my fave of the night, a place usually reserved for "My Hip", the song that always sees Vickers in trumpet tooting mode (although that shined too!). There was also a passionate performance of "Notice" on display, with Diana giving her all. The set ended with a run through of Diana's number one single "Once", with its chorus a cue for major fist pumping from the audience!
Visit the Oxjam website for more information on Oxjam