Wadstock
Credit: Eva Price and Mila

Wadstock live!

Today is the annual Wadstock festival, hosted by Wadham college. The weather may be miserable, but the vibes are anything but. Watch this space for Oxstu’s live coverage of the days events.

The festival takes place on the grounds of Wadham college, with two stages: the Dorothy Wadham main stage, and the Nick Acoustic tent. Performances alternate between the two for most of the day, before focussing on the main stage after sunset. Food, drink and face-painting supplement the days festivities and merchandise is available to buy each year. Tickets to todays festival sold out in just 19 minutes, so it’s sure to be a good one.

We’re off!

Rough Edge Brass kicked off the day with a lively set, the can be heard from anywhere in the college. Playing hits like Bonnie Tyler’s iconic I Need A Hero, and Rihanna’s hits Umbrella and S&M the brought the energy, starting the day in style. Groovy brass, soulful singers, and an incredible drum solo made for one unforgettable set.

The crowd is slowly growing, showing off the fabulous fashion of the festival season, despite the notably cooler (and damper) weather than previous years.

An unplanned serenade

Following the opening act, the crowd is drifting about as they wait for more music to start. A strumming guitar from the Nick Acoustic stage, sees the everyone wandering over, before Hansel and Griddy’s lead singer melodically informs us: “this is a soundcheck, come back at 1:30.” The crowd drifts away again.

Acapella Riff-off

“Whenever anyone does anything impressive, scream as loud as possible”. These are the instructions from the announcer for the Acapella Riff-off, featuring the Oxford Commas and the Alternotives. Between an opening mash up of I’ve got a feeling and Don’t stop believing, the sections of each group are introduced with a brief explanation of their role and range.

A repertoire of hits toured us through power ballads from icons of pop Queen, Weather girls, Britney Spears, Sia and another nod to Bonnie Tyler, with each and every sound produced vocally, and melodies sung by an impressive roster of soloists to great applause. The Comma’s closing number, Happy by Pharrel Williams, got the crowd clapping along, and hopefully slightly warmer. The Alternotive’s kept the clapping going to a rendition of All night long, followed by Toploader’s Dancing in the moonlight.

The musical mashup we never saw coming

In a shocking turn of events, The Alternotives overran which did not stop Hansel and Griddy from starting their set on time. The crowd split, one side clapping along to Dancing in the Moonlight and the other faithfully sticking to the schedule.

When they did finally get the chance to perform solo, they did so to a full tent of enthusiastic festival goers. Described by one audience member as “if Frank Zappa was a folk band” and another as “just everything”, their unique, technically excellent sound delighted and amazed.

Cougar Crew on the main stage

A folksy detour was quickly followed by a return to the mainstream with the Cougar Crew’s rendition of ABBA’s Does you mother know, reminiscent of a karaoke night… at 2pm in the afternoon. The 7-piece Wadham group, featuring a trumpet, and no less than 3 guitars and some great vocals for a crowd-pleasing performance of The Cranberries Zombie.

Cougar Crew is composed of Wadham fourth years, who were enthusiastic to perform at Wadstock for the first and final time. Speaking to Oxstu after their set they described the atmosphere as “electric”, a sentiment which was reflected in their guitarists performance, playing his instrument behind his head and ripping his shirt apart at the sets conclusion.

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The Cougar Crew on the Dorothy Wadham main stage

No Sheet

The crowd is growing, and for the first time today, swaying to the emotive melodies of No Sheet, singing The one that got away. A Wadham founded singing group, all about enjoying music, they were established as an alternative to more traditional Oxford groups which require the ability to read sheet music.

The rehearsals are casual and all about fun – their director Abbie Mochrie informs me their last rehearsal was spent producing the tie dye shirts for todays performance.

Love and dancing

Showcasing primarily instrumental rather than vocal melody Escher Sketch bring a lively set to the main stage, in a performance which has the whole crowd dancing along to the beat. Hopefully the dancing helps to keep the chill at bay. Respect to the fashionistas who’ve braved the weather in shorts and t-shirts.

This is followed by an acoustic stage performance from Jojo Blyth, performing her songs for the first time. She began writing after her first year at Oxford, and now in her third year, she describes the vibe of her acoustic set as ‘I promise I’m not in love with all of my friends’, which is also the title of her first song.

Another solo act, Zahra came next, performing a song from her new EP, Windows Down, which released yesterday, and an acoustic cover of American Boy.

A deadline to look forward to

The Deadline took to the stage with a slightly heavier set with more of a rock vibe. Unlike most deadlines, this one is proving particularly popular, with a packed audience jumping on their feet. A tight performance including a cover of Kaiser Cheifs I predict a riot, showed a slick, skilled group who brought enough energy to actually start a riot if they really wanted to.

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The Deadline, on the main stage

It just keeps coming

Back to the acoustic tent for Quest for Folk. Think Shakira and a traditional folk group can’t mix? Think again. Formed at Wadham brunch, and debuting at last years Wadstock, this group play all over Oxford, bringing a modern twist to the traditional. Clapping, stomping, country dancing, and a human tunnel that kept on coming, were just a few of the ways the crowd found to express their enthusiasm for this group whose set ended amidst calls for “one more song!”

A shout out to the face painters

Wadstock wouldn’t be complete without some incredible face paint, this year in taking place in the college chapel. Flowers, stars, or a tribute to their favourite band, the faces of Wadstock’s attendees are adorned with masterpieces courtesy of student volunteers from across Oxford.

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Roo and the Smythes

“This next song is me desperately wanting to be Ariana Grande.” The smooth vocals of the five man (well, four men, one woman) band on the Dorothy Wadham stage, Roo and the Smythes speak to the lazy summer afternoon we all wish this was. Her soulful cover of Man in the mirror has everyone dancing and the electric violin adds an exciting twist to each number.

We might be past The Deadlines, but “everything’s gonna be alright”

Emily Jones playing the acoustic tent got the crowd singing along to Unusual and Valerie, two club anthems, which was followed by a quick transition to the main stage (at impressive speed from the crowd) to watch Things, a band who seemed to go from strength to strength showing off impressive vocals, and instrumental solos on guitar, keyboard and drums.

Involving the most crowd work so far, just in time for the drinks to kick in, we were asked to sing along, reassuring ourselves “everything’s gonna be alright” at the top of our lungs. Following a diverse set of tasteful remixes of popular classics, as well as a few originals celebrating the queer experience, Things set concluded to wild applause.

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Things at Wadstock

I’m just…Ken?

It’s getting crowded and the acoustic tent to see Pleasure Honk was packed. Their performance encompassed everything from Italian opera, to a cover of Barbie’s I’m just Ken, for which they remembered most of the words, in some sort of order, but sang with enough enthusiasm that it didn’t matter.

Blame it on the boogie

Garfunkel came out strong with some groovy, funky hits from Jackson Five to Weather girls, again. Electric energy, amplified by pyrotechnics and some incredible brass playing set the vibe for the rest of the night, exclusively on the Dorothy Wadham stage. We sang, we danced, and there was nothing to blame, but the boogie.

Last Orders before dark

Next on were Last Orders playing a mix of their original songs, one of which was released last weekend, and funk classics from the likes of Madness. The crowd were loving despite the rain. Cardboard proclamations of love, dancing on shoulders, and one talented individual decided to do the worm despite the wet. Anticipating the need for fuel, the band supplied, throwing custard creams into the crowd, between witty repartee from the singer and drummer, Fin in his second performance of the day.

This will be Fin’s last performance before his year abroad, so if Last Orders are to perform for a third year, they will need a new drummer. Applications are open…

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Last Orders before their set

It’s raining on the dancefloor

It is now solidly raining, and some of the crowd are taking shelter under the tent. With the main stage the only one in use there are now 10 minute breaks between sets, with club music playing to maintain the vibe.

Red Post played an energetic repertoire of covers from the more longing Yellow to a topical cover of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor, complete with an indulgent guitar solo. This last number closed out their set and even encouraged a few festival goers to leave the safety of the tent.

The Carnations bring the heat

We’ve hit that point in the night where wadstock really starts to feel like a massive music festival. Why? Because you’re getting way too intimate with anyone near you in the crowd.

The energy of The Carnations set did nothing to abate this, in a mirage of alternating teen love and angst. The cold of earlier in the day is long forgotten, though the facial hair of the 80s is growing strong on the bassists face.

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Mount St Helen erupts

Mount St Helen serenaded the crowd with an eruption of originals (yeah, I know the puns are getting worse), and a baseline that reverberated through the garden. Whilst I can’t fault their music, it did slightly dampen the energy of the crowd, who until that point screamed along to every song.

Nevertheless, it was an incredible reaction from the crowd given that the entire set consisted of originals, the last of which was released only last October. I’ll be sure to check out their tunes on Spotify when my eardrums recover.

Mount St Helens

DJ Meal Deal plays out the food

That’s right, the food stalls have closed for business, and the bar is packing away too. With only an hour left, there’s nothing to do but surrender to the beat of DJ Meal Deal’s set, and try stay close enough to the stage to avoid the rain.

Dorothy’s Funk Odyssey close the show

The final act of the night, Dorothy’s Funk Odyssey, closed the show in style. Unlike last years show, at which they were the victims of previous acts overrunning, they were able to get through their entire set, a medley of hits with solos for each of the incredible solo singers Phoebe, Erin and Ben (who opened his shirt mid-set to reveal DFO nipple stickers), whose dancing added a flair of professionalism to the group.

As usual they ended with a sing-a-long rendition of Free Nelson Mandela, which could be heard echoing into the night as the crowd departed.

With that Wadstock 2024 has come to an end. Another year, another day spent wishing your friends were taller (or maybe neon?) so you might stand a chance of finding them in a crowd.

All that remains is to thank the Wadham Entz team: Findlay Grammaticas, Samraj Moore, Ben Fanton and Will Gillet for another fantastic festival to remember.