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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Oxford, UK

Oxford is a city steeped in indie culture. From the classic indie pop of Talulah Gosh and The Razorcuts, through to the shoegazing dream pop of Ride and Swervedriver, to the planet-conquering Britpop of Radiohead and Supergrass, onto the modern day with local heroes like Goldrush (who also organise the excellent Truck festival), Oxford's never been short of cool kids with guitars and designs on the perfect pop song. The city has a thriving live scene, bolstered by the superb Oxford Bands collective, and a ton of venues ranging from the legendary likes of The Zodiac and the Jericho Tavern to pubs such as The Exeter Hall. Throw in superb club nights like Rollercoaster, a handful of cool record shops, and an annual influx of students with an apetite for a decent night out, and you have a city with a vibrant, self-sufficient music scene.


Clubs

Rollercoaster/Chix With Decks
Cellar Bar. Frewin Court, off Cornmarket, 8pm-3am, £4, last Saturday of the month
Two clubs for the price of one at this superb night out. Rollercoaster offer cool indie sounds, from Pavement to Ballboy, while the Chix With Decks add rock'n'roll and electro to the blend. Each DJ team takes half an hour on the decks, so you're never quite sure what's coming up next. Excellent stuff.
(www.cellarmusic.co.uk)

Transformation
The Zodiac, 190 Cowley Road, 11pm-3am, £6, £4 with flyer, Saturdays
Long running Oxford institution, playing the indie and rock hits of the day. Another night that gets you two clubs for the price of one, although this time they're housed in different rooms. Transformation takes upstairs, while Trashy spins glam, trash pop and 80s, downstairs.
(www.the-zodiac.co.uk)

Sabotage
The Zodiac, 190 Cowley Road, 11pm-2am, £4/£3 with flyers, Thursdays
Rock, metal. punk and alternative club night run by local promoters The Club That Cannot Be Named. If you're looking to mosh to the likes of Funeral For A Friend, The Mars Volta and AC/DC, then this is the place to come. Requests are made by filling in a requests clipboard - very organised!
(www.the-zodiac.co.uk)

How Does It Feel To Be Loved?
Jericho Tavern, 8pm-12am, £3 members, £5 non members, every second Saturday of the month
Run by our good selves, so we're a little biased. Why not take The Guardian's word for it instead? "Absolutely the best night in the whole of the world!" Phew. We play indie pop, northern soul, Tamla Motown, girl groups and sixties heartbreak. If you want to dance to The Smiths and The Supremes in a friendly, unpretentious setting, then we might just be able to help...
(www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk)


Venues

 

The Zodiac
190 Cowley Road, times and prices vary
The classic indie venue in Oxford. Everyone from Belle & Sebastian and Radiohead to The Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys have played here. Radiohead even filmed the video for "Creep" here. With a host of indie, rock, soul, funk and dance club nights alongside the gigs, the Zodiac is the epicentre of music in Oxford.
(www.the-zodiac.co.uk)

The Jericho Tavern
56 Walton Street, times and prices vary
Another legendary Oxford indie venue. Radiohead and Supergrass played the first gigs here, and Ride were signed to Creation after being spotted at the Jericho. Upstairs, a mural featuring famous local bands and John Peel adds to the atmosphere. Live shows on Fridays, club nights on Saturdays.

Exeter Hall
1 Oxford Road, Cowley, times and prices vary
The king of pub venues in Oxford, the Ex plays host to indie, punk, metal, folk, acoustic and open mic nights, with live music every night of the week apart from Monday, when the pub is used for recording sessions. The place to see local bands.
(www.thex.co.uk)

The Cellar
Frewin Court, off Cornmarket, times and prices vary
Cool cellar bar in the middle of town. Local promoters Big Hair put on live bands, while club nights play indie, electro, drum'n'bass, jazz, goth, funk and soul. There's also the Free Beer night, which offers comedy and a free drink.
(www.cellarmusic.co.uk)

The Wheatsheaf
129 High Street, prices and times vary
Another good pub venue. The likes of Deerhoof and Part Chimp have played here.


Bars

The Turf Tavern
4 Bath Place
A pub with a couple of bizarre claims to fame (Bill Clinton didn't inhale here, and it also starred in an episode of Inspector Morse). Good, atmospheric place for a friendly beer.

The Brickworks
182 Cowley Road
Excellent two level bar in the middle of Cowley Road. Hosts monthly reggae and northern soul nights.

The Purple Turtle
Frewin Court
Situated in the old cellar of the Oxford student union, this is student heaven. Free admission for SU members. Expect queues and chaos at the weekends.


Record Shops


Polar Bear
183 Cowley Road, Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 11am-5pm
Excellent selection of second hand CDs from this much loved Cowley Road record shop. Polar Bear also sells gig tickets, including advance tickets for the Truck festival.

Massive Records
95 Gloucester Green, Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm
Well-regarded dance music record shop, run by Joanna Massive, who stocks her store with a keen A&R sense. If you want to know what's likely to be breaking next in dance, come to Massive.

Avid Records
4 Gloucester Street, Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
Another cool dance music shop. A haven for crate-diggers, with 1000s of vinyl gems waiting to be uncovered, from funk and soul to spoken word.

(http://www.avidrecords-uk.com/)


Local Bands

 

Goldrush
Excellent Oxford band, influenced by The Band and Bob Dylan, back in indiedom after a short period of being touted as "the new Travis" by Virgin. They also run the local Truck festival.
(www.goldrush.mu)

There are literally hundreds of local bands in and around Oxford. For a full list, check out the Oxford Bands page at http://www.oxfordbands.com/index.php?option=com_bandpages&Itemid=53


Miscellaneous


Oxford Bands
Indispensable resource for local bands. Oxford Bands promote gigs, review gigs and records, compile gig listings, and generally provides a community for Oxfordshire musicians. If you're looking for the heart of the live music scene in Oxford, start here.
(www.oxfordbands.com)

Nightshift
Monthly local music magazine, good for reviews and listings. Also has its own messageboard.
(http://nightshift.oxfordmusic.net/phpbb3/index.php)

Truck Festival
First staged in 1998, as an alternative to the larger, more commercial festivals, the Truck Festival has become the place to see new bands in the open air.
(www.truckfestival.org)

Main Oxford photo © Urban75

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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