A List for 2009 – Stornoway at the Sheldonian

Stornoway have been playing wonderful little gigs around Oxford for the last few years, but in 2009 things really took off for them.  Their clever, melodic folk-pop has started to gain attention nationwide, and they’ve shown up several times in the papers and on shows like Later with Jools Holland.  For a while they had a quote on their myspace page that called their sound ‘a living, breathing Mark Twain novel,’ and that’s not far off.  If this is sounding worryingly fey to you, I think you might be pleasantly surprised by the earthiness and honesty of their songs and lyrics.

Until recently my favourite gig of theirs was one in the Jericho Tavern in Oxford, when they unplugged their instruments and played acoustic, standing on the tables with the audience huddled around them.  Then, at the end of October, they played in the Sheldonian Theatre, which is a 17th century venue designed by Christopher Wren.  Here’s a picture of the outside, and here’s a nifty 360 degree virtual tour of the inside (worth checking out for the painted ceiling).  The strange seasick feeling this latter link will give you isn’t present in the actual theatre, although the seats are as unforgiving as the hardest of church pews.  Stornoway mesmerised despite that, and were supported by the Oxford Millenium Orchestra, who went on to play some of their songs along with them.  Gigs in beautiful, historical venues, accompanied by full-blown orchestras, are something bands tend to do at the height of their fame, when they start feeling comfortable enough to try something out of the ordinary.  The fact that Stornoway are still unsigned just demonstrates how innovative and ambitious they are.  I’m sure 2010 will be an incredible year for them, but in the meantime you can listen to them at their myspace page and on the BBC, where you can watch some session videos.