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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 17:01 UK
SXSC festival rocked Winchester

By Victoria Bartlett
BBC Hampshire & Isle of Wight

 The SXSC house band
The SXSC house band with Oliver's daughter, Annabel, on vocals

Oliver Gray writes educational text books, but his main passion is music.

Oliver set up SXSC with his wife, Birgit, and his friend Richard Williams - also from Winchester. Their aim was to bring the best live bands to the city.

With the help of everyone at The Railway Inn, the plan seems to be working. They have been arranging live music shows for the last five years, and in September 2009 put on their first special SXSC festival.

How it all began

"It all started because we thought American bands never came to Winchester and we wanted to change that. We've now done about 50 shows using some great musical talent. To celebrate this we thought we'd put on a little festival!

"The name SXSC stands for South by South Central - which we've stolen from the big festival called South by South West, which is in Austin, Texas. We find quite a lot of our bands there and since we're in central southern England I thought this name would be fitting."

Some of Oliver's favourite bands such as Richmond Fontaine from Portland, Oregon performed at the festival. But there was also a wealth of local talent involved.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones' album Daylight & Stars is his first solo project

Festival line-up

Ryan O'Reilly recently graduated from Winchester University and teamed up with Tali Trow and Some Deadstring Brothers in an exciting new band.

With their monthly residency at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, the band have been developing a reputation as a great live act, so Oliver and Richard were thrilled to book them for the festival.

Whalebone Polly also took to the stage as part of their reunion tour. They consist of Winchester's own Kate Stables and Rachael Dadd.

Kate now lives in France and Rachael has spent the last year or so in Japan. But they joined forces again for the September event. Rachael says: "It felt right to be returning to this venue - it is where we started playing songs together eight years ago."

Rachael says her interest in music is thanks to her "enthusiastic long-haired piano teacher and eccentric big-haired music teacher at Alton College."

But she really got involved in the music scene whilst she was an art student in Winchester, playing solo gigs and running open mic nights.

Whalebone Polly
Whalebone Polly have now released their EP 'Taproot and Sill'

Kate added: "It did us the world of good to be back at The Railway with familiar faces and marvellous music. Long live SXSC!"

Owen Tromans came over from Andover to perform for the festival. He enjoyed himself on the night: "There was plenty of ace music and an awesome vegetable chilli!

"I liked playing some of my older material in the acoustic set and then tearing it up with the SXSC house band.

"I'll be back at The Railway Inn for a headline show on Halloween, Saturday 31 October - bring your dracula costume!"

Jim Jones was another excited performer at the festival: "Playing alongside some of the most talented musicians and songwriters, for some of the best and most attentive listeners, organised by the most appreciative of music lovers, all taking place under one roof on one day can only be a good thing!

"SXSC was an excellent festival, I just hope they ask me back!!"

Other bands playing on the night were the Peter Bruntnell Band, Beatnik Filmstars and Chris T-T.

Size isn't everything!

Oliver aimed to out-do the more well-known festivals. Firstly, he promised no mud and the second issue he wanted to address was size: "At larger festivals there's always a problem when two bands you want to see are playing at the same time.

The Railway Inn
The 120 capacity venue has been showcasing live music for 14 years

"We avoided this by having a two-room format - with electric bands in the main hall and, during the change-overs, acoustic acts were in the upstairs lounge. The plan was to have no clashes - and it worked like a dream!

"As this was the first festival we had done, and because the arrangement was a bit unusual, we were very nervous about things that might have gone wrong. But both rooms were well-attended throughout the day and absolutely packed in the evening."

Oliver adds: "It is impossible to pick out highlights because every single act played their hearts out and nothing was less than superb.

"We have been deluged with appreciative calls and emails. Will we do another one next year? We sure will!"

Great music in Winchester

Oliver says: "People ask why all these great bands come to this city, when it's not necessarily known as a top place for music. The answer is you need a lunatic like me who is willing to find good bands, organise events, and has somewhere to showcase them.

"Luckily we also have the superb music venue of The Railway who have a great grassroots, nurturing music scene.

"And thank goodness guitar bands are back, so if you have a guitar, you live in the area and you want to be in a band, there is somewhere for you to play."

See the SXSC website for information on future events.


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