Tim Hughes is left grinning after an unpredictable, chaotic but heartwarming Autumn Jambore

Ever get the feeling that modern music is money-grubbing, corporate and commodified? I certainly do; which is why Saturday’s show at a packed-out Jericho Tavern was such a thrill – not only to us in the audience, but those on stage too.

The antidote to all that is wrong with the mainstream music industry, this was live music as it should be: a love-in of serendipitous delights.

Curated by our sister paper, the Oxford Mail, the night showcased a roots-flavoured line-up featuring country-rockers The Dreaming Spires, bluegrass and folk-rock nine-piece The Knights of Mentis and a solo set by Oli Steadman.

Best known for his work with the hugely-successful folk-pop act Stornoway, Oli was tonight playing alone. And while the honey-coated vocals and lilting guitar style are instantly recognisable, the lyrics are far more exotic — consisting of Zulu and Xhosa folk songs inspired by his native South Africa. Lovely stuff it is too; delicate yet powerful enough to silence a buzzing room.

Next up are The Knights of Mentis. Jericho heroes on account of regular sets at the nearby Harcourt Arms, they began, appropriately with their rousing Skipper Jan – the tale of a well-known local boatman.

In full flight, KOM are a force of nature; all soaring fiddle, floating harmonica and accordion melodies, punchy guitar, intricate lap steel, and frantic banjo – all overlain with Peter Graham, Keith Birnie and Jed Dale’s three-part vocal harmonies. And this was a vintage performance, songs like Know You Rider, Goddess of Love and Red Diesel, setting the scene for more quintessentially English country-rock from kindred spirits The Dreaming Spires, whose sun-kissed Byrds-like harmonies top off the night with a set loaded with favourites from debut album Brothers in Brooklyn, including the title track and feelgood anthems Singing Sin City, Brothers and Everything All the Time, plus new tunes – including the intriguingly autobiographical Hype Bands and House on Elsinore and Darkest Before the Dawn - from the EP of the same name, the release of which we were there to celebrate.

We even get a rousing cover of September Gurls, originally by a band which, more than any other, inspired the Bennetts - Big Star. 

It's all lovely hands-in the air stuff - a combination of very un-British West Coast positivity and quintessentially English rock - with all the hooks and melodies we can handle. The smiles from the crowd are matched only by the grins on stage.

But the best was still to come, with an encore triggering a full on stage-invasion; the three acts joined by pianist Stuart Macbeth and tenor sax player Chuck Lloyd of The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band, who, fairly typically, have been lurking at the bar – all 14 musicians jamming through a blistering The Weight, by The Band.

It should have been over then, but, with the clocks set to go back, no one wanted to go home. The plug having being pulled they powered through a clamorous, extended, free-wheeling acoustic finale of Wilco and Billy Bragg's California Stars (the words to which were written by the king of Dustbowl folk, Woody Guthrie).

If ever a song combined nostalgic melancholy with uplifitng optimism, it is this striding riot of strings, keys and bass - tonight billowing out in every direction with accordian, blues harp, fiddle, and the rest.... Chuck Lloyd's electrifying Clarence Clemons-style tenor sax giving it the feel of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band jamming along in an Irish pub with a bunch of well-oiled locals, some random Appalachian hillbillies, and a magic bus of stoned Californian hippies who just happen to have been passing.     

Rebellious, joyous, chaotic and spontaneous, it represented everything good about live music.

And it felt amazing!

The Oxford Times: