Fringe Diary 2012: Part 1 – The Oxford Alternotives and Out of the Blue

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is well on its way now, with almost a week gone since shows officially started on August 3rd. We here at the blog have seen shows left, right and centre, including lots of a cappella and university groups Out of the Blue and The Oxford Alternotives. Our thoughts are below:

The Oxford Alternotives
Rating: 7/10

I was looking forward to seeing what ‘alternative’ things the Oxford Alternotives had to offer, and not only was I impressed by their at times hilarious set list, I was also blown away by the close harmony slower numbers, especially Regina Spektor’s Samson, which was tackled superbly by Jessie Reeves and the even more impressive Natasha Heliotis, whose smooth and silky alto mesmerised on Bonnie Raitt’s Can’t Make You Love Me, which was the best number of the night.
The alternative antics began with a song about Business Socks, which was a hilarious parody of the differing expectations from each gender of sexual interactions. The group also included a ‘blind date’ element to the show, whereby they invited a male and female audience participant onto the stage to be blindfolded and serenaded. As one of those picked, it was a very interesting and telling experience to be sat within the blend of the group – they had a very strong, solid sound that was perhaps not quite as evident from a few rows back in the audience.
There were some weaknesses though – at times, especially when there was a male soloist, the very bottom notes of the chord were a little weaker and lead to the ‘wall of sound’ not quite having the same effect as it did in some of the stronger numbers. The beat boxing was also very average, which worked for some of the slower songs, but perhaps needed a bit more oomph in some of the bigger numbers.
All in all, though, The Alternotives provided a pleasant hour of musical bliss, and they certainly opened and closed the show with two memorable numbers, Jamiroquai’s Canned Heat and Spandau Ballet’s Gold, which were both VF-UK numbers and clearly two of the most well rehearsed songs. I particularly enjoyed the entire male section imitating drums during the latter, and rounded off the show on an extremely high note. Worth watching.

Out of the Blue
Rating: 8/10

When a student group sells out a 500-seater venue, you know you’re probably about to witness something pretty special. As the boys from Oxford entered the stage, the crowds whooped and cheered in anticipation of an incredible hour of a cappella from their favourite group of them all. They were right to be excited.
We were instantly hit with a wave of sound as the boys kicked off with the opening chords to Fat Bottomed Girls, which was the perfect start to the set from the boys – kudos to whomever came up with that. There were so many highlights to the rest of the set it was difficult to single out certain songs, but their cover of U2’s With or Without You really gave me goosebumps (and clearly the person sat in front of me, who whispered to her friend “I just got goosebumps”), while their Voice Festival songs Domino and Got To Get You Into My Life were performed professionally and with much pizzazz.
Their soloists did leave a little to be desired though. While the group have a real gem in Laurie Cottam, who took the lead several times, including in the aforementioned Got To Get You Into My Life, and has one of the best voices I have ever heard, the rest of the group are not quite up to the same standard, and so while the arrangements and backing are at times superb, some songs are let down by merely above average solos. I commend the group for allowing several members of the group to take short solos on Mambo No. 5, but it never really allowed any of the boys to really get their teeth into the solo, and combined with a couple of shaky high harmonies made it one of the weaker numbers. And while their mash-up of the Spice Girls’ Stop and 5ive’s Keep On Movin’ was impressively arranged, I’m not sure the low solo quite worked within the Spice Girls segment.
Expectations are always high of Out of the Blue, and for the most part they really live up to them here, and add to their charm with a real surprise in their hilarious sketch involving a human drum kit, which I was not expecting at all. It served as an effective comic interlude midway through the set and was a refreshing new twist from the group. I recommend going to see the boys if at all possible, as you will be blown away by their infectious energy, charismatic choreography and catchy covers, and you won’t be able to get them out of your head.

Out of the Blue and The Oxford Alternotives both have brand new albums on sale outside their shows. The Alternotives’ album can also be purchased on iTunes.

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