I'm not sure how my ears survived the bracing onslaught of Cassels, who mainlined the fulsome dexterity of Royal Blood, the Manics' serrated asymmetry and some Oxonian wit. Replacing Kitsch, the advertised support, these last-minute stand-ins grabbed the attention and are ones to watch. We forgave them some between-song non-banter.
Be Good elicited scorn from a nearby audience member for 'smugness', but entertained and had at least one perfect number in their arsenal of retrofitted songmanship. They approach passé styles in a similar way to 'Drive-In Saturday'-era Bowie. Opening with a karaoke rendition of Roy Orbison spotlighted the beating heart and archness behind their plangent indie.
King of Cats demands a certain kind of attention. I've found that his output doesn't work well as domestic background music. Thus he has the power to divide opinion. With his usual backing musicians from Joanna Gruesome away at the Green Man Fest, Max flew solo for this hometown show. Apparently this was a set of “quiet ones”, mainly self-accompanied on guitar but also on electrified bouzouki (axe of choice for Greek protest musicians of the 60s, I am reliably informed). But what was disturbing coming from my kitchen speakers is an incisive instrument when given full attention, and that instrument is KoC's marmite voice. It has a faux-naivety that can be used to get under the skin of songs about relatable and dark subjects, such as personal betrayal and media witch-hunts. More straightforward approaches could sound right-on, or indulgent. There were also sweet diary-like songs, so deceptively artless that a student version of the 'What I did on my holidays' essay might come to mind. And oh, that one about being an excellent chef. Its opening line set up a pun so knowingly woeful, it had the crowd in stitches.
Minor technical hitches and some odd heckling may have discouraged the King, and I've definitely seen him more animated, but the Cellar dug his set maybe even more than he did. He'll soon be joining Joanna Gruesome on tour.