Wednesday night was dark and cold and gritty, so it made perfect sense to trek off to a Botley industrial estate for some live music we didn't know anything about. Somehow, Tap Social is arguably as good in winter as it is in summer, and the indoor space with its warehouse decor and mismatched furniture was abuzz with a friendly, expectant crowd. First up were Knobblehead, who may be imminently changing names ("remember their faces, not their names" we were told by the introducer). I'm no expert on genre labels, but whatever Knobblehead were putting down, we were certainly picking up: it was laid-back, it was fuzzy, there were tambourines involved, and all the band members looked like they were just having a really great time, which is kind of a crucial part of the spectacle. Just sitting there with a fine brew letting well-crafted noise wash over you felt pleasantly warming, and I was strangely bereft when the set ended.
Even genre label experts would surely have been confounded by the headliner, Paddy Steer. Describing the set we witnessed is nearly impossible, but I will attempt to fumble through regardless. Steer, sat behind banks of percussion instruments and equipment with what looked like some kind of Berberian headwear atop his pate, simply commenced emitting an utterly unearthly series of sounds. Cosmic loops were partnered with drum beats from the man himself, in addition to squelches and rasps from the vocoder positioned over his mouth. The more avant-garde amongst us were straight in, immediately throwing some shapes at front. Others were baffled, slightly bemused, and myself and my companion, both self-professed squares and repressed dancers, formed part of this latter demographic. "Is this what drugs sounds like?" questioned one man-bunned customer to my right. At times it was a guessing game as we attempted to piece things together. Was that a pestle and mortar on top of that cymbal? Or a bowl of cereal? The best was Steer's round masked helmet, a homemade sci-fi creation with light bars in the mouth, that came out for every other song.
"This one's about road traffic safety", the winged performer murmured, before segueing into a number that sounded like a distorted 90s videogame soundtrack. And looking around, it was clearly beginning to click. Those who had been firmly planted were soon aggressively foot-tapping and then bobbing at the knees and hips as the beat migrated upwards. One gentleman, who had previously been glued to a pillar, managed to extricate himself and went mobile, his whole frame rattling. Soon I too was dipping and twisting, an unwitting slave of the boops and synths and ripples of noise. "Shall I just continue in a similar manner?" asked the bearded Steer at one interlude, to which the crowd enthusiastically assented. We surfaced sometime later in the cold of the car park, grinning and unable to comment on the surreal performance. There's rumours that Upcycled Sounds and Tandem Collective are arranging further Wednesday night gigs at Tap Social, and if this chaotic curtain-raiser is anything to go by, they've got the perfect winter antidote.