It’s been a while since I went to see some live, local music. I used to do it loads when I was married; my husband recorded a weekly ‘new music’ podcast, which I gatecrashed after a while, and for a couple of years we got to know loads of brilliant local musicians in and around Oxford.
So, when a friend said she was visiting Oxford on Friday evening, and asked if there was anything we could go and see (she was bemoaning the fact that she hasn’t been to any gigs lately, either), I suggested The Wheatsheaf and It’s All About The Music’s showcase of three live bands.
The evening didn’t start enormously well, when we had car trouble (clutch, ’03 Ford Ka, £375 bill, ugh) and had to catch the bus. Already running late because of car-faffing and infrequent buses, we missed the first band, Mogmatic, entirely. I am now doing a little research, and I am quite sad to have missed them. They’ve been going since the 90s, according to the font of all knowledge (Facebook), and from sampling a selection of their recorded music it is clear that they are pretty tight, musically speaking (although, I think the line-up has changed over the years). Describing themselves as an ‘Indie Rock Mod’ band, their variety of bluesy guitars and funky bass is toe-tappingly easy on the ear, as is the lead vocal. I wish I could comment on how it comes across live. Will have to keep an eye out for their next gig (*clicks ‘Like’ button on Facebook*).
We managed to make it to the Wheatsheaf to see about 15 minutes of Too Many Poets. A 5-piece from Witney, a glance at the stage told me a couple of things. There are a lot of them (and the stage is small) and I am old. Or they are young. They looked about 12 to me (apparently they range from 18 – 20). I am an ancient mid-30-year old, clearly. They were having a grand old time of it and obviously love what they do, and I enjoyed some of the guitar melodies – again, my toes were a’tapping. However, the vocals seemed way too loud for the music, and came across, to me, at least, a little distorted, and (I’m sad to say) off-key and slightly headache-inducing. I refer to my old age status again – it could just be me. There were many other audience members dancing and seemingly taking pleasure from the set. Again, I am listening online (Soundcloud, this time) and am loving Elegance in Decadence. Including (or especially) the vocal. I love the lyrics, I love the title (‘decadence’ is such an evocative word) and must also mention that I love the band name. So I feel like perhaps I need to give these guys another chance, perhaps when I’m not so harassed with transport issues? They state that they don’t like to be ‘put in a box’ on their Facebook page, and it is quite difficult to put a finger on their style, with some haunting guitar riffs and thoughtful lyrics combined with the energy of the performance I saw. In fact, as I write this, I have a couple of their songs on repeat, and am tempted to go and buy the CD from my local independent music store (what with being old-school and liking a CD rather than a download…). So I look forward to seeing them at the Witney Music Festival in May.
The headline band of the evening were The Strays. This three-piece were definitely less frenetic than Too Many Poets, and this possibly appealed to my frazzled self. I found the guitar-led tunes reminiscent of the rockier side of the 90s Britpop scene, with another strong vocal (think John Power from Cast) and a good solid beat. By this point the bar was packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying the craic.