The Cellar, Oxford
27th February 2003
Here’s a challenge – to describe 5 bands and the atmosphere of another excellent Trailerpark at the Cellar in 300 words. Here goes…
First up were Melbourne-based instrument-swapping new wave-y trio Panel Of Judges, on their first British tour. Unfortunately hampered by bad sound levels and being slightly out of tune, their West Coast-ish jangles were very pleasant and showed promise: if (when) they come up with a killer tune, it could be very special.
Second came mellow indie crooners Byrne, fresh from supporting MBICR at the Union Chapel the night before. Frontman Scot Patrick Byrne is a powerful presence (especially on recent single Tidal Wave), and his angst contributed to the overall mix of strong vocal harmonies set against a backdrop of guitars and occasional organ and other reverbed electronic stuff. They reminded me of the Waterboys in places, and were by far the most emotional – and serious – band on the bill.
Third up were Cambridge-based acerbic alt.country antagonists The Broken Family Band, whose sweet melodies, juxtaposed with sarcastic and hateful lyrics, created a bundle of vicious energy, musically and lyrically redolent of The Eels but with added British cynicism. Singer Steven Adams seemed permanently pissed off throughout the set (though he did say he was ill), but this added to their charm somehow.
Fourth on were “The Maplettes”, AKA Goldrush, now Jef-less and trying out new stuff. Their songwriting is moving on, exploring different areas of melody and rhythm, and these rockier and janglier new songs will surely be developed further live and in the studio.
The exhausting night was rounded off by Spartacus, looking like a local instrumental supergroup of sorts (boasting 2 drummers and 2 bassists) and sounding like TROT’s scrappier but rockier and more daring – if slightly warped – younger brother.