The Cellar, Oxford
4th November 2002
Having been put off folk music at an early age by my mother’s Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span records, I arrive at Trailerpark with some trepidation tonight as I’ve heard it’s going to be “folky”. Luckily, whatever genre tonight’s acts can be assigned to, I found something to enjoy in all of them.
Zoe Bicat had a large band, whose instruments balanced cleverly with each other – especially the cello and strong bass guitar. Zoe herself on acoustic guitar both sang and played delicately; her beautiful earnest and sombre voice commanded the crowd’s attention, and her dynamism in tempo and volume, and the band’s cooperation, managed to pack a wide range of moods and emotions into every song. In a good way, she reminded me of the Cranberries, but with more substance, feeling and variety.
Next up were Spygirl, from Vancouver, whose website describes their musical style as “urban folk trip funk country hop jazz pop” – an eclectic mix. Indeed, it is hard to name any similar artists, and only Morcheeba come close. Confident slinky vocals (courtesy of Koralee Tonack), sweeping ringing guitar and a strong funky bassline seem to be their hallmarks. The promise and originality displayed by the earlier songs in their set became less evident later on, but you still had the impression you were watching very accomplished musicians with a style of their own.
Joe Hughes, a former member of local Irish folk band Fionn, ended with a Strokes cover, which strangely fitted in well with the rest of his Anglified blues/folk/country angst-rock. His strong distinctive and powerful voice gave his self-contained songs energy and depth, and his band’s two guitars, bass and drums constructed much harmonic and melodic substance. Even the many – perhaps too many – guitar solos complemented Joe’s voice and his songs’ structure.
So: an enjoyable “folk” night, and not an All Around My Hat in sight.