The Shed, Cambridge, August 4th
Still catching up with the gigs from over a week ago: addedentry had seen Laura Veirs before she was famous (of course) and recommended her, so we went to catch her at The Shed (the Junction's little sibling, with proportionately cheaper ticket prices) where she was ably supported by Thao Nguyen.
Okay, so I was mean about female singer-songwriters in my last gig review. It's not that they're bad, just that there are so damn many who do roughly the same kind of music. So I wasn't really expecting Thao Nguyen to be anything special... but hey, living with addedentry has taught me to love being proved wrong, so I sat back and enjoyed a feast of finger-picking and percussive effects, with lyrics broad enough to be universal and specific enough to be poetry (or vice versa).
Laura Veirs got off to an unpromising start with a rather bland and unclear song whose title I've long since forgotten, but made a marvellous recovery thereafter. The Souls didn't sound terribly Tortured to my untortured -- I mean, untutored -- ears, but they made some lovely noises nonetheless, scratchy and mellow all at once; particular kudos to the keyboardist who played at least three different parts, one of them on the trombone. And while Laura's dress sense may have been Veir-ing (do you see?) towards a deliberately kooky take on (sigh) librarian chic, her singing was always a delight.
It was a long way in more than mere miles from the genteel jazz-club atmosphere of The Shed, with its comfortable seats and pre-ordered interval drinks, to the more traditional indie venue of Oxford's Zodiac, with its sticky floors, smoky air, and more or less complete absence of anything bearable to drink (until I spotted the bottles of Newky Brown hiding at the back). But the venue has to suit the band, and this was clearly the right place for the Saturday night's offerings...
Seafood + The Race + Rock of Travolta
The Zodiac, Oxford, August 5th
juggzy (who proved herself to be not only the unrivalled queen of indie cool but purveyor of the most amazing garlic scrambled eggs) had warned us that Rock of Travolta were past their best, but she hadn't warned us quite how bloody loud they were. They produce a brand of what I believe the young people call 'heavy metal' (and what I, being old, would call 'prog') which, due to their careful choice of instruments, feels a bit like being battered to death with a 'cello wrapped around a gold brick. It was great! But, like nja, I felt I could have stood about 15 minutes fewer of their music.
The Race, on the other hand, managed to go on too long without actually being any good in the first place. No more of my precious blog-inches for you, Mister Gurning Glockenspiel Man!
And then finally, the moment we might conceivably have been waiting for since the year 2000 or thereabouts... Seafood! What do you mean, you don't remember them? They were good in the late 1990s, they were good at Glastonbury 2002, and they're great now: much tighter and more confident than I remembered (though that could have been just the effect of the Glastonbury New Bands tent's acoustics). They're very much in the same vein as Idlewild, but before Idlewild went all fuzzy and folky; this, much though I like Roddy "remember you're a" Woomble's sensitive side, is a Good Thing. To cut a long story short, they rocked out, and I pogoed along delightedly with da kidz (to addedentry's continuing amusement) until I was as sticky as the speaker stacks... and the walls... and the band's instruments... (ahh, indie venues, how we love 'em). Excellent fun all the way through, from the first yell-a-long chorus to the final frenzy of feedback. I'm even tempted to buy the new album...
Listen for yourself:
• Thao Nguyen [myspace]
• Laura Veirs [myspace]
• Rock of Travolta [myspace]
• The Race [myspace]
• Seafood [myspace]