Our Oxfordshire-based gigging began on Saturday 11th October 2008 with a visit to Zodiac at The Oxford Academy.
The first band of the night to take the stage was The Great Eskimo Hoax:
This band is an interesting three-piece combo who played catchy, hooky material with its roots spreading from what used to be called shoegaze. Every number in their set was well constructed, skilfully played and professionally backed by energetic drumming, cool guitar and an impressive range of keyboard skills. They sampled elements of their live performance and used those samples to build more complex musical layers as they added these samples back in to their performance. The lead singer/keyboardist was a little bit Robert Smith in his performance and marked the conclusion of each song with a softly spoken downbeat â€˜cheers’. The guitarist worked hard to underpin the melodies with a solid performance and the drumming supported the trio in a solidly knitted routine. It’s worth keeping an eye on this band; The Great Eskimo Hoax.
Next up was This Town Needs Guns:
These guys walked on stage in a more traditional line-up; a drummer and two (sometimes three) guitars. It’s worth pointing out the professionalism of the drummer – just a few minutes before they took the stage he was violently ill, yet he carried on and saw the set out. The lead vocalist gave us a fine display of early Morrisey dancing but sadly managed to let the band (and the entire audience) down by getting in to an argumentative discussion about Pink Floyd and then dissed The Floyd by calling them rubbish. The music industry has a saying: ‘Be nice to everyone on your way up because you’re going to meet them again on your way down’. With an unprofessional attitude like that my friend, you’re not even going to make it on the way up. I can’t advise anyone to give you any of their hard-earned money, you don’t deserve it.
Third band on stage was Jonquil:
I should pause a moment to say here that before the gig I knew nothing about any of these artists. The positive side of this is that I had no expectations. Jonquil plucked at my expectations and carried them higher with every number they performed for us.
I feel the need to address Jonquil’s genre and the best way of doing this is to ask you to pick one. Go on, pick a genre. Because Jonquil come close to putting a tick in most genre boxes â€“ and at the same time they come close to putting a tick in none of them. If I had to pick a yardstick to compare them to I would say that Jonquil come close to being a distinctly British version of that talented group of eclectic Icelandic musicians: Sigur RÃ³s. Whilst Jonquil haven’t yet achieved the maturity of Sigur RÃ³s, they are very close to achieving the same versatility and range. Let’s just look at their on-stage musicianship for a moment: Trumpet (might have been in the key of C – I couldn’t see from where I was standing), flute, electric double bass, keyboards, drums, more keyboards, keyboarded mouth organ, electric violin, even more keyboards, tenor horn (in E Flat) and accordion. And guitars. Oh yeah, and one more instrument that they all played, their choral skills. Jonquil repeatedly built a series of chants and turned them in to finely woven choral passages. Very cool.
And what musical dishes did these six talented musicians serve up for our ears? Jonquil gave us a consistently solid performance of atmospheric, melodious, distinctive musical emotion. They loved being on stage, they loved performing for us and the crowd loved them right back. Jonquil’s performance was impressively professional from start to finish. I loved their show, I loved the feature and I loved the presentation of it. Their musical consistency could only impress even the most sceptical reviewer but by the end of their third number I wasn’t sceptical. I was totally on board.
So to sum up:
The Great Eskimo Hoax:
Edgy, cleverly constructed music well performed by a threesome who made themselves bigger than three people should sound. Distinctive, listenable, watchable for the future.
This Town Needs Guns:
A good performance but you don’t slag off one of the world’s most widely supported supergroups. This marks their set as wholly unprofessional and it left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth.
Quirky, distinctive, melodic harmonies supported by an impressive range of musicianship. It would be well worth looking in to their catalogue, I guarantee you will find much musical magic in there.
And a quick note on the venue. After spending time in the corresponding venue at The Bar Academy in Birmingham I’m pleasantly surprised. The sound system at Zodiac was absolutely excellent. The engineer was on the case and the acoustics complemented the artists. It was a pleasure to listen to these artists. But the venue could have done with some seating.