Venue: The Cellar
Location: Cornmarket Street Oxford England
After an interesting van/underground-parking-lot interface we relax in style as Matt and Chrissie regale us with phenomenal quantities of delicious chilli and beer in their calm and lovely flat. Well, as calm as anything with Terry Walpole in it can be...
On the way back to the venue I try to send the entire band the wrong way up St. Giles Street. "It's probably changed a bit since you were here," says Pete.
The New Moon open the show at the faintly ridiculous hour of 8:30. There is already a small crowd, though, which swells throughout their set. Shades of Robin Hitchcock and Jeff Buckley hover around the surprisingly tough sounds that Matt and bassist Ian conjur. The double bass really does give the songs body and drive and Matt is in fine voice. Later they are joined by a man playing a flute. He's very good, but I wouldn't have said they really needed him.
A good crowd has gathered by the time that The Race begin their set. We don't know much about them beyond the fact that they come from Reading, but we do know that they are on a bit of a tour, and we rather suspect that perhaps most of the punters tonight will really be here to see them, not us. (This actually turns out not to be true - I should point out that a lot of them are probably there more for the pound-a-pint deal than for any particular one of the groups.)
The Race start strongly; in tune, powerful, passionate. It's The Big Music. During their first number, which starts off epic and then, rather bravely, just gets bigger and bigger, Russ and I both suddenly realise that they remind us of U2. It's a kind of music that I don't usually like, but they do it with charm and verve, and in a small cellar on a cold night it is very agreeable.The diminiutive frontman, who has a lovely voice, is whacking the shit out himself with his tambourine. I would be surprised if he sits down for a week. Two or three more epics into their set and Terry Walpole is on the dance floor, whirling like a dervish and frightening the natives. Meanwhile MC Bot is in something called The Goat With Three Heads. Russ and Anita and I attempt to go and find this goat, but get no further than the aforementioned lawns of academe.
Soon enough we are on the little stage: the sound is crisp, the house full, the headcase down the front. We play the same set we have played since Steve Bez joined us, and once again it is improved. It really feels good, with Steve Bez and Russ locked into a groove and Kathy good and loud, courtesy of The Race's marvellous bass tractor. Good response from the audience too. They didn't lose interest after The Race after all. Native observers later tell us that for Oxford they were positively animated.
A drink or two and a brief chat with Richard from Gappy Tooth Promotions (he sounded like my kind of guy) and we're stuffing ourselves back into the van, all paid up and packed away. On the trip home we hear somebody on national BBC Radio use the phrase "celebrating Auschwitz". Well done, everybody out there in Hollyoaks World. I was wondering how long it would take.
Sincere thanks, though, are due to Matt and Chrissie for their extreme hospitality; to Jimmy Evil for booking us; to The Race for being so easy to work with and for that lovely bass thing; and to Terry Walpole, for it is true that without him the evening would never actually have happened.