Friday, 15 January 2010

637 STELLASTARR*, The Subways, Oxford Zodiac, Tuesday 29 June 2004

After a few days unpacking boxes and moving furniture in our new house, we needed a gig! Set off later than usual as Rachel had been out on business today, so we hit the quiet venue at 10 past 8. Quiet outside, quiet inside as well, a surprisingly poor turnout for such a hotly tipped band. Maybe Oxford isn't as switched on as we thought!

Very young 3-piece the Subways opened - they were a drum-dominated blues rock combo, swinging some primal rock'n'roll similar to early PJ Harvey or, recently, The Hives. Not bad, but Rach remarked how she thought they'd played the same number 3 times!

The place thankfully filled up a bit more for the arrival of Stellastarr*, promptly at 9.35. "In The Walls", the jagged, moody opener to their fine album opened the set and initially created a false impression - it sounded pretty good, but the sound quality (doubtless set up for a fuller venue) sadly dipped thereafter. The band, all studied New York art school cool, struggled with the poor sound initially, but come "No Weather", they were into their stride, all agitated, strident and full of nervous tension and energy. By "My Coco", via a couple of newies, they were really fulfilling the potential shown last time out, with a brilliantly rhythmic, moody and thoroughly absorbing rendition, vocalist Shawn Christiansen's old-and-wise-before-their-time vocals a feature throughout. A spiky, punchy "Pulp Song" ended the set breathlessly, and encore "Jenny" put the exclamation point on a performance which started in adversity and ended in triumph. Stellastarr* fulfilling potential; great stuff!

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