Wednesday, 23 February 2011

807 THE WHIGS, The Dead Confederate, Blacklight Pioneer, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Tuesday 22 February 2011

A good old fashioned short notice gig, this; I’d come across a classified ad for this dual-headlining tour by a couple of young bands from REM’s old stamping grounds of Athens, Georgia, whilst tidying away some old “Uncut” magazines on Sunday. Given that The Dead Confederate had also contributed an intriguing, proto shoegazey number to a recent "Uncut" compilation CD, I then checked out the respective bands' MySpace pages; The Dead Confed’s MySpace stuff veered from good, through indifferent to not so good really, but I enjoyed the driving hard rock of The Whigs (as in “Afghan”, but seemingly no relation to Greg Dulli’s post-grunge lot), a band previously totally unknown to me.

Thus it was that I made a frustrating lorry-hindered journey to Oxford, nevertheless parking up easily and hitting the venue at 8.30, for an intriguing double-header, which immediately became triple with openers Blacklight Pioneer, who took the stage as I arrived. A 6-piece young British band joining the Yank rockers for the UK leg of their tour, they mined a zeitgeisty dark, brooding pseudo 80’s sound with some good numbers, notably fast-faced final number “Lucille”, but sounded at the moment cluttered and untogether, as if they were having a “who can play their instruments the loudest” competition. Still, I remember writing something similar about a Reading Fez support slot from The Killers one time, and 18 months later they were selling out Brixton Academy, so what the fuck do I know??!

Took in the ambience of this venerable old upstairs room, with the ghosts of old 80’s gigs seeping through the walls (if I closed my eyes, I could almost hear The Parachute Men, 4 times my hosts here!), before taking a wander down the front for The Whigs, on at 9.15 and given a fulsome welcome by a now-full Jericho audience. A snappily impressive, driving with the top down opener “Like A Vibration”, was followed by an enthusiastically played and well paced set from this young 3-piece. “Black Lotus”, a similarly raw and garage rock-like number with a roaring groove, was followed by “Dying”, a slow-burn to a lengthy and cacophonous squall, which recalled Seafood or Bob Mould. By contrast, “Written Invitation”, next up, was almost pretty and cleared the air perfectly. “We’re The Whigs from Athens; who here’s from Georgia?”, the angular, Thurston Moore lookalike vocalist Parker Gispert shouted out mid-set, to be met with a roar from the crowd. Responding in kind, the high-kicking Parker rounded off a splendid rock set with “Need You Need You”, which featured a sleazy groove reminiscent of the Doors “LA Woman”. I quickly grabbed a set-list and got it signed, enjoying some baseball banter with drummer Julian Dorio in the process!

The Dead Confederate, headliners tonight, were however a great disappointment, playing a plodding, one dimensional post-grunge noise for which the sound, often muddy and at best average tonight, did no favours. Bleak, black and indistinct, I nevertheless gave them half a dozen numbers, but with their songs merging into each other, I took a wander back, pitching up next to the articulate Whigs vocalist Parker for an enjoyable conversation about the importance of variation and “light and shade” in a band’s repertoire. I then hit the road while The Dead Confederate continued to revisit the ghost of grunge onstage, having already seen tonight’s true headliners – The Whigs!

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