Saturday, 3 November 2012

861 2:54, Childhood, Oxford Jericho Tavern, Friday 2 November 2012

This was another of my recent trips down to evocative old 80’s/ 90’s bolt-hole The Jericho Tavern, now thankfully restored to its’ full scuzzy rock’n’roll glory, and this time to see a new band; 2:54, whose self-titled debut CD I’ve been enjoying muchly in my more mellow, introspective moments this year. Pitching up somewhere between post-punk poppy pseudo Goth and low-key shoegaze, this female-fronted band occupy an introspective yet accessible headspace, and certainly have mood and atmosphere down pat, with lots of promise to compensate for a slight lack of immediately hooky and/or brain tugging tunes. Still, nowt wrong with stuff that surreptitiously sneaks up on you, either…

So I hit the road on a clear and appropriately inky black swirly Autumn night, for a solo drive down after the kids went to bed. Had a slight parking-mare, taking 15 minutes to eventually find a spot next to a park, just off Walton Street. Hit the venue at 9 – I initially thought there was a very good turnout, judging by the milling crowd outside as I approached, but it turned out to be for the Phoenix Picture House next door! So it was that I joined two dozen or so curious punters for support Childhood, on at 9. A young band, this, likely a student common-room bunch, and led by an impressively afro-ed tall male vocalist whose understated vocal style was at odds with his stature, they had some nice textural guitar recalling Kitchens Of Distinction, especially during their choruses, embellishing their C86 innocent indie guitar sound. Some 80’s baggy slightly-delic swirling effects as well, which propped up their as yet thin material. A looooong way to go, but they’re showing some early promise, and props to them for putting some effort into their performance, rather than just standing around like lumps!

The disappointing turnout early doors filled up some more, but I was still able to wander down the front and take a stage left spot as the band, having gathered down the front waiting for the appointed hour, decided they wanted to get on with it, and took the stage 5 minutes early! Led onstage by core members, the very striking sisters Colette (vocalist, blush, great hair) and Hannah (guitarist, paler and tousled) Thurlow, they eased into their set with “Circuitry”, immediately setting their moody, slow burn agenda with some deliciously smooth vocals and shimmering guitar. “Scarlet”, metronomic yet also wistful and dreamy, recalled my old 90’s favourites The Julie Dolphin, with Colette having abandoned her occasionally-strummed guitar for this number, instead crouching down and waving her impressive raven tresses. “Revolving”, the CD opener yet mid-set tonight, was a delicious languid mood-piece, and “Easy Undercover” – which was the first number Colette actually introduced! – featured some lovely fretwork from Hannah and was a set highlight.

“We’ve recently covered “Killer” and we’re going to do it now,” Colette announced by way of introducing their rendition of Adamski’s dark funk breakthrough number. Their stripped-back version threw new light onto this number for me, with Hannah’s restrained yet shimmering lead guitar replacing the oppressive big beats and actually adding to the song’s menace. A final “Creeping”, preceded by some complimentary words from Colette for this reverential audience, who’d been virtually silent between numbers, was a lush, absorbing set highlight, ensuring this 45 minute set finished on a high.

A signed set-list and a brief chat with Hannah later, I was on my way, after a dark and deliciously moody set from a charming young band learning their craft quickly and showing great potential. I get the feeling that the next time I see them, it’ll be in a much bigger venue…

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