Seas, Starry; Matricarians, The Oxbow Lake – Cellar 35 – 05/02/11
Let me get this out of the way first, Aberdeen desperately needs venues like Cellar 35. We do pretty well for medium-sized venues and have the cavernous AECC to accommodate larger tours but have nothing for small bands or new promoters to use. Cellar 35 has been on the go for a few years but suffers from antagonism between what bands and promoters want and what the owners want, usually volume is the loser with bands being asked to turn down mid-set. Thankfully it’s under new ownership, has had a makeover and is going to do more regular gigs. Hooray!
We could use a couple more tiny venues for people to try out ideas, get more creative and not feel under pressure to attract a couple of hundred people every gig. As it is bands end up playing to a quarter filled Tunnels or in Drummonds filled with casual drinkers paying no interest to the bands. Here’s hoping Cellar 35 builds on this and continues to put on interesting gigs and parties (the Do It! party the previous night was apparently a big success).
The other advantage of tiny venues is that when bands have sound problems if the crowd are quiet enough, we can still hear them. This was apparent with Matricarians set as their acoustic instruments failed to punch through leaving them struggling to stick to their gameplan. Alan had promised a more focused coherent performance tonight but this was hard to achieve when the mic’s were turned down so low. Once they moved on to electric instruments it became a challenging noisy performance cursed with a looseness similar to the gig a few weeks back. When Alan did sing it brought a bit of focus but this was a futile effort as his voice struggled to be picked up by the microphone, the lyric sheet was soon torn up and Matricarians focused instead on creating a good droning din.
There was some confusion for a while as to the running order with this gig, as originally Seas, Starry were to be on last but this was switched due to illness so they then went on second. They told us it would be shoegazey effects laden goodness and we weren’t disappointed. A frankly ridiculous amount of pedals were on display and no less than 3 ebows.
Seas, Starry brought rhythmic effects laden repetition, driven by a pounding beat. They were inventive and full of purpose, each song being dynamic, layered and concise. Though, perhaps a little too concise at times. I felt that some of the songs stopped a bit suddenly just as they should have kicked on into another section, either up a gear or into a mellow ending. Tis a minor complaint though, there was plenty there to keep us interested and the songs certainly didn’t lack for ideas.
It was an assured performance for a band playing their first gig, but not surprising given most of the band have plenty of experience in various other Aberdeen bands such as Panda Eyes, Kartta, Greater the Shadow and Winter in Siberia. Seas, Starry are a band who promise much and with a few more gigs and some polished songs they may well deliver.
The last band of the evening was Oxbow Lake, who I knew very little about. They started off pretty badly, playing a god awful funk rock song complete with gurning and a wah-wah pedal, thankfully this wasn’t the tone for the rest of the set and they settled into a folky routine mixing traditional songs with more contemporary original material. It did go on a little bit too long, and wasn’t as groundbreaking as I’d expected them to be but they were fine enough. The singer’s voice reminded me a lot of the guy from Alabama 3 and it was good to see an accordion being used.
Gurning and wah-wah are bad though, sort it out lads.
Overall, it was a cracking night in a brilliant wee venue. Let’s have more of the same please!
Words and pics by David Officer.
Seas, Starry Bandcamp (you can download their 8 track sampler album free)
The Oxbow Lake MySpace