Gig Review

Cave In
Plus Zico Chain, Jacobs Stories
Oxford, Zodiac
6th March 2006

Cave In                   Zico Chain                Jacobs Stories

The Oxford Zodiac. It’s a pretty well-known venue as far as gigs go, lots of up-and-coming bands play there, as well as “bands of the moment,” and just plain amateurs. Saying that, I’d never been there until today. It’s split into two halves, one is clearly bigger than the other. Cave In, were scheduled to play in the smaller half. Was it to be too small to hear anything, or close and cosy? I was soon to find out.

We entered, from the main ticket booth, down a small corridor. It was deadly quiet, a bit eerie in all honesty. I looked at the brightly coloured, cheaply printed adverts for forthcoming gigs, and spotted the Cave In one. I then stopped dead in my tracks. The main support band, were the Zico Chain. I was amazed. I had seen them just nine days before, at the other end of the country, supporting The Alkaline Trio. They get about a bit. Were they stalking me? I didn’t enjoy the gig in Sheffield; I didn’t think they were very good at all, so I was hoping this time, it was going to be a different story. We continued down the corridor, and through a door. Welcome to the Zodiac. A bar dead ahead and an expense of floor to the left, with a small stage on the same wall you entered on. The room was empty. Doors opened at seven, and we walked in about half past, yet it was dead in there.

We went and stood at the back so we could have a sit down, without looking like weirdos in the middle of the floor, and amused ourselves with the UV lights.

On came the roadies for the first band, Jacob’s Stories. Or so we thought. What we thought were two roadies, were actually the band. I have reason to believe that the band are actually a four piece, (with some collaboration from a member of Hundred Reasons, whose new album, and yes this is irrelevant now, was playing in between bands, and sounded really good. Far better than the previous release “Shatterproof is not a challenge.”) However, here they were presenting themselves as a two-piece. I don’t think anybody in the room had really heard of them. One of the members, a woman, sat down and took hold of her violin, the second, a man, sat down at a double-rack synth. He held his arm up, and signalled to the sound-man that they were ready to go. The sound and lights, faded, and there was a feeling of anticipation in the room, for the live music to begin.

The first song began with the wispy synth pad sounds, and some high-pitched airy vocals from the man, the woman later joining with her violin. This first section of the song didn’t really seem to get anywhere, and was a similar thing over and over. As the vocals continued, I looked at the man; he wasn’t singing. Along with the synths, he was working a sampler, and using it to record sections of synth and vocal, and then add effects and cut them up. A brief second of silence, and then bang; a drum loop came in. It wasn’t just your average drum loop, it was a selection of processed beats, expertly put together to produce variation and interest, rather than just a basic beat to play to. It was like The Postal Service had found a drum-machine. There was something about this band, very much like some of Lemon Jelly’s earlier works. Some would refer to it as “stoner music,” the kind of tracks you can blast out after getting intoxicated, just lie there, and grin inanely.

Song after song were played, with amazing drum-beats, and well-composed synth and vocal combinations. By the end of their set, they were picking up a roomful of applause, instead of a light smattering at the start of the set. Nearly everyone in the room had been captured, by the talent of this couplet. It’s a skill in itself to create such a sound on a CD, but doing all the sampling and triggering manually, and live on a poky stage in Oxford; that’s something else.

And so we reverted to the Hundred Reasons album. Although it was good intermission music, I would have rather stayed with the electronica chill-out just before hand. Maybe I wanted them to last forever, because I knew the next group on were The Zico Chain. I couldn’t escape them, and so just had to pray they were better, or that at least the venue allowed them to be better. As they came on to set up, I realised that in this small venue, there was no such thing as a roadie. They came to set up their instruments, and I recognised them all straight away. The guitarist, looked something like Bert McCracken of The Used, and the singer/bassist, well, let’s just imagine a young, angry Kurt Cobain. And the drummer had something about his playing style that reminded me of Animal from the Muppets.

And so they started. And actually, I was enjoying myself. Their opening riff, was, for lack of a better phrase, a beast. It was really great. When I saw them at the Octogan in Sheffield, I couldn’t really hear music. I just watched them, and heard nothing but noise, and was more concerned with the idiots around me. But here, I could hear it all. Catchy riffs started every song, and everyone was nodding heads and twitching legs. This wasn’t the kind of room to start jumping around, you could just have controlled spasms and enjoy the music.

The drummer was pounding away like there was no tomorrow, with his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide. And the guitarist was thrusting around and moving all over, pounding out these riffs. Both the bassist and guitarist, were battling with the long fringes, throwing them back over their heads only to have them falling back into place a few seconds later.

“Hey everyone, we're The Zico Chain. Thanks for coming. We'd like to thank Cave In for letting us tour with them. Also, there's CDs at the back for only £6, so please go and buy them because we really need the petrol money.”

There seemed to be a familiar pattern with regards to The Zico Chain's song-writing abilities. A catchy riff would be established either on bass or guitar, and then played by both at once. Or even played both at once from the start, triggered by the ever-present open hi-hat four-beat intro. The drummer would go nuts, the guitarist would wiggle about a bit, the singer would look drunk and angry and fire out lyrics in a grungy tone, and that would be a song. You could say, that most of their songs sounded the same, but put that together with the fact that the first song was good, and basically you're saying all their songs were good. Which they were pretty much.

At the end of the final song, the front-man finished his last note then instantly threw his bass up. I don't know if he'd paid attention to his surroundings, but the ceiling wasn't that far above him, so, predictably, the bass hit the ceiling, hit him, and hit the floor. He didn't seem to care though. So maybe he was drunk after all. But applause erupted from the crowd, and the band left.

I patted the bassist on the shoulder as he passed me, and congratulated him.

“Oh cheers man,” he said, walking off into the room, which was now full.

As Cave In started setting up, we walked to a closer position. As I said, this wasn't really a “jump-around and crush” venue, so you could pretty much walk anywhere you wanted to go, within reason. We talked about all the songs we wanted to hear, and all the songs we actually knew. There were two girls to the left of me, armed with a digital camera, taking some shots for the album “this is us making dicks of ourselves at Cave In,” and would no doubt be posted up on MySpace that very night. I sighed.

Anyway, on came Cave In to play.

“Can we start?”
“Yeah!” called back the crowd.

And so off they went, bursting straight into a song. I didn't know it, but it was good, and everyone was bobbing heads again.

Cave In are a four-piece American band. The drummer had his head hidden my long dark hair, and I don't know what the drums had done to him, (maybe called his Mum a slag?) but they were sure paying for it. He was seriously bettering them. And what is it today about people looking like other people? The bassist looked strangely like Ben Stiller, and the second guitarist looked like my old art teacher Rob. (That means nothing to the general public, but he was a legend and we always wondered what happened to him since he left college.)

After the first song, the vocalist apologised.

“I'm sorry guys. I'm feeling really ill and I can't seem to reach a perfect note.”

“You're fine man,” added the bassist, smiling. “Come on.”

So into the next song they went. I didn't recognise it again. But I could appreciate how well they were playing. They were playing all of their new stuff off of “Perfect Pitch Black,” most of which I don't own. And compared to their album “Antenna” which I knew, this was much heavier. Similar in some ways to the Zico Chain's material, and the bassist would occasionally “go all screamo” and have a good shout. This was something that has definitely only come into their music recently; screaming.

Half way through the song, the second guitarist stole the microphone and sang the song instead. The vocalist (and lead guitarist too,) didn't mind, he just stepped back and looked at him with the bassist, laughing. The whole set was really laid back, and they hadn't really planned it I don't hink.

“I apologise again, it's just, well, when we go on tour I like to drink and smoke. And I don't mean lemon juice,” he said, raising the glass in his hand.

Two American girls were in front of me, and one cried “I like to smoke!”
“Ok,” said the front-man, “I guess that makes us... similar?”
Everyone laughed.
“And I suppose you like warm lemon juice too, huh?”
“Yeah I bet.”
More laughing.
“Hmm now, what shall we play next?”

People were screaming different track names, and the band had a little chat. They just started jamming randomly, having a laugh, but the rhythm guitarist wasn't having any of it. You saw him shaking his head and he broke it up, he didn't know what to play. They wanted to play another song, but the front-man's voice was really suffering. The rhythm said he's sing it, but the bassist said no, he wanted to. And this, was really the only thing that let the band down I think, the lack of planning of the set, and the general decisions on stage. The front-man turned the microphone into the crowd.

“You guys can sing it.”

And so they started, and of course, the first verse went without vocals. Then the rhythm guitarist spun the mic back to him, and sang the rest.

With two guitars playing virtually identical things, the sound was really thick and, generally amazing. Whereas the Zico Chain were led from the bass, these guys were really led by the guitars.

“What next?”
More deliberation.
“BIG RIFF! BIG RIFF!” plenty of people were shouting. Another track I didn't know.

“Hmm, well okay. You know who's a real motherfucker with the microphone? The singer from Jacob's Stories. Yeah, I think he should come on up.”

The song started, and the mic was turned back into the crowd, and sure enough, the singer from Jacob's Stories, came to the front, and sung from the crowd. He wasn't too sure on the words, and so watched the Cave In singer mouth the lyrics, to help him find his place. But he did very well, and the song was excellent. They wanted him to come up for more, but he refused. One song was enough. And well done to him.

They ended with tracks that employed more screaming, to give the singer's voice a rest. “Trepanning,” was one song, and turned out to be the only one I really knew of.

The bassist missed a line, and screamed “This time I fucked it up,” but I don't know if anyone could understand his screams really, and so didn't notice. The band did though, they were laughing and joking around, as they did for most of the set. The bass and rhythm were moving around and having a good time, and drummer was going mad, and the singer was, well, kind of moving back and forth a bit and doing an annoying knee-bending dance. Trying to be hardcore, and failing a bit. But still, great.

The set ended to tonnes of clapping and cheering, (as if you can measure that kind of thing in tonnes.) I was a bit annoyed that they hadn't played any of (in my opinion,) their better stuff, such as “Inspire,” (with the catchiest riff in the history of time,) or “Anchor,” (which most people just know as the song with the video where the guy has his feet set in concrete.) Nevertheless, it was a great gig, and as we left we realised how much our ears were ringing. We were placed right by one of the speakers, which seemed to be emanating this high-pitched buzz for most of their set, and also seemed to be the main output for their feedback and effects in between songs. The ringing was so severe in fact, that as I type this now, nineteen hours after the gigs end, the ringing is still there. It was very good, but it was very loud. I'll remember that for next time.

We left the Zodiac, and spotted a greasy chicken fast-food place; the “perfect end” to a night out.

Review by Thom

 Cave In

Stephen Brodsky (vocals, guitar)
Caleb Scofield (vocals, bass guitar)
Adam McGrath (guitar)
Ben Koller (drums)
 Zico Chain

Chris Glithero (Bass, Vocals)
Paul Frost (Guitars)
Ollie Middleton (Drums)
 Jacobs Stories

Stuart Lee (Piano, Vocals)
 Band Related Links
Cave In Myspace
Zico Chain Myspace
Jacobs storie's Myspace
 Review Score Code
- Top Cheese
- Brilliant
- Pretty damn good
- Ok I guess
- What Was That?