The good people of Oxford and beyond went subterranean as they went down into the depths of the aptly named The Cellars for a night of excellent rock. It was the first time all 3 bands had played the venue and they didn’t disappoint.
Firestate started off the evening by launching straight into their powerful track ‘World Burn’ which kicked off the evening in epic style. Sounding loud, with their heavy guitars and rhythm, the band were out to impress and the was no denying they did exactly that. With already a good crowd in to see them play, singer James, who was in fact on crutches due to a broken leg (which was more than impressive in itself that they still played, other bands would have wimped out), sounded on excellent form as the vocals complimented the heaviness of the track, before continuing with ‘Sirens’. Mid way through the set they took the opportunity to “calm it down a bit” and for James to sit down for one song. At that point he was handed an inflatable parrot in a leather jacket, and there are some things we just accept happen at gigs, this was one of them. With the new band member now propped up in front of the drums, ‘Closer’ was a powerful ballad, which was full of emotion and soaring guitars throughout. However if there was one song of the night that was written for being played live, it was their latest single ‘Into The Madness’. With its more delicate intro, as it gained pace and intensity, it was one of those tracks that stayed in your head long after it finished. Ending the set on ‘Give Me A Sign’, Firestate had put on a brilliant set, and are definitely a band to check out live.
Maybe it’s the culture, the attitude or the fact they have come a long way to get to the UK, but every Australian band we’ve seen rocks the hell out of any set they play and Dead City Ruins were no exception. This was kick-ass rock and roll from the outset. As singer Jake twirled, swooped and generally launched himself across the stage like a madman, this was high-octane and energetic as hair went flying throughout their set, and this was just from the band. With the powerful guitars giving it some serious sounding riffs, ‘Til Death’ and ‘Broken Bones’ sounded immense and with notes sung for an impressively long time on a few of the tracks, this is a band to be reckoned with live. With both guitarists at times coming to the front of the stage to show off some serious axe-wielding skills and guitar licks, ‘Happenzella’ was loud and in your face, which is how rock should be. Mentioning they were touring over here for a year “until it snows, as we won’t survive”, the band were determined to give it their all, and the venue heated up and jackets were removed as the band stormed through ‘Hurt’. Ending their set on a song so new it has yet to be given a title, which was full of that riff-driven sound the band do so well, this had been an impressive set from them, and Dead City Ruins are the band you have to see live whilst they are in the UK.
Having seen two impressive bands already for the evening, there may have been a moment of how do you top that, but Knock Out Kaine were coming out fighting with their set. With singer Dean looking ultra-cool in aviator shades, the band were on great form even though they had been on the road since February, and there was no let up from start to finish. ‘Set The Night On Fire’ with its pounding drums filled the venue with sound, along with gritty guitars, great sounding vocals and harmonies, and this was a set that made you very grateful they had finally got around to playing Oxford. With Dean slugging back the water “unless anyone wants to buy me a whisky or vodka and coke” in a not so subtle request, ‘Ain’t Your Kind’ tuned up the heat a little bit more in an already warm venue. With a song all about shagging behind someone’s back, whether it be the wife, the husband, the erm hamster?! ‘Backstreet Romeo’ went down well with the crowd, with the acoustic guitar adding another impressive layer to the songs. “It’s nice to smell the audience” referring to the fact this was a rather intimate venue “but having been on the road for a while, we smell a lot worse”, was the perfect opportunity to launch into the Steve Earle cover ‘Copperhead Road’, which was a brilliant version and must have impressed more than one person, as the previously mentioned drink choice arrived on the stage, and was enough to get the sunglasses removed to see where it came from.
Moving on to the section where they brought out the “fat hairy bastard” of a ballad (they had been on the road quite a while it seems) it was the melodic ‘Coming Home’ to bring a change of pace to the set, but it still sounded impressive, as the vocals reverberated around the room. Stopping mid-section to take a breather and to soak up the atmosphere, there was a small interlude of a song that certainly isn’t on the album version, before picking up once again where they left off, with its soaring guitar solo sounding crisp. Taking things back up to a level of pure rock and roll, ‘Little Crystal’ was in complete contrast, which sounded massive and a definite favourite with the crowd. Informing everyone there that “we don’t do encores as we like to get to the bar as soon as possible’, they were true to their word, ending with a powerful cover of Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’ that seemed faster with their version, as the crowd sang along, fists were pumped in the air, and Knock Out Kaine ended their excellent set and the evening with a killer punch.