At twenty past five in the wintry darkness of a Thursday night, the six members of
Wilson, joined by Anita and Pete "Rommel" Heyworth, High Priest of the Temple Of
Beer called The Racehorse, squeeze themselves into a small VW Transporter and set
forth. An uneventful journey takes us to a small, orange basement beneath the very
heart of Oxford. The Cellar used to be part of the wine cellars pof the Oxford Union
Society (ooh), on whose lawns Russ, Anita and I later smoke a sneaky spliff. Now it
is a groovy wee catacomb with a helpful soundman called Robin. We set up and
soundcheck with ruthless efficiency then head off to the house of Matt Sewell,
singer of The New Moon, where we are to be fed.
After an interesting van/underground-parking-lot interface we relax in style as Matt
and Chrissie regale us with phenomenal quantities of delicious chilli and beer in
their calm and lovely flat. Well, as calm as anything with Terry Walpole in it can
On the way back to the venue I try to send the entire band the wrong way up St.
Giles Street. "It's probably changed a bit since you were here," says Pete.
The New Moon open the show at the faintly ridiculous hour of 8:30. There is already
a small crowd, though, which swells throughout their set. Shades of Robin Hitchcock
and Jeff Buckley hover around the surprisingly tough sounds that Matt and bassist
Ian conjur. The double bass really does give the songs body and drive and Matt is in
fine voice. Later they are joined by a man playing a flute. He's very good, but I
wouldn't have said they really needed him.
A good crowd has gathered by the time that The Race begin their set. We don't know
much about them beyond the fact that they come from Reading, but we do know that
they are on a bit of a tour, and we rather suspect that perhaps most of the punters
tonight will really be here to see them, not us. (This actually turns out not to be
true - I should point out that a lot of them are probably there more for the
pound-a-pint deal than for any particular one of the groups.)
The Race start strongly; in tune, powerful, passionate. It's The Big Music. During
their first number, which starts off epic and then, rather bravely, just gets bigger
and bigger, Russ and I both suddenly realise that they remind us of U2. It's a kind
of music that I don't usually like, but they do it with charm and verve, and in a
small cellar on a cold night it is very agreeable.The diminiutive frontman, who has
a lovely voice, is whacking the shit out himself with his tambourine. I would be
surprised if he sits down for a week. Two or three more epics into their set and
Terry Walpole is on the dance floor, whirling like a dervish and frightening the
natives. Meanwhile MC Bot is in something called The Goat With Three Heads. Russ and
Anita and I attempt to go and find this goat, but get no further than the
aforementioned lawns of academe.
Soon enough we are on the little stage: the sound is crisp, the house full, the
headcase down the front. We play the same set we have played since Steve Bez joined
us, and once again it is improved. It really feels good, with Steve Bez and Russ
locked into a groove and Kathy good and loud, courtesy of The Race's marvellous bass
tractor. Good response from the audience too. They didn't lose interest after The
Race after all. Native observers later tell us that for Oxford they were positively
A drink or two and a brief chat with Richard from Gappy Tooth Promotions (he sounded
like my kind of guy) and we're stuffing ourselves back into the van, all paid up and
packed away. On the trip home we hear somebody on national BBC Radio use the phrase
"celebrating Auschwitz". Well done, everybody out there in Hollyoaks World. I was
wondering how long it would take.
Sincere thanks, though, are due to Matt and Chrissie for their extreme hospitality;
to Jimmy Evil for booking us; to The Race for being so easy to work with and for
that lovely bass thing; and to Terry Walpole, for it is true that without him the
evening would never actually have happened.