Cast of Cheers appeared at the ungodly time of 8:30pm to a packed Oxford Art Gallery. They wasted no time delivering a sweltering performance of high-octane angular indie rock, feeding off British elite indie bands like Foals and Bloc Party, not so much in sound (OK, a little in sound) but in the youthful energy and reckless abandon they capture through high-tempo overlapping guitars and rhythms. The energy Cast of Cheers exuded was electric, bouncing around the stage holding their instruments precariously and sweating profusely on the front row with every ounce of intensity they had in them. Their energy was reciprocated by the loyal crowd, who sung along and danced enthusiastically, to the band’s amazement.
Playing at a frenetic pace for an entire hour, they never showed a sign of slowing down, yelping vocals over a complex flurry of guitars. Their music lends itself more towards a live performance, and they nailed it completely, proving that they have huge potential. Another visit to our shores would be thoroughly welcomed.
The introduction that gives Django Django’s self-titled debut album such an epic opening serves the same purpose in the live show, with a jumpy synth transitioning into rolling percussion, accompanied by whooping vocals echoing throughout the room, bizarre percussion and strange electronic sounds. Simultaneously throbbing and flowing, Django Django seamlessly transition into Hail Bop, giving the first taste of their characteristic harmonies, sung so flawlessly that they border on religious experience. When the synth failed in the chorus, and Tommy the synth magician frantically ran about stage trying to fix it, the crowd seemed not to notice, and kept moving with energy as Hail Bop merged into next song Storm. More rhythmically and guitar driven than its predecessors, Storm overpowered those captivating synths, bemusing with its complex Beatles-inspired harmonies, hanging on to every ‘umm’ and ‘eee’ with catchy accentuation.
The seamless transitioning of the first three tracks proved why Django Django are sometimes treated as a dance act (placed on Splendour dance stage Mix Up Tent). Their synth-driven psychedelic pop drives feet and bodies with a feel-good vibe throughout the entire set. The dance vibe was summed up in Waveforms, which has a quirky R&B style break, ‘touch it, make it, shake it now, shake your bottom, break it down’. That quirkiness that oozes from so many aspects of Django Django is encapsulated in synth specialist Tommy Grace, smiling with child-like joy as he delivered the funkiest synth lines in between flurries of wacky dance moves.
Love’s Dart was a surprisingly fun song, starting with a bizarre array of percussion, driven by clapping coconut shells, cowbell and a bizarre instrument that made a noise akin to a rattlesnake that I could not for the life of me name.
Limited to one album of material, Django Django are stretched with ways to vary their performance from recorded versions. These variations came in the form of extended intros and small changes in song performance. The most notable was the sped-up version of Default that became a flurried mess as opposed to the (supposed) aim of making it a more upbeat, danceable number. Parts of the song seemed off, particularly the guitar riffs and the vocals. Considering it is their most popular song, it may have been received better in its original form.
One thing to note is how hard it is to match the production quality that was achieved on their self-titled debut album. It is immaculate. A ridiculous amount of effects, distortions and other tweaks were used to make the record such a clean, psychedelic pop masterpiece. It is incredibly hard to replicate this same sound quality in a live performance, and I feel that they missed the mark somewhat. The drum mix wasn’t right, and proved to be incredibly distracting early on. On occasion, the sun-drenched guitar was lost in key moments, and the vocals weren’t positioned as far forward as they could have been.
In saying this, it didn’t detract from their performance a great deal since they still delivered that funky, fun, atmospheric pop in their own unique way, which had the younger half of the Oxford Art Factory crowd bouncing around with effervescent joy. There was so much joy that throughout Wor, and the bizarrely catchy Egyptian synth lines of Skies over Cairo people were crowd surfing gleefully, the lighter of whom were bounced high into the air in a highly celebratory manner. Django Django are on their own funky, psychedelic (Egyptian themed) place and going on a journey with them to that place is unbelievably fun.