I then cycled to the Cardiac and entered to find the venue full of dry ice smoke, but empty of actual people. I bought a beer from the obviously bored bar-staff, and picked a corner in which to lean. Fortunately people did start to accumulate, including concourse and Rachel Who May Or May Not Have A LiveJournal, with whom I chatted. It was all rather pleasant, though I must apologise for describing cleanskies, with her backstage cosmetics duties, as a 'facial roadie'. It wasn't long before Space Heroes of the People took to the still-smokey stage. They were as good as ever. The half-empty venue had something of a dampening effect on the crowd (which persisted throughout the evening, though I did more than my fair share of bouncing), but it was nice to hear them somewhere with a decent sound mix. The new tracks were fun, some of the old ones had been tweaked a bit, and all in all it was good times (all the better for the arrival of bluedevi, Dan ButNoLiveJournal and mr_snips.)
Next up were Tristan and the Troubadours, who despite their name are not part of the folk scene currently blighting Oxford, though they do have a violin. If forced to pigeonhole them, I think I'd say art rock. Or maybe just pretentious indie. At first I thought the lead singer was Germanic, but he had no accent when talking between songs, so we were forced to conclude that it was angst rather than upbringing that did that to his voice (and may also have been responsible for him dancing like an epileptic's marionette). With the rather busy arrangements (well, there are 7 of them) and overwrought lyrics, it all felt rather operatic. The singer introduced one piece with:
"This is a song called '3 studies for a figure at the base of the crucifixion.'"This moment exemplified a divide in opinion between the people I was watching with. I was on the side that believed that no-one could have said that with a straight face, hence they're clearly leavened with irony and it's OK to enjoy them on those terms. On the other side mr_snips, who feared that they were deadly serious and should not therefore be encouraged, and seemed basically as horrified as if he'd seen children goose-stepping and saluting, oblivious to the implications of their actions. It lead to an interesting discussion, whether it's just that mr_snips is from pre-ironic generation or has been traumatised by early exposure to Marillion, or whether my generation has a surfeit of ironic detachment which may lead to us excusing things that really don't deserve it. Dan raised the terrifying prospect that the band, being younger, may be from a post-ironic generation, raised by the internet, unaware that there might even be a distinction between sincerity and sarcasm, operating entirely on superficialities. I liked them, anyway.
[Giggles from audience]
"It's not funny, it's really sad."
The Half Rabbits were much less divisive, in that we could all agree they sounded a bit like Placebo but with a less whiny lead singer. There were actually rather good, with one particular song that sounded as if they'd welded a verse by Led Zeppelin to a chorus by Filter; not entirely successfully, mind you, but it was still good fun. We did spot the lead singer of the previous band (Tristan?) in the audience and bluedevi suggested that I ask him how ironic they think they are, but I couldn't imagine that conversation going well. Perhaps it would be simpler to get some business cards printed saying:
I can think of many occasions in which those would be useful. I might have to get some made up.
After the bands we were of a mind to hang around for the club night afterwards, but (as always seems to be the case on these occasions) the venue didn't really seem to want us to. Unless they were anticipating needing the space we were occupying for new paying customers (unlikely, I'd've thought), I don't understand why they didn't make any effort to keep us in the building drinking their expensive drinks. They didn't though, and faced with lacklustre DJing upstairs and an indefinitely closed downstairs, we buggered off to The Star, where we drank (cheaper, nicer) beer, obstructed pool players, and chatted about the usual: work, comics, music and cartoons. It wasn't very rock, but it was very pleasant.