On a cloudy but dry Wednesday night, Owen and I head out along Oxford’s Cowley Road to see The Big Moon at their own show after being impressed at festivals this summer. As a venue, The Bullingdon Arms retains its small venue charm, the slightly sticky floors, sensibly priced drinks all helping retain an identity that many venues now lack, particularly the O2 Academy 100m away. The show is a sell-out, and it shows, the venue is definitely full, but not quite overcrowded.
Due to a last minute change of timings, we arrive a couple of songs after the first support has started. Not that it felt like too much of a shame, Be Good are fairly pleasant, but they fail to distinguish themselves in any way. All of their songs could have been written by any of hundreds of indie-pop guitar bands over the last two decades. Another mildly enjoyable music by numbers act with songs as inoffensive as their name.
Get Inuit, following, are much better. Jamie Glass is an engaging frontman, offering a slightly self-deprecating wit in his banter between songs, and a strong delivery during. Even the nasal whine in his singing fails to irritate, despite being a style I have a distinct disdain for. It’s not just Glass though, the entire band have a real energy and spark, with just enough fuzz in their songs to provide a bite to their guitar-pop.
And onto The Big Moon themselves. They come on stage to cheers and immediately start with ‘Silent Movie Susie’, setting the tone perfectly with their upbeat, noisy, garage rock style, filled with catchy riffs and easily sing-a-long choruses. They do some sound tweaks after, apologising that they weren't able to soundcheck earlier due to an appearance at the Q awards, but the crowd happily forgive them, as they return to playing and begin to storm through their catalogue.
Considering the band only have one album, their 80 minute set never loses momentum, lacking the filler that infests the sets of many acts early in their career (and some later). The entire band seem to have a relentless energy, impressive considering they started this tour straight after a packed summer of festival performances.
Each member of the band takes turns chatting to the crowd between songs, with the inevitable song request getting a laugh and the gentle put down "It's not as if we weren't going to be playing Cupid". Audience participation feels organic rather than forced, with clapping, sing-a-longs and mosh pits growing and easily started, without any sense of necessity.
Their cover of Bonnie Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' goes down well, with the band's declaration that Oxford provided the best rendition of the tour the only moment that felt lacking in sincerity. Enjoyable as it was, they're definitely better when playing their own material, with the passion coming across constantly. Performed live, their songs feel even more fresh and vibrant than on record.
The band finish with arguably their four best songs, hit singles 'Cupid' and 'Formidable', the lively 'Bonfire', and their first release and my personal favourite song 'Sucker'. There's no possibility of an encore despite the crowd's cheering, with their set already finishing past curfew, and the band having played all of their materials, but the finale was all the better for it.
As with most bands, The Big Moon are substantially better at their own shows than at festivals, but it's a notable improvement on an already high starting point.