DALLAS DON'T / TRAPS / CHARLIE BAXTER, 22ND FEBRUARY 2012, OXFORD WHEATSHEAF
Arriving late - too late to catch opening act Trev Williams - I immediately run into Nightshift editor Ronan, here to check out prospective acts for this year's Punt.
Even if Charlie Baxter did happen to hail from Oxford, he wouldn't have a hope in hell of squeezing himself into Ronan's thoughts and the Punt line-up. The kindest thing you can say about him and his guitar-flecked possibly ironic nu-rave is that he's not short of confidence, prancing and posing as if performing to an arena-sized audience. My friend Sam is in a generous mood: "Well, at least someone's enjoying themselves." If this is the best Gloucester has to offer, it just throws the quality of Oxford's music scene further into relief.
All that said, he's markedly more entertaining than locals Traps, who boast a vocalist with a powerful set of pipes backed by musicians of undeniable proficiency but who serve up the sort of turgid, imagination-free meat-'n'-potatoes rock that Skunk Anansie would have left on the cutting room floor back in the 90s. Alexis Roe, you suspect, could be capable of something special, but this is completely the wrong vehicle for her talents. Rather than getting pulses racing, they have us all flatlining within ten minutes.
Salvation is urgently required, then, and thankfully Dallas Don't are on hand to provide it - though only after overcoming a slow and slightly ramshackle start and a few irritating technical hitches. Just to add to the narrative of triumph in adversity, bassist Brian Guerin's movement is severely restricted due to a sprained ankle - sustained, frontman Niall Slater jokes, in a challenge with Thierry Henry while he was on international duty for the Republic of Ireland.
We're treated to a new song that perhaps hints at a more melodic direction, while 'The Runner' remains a firm favourite (albeit somewhat tidier on record), but it's the Mclusky-esque 'The Ballad Of Phoebe Henderson', which they leave ringing in our ears at the end of the night, that's the evening's predictable highlight. I don't know who Phoebe Henderson is, but we should all be very grateful to her for the song she inspired.