It’s a sold out crowd for Peaness in Oxford tonight, and every time we walk past the door, another disappointed fan is learning why it’s a good idea to pick up tickets in advance.
And it seems like a lot of the crowd turn up early too, with the room pretty full when The Other Dramas open things up. The band are an Oxford 2-piece who make an impressive amount of noise, with Maria Ilett’s guitar running through at least two amps. They’ve released a few double a-side singles over the last couple of years, and tonight they mostly run through this existing back catalogue of tracks like ‘The Future is a Holiday’, or my personal favourite, ‘Money’. The band have one pretty well-set, slightly swaggering rocker sort of sound, but new track ‘My Mermaid Song’ almost has a slight air of the B-52s about it, which of course, is no bad thing.
When Peaness take to the stage, it’s to a completely full room, who they immediately warm up with opener’ Same Place’, one of the singles from their excellent 2017 EP Are You Sure?, before immediately following it up with the first track from that record – fan favourite ‘Oh, George’. It’s a great one-two to kick things off, and with the crowd on side, they start seeding in the new material.
New song ‘How I’m Feeling’ has a terrific, easy, bouncy charm – a style Peaness do brilliantly – and it’s followed by last year’s single, ‘Breakfast’. The song’s about Brexit, so it’s fitting that they’re playing it the day after Brexit actually happened. When Peaness introduce it, they encourage the audience to boo, which everyone enjoys. The song itself has a woozy, lazy summer vibe, which contrasts starkly with the weather outside, but it still goes down a storm.
Another new song next – ‘Girl Just Relax’ – which is apparently about someone telling you to just relax when you’re trying but just can’t. It kicks off with a Nirvana-ish bass line before settling into a dense verse that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Courtney Barnett record, though the shuffling chorus has shades of Big Thief too.
‘I’m Not Your Problem’ from the band’s 2015 EP No Fun shows that Peaness are an indie pop band you can really dance to, especially when followed by the thumping ‘Seafoam Islands’. They’ve got a subtly great way with rhythm, carving irresistibly danceable grooves that really get this audience going. A little bit too much in some cases, as it turns out. Singer Jess is local and jumps to the defence of her mum, who’s in the audience when a nearby fella keeps over-enthusiastically jostling into her.
Still, Jess explains how great it is to be playing to a sold out crowd in her home town, at a venue she used to come to gigs to when she was a teenager. Then they launch into a track the band only refer to as ‘Beatles song’, fitting given that even though they have local roots in Oxford, the band itself was born in Merseyside.
Peaness power through from here, sprinkling older tunes like the excellent ‘Fortune Favours the Bold’ and single ‘Ugly Veg’, with new tracks ‘What’s the Use’ and ‘Skin Surfing’, before finishing strong on their new single ‘Kaizen’. This track is a strange one, bouncing between carefree indie pop and stop-start post-punk in the verse, before going for broke with a big grungey chorus. It’s a great closer and says something about the band’s current ascendency that they can finish on a track that only came out a couple of weeks ago. An album must surely be around the corner, as it’s clear to everyone in this sold out crowd that Peaness are ready to take the next step.