STRAYLIGHT RUN+ The Spill Canvas+ The Junior Varsity. Zodiac, Oxford. 07.03.05

I'm getting too old for this shit. Everyone in the Zodiac tonight looks about 14, but they're probably only 12. The EmoYouth army are out in force, all sideways black hair and 'the biggest belt buckle wins' competitions, far too cool to salivate over the great line-up. Watching these kids grow up and try to get a job with all these shitty tattoos and fresh piercings is going to be interesting.

Anyway, on with the show. And Asa Dawson certainly knows how to win over an audience. The Junior Varsity frontman looks and sounds genuinely excited to be here but wastes no time dealing in patronising American pap, just zeitgeist-humping pop tunes. By the end of the short set the contagious smiles on stage have infected more than half the crowd.
The Spill Canvas are a completely different story. Nick Thomas leads his band through a set of acoustic heartbreak that's thick enough to choke on and despite some clapping along Oxford remains unconvinced.

Now, if you don't know the story of Straylight Run already you're avoiding all the right emo conversations. Abandoning ship (or being made to walk the plank) from Taking Back Sunday, John Nolan and Shaun Cooper decided to sail away to slightly lighter musical seas. The piano keys and vocal harmonies of their new self-titled album being the successful result.

Opening with a fine rendition of 'Mistakes we knew we were making' the band seem much more at ease than when they supported Brand New upstairs. It's a real rush to hear the songs that have been available for download for so long entirely cobweb-free and newer album tracks so full of colour.

There are reference points, especially to the sing-a-long stylings of Taking Back Sunday, but the pace is far more sedate. The electrolisised beats of 'Tool sheds and hot tubs' and bouts of instrument swapping providing suprises. It's going to take a lot more than a few good gigs like this for people to forget the spectre of TBS thats hangs over Straylight Run but this is one small step in a run up for a giant leap.

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