“I hope some of you motherfuckers are stoned out there,” says Strand Of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter, peering through the gauze of dry ice shrouding the stage. In a perfect world, stoned – or high, or plain tripping balls for that matter – would be the best way of appreciating the euphoric rush of Showalter’s psychedelic FM radio rock. But even without chemical assistance, it’s a hell of a ride.
Showalter’s had his problems with homelessness, depression and marital strife, and tonight, Strand Of Oaks sound like a joyous exorcism. The band have been lumped in with America’s indie-rock masses, but that makes them sound far drearier than they are. Showalter – a ringer for Bob Seger circa 1975 – takes the bittersweet nostalgia of opener JM and turns it into a blissful 10-minute wig-out. Radio Kids has a sweet chorus and a heart of pure MDMA, Heal is an exercise in mellow catharsis. None of the songs come in under five minutes, and at least half of them spiral off into some far-flung galaxy where Bruce Springsteen huffs on a bong with Jerry Garcia.
Indulgent? Not remotely. Certainly not when you have a frontman like Showalter, whose exultant voice and knack for wringing the sweetest noises out of his guitar (and occasionally keyboard) sugar the heartache at the core of his songs. The drugs – whatever they are – are definitely working tonight.