The High Stool, Limerick, 4 June 2002
Baltimore three piece the Oxes rolled into Limerick tonight bringing their rock and roll circus to town. Considering that this band were one of the surprise highlights of this year's Steve Albini-hosted All Tomorrow's Parties Festival and have been harvesting a lot of attention for their live performances, and combine that with their reputation for getting up to all kinds of crazy shit (their recently banned album artwork featured the band "enjoying" themselves in the company of a female fan); and you have the formula for what should be a unique experience.
Tonight, all the characteristics of an Oxes live show are on full display. Much has been made of the whole "Oxes on boxes" thing. For those unenlightened, this refers to the two black boxes that are erected in front of stage for the two guitarists to jump on and off from. Quite a dangerous thing considering the low roof in The High Stool! The two guitarists play wireless guitars, running around the venue. One minute one guitarist could be playing a tune in the toilet, while the other guitarist could be lying back on the pool table playing. Seriously! The most remarkable thing about this energetic roaming is the fact that they always seem to know what the other is doing. The tunes are kept perfectly in time even if they don't know where each other is. Not to be outdone, their drummer beats the shit out of his kit while simultaneously out-staring some people up the front.
Oh, the tunes you ask? Playing wholly instrumental material from their self-titled debut plus their recently released follow up "Oxxxes", they have being favourably compared by critics to the likes of Shellac and Fugazi. While some bands try to put on a good show to compensate for a lack of quality, the Oxes do no such thing. They are musically intelligent. This can most definitely be seen in their final piece, when they build up the tune, break it back down, build it up again and then finally sequence it into a twisted instrumental version of Foo Fighters' "Everlong". Bliss! However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for a song which was dedicated to "all the people in Limerick". Half the crowd couldn't believe what was happening when The Oxes launched into a version of Alice in Chains' "Them Bones". Not using microphones, The Oxes left the vocal up to both themselves and a delirious audience.
The Oxes returned for a quick encore encouraging the crowd to "slam-buy" their merchandise, which they wholeheartedly did. Having listened to their new album, I have to stay that The Oxes were made for a live setting, because more than anything they know how to entertain like few bands do. Three days after this gig should have seen the Aspersion Music Collective's pinnacle with the arrival of Fugazi. However, the unfortunate cancellation could have made for a depressing weekend. Nevertheless, this weekend saw one of their finest moments. And that says a lot about the sheer quality and entertainment of The Oxes.