Filligar @ The Cellar – 07/07/11

Back in November, we were contacted by a band from Chicago called Filligar. We exchanged niceties, they sent us some songs and we popped a review on the site in exchange. Job done. A few months down the line, we got a large package sent to us in the post containing two t-shirts and whole load of albums and hand written postcard from the band thanking us for the support. Naturally, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of this kind gesture and, so, when we heard that they were coming to Oxford to play at The Cellar, we just had to be there.

Oxford trio Half Naked were enlisted to support; a decision which struck me as odd before the show and no less disillusioned afterwards. Despite possessing undeniable technical ability, the band struggled to bring together a cohesive sound; parts of certain songs were obviously influenced by old-school punk, and then suddenly there would be a modern metal breakdown of juddering power-chords. The whole set, despite being admirably loud, seemed too loose and, as a result, pretty disappointing. Towards the end of the set, they announced the airing of a new track which also suffered the same trappings as the previous five or six: too many ideas thrown into a single song.

Filligar, on the other hand, are a band who are clearly very comfortable within their sound and are happy to play to their strengths alone; nothing flash, just performing good old honest rock. On stage, the band are predictably amiable and gracious, full of gleaming white smiles stuck in good-looking heads. Country influenced rock has taken a backseat in recent years compared to its shaggier haired brother called Folk, but Filligar are very much country boys, walking in the same dirty tire tracks as fellow alt.country Chicago brethren, Wilco. The songs are well structured, perfectly textured and arranged fairly simply around an electric guitar, bass, drums and keys.

Every song played had the crowd nodding along, and as the evening passed by, limbs became even more limber allowing for some rather enthusiastic dancing near the front. It was a short set, but very much an “all killer, no filler” collection of songs. The songs are very much rooted in the classic song-writing of acts such as The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young (a mid-set rendition of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song, ‘Helpless’, had members of the audience contentedly singing along) and the odd inflection of a dirty toned guitar solo, ala Neil Young, or staccato organ stabs, ala Ray Manzarek, gives them a more credible edge than your average “pub-rock” act.

It’s impossible not to be impressed with Filligar tonight; they not only present themselves as a genuinely bunch of kind-hearted chaps (something which many modern bands wrongly dismiss as an unfashionable over-eagerness, opting instead to be artistically over-serious or nonchalant), but also have the songs to back it up. Whether you want to call it AOR, MOR or AM friendly, you’ll probably be using far too many acronyms and overcomplicating the simple fact that Filligar write great songs, perform with aptitude and are one of the most affable travelling bands your likely to see come through Oxford.