Striking Matches - O2 Academy, Oxford
When you venture out on a cold November Friday night the hope is that you'll experience something that's mildly warming as a bare minimum. Certainly the expectation when you go to a Striking Matches show is that you'll see some out-of-this-world guitar manipulation and, most likely, a broken guitar string. Oh, and a bunch of expertly executed songs.
With Alabaman funsters John & Jacob turning up at the O2 Academy in Oxford for the second time in six months, the start of the night is heart warming, fun, and energetic. They're as good a warm-up act as you'll see and the set closer 'Be My Girl' might just be the catchiest song of the night.
The crowd is very impressive for the main duo, Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis have steadily built a sizeable following in the UK with multiple trips across the Atlantic in 2015 alone. Playing as a duo, i.e. lacking their US backing band, means they can really flex their guitar wielding muscles. The usual highlights get the punters buzzing: 'Trouble Is As Trouble Does', 'Hanging On A Lie', and 'Make A Liar Out Of Me'. There are covers too, and the nearly ninety minute running time showcases their ability to distinguish their live sound from their recorded sound; it's more free and the pair riff off each other all night.
Really then it's just another impressive Striking Matches show. It's easy to become blase about them as they reach such consistently high quality. And despite the muddy, low fidelity sound that Oxford's O2 produces they end the night having warmed the hearts, hands, and ears.
And yes, for anyone wondering, there was a broken guitar string. It's their thing.