“Public Access TV might just be one of the most underrated bands of this decade” – NME 2018
Underneath an oversized disco ball, two days before the release of their second album ‘Street Safari’, New York new-wave four-piece ‘Public Access TV’ set up in front of surprisingly sparse crowd at The Crofters Rights. For a band that satiated all those rose-tinted American high-school daydreams conjured by British teenagers during rainy Maths lessons in 2014, it’s a disappointing turn out. Nevertheless, John Eatherly (vocals/guitar), Xan Aird (guitar) Max Peebles (bass) and Peter Star (drums) are determined to take us back to those summer fantasies.
There’s little announcement that the show is even starting, but as the opening chords to ‘Evil Disco’ swagger through the venue, a few excited fans rush to the front. From the outset, it’s clear the band know how good they are. They play with blistering confidence, injecting the room with sunlit energy. In an era of pop snobbery, it’s refreshing to hear such self-assurance when playing the fun stuff. 2016’s ‘On Location’ follows: “She had a picture on her wall/Up with the people that you wanna be” before we’re treated to some new material. Punky and sweat-inducing, it’s astounding that bassist Max Peebles never removes his leather jacket.
During a small break in the set, someone shouts from the crowd: “Show some life!”; a somewhat ironic call to arms from a man sporting both a wallet chain AND a vape. Undeterred, Eatherly launches into ‘Lost in the Game’ with a “go fuck yourself." And I really hope vape-man did because it’s the new stuff that truly stands out. ‘Lost in the Game’ provides us with answers to Max’s stubborn fashion choices: “I love my leather more than ever before/I picked it up off some beauty queen’s floor’, and personal favourite ‘Metrotech’ has everyone wishing their school prom had ended just a little differently. Funky hooks swing hips side to side, cowbells and chords weave their way in behind the beat, and vocals drip with attitude, washing the crowd away in rock and roll paradise. You can’t help but dance.
Throughout the night, there are obscured moments of camaraderie between the band and the fans. The small crowd screaming every word of ‘Patti Peru’: “I was ready to die/ but lately, you’ve had something new to show me” at the back, the shout-out to the group of girls losing it to ‘End of an Era’ and ‘In Love and Alone’ at the front. I can only hope that the four-piece saw through some of the stillness and got a real glimpse of Bristol’s delight. A huge call for 2014’s ‘In the Mirror’ prompts a riotous encore: “It’s a holiday and not a Saturday/It ain't here, well, in the mirror/Well it ain't me when I'm near her” and I’m left wanting another hour or at the very least a back to back screening of every John Hughes movie ever released.
So, go down to Chedder Gorge, crank their new album ‘Street Safari’ out of a charity-shop boombox and revel in nostalgia. NME just described it as ‘even more loveable’ than the first record. If that’s possible, I’ll be the at the very front of their next Bristol gig.
Photography: Greg Hild