Live Review: Drawn From Bees @ The Troubadour, Brisbane 26 June 2009

Drawn From Bees, Only The Sea Slugs, Ball Park Music @ The Troubadour, Brisbane June 26, 2009
Review and Photo: Stephen Goodwin

Drawn From Bees   The poppy, youthful innocence that local six-piece “Ball Park Music” exudes proves the perfect antidote for a rainy, miserable Friday night. The pure boy-girl harmonies of Samuel Cromack and Jennifer Boyce are instantly appealing, while jangly guitar hooks are nicely rounded by lashings of keys and trombone. Bright and joyous, they bounce along – seemingly without effort. It’s the early comers’ loss that nearly all are determined to be wallflowers.

Sydneysiders “Only The Sea Slugs”, perhaps inspired by their namesakes, serve up a musical melange that’s altogether more meandering. Soft psychedelic guitars, redolent of the atmospherics of “The Church”, evolve and transition at a pace marginally faster than glacial. Not that it’s ambient, but this drifty shoe gaze style orchestrated by lead guitarist-vocalist invites introspection. Thus it’s more than a surprise when nearly half-a-dozen punters spring up to dance their way through the last few tunes. Take that, genre stereotyping.

From the get-go, it’s clear that the short series of gigs down south as part of their “Long Tooth, Setting Sun” tour has moulded Drawn From Bees into tighter and, I daresay, more confident unit.

The quartet’s songcraft — a divine blend of four-fold male harmonies woven around flourishes of psychedelic keys and guitars — has always been top-notch. The enduring sonic pull of cuts such as They Close The Door, All This Time, These Philistines and retro-beauty Waiting For The End
only reinforces this judgement. Tonight, though, they exhibit stage presence to match.

It’s maybe fanciful, but nominal frontman Dan James seems to almost disappear into the tunes. Strained features and closed eyes, he drifts back and forth across stage — unafraid to mount the foldbacks for a solo, occasionally bumping boisterously against bassist Stew Riddle.

J-friendly minor hit Long Tooth, Setting Sun receives a resounding cheer from the now-attentive crowd while the up-tempo beats of Amelia prove a fun and funky closer.

But with the untimely death of Michael Jackson casting a long shadow over everything tonight, it’s a rough yet earnest tribute performance of Billie Jean that’s the scene stealer. It also prompts the thought, through the falsetto harmonies and the enthusiastic crowd sing-along, that as one performer passes, another emerges. And while Drawn From Bees aren’t going to emulate (much less replace) the moonwalk, they are finally maturing their own particular style. And that can only be a good thing.


The close the door
All this time
English line
Waiting for the end
You can’t relax
Frozen over kid
These philistines
Billie jean
Picture show
Long tooth, setting sun


Related: Sunday Selection: Drawn from Bees : 21 June 2009