Live Review: The Fumes @ The Zoo, Brisbane 12 December 2009 w/ Marshall and the Fro

Author: Hannah Collins
It’s Saturday night at The Zoo, time to kick back, get your hat on, and knuckle down for the rockabilly blues ensemble that is The Fumes.

Venue not even at half capacity, making stage front space an easy grab, 3 piece Marshall and the Fro introduce us to a very fun filled evening. With influences like Dallas Frasca, Blue King Brown and Tool, the bluesy rock set saw everybody’s feet sliding backwards and forward’s in time with the drums. Bass player Tracy Stephens looked great in a little red and white pokerdot dress, her bass pumping blues down the spines of eager onlookers. Their unique light rock, beefy but slow with it’s rockabilly undertone seemed to really intrigue.

Marshall Okel’s punchy country voice and his apparent, clean sound grabbed the air and rushed his lyrics over the collective heads of all in the audience. At times he even seemed to loose himself in his own poetry. Playing a mix of rushed rock, fast focused and tight, lighter ballads and blues mixes that broke out into full blown rock songs, it was a very diverse set for a relatively stereotyped band. Although their music is ultimately quite simple; at times bass and guitar playing only two or three notes / chords throughout the duration a song, their dynamics and musicianship continued to delight. Marshall’s vocal style reminding me a little of John Butler whilst singing “Thongs”.. with lyrics something like… “Put your thongs on, get your thongs on… wear them out on a Friday night…”, I can’t imagine that anyone in the venue would have looked out of place in their weekend casuals.

Seeing out the set with “Save it for Something better” (actually song title unknown to me unfortunately) and a special harmonica performance by an acquaintance of the band wearing a weather beaten Akubra and all, M&TF well demonstrated their niche in progressive roots rock with a thoroughly enjoyable set!

Venue goers were light hearted and local, most obliging the bands they’d come to see by collecting merch, whether they be t-shirts or beer coolers, yet always making their way back to the area directly in front of the bands.

As you can imagine with the main act, all in the venue gather close to the stage and bust their moves when the boys start to play. “Phsycadellic War Lord” gets showcased three or so songs into the set, and the tempo picks up. Steve removes his yellow cap with a batman logo, as the sweat begins to break out and changes his axe over for the next song. Paint stripping and well worn the instrument suited, providing a deeper resonation for the dirty, grungy, country rock ballads to come.

Steve Merry and Joel Battersby sure are one AMAZING duo. The sound they create between only two band members is no short of surreal. Steve seems to be a bit of a bearded musical epileptic, playing alternating guitars, finger picking with the use of a slide, piano, effects and vocals all to be backed up with Joels funky drum rock rolls and high hat treats…. they’re quite the institution.

It’s Joel’s turn to strip off, the heat in the venue in Qld’s mid summer taking it’s toll. Minus the shirt, he bashes his kit like a child during a tantrum. Time out for a minute between songs and the keyboard’s switched on. “City Light’s” and “Who do you love” with it’s drop tuned guitar work from their most recent album “Sundancer” see us through to what might be close the end of a raw live display of volatile Blues Rock.

Quietly intrigued and listening to the latest albums title track “Sundancer”, we all slow down a little and revel in the mellow and somewhat emotional piece, not at all out of place with Steve’s grungy voice and perfect arpeggios rolling on. With one more song, it’s time to go home, or out, either way.

If you’ve not seem them before, a live gig is a absolute goer, and the most recent album is a definite must have on any diverse music lovers self.

Love it guys. Good luck!

The FumesThe Fumes