Live Review: The Kill Devil Hills, Mexico City and The Blackwater Fever @ The Zoo, Friday 5th February 2010

By: Lana Harris

The Kill Devil Hills   The hazy, swampy chamber that is The Zoo in summer is a perfect match for the mettle of the bands tonight – a mash of blues, rock, and country fermented in the practice rooms of Brisbane and Fremantle. It’s a largely desolate frontier that welcomes The Blackwater Fever to The Zoo tonight. The Brisbane duo move slowly at first, floating pared back and mellow bluesy tunes. The third track brings some rock to the room, and some bodies are now bravely leaving window seats to move into the space in front of the stage.

Blackwater Fever slide from sludgy depths to rock and roll heights with a fullness of sound that challenges your eye sight: is it really just the two of them up there, making all that noise? Andrew Walters is a laconic drummer, while vocalist and guitarist Shane Hicks sings, slides and on occasion growls his way across the set. They finish with ’Taking Its Toll’, which it seems like it does, the track finishing the set with slow, deep melodies.

Mexico City are the label and city mates of the Blackwater Fever, a four piece rock outfit with country type elements. These guys stance was planted more firmly in the middle of the spectrum, with a slow ballady beginning and a set list that stayed within the city limit confines of a good rock song, leaving the blues to the previous and following performers. Keys are brought on to help tell the story on a few tracks, and one of the guitarists plays an awesome cherry red Gibson that kept distracting me with its shiny red curves. I have heard Mexico City before and enjoyed their solid rock sounds but tonight’s performance, while tight, felt a bit lacklustre in parts.

Alex Archer wears a nine gallon hat and a fiddle tucked under his chin as he introduces the sound of The Kill Devil Hills with leisurely treble strains. This is toe tapping, beer swilling, dirty joke cracking, dark swamp rock. Music that dawdles across the fretboard stopping to chat with every sharp and flat along the way, until the tornado appears on the horizon, whipping up frenzied howling, bashing, squealing tunes.

It’s Easy When You Don’t Know How’ from their latest release Man, You Should Explode is powered with rolling riffs and a swagger perfected and embraced since The Kill Devil Hills sung ‘Don’t Make Me Walk Like a Gunslinger’ in 2005. ‘The Drought’, title track from their 2006 release, demonstrates fan base familiarity with an explosion of fist shaking, sing along jiving across the floor. Sing along status also comes with the track ‘Drinking too Much’ with karaoke honours going to the man in the crowd yelling the chorus whilst flinging whisky and coke at the backs of unaware girls’ dresses (unintentionally, his rolling eyes were glassily focused on singer Brendan Humphries maw).

The Kill Devil Hills rocked across the country music plains during some tunes, with tracks that wouldn’t be out of place if the stage had been made out of hay bales. At other times the Devils’ would descend, dragging their feet (and the beat) slowly through the voodoo that lurks at the dark mudded edges of the blues. But the overall effect on the audience was one of continuously rising ardour, left hanging when the band announces the end of the set. Humphries becomes quickly aware that leaving the crowd with the hyper manic energy generated and still buzzing through the room may bring some old fashioned western mayhem to the eastern sea port, and the band returns with a three song encore seemingly designed to wind down the crowd. Acoustic lullaby ‘Lucy-on-all-fours’ leads the melodies with soothing na-na-na-na-nah-nas, with the final two tracks plugged in but still succeeding in rubbing the last of the jagged edges away and leaving onlookers satiated (if sweaty).

The Kill Devil HillsThe Kill Devil Hills available at iTunes

THE KILL DEVIL HILLS “Man You Should Explode” Album Tour Sep-Oct 2009
The Kill Devil Hills – ‘Another Joke, Another Ransom’ Tour
The Kill Devil Hills official site

Photo Gallery – Brisbane Sounds 09 @ The Zoo, Brisbane 23 May 2009 [Blackwater Fever pics]
Mexico City at MySpace
Blackwater Fever official site