It feels preposterous to suggest a band who formed in 2008 are enjoying a meteoric rise, but in the case of the Teskey Brothers, it makes a weird kind of sense. They spent nine years playing the bars of Melbourne; it wasn’t until the release of their 2017 album Half Mile Harvest that they performed outside of the state of Victoria. Two and a half years and a second album later, and here they are: 10,500 miles from Melbourne. Tonight’s venue is fit to burst with punters.
It’s more peculiar still when you consider the Teskey Brothers’ music. Their sound occupies a space bordered on one side by old-fashioned Muscle Shoals southern soul ballads and on the other by the late-60s blues revival – the lengthy Honeymoon features a middle section for which the once-popular phrase “good-time boogie” was invented; the harmonica-heavy Louisa arrives replete with a drum solo and sounds not unlike the theme tune to The Old Grey Whistle Test. If you wanted a fractionally more modern comparison, it doesn’t involve a huge leap of imagination to picture the Teskey Brothers doing good business on London’s mid-70s pub rock scene.
Nothing about them suggests the 21st century, but it’s an approach that’s clearly working. The crowd are so intent that, during the quieter passages, anyone in the audience heard talking is bellowed at to shut up. One interpretation would be that they cravenly appeal to an ongoing desire for retrospection, playing to the belief that what happened in the past is automatically superior to anything happening now. Alternatively, perhaps the old tricks still work: Josh Teskey has a fantastic voice – he moves away from the microphone and sings unamplified to prove it – and the years slogging around bars have left the band and their accompanying horn section impossibly tight, with perfect vocal harmonies.
If they occasionally seem prone to affectation – the old-timey Sunshine Baby, augmented by banjo, New Orleans brass and a whistling solo is a step back too far – it’s drowned out by moments when they soar. Guitarist Sam Teskey can play in a way that makes his brother’s suggestion that he “sings the guitar” seem not corny but a statement of fact. Clearly no one’s reinventing the wheel here, but it keeps rolling all the same.