‘One is good with his fingers, the other is good with his mouth’, so the poster cheekily suggests of Australian guitar/beatbox duo Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum and, for once at the Fringe, this isn’t false advertising. Creating sonic textures which most full bands would struggle to emulate, MacDowell and Thum took the audience through a blissful hour which showcased their collective love of jazz, drum’n’bass, 90s R’n’B and West Coast hip-hop, with a healthy dose of adorably awkward Australian humour thrown in for good measure. Think Flight of the Conchords. But with a lot more bass.
It’s easy to assume that Thum might be the main draw here, given the strong reputation he’s built at the Fringe over many years and now holding the crown of most watched TED Talk of all time. He certainly doesn’t disappoint, proving himself to be the finest beatboxer out there and doing things with his mouth which I scarce believed possible. From a hilarious nature soundscape to a quite astonishing solo track titled ‘Ratchet Face’, which not only showed his ability to become a one-man version of The Prodigy, but also saw him transform into Eminem with a few rapid-fire verses to close the song.
“an hour of musical wizardry and escapism”
However, MacDowell is never outshone by his fellow musician and friend. It’s worth noting here that the bond between these two was evident throughout, with their laid back style creating the feeling like you had a window into two mates jamming in their garage, which enhanced the whole experience tenfold. For instance, both artists took the time to explain how they used their various pedals and technology to power their instruments and vocals, rather than keeping this secretive. MacDowell’s guitar playing and soulful vocals were not only versatile, but beautifully textured, recalling Jeff Buckley in many places.
While the duo played a number of originals, there were a good deal of crowd-pleasing covers thrown in. These included a sublime mash-up which centred around ‘No Diggity’ and ‘The Next Episode’, and a moving version of Bill Withers’ ‘Grandma’s Hands’, which Tom Thum dedicated to his late grandmother. This latter track sent shivers down my spine, with its combination of subtle beatbox and a switch to acoustic, finger-plucked guitar.
For an hour of musical wizardry and escapism, I can’t recommend MacDowell and Thum highly enough. They are extraordinarily talented, remarkably humble and will make sounds you didn’t think were possible for a two-man band.
Assembly George Square Studios – One, August 6th – 18th August (not 9th and 15th), 20:00
Ticket Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jamie-macdowell-and-tom-thum
Image: Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum