Bushgrass vibes are coming to Gloucester

Mark Oats and Matt Zarb have plans for an evening of foot-tapping, belly laughing fun in Gloucester. Photo supplied
Mark Oats and Matt Zarb have plans for an evening of foot-tapping, belly laughing fun in Gloucester. Photo supplied

Ever heard of bushgrass music? It's a term Mark Oats and Matt Zarb have been using to describe their sounds for years. Basically, it's bluegrass delivered with a bit of bushranger finesse.

"We've been saying it for years," Matt laughed, not sure if in fact they've coined the phrase.

Mark, with his fiddle, and Matt, with his guitar, have been playing together on and off since 1986, and are coming to Gloucester for an intimate country-style concert at the Gloucester Citizens Centre on Friday, October 18. Both have forged music careers being known to play gigs in various parts of the world, as well as in Australia. Mark has developed his own claim to fame with played as part of Australia's infamous,The Bushwackers Band for many years. Together Mark and Matt's eclectic mix of Celtic, folk and bluegrass mixed with Mark's infectious humour should make for an entertaining evening.

"It'll make you laugh, cry and kick up your feet," Matt said.

The idea of playing in a more intimate space, as opposed to a pub, was inspired by the time when Matt opened an pirate bar on Norfolk Island. It all started when Matt's mate, who had a bar on the island, suggested he take over a vacant space and play his guitar.

"It's called the Jolly Roger and I had it for two years in 2016," Matt laughed.

Mark joined Matt on stage to perform in front of the 100 patrons and they loved the vibe.

"Any opportunity to play this style of show is fertiliser for me," Matt explained. "It's about the connection with people, sharing of music and emotions."

Matt started playing piano when he was five year old, and at 13, he picked up a guitar. "I saved up $183.75 to buy my first guitar," Matt recalled.

Although the guitar is his instrument of choice, he doesn't shy away from trying his hand at something new.

"I love any instrument. Right now, I'm learning trumpet," he laughed.

Matt's passion for music extends beyond his professional career with him devoting time to the Taree community by teaching music to children through the Australian Children's Music Foundation (ACMF). Although Matt grew up in Sydney, he has been a part of the Manning Valley community for many years, having finally returned to Taree to plant roots after his time on Norfolk Island.

Presented by the Gloucester Arts and Cultural Council Inc (GACCI), Mark Oats and Matt Zarb's show will take place from 7.30pm on Friday, October 18 at the Gloucester Citizens Centre. Tickets are on sale at Uptown Country in Gloucester for $25 per non member, $20 per GACCI member and $15 per student.