When American 5-piece, White Arrows, hit the stage, they were greeted with a very empty Hi-Fi bar. Dressed in feathers and vines, like forest people or fairies, the minimal but eccentric crowd was scattered around room awaiting the jungle jiving headliners to hit the stage.
The punters were happy to chill out to the psychedelic pop rock tunes, huddled in groups mostly seated on the floor. White Arrows bounced around stage in their loud patterned shirts, attempting to rouse some enthusiasm, an enthusiasm which their catchy tunes deserved.
As people began to slowly roll in, heads began to bop along to the likeable drum beats and Mario Kart-sounding electro breakdowns. With added tambourine goodness and a Bruce Springsteen cover, by the end of their set White Arrows had finally managed to gain some attention from the now half full pit.
Dressed in a massive fur coat, Opossom’s leading male – Kieran Fowler – fitted the night’s jungle theme perfectly, looking like some kind of trendy gorilla. But while they may have visually fitted the line-up, the New Zealand trio’s garage style indie rock really didn’t cut it.
Much of the crowd returned to the floor and began to chatter, the loud rock sounding like unrehearsed noise – the kind of noise you’d certainly get into at 3am at a festival, but not as support to the dreamy folk pop headliner, it just didn’t fit the bill.
Several instrument swaps showcased the band’s versatility and musical talents, but as the gorilla-like man kept up his odd stage antics – such as continuously kissing the microphone and dedicating a song to asthmatics – by the end of the set the chattering crowd were glad the weirdness was over and the band they came to see would finally play.
Technology was not a friend tonight, as Jinja Safari’s set was put on hold due to keyboard wiring faults. However, once the five interesting characters bounded on stage and began their energetic set with (appropriately) ‘Hiccups’, the packed out crowd was roaring and the wait already forgotten.
In every break of verse, screams of excitement were let out from the crowd, the indie forest rockers igniting an enormous energy.
The smiling frontman declared “there’s going to be a lot of audience participation tonight!” The hour long set induced exactly that. Dancing, clapping, clicking, arm movements and vocal choruses were consistent throughout the show.
Energetic and eccentric as usual, hip thrusting, amp climbing, swinging from the light railings and shimmy shake dance offs were all pursued on stage, in a very theatrical and entertaining performance.
Jinja Safari’s musical talents may be energetic and enjoyable on their own, but they really do put on a crazy live show like no other.
As well as playing crowd favourites ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Forest Eyes’ the band introduced quite a number of new songs, as the lively percussionist banged his bongos, the keys player rocked a keytar as well as a sitar, and the entire band’s vocal talents were displayed in many a harmony.
Although more technical issues arose with the lead microphone, and an obvious guitar slip occurred, the enthusiastic and adoring crowd really did not care. They came for a fun and impressive show and that is what they got.
The barefoot jungle boys paid homage to the Ugandan town after which they are named, and closed the night with the popular ‘Mermaids’.
The encore was Jinja Safari to a tea: crazy fun and ridiculous, in the best kind of way. The keyboardist leaped from stage for a bit of a crowd surf, the jumping crowd turned into a friendly but intense mosh, the singer played the bass and the percussionist began to freestyle rap.
Jinja Safari are truly something else, which is why they’re the only band who can make animal noises, to the likes of a squirrel or possum, and totally get away with it.
– Mairead Bilton-Gough