Live: Jinja Safari, Howlr – 7th August 2015

Howler, Melbourne, Australia
Howler, Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is often a rather reserved group of people to perform for, offering little space for artists to create a positive relationship for the mutual enjoyment of both parties. Melbournians, enmass, seem to prefer standing around in some half-interested way while secretly absorbing every detail  to debate – rather animatedly – all the most enjoyable and deplorable moments of the performance.

This was, without a doubt, the exception that proved the rule.

First up we had Chase City, this was undeniably the awkward first hour of a house party where you don’t know the host and haven’t had enough of that liquid courage to engage in banter with strangers.

Chase City’s standard line up is usually a four piece buzzy, pop rock band in the vein of Vampire Weekend and the Wombats. For this performance they were short their second guitarist due to a mix up in flights. Admirably, they refused to falter and put vibrant energy into each song despite the modest crowed.

Unfortunately a synth solo, perhaps intended for the missing guitarist, was poorly executed by the bassist missing both timing and rhythm. Considering this took place during their last song it left a dissatisfied aftertaste.

Drummer, Micheal Snape, was a stand-out with his punchy, captivating beats and fills.

It was evident that Chase City are still developing their showmanship and should seek to perform their act holistically rather than a piece by piece play. This seemed born more of inexperience rather than inability.

chase city

While the music was fun and performed with zeal, ultimately it was disheartening to hear a young band reproducing that faux British pop rock sound rather than endeavoring to find their own. They felt more like musicians chasing a sound then creating one.

By the time Sea Legs were due on set the crowd had swelled and the anticipation was rife.

One by one they filed onto stage as what can only be described as an eclectic group of Americana-like caricatures. The trucker was equipped with a P.J Harvey Cap – whether this was in reference to the artist or cigarette brand is debatable but I like to think it was the latter. The grunge master on drums, the hippie bassist and some ‘hipster’ amalgamation on synths and guitar.

Leading man and trucker, Byron Knight, opened up a dialogue with the crowd about bizarre topics such as vomiting on the front liners while attempting to hit the high notes and getting booked by the cops for speeding during their drive to Melbourne for that very performance. This charmingly off kilter banter immediately moved the audience to feel appreciated for dolling out the cash to witness their art. Allowing trust to develop and a sense of chaotic fun. If you are a musician and want to understand how to work a crowd, pay attention to Sea Legs.

Their set list exemplified an ability to understand the ebb and flow of a live performance. Starting with articulate, captivating leads with a backing of atmospheric indi-pop fun, Sea Legs declared their presence and their intention to rock the venue.

Sea Legs frequently exhibited pithy synth melodies, juicy bass refrains that empowered rather than over-powered, calamitous drums and howling vocals. While allowing moments of reprieve for the fans to disengage, they were to be drawn back in by their well-received singles Anthem, Morse Code and Christopher.

Sea Legs nailed it.

By this point everyone had loosened up and the party was in full swing. One and all were eager to see the stars of the night.

There are a number of reasons that made Jinja Safari’s performance so memorable. As vocalist Marcus Azon briefly spoke of this being the last act of their tour, all the stress pertaining to the business of music was behind them. For now they could relax and enjoy their success. Their relief and chemistry stood, easily recognizable, in the exchange between band members and punters alike.


Nevertheless, I think it would be naive to not take a moment to appreciate the spectacular assortment of music lovers who attended. The relationship between artist and consumer is symbiotic. Each participant feeds off the energy of the other – and when you’re in sync, beautiful things happen.

The room was packed, the people were dancing, friends boosted on shoulders. The applause and cheers where deafening whenever Jinja Safari dropped their highly recognizable hits like Mermaids, Hiccups and Find My Way. Witnessing Cameron ‘Pepe’ Knight shred a keyboard on top of his equipment while holding it like a guitar was a spectacle to behold. His flute solo had a whiff of 70’s Aqualung mayhem.

To see Alister Roach flow from chaos pad, guitar, drums, xylophone and singing flawlessly was an inspiration and deserves significant recognition for his talent. Jacob Borg, who also performed with Sea Legs belted out one of the best live drum solos I’ve seen in Melbourne for some time.

Azon’s vocals floated across the upbeat rhythms of warmer places. Their culturally appropriative influences, rightly a point of contention no matter how you may feel about it, were present as per usual but a certain maturity and individualism coexisted in their later works. Their music and performance both nourished and energized.

For their finale, Sea Legs joined the stage in costume to run amuck while they performed their heart out but the crowd wanted more. Demanding an encore with an extended bout of screaming and clapping they were unable to deny their supporters. Providing a gorgeous send off for not just this performance but their entire tour.

Jinja Safari managed to fill a small venue with the energy on par with a budding music festival. If you find them performing in your area, do not miss out on the experience.