Gig Review: Jinja Safari @ The Corner Hotel, 23rd July

It would take a cold, heartless person to not enjoy a Jinja Safari live show. The guys have come a long way since releasing their first single and subsequently opening the main stage of Splendour last year, but their genuine appreciation of their fans and their charismatic and fun-loving stage presence have remained. Last night they completed another chapter in their rise in Australian music, playing a thoroughly enjoyable set to a sold out Corner Hotel crowd.

It was an excitable crowd as well, with everyone clearly enjoying their Saturday night. A huge roar greeted the appearance of the band on stage, but Jinja Safari’s set started a bit slowly with a couple of their more introspective forest folk tunes, including opening number Forest Eyes. Things picked up quite literally when the band managed the impossible and got the entire crowd to sit down on the ground before leaping up emphatically at the climax of the song, and from that moment on there was no looking back.

Scarecrow and Head In A Blender provided tastes of the band’s upcoming EP ‘Mermaids And Other Sirens’, and Head In A Blender in particular is just a magnificent song, carried along gently by an acoustic guitar and never insisting upon itself, instead maintaining a constantly laid-back atmosphere that finds a chorus not in furious percussion but rather in the subdued chant of “Easily, easily, easily, finally I can see that it matters more”. 

There were definitely a few unreleased tracks scattered among the more well-known tunes, but it was the real singalong songs that highlights the night, such as Families, a bonus track to Jinja Safari’s debut EP that transforms into a huge party when played live, and got the entire crowd screaming along with the powerful call and-repeat chorus.

Hiccups came dangerously close to stealing the show. It is just such a surreal song, especially when played live in a room populated by people dressed up as forest creatures. While it’s certainly far from a party tune, it does demonstrate the strength of Jinja Safari as both songwriters and musicians, and it received a huge ovation indicative of just how much the crowd enjoyed it.

Jinja Safari had saved the best for last however, with the double hit of Peter Pan and Mermaids. While the former is undoubtedly the band’s most well-known song, and is of course utterly fantastic live, it was the latter that provided the true highlight of the night. Mermaids is a song written to be played live. It builds slowly to a frantic and euphoric climax that lasts for the better part of five minutes and had everyone in the crowd undertaking their chosen form of ugly dancing. It was a wonderful moment, and was the perfect way to finish an excellent set.

The show finished with Jinja Safari band members crowdsurfing, hanging from the ceiling, and generally just jumping around and acting like lunatics. And everyone just loved it. Jinja Safari’s music is wonderful, but it really is their stage presence that makes their live shows so damn memorable. At all times their set last night had a sense of adventure and whimsical wanderlust to it, and this coupled with the charisma of the band and their genuine joy to be playing music made for a fantastic show.

Jinja Safari’s set finished much stronger than it started, and a more upbeat number may have been welcome at the start of the gig, but this is a trivial complaint of what was a near-faultless show.  For a band with only two EP’s worth of material they filled their hour-long slot with ease, and it really is hard to imagine these guys putting on a bad show. They feed off the energy in the crowd, which means that so long as they play to a good crowd, they will put on a good show.

And last night they played to a fantastic crowd, with their music following suit.

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