In the gorgeous surroundings of the Anglican Cathedral, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby settles in for a two night party from Fiesta Bombarda, and hopes not to be struck down by the almighty.
There’s something a bit strange about a gig in a cathedral. This writer is a non-believer, but was raised in Catholic education, and that never really leaves you. So I did occasionally wonder if the ground was going to swallow us up for our blasphemous singing, dancing and drinking.
We expected the cathedral to be cold like a church, but it was actually hot as hell, so thank God for the cloakroom. KOG and the Zongo Brigade heated things up further. They were listed as playing a “steel pan set”, but what that ending up meaning was that the singer also played steel drums occasionally.
It was obvious that Africa Oye had a hand in tonight, and if you can imagine the vibes on a scorching hot Saturday afternoon in Sefton Park that gives you a snapshot of what the Zongo Brigade brought to the party. The crowd was sparse and timid at the beginning of the set, but as the numbers swelled it became obvious that they had everyone in the palm of their hands.
Occasionally, we became distracted, simply staring at the architecture of the building. It is something that seems to come natural to Fiesta Bombarda – finding beautiful locations and decking them out with their own unique style. We were speaking to a guy at the bar, he was a southerner named Matt and we agreed that we would mention that he had nice hair (inconsequential information, but we are true to our word!). He told us with astonishment that there was nowhere else in the country where somebody would think to use a cathedral to stage a party, a massive tip of the hat to Bombarda’s imagination.
Out of everyone on Friday night’s bill, Romare stuck out. Playing a set more in line with electronica than the funky afrobeat we were seeing elsewhere, we were initially a bit blind sighted by his appearance, but we gradually came around and, by the end, we were bona fide fans.
He looked a little like a mad scientist up there, and was accompanied by a percussionist who added a certain je ne sais quoi to his set. It was his debut performance in the city, and if the crowd gathering in front of him was anything to go by, he has a sizeable audience. We definitely plan to educate ourselves further before he returns.
Also making their debut in Liverpool were headliners Ibibio Sound Machine, bringing together the afrobeat of the Zongo Brigade and the electronica of Romare. There are vague echoes of 70s and early 80s funk in their music, and yet they never sound dated. They are completely in the now, and led by a powerhouse of a frontwoman in Eno Williams, who we could not take our eyes off as she prowled the stage like the total badass she is.
Saturday night had a lot to live up to, but it was clear that the sold out crowd were ready for the challenge.
Jeramiah Ferrari were a bit of a question mark for us. The tunes were pretty good, the frontman was effective and the rhythm section was solid. But at the same time, they were singing in a Caribbean accent despite being from Manchester. More Ali Campbell than Alton Ellis. At times the potential was clear, and they definitely won over the crowd. But then it would strike us as reggae for “lads”. But then we’d think it was brilliant again. We haven’t been so confused about a band in a long time. They’re supporting The Wailers in March, maybe we’ll try again.
Renegade Brass Band tore the place apart. There’s no other way to say it. They also basically epitomised what Bombarda is. We wish we had anything else to say, but we don’t. That’s it.
Beardyman began with a full on hymn before freestyling about how he couldn’t swear in a church (while swearing). Bringing on a cellist after a few songs, it was clear the crowd were here for him and if all the other acts threw a party – he was the party.
But best of all, after two nights being sinful in a cathedral, the expected apocalypse did not occur.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters