Review: Katchafire bring good island vibes from New Zealand to the State Theatre in St. Petersburg
Play the offbeat rhythms, and they will come. Fans of reggae music don’t discriminate, even if you hail from another hemisphere, like Katchafire, a New Zealand house favorite. The all-Maori, eight-piece roots reggae band played to a sparse crowd at the State Theater Wednesday night. About 100 fans, clad in rastafarian themed garb, dreadlocks and squinty eyes came to groove to the island jams. Although headcounts didn’t matter because the steady stream of good vibes kept everyone enticed.
What I most enjoyed (aside from the dubbed intro of Shine On You Crazy Diamond) was the versatility that having eight musicians allowed. There were two lead vocalists (Logan Bell and Jamey Ferguson) with smooth honey voices, a trumpeter, keyboardist/saxophonist (also Jamey Ferguson), drums, percussion, two guitars and a bass. Admittedly, I’m quite soft for the horns, they sell reggae to me on sweet beds of happy notes, and Katchafire’s pipes didn’t disappoint.
On the set list were popular songs Who With You, Seriously, Get Away, Sensimillia and a Three Little Birds cover, which was fitting since the band initially began as a Bob Marley tribute band, even getting their name from the album, Catch A Fire.
Opener K’Nova was a no-show, but second act, California-based Common Kings, got folks in the mood with their blend of reggae peppered with R&B and soul. Since no one really knew their songs, their versions of Exodus, Beat It and Lupe Fiasco’s Out of My Head went over well. After their set, band members filtered into the crowd to watch Katchafire from the floor and humbly talked to fans that approached them. Oh, the beauty of pre-fame. I only wish I had such a chance at an encounter with today's big names.
When the house lights come on, you know the gig is over. But for the first time ever at a show, the band decided to come back and play one last song, sending off good vibes to revelers on a Wednesday night.
If you’re a reggae fan, Katchafire plays a good set, as do most kiwi roots musicians (maybe I’m just too in love with Fat Freddy’s Drop), but the best part about reggae shows is that the crowd is always cool, calm and content. I guess that’s what you get when “One Love” is the message.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*