Holiday Ghosts get things off to a flying start. Their jaunty punky skiffle pop leads to a mass outbreak of smiles. They should play big stages more often. They sound fat in this environment, although that may be because we have placed ourselves in front of both the speakers and Sam’s amp. In this context ‘Big Cold River’ is a monster and his guitar playing gets better and better. Now that they’re working with Bella Union management, 2024 must be the year Holiday Ghosts band explode. They surely deserve it.
Then the W.I.T.C.H backing band take to the stage. They are a seriously tight group of crack musicians from all over the world, including Dutch eccentric shoegazer Jacco Gardner, Skiny Polembe and Nicola from the Mauskovic Dance Band. They deliver a taught funk start before the African performers appear in stages.
The dancers; Theresa Ng’ambi and Hanna Tembo explode across the stage. They do their job with joyful abandon and whip the crowd up. Patrick Mwondela, who played on the band’s 80s disco albums, enters from stage right in red leather pants and a crazy shirt to loud cheers.
Then it’s the turn of the frontman, Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda, who looks like a psychedelic cross between Flavor Flav and Ian Brown and brings a plate of fruit on stage with him. He proceeds to snack on this throughout the show, breaking the fruit open and placing bits in his colourful trouser pockets. He laughs in the face of the dangers of pocket fluff!
The Zamrock legends are the subject of a recent documentary, We Intend To Cause Havoc, which has given the band their own ‘William Onyeabor’ moment. They are reinvigorated and rejuvenated and have signed to Partisan Records, who are using their Idles bonus well. The band released the excellent ‘Zango’ earlier in the year and the new record is now finding its way deservedly onto the end of year lists.
“I was looking forward to enjoying Brighton and seeing your beautiful buildings. But I got out of the bus and thought: 1°C – No Way,” Emanyeo jokes.
“Now Let’s talk about the past – my past,” he says, before ‘Living In The Past’ from 1974’s album of the same name cracks out. This is not a nostalgia tour though: ‘Waile’ from the new album, gets some of the hardest dancing of the night so far. The crowd cheers loudly and really starts grooving.
The various members of the band start to get things interactive. At points people are passed the mic and encouraged to sing. During another track, SOURCE is suddenly given a massive cowbell by Emanyeo and a quick rhythmical instruction before it’s our turn to solo for the masses! We are rewarded with a high five and a giant smile and the cowbell moves on to another pair of excited hands.
What is truly striking is how happy the crowd is. Not every gig has an atmosphere like this. There is not one person who is not grinning from ear to ear. What Holiday Ghosts gleefully started, W.I.T.C.H. smash home and make no mistake.
“Where’s the guy who wanted ‘Lazy Bones’? It’s coming now!” Boom. If you aren’t dancing by now you may as well give up. In fact you are probably clinically dead.
It seems we won’t get an encore when the house music comes on, but the crowd hold out and continue to bray for more. We are treated to a cover of the ‘Funky Chicken’. Holiday Ghosts are invited back on stage, and everyone swaps instruments. We have seen support bands brought on stage many times but never quite in such a genuinely open and welcome way. Who cares which member of which bands plays what! Some of the W.I.T.C.H. band are content with shaky eggs, passing on their guitars and kit. It’s just a riot. Acid Box Polly and Stay Sick Neil are brought on stage to join the party. It might be 1°C outside, but we all leave with the Ready Brek orange glow of a warm heart enriched thanks to a truly special show.
Acid Box and Stay Sick present: W.I.T.C.H.
Chalk, Thursday 30th November 2023
Words by Nick McAllister
Photos by Jason Warner