Ask any artist what their favourite thing about touring is and you’ll likely hear the same answer, seeing the fans and making connections with them. No artist I have seen live exemplifies this quite like Kawala. Embarking on their European tour after their long-awaited debut album Better with You was finally released in early March, the London based bands unique sound and on-stage charisma has managed to sell out venues from Glasgow to Zürich.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with co-frontmen Jim Higson and Daniel McCarthy to discuss their new music and life on tour, before seeing them take the stage in the iconic St Luke’s in Glasgow.
Before Kawala took the stage the steadily growing audience were treated to the delights of indie pop artist Sfven, who charmed the audience with an engaging set comprising of funky guitar licks and pounding drums which complimented his clever yet relatable lyrics that are sure to earworm most of the audience for days after.
The venue was just about full by the end of the opening set, and I immediately noticed the broad range of people excitedly waiting for the gig to start. From merch-clad teenage girls to thirty somethings hanging around at the back and even some parents with children. I am not the first to take note of this wide range of demographics as McCarthy told me: “it’s all ages, all genders… it always seems to be pretty diverse as far as crowds go…
“It’s just fun happy music yknow?… It’s singing It’s dancing it’s just having a great time”
Finally, it was time for Kawala to begin their show, and they did so with a new track Jesse C’mon, which was met with delight from audience members “as soon as we finished writing it [Jesse C’mon] I was excited to play this in front of an audience… McCarthy says; “its super high energy”.
The band kept the audience dancing as after a quick introduction they launched into a string of upbeat tracks, with the highlights being Hypotized, Marathon, and Pure Desire.
Tracks from the new album was met with excited reactions from the crowd who- in true Glasgow fashion- appeared to know every word as if they were classics already.
“Glasgow is just the most hilariously fun place to play” they told me pre-show “every time we’ve played here the fans are the most receptive”
Slowing things down slightly, the band shared a moment of coolness and vulnerability with the crowd as they played one of their few sad songs, Sailor, which had fans hanging onto each line and appeared to leave very few dry eyes in the house.
Things soon sped up again as they finished with many of their classic tunes. Between the beachballs being thrown around the venue and the infamous dancing of the lead vocalists, the energy was electric in those final songs, the band ended their set by indulging the audience with a rendition of their single Ticket to Ride -that was somehow more energetic than the original- ending the night on the highest of highs.
Aside from the eclectic blend of genres and the talents of the musicians on stage, what made this concert stand out from the rest is the way in which Kawala manages to blur the lines between the stage and the audience. From the beginning of the opening song when Higson made a beeline to the pit to greet and dance with fans, to McCarthy’s tangents about Dolly Parton and embarrassing tour stories, it was easy to forget that you were watching a performance on stage and not simply hanging out with a group of friends. I asked the boys if they also felt this way: “we want it to feel like a big family get together,” said Higson
“It does feel weirdly communal, it’s really a safe space for people” McCarthy added. The connection Kawala and their fans share is an incredibly special one, and one that will only grow as they continue to make music and expand their audience, something that is likely to happen if they keep putting on gigs like that of St Luke’s.