Jinja Safari @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (11/11/10)

After calls via social media for fans to bring along “foliage” to the gig, it was no surprise that the stage was aptly decorated with greenery for ‘forest rock’ favourites Jinja Safari.

The energy and excitement that Jinja Safari unleash is blissfully infectious and the dancing in the crowd started as soon as the first guitar string was plucked.

Their enchanting, layered sound of tribal drums, chiming bells and delicious vocals is highlighted in their signature track, Peter Pan, from their self-titled EP, released earlier this year. The track also showcases their refreshingly optimistic lyrics (“love has come at last, leave your sorrows in the past, dancing in the rain”).

By the time they reached Vagabond, only a few tracks in, the entire crowd was engaged. Jinja Safari brought everyone at OAF together; hippies and indie kids danced side by side, united by the childlike energy that this band seem to bring out in people. It helps when you have Alister Roach, possibly the most animated percussionist of all time – how he doesn’t dislocate a shoulder mid-set is as bewildering as it is amazing.

Lead singer Marcus Azon, supported by fellow front-man Pepa Knight, had a captivating hold over the crowd – much like kids at a Wiggles concert, we ate up his every word. If he jumped, we jumped. When he asked us to sit, every person there responded, not wanting to be left out. After a few moments of collective crouching, the crowd sprung back up without missing a beat of the extended instrumental section.

Their latest single and radio-favourite, Forest Eyes , was another highlight, bursting with maraccas and clapping and bongos. Regardless of how much Azon and friends leapt and bounded around the stage, or how many punters they brought up to dance with them, the overall sound remained tight and composed.

If a live set from Jinja Safari doesn’t make you beam with happiness, it’s safe to say you have no heart. The strength of their live performance is undeniable and their contagious energy is deserving of the hype that has surrounded them this year. Now for a whole album, please!

Check out the photos from the gig