Stirring up a reggae loving crowd in Auckland’s Logan Campbell Centre last weekend was the sister festival of One Love Festival in Tauranga - Good Vibes Festival. The line-up sees local and international acts such as Lion Rezz, Josh Wawa, L.A.B and Katchafire tour around Aotearoa in the cold months to warm the scene for summer reggae vibes.
Presented by MAI FM and PATO Entertainment the evening was a long streak of reggae heavyweights that went throughout the evening into the early hours of the morning. The weather was stink and saw large crowds descend on the venue in a rushed frenzy to avoid the splintering rain. Greeted by warm bodies I joined the already merry flock of reggae lovers that were split into those on the floor and up in the stalls with the remainder waiting in large queues for the bar and toilets.
First up was Lion Rezz who was a regular cameo for the other acts throughout the night. The local Aucklander started the evening with class, bounding onto the stage with glasses and cap he played a set of edgy grooves that combined a traditional reggae style with elements of hip-hop and R&B. Ending around 7 the venue was beginning to pack, cups were being spilt and a haze started to the cling to the ceiling.
Grabbing a kebab at the food truck outside the rain was still pouring hard and the cold snap lingered in the air. This did not stop smokers and a few toilet goers turning wild as you would miss a good chunk of the acts if you were to brave the queues inside. Heading back my beer was mistakenly taken under the watchful eye of one of the security guards who gave me someone else’s – couldn’t help thinking she would be one down all night. I digress, Latasha Lee’s voice called me into the stage hall as she ramped up the heat.
The Texan native was on fire. Wearing a tank top she glided from one side of the stage to the other with a grace that matched her silky, powerful voice which meandered through registers with ease. Drawing inspiration from Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and Etta James, her soulful presence took the night a step away from reggae and moved it closer to R&B, captivating the crowd in a loving rapture; a love that even encouraged a crowd member to throw clothes on stage for Latasha who, upon trying to give it back, gratefully responded with a smile “alright, this is mine now.” The band were great too, playing mostly from her latest album Latasha Lee and the Black Ties, ending with Left Hand Side.
Another international act Josh Wawa hit the stage next at 7:50. Born and raised in Salt Late City the smooth, sultry lines of his vocals took off where Latasha Lee left with a little more reggae vibes than R&B. Calling for one love and for the crowd to look out for each other amongst the sweltering mass of dancers, the set was joined by Lion Rezz who added some beautiful harmonies.
Whipping off to check out the venue from the stalls I strolled past the bar to find it had already closed due to concerns from the organisers. Disappointed faces hung around with a few angry punters shouting about how ridiculous it was – the vibes were not so good.
Coming on at 8.30 was the 8-piece 1814 from Whangaroa Harbour who added a few more decibels compared to the previous acts. Opening with Let My People Go the crowd were ready to sing along, screaming the chorus of the track with a power that made the venue rattle. The vocal harmonies by Darren Katene, Neihana Mackey-Harrison and Kalani Marsters melded the swagger and bounce of the rhythm section like glue. Good vibes is the right word – smiles began bursting into the juts of Chris Pierce’s saxophone, legs bobbed with Shaun Colbert’s drums on the third and hips bounced to Jimmy Colbert’s rolling bass lines.
The 7-piece Tomorrow People cruised onto the stage at 9.30. Hailing from Wellington, they brought a similar vein of kiwi reggae as 1814 but with harmony between Hamo Dell and Marcus Abraham that really is something special. Feeling like I ought to be chilling on a beach, fancy drink in hand and an ocean breeze whistling past my ears, their sound saturated the venue with a fuzzy warmth that hugged the soul. Playing mostly from their popular One album they managed to sneak in a wicked little cover of Dawn Penn’s You Don’t Love Me (No No No).
L.A.B flew on stage next to ruffle some feathers. The rockier, rougher sound of the 5-piece ramped up the energy to another level. The stalls were now packed of people standing on seats performing various chants, dances and hakas to the delight of those below engulfed in a haze. Adding pace and more distortion to their recorded versions, the opener She’s Gone whipped the audience into gear with emotive screams from Joel Shadbolt’s unique monster guitar tones. Pushing through until around 11:30 I felt L.A.B’s performance outshined the previous acts due to sheer power, and was a much-needed boost for an audience who had been dancing for the best part of 5 hours.
Finally, kiwi reggae legends Katchafire came on at around 11:40 to a crowd that looked like they had just been stunned by L.A.B’s electric performance. Resuscitating the audience with the well-known grooves of one of Aotearoa’s most well-known smile-inspiring and good vibn’ backyard selections in the sun, the 5-piece eased everyone in with Down With You.
Standing in front of three screens that displayed a growling lion on each side, frontman Logan Bell called out for “who is smoking Mary J tonight!” and was greeted as you would expect as plumes rose to the ceiling along with the groups loving vibrations. Having to gap about halfway through their set as my ears were completely spent, I left the gig in confidence that the remainder of their set would go down a treat.
If the goal of Good Vibes is to warm up the winter months to get reggae lovers ready for the One Love Festival then they achieved that purpose and more. Despite some poor organising when it came to the venue, the sound and set up of the show was on point – catch the next round on the 9th in Hamilton or the 10th in Tokoroa.