Gig review: Melbourne Ska Orchestra + Rhythm Hunters in Jenolan Caves

Thanks to Vulture Magazine for a wonderful little online review and great pics of our show in Jenolan Caves with Melbourne Ska Orchestra and Rhythm Hunters.

Review and photos by Leila Maulen

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A crispy fresh mountain air greeted the cars rolling into the dark descent to the Jenolan Caves. All that could be heard was a flurry of people shuffle quickly down the steep hill with their wooly beanies, blankets and torches alight. Energetic banter flowed between groups as we made our way to the entrance of the dome shaped cave. A dark alley met us at the entrance to the Grand Arch.

Waiting inside was the sweetest stage setup glowing blue against a cave wall. The vibes were alive with mystery and anticipation while the fold out chairs found their place to nestle amongst the well rugged up ticket holders. The roughness of the natural limestone created the perfect other worldly mood as the 340 million year old cave was accentuated with lights flaring across its nook and crannies.

Vulture mag caves 314-piece band The Rhythm Hunters hit the stage with intense colourful energy. The stage littered with milk crates acting astables and stands, their faces painted in red stripes, bands and dots. The dance floor was already full by the opening song and it was a struggle to get to the front. Lead singer Rendra Freestone won the crowd by the first song so when he asked the entire audience to sit on the floor for their next number, they did exactly that. It was part demand, part request from his mother he explains as she believes it’s a special kind of song one needs to appreciate and take in. A highlight of the band’s synchronised choreography had all the women kneeling at the front of the stage dancing to a wild pattern of moves while the rest of the band played a drum heavy track.

If you’ve ever seen Melbourne SKA Orchestra you already know they never disappoint, and boy how that rang true this night. In a dream venue like this, the audience really got their kicks when front man Nicky Bomba asked every person to turn around and listen to the echoes bouncing off the cave walls and absorb the power of the natural acoustics as the orchestra played. Bomba also included the audience in the music when he formed collaborations with the band and had the crowd singing, cueing each with the wave of a hand. What a thing to witness.

The band danced, jumped around with their instruments and sang; it was visual art and musical art in one of nature’s best spots. With all these quirky musicians on stage with so many instruments we just didn’t know who to keep our eyes on. It was solo madness with an Indian clarinet solo, guitar solo, drum solo, saxophone solo, steel keys solo and piccolo solo. To finish the night off, Bomba helped a young fan to the stage where they danced together and topped it off with a countdown for the last jump on stage.

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