It’s going to be a hard gig, even for an up-and-coming Isle of Wight band. You’re the first band on, the opening act to the Ventnor International Festival. You’re playing at two in the afternoon and in a cavernous venue that is notoriously hard to (a) sound engineer and (b) fill.
Local band Nakamarra took these issues in their stride and walked on to the stage to the Jurassic Park main theme, indicating extremely good taste in soundtracks and a cheeky, playful approach to their imminent performance.
The Naka-vibe is a full, riff-and-hook-heavy one; a sound born from the festival scene. Well structured, catchy songs with a penchant for the dramatic. Charlie’s vocals are effortlessly powerful, soaring above the thoughtfully layered arrangements. You can tell that there is honest camaraderie between these young musicians, with a passion and enjoyment that is clear to see, which is no easy thing to convey in such a large venue.
Overall it was a varied set; with changes in mood and musical influence so that the listener can appreciate each song individually, and on its own merit.
However, some constraints of the venue prevented Nakamarra from truly shining. Due to the intrinsic echo chamber effect of the venue, a lot of lyrics were lost on us, which is a huge shame. But not enough of a shame to prevent us from loving what they brought to VIF though.
They are a dynamic, energetic, thoughtful and intelligent band on their way to rather good things. Our Island benefits from young musicians staying here and working at their craft, putting on gigs and creating a live music scene that inspires the next generation as well as pushing current bands and artists to up their game. I, for one, am thankful Nakamarra are here.
I would like to see Nakamarra explore layered harmonies, as I saw two other mics on stage, but did not hear them being put to full use. I would like to see them strip back on one or two tracks, to really vary the set. I think this would really bring the lyrics through and truly reflect the depth of the music. Ultimately, I want to see them do well. They are a shining light on this Island, a marvellous example of home grown talent excelling, despite perceived geographical limitations.
During Nakamarra’s set at the Winter Gardens, I felt a nostalgia. Local young bands used to play there weekly in my formative years and there was an atmosphere of excitement, a feeling that each band could make it, and we would be the crowd that discovered them. Yesterday afternoon Nakamarra brought that feeling back.