NZM’s Dee Muir headed out to see Waiheke three-piece Oyawa live on their home turf on October 29.
Oyawa is hosting a gig at Malones on Waiheke Island, and after two solid support acts, the crowd is nicely warmed up to induce a bit of dance floor mayhem.
There’s a buzz about the room as lead singer/guitarist, Nikki Ngatai, and assisting back-up vocalist, Gina Goad, fine tune their equipment.
Lurking beneath the dimly lit fairy lights is the bass guitarist, Brett Garrity, attempting to untangle himself from a section of cabling, while next to him Oyawa’s guest guitarist, Cliff Bateman seems to be assessing the limited floor space that is allocated to him for the next 50 minutes.
The crowd squeal excitedly after sampling Miles Gillett warming up on drums. Everything is ready to roll until the band realise that Garrity has vanished from the stage. The crowd search the venue with their eyes and spot him suspiciously close to the bar. It’s hard to miss him due to his NBA player height that has him towering over most patrons.
Gillet shouts out over the mic and gets the crowd chanting for the bass guitarist to appear. Cheers and applause arise as he finally hits the stage.
Oyawa opens with the rhythmic groove of See You Thru.
Supportive friends and family who have positioned themselves close to the stage begin to sway to the enchanting harmonies of Ngatai and Goad. The venue chatter diminishes as the music’s alluring and ethnic melodies work like a magnetic field to draw everyone near. The track ends and people raise their glasses and cheer in appreciation. They look alert and eager to hear more. Additional people enter the dance floor possibly recognising a few EP favourites, Heads on Fire and Take You There. Despite being riddled with screeching audio feedback, the songs are well received.
Midway through the set things get loose with the tracks, Sit and Wait, Pointed Head and Walking Walls.
The band’s intensity rises, almost threatening disorder, only to then be pulled back and tamed by Ngatai’s brooding and moody vocals. The performance is a concoction of mood swings and contradictions. The rockier vibe seems to suit the mood of the growing Malones crowd who are noticeably becoming more vocal by the minute.
The funky bass line in Chika, and the swagger of blues guitar in Name in Ink, adds a welcome shift to Oyawa’s set list.
The chemistry between the band members shines through like a cluster of Swarovski crystals as they polish off the evening with the dominant, Yes We’re Keeping Her.
The track ends with a two and a half minute electrifying instrumental surge that has the crowd spellbound, so the screams for an encore are no surprise at all.
On stage, Oyawa delivers a fierce set. It would be tough for them to disappoint even if they tried.