KONGOS started their set at a crawl at The Fillmore on Tuesday after the opening acts, Colony House and Sir Sly, amped up the crowd in preparation of the headliners. When Kongos arrived on stage they played slow jam after slow jam, which jilted the atmosphere and had the crowd in a straight-faced stupor. They lacked the showmanship brought by Sir Sly’s lead singer, Landon Jacobs, who exited the stage with clothes soaked in the sweat induced from his almost constant dance-jumping. San Francisco is one of the last stops for the four brothers since the Lunatic tour began in late January. The exhaustion of the road could have contributed to their tired start of the performance.
After a lot of lackluster, the band redeemed the evening when they hit their fans like caffeine on a groggy morning with “Come With Me Now.” The crowd frenzied and continued to do so for the rest of the night as KONGOS found their energy. The music itself is fun to listen to; alternative rock with rhythmic South African influences that would fit perfectly over any montage of beach bonfire scenes.
Jesse Kongos, drummer and lead vocalist for the group, had incredible endurance throughout the show. His intensity built throughout the set and by the final few songs he was belting lyrics while standing and drumming, his voice unshaken by the physical exertion. The vigor was solidified during their performance of “I’m Only Joking.” The lyric “what are you smoking” was accompanied by dual smoke rings that puffed out extending to the back of the venue; an effective crowd pleaser.
KONGOS’ set drew heavily from Lunatic, their sophomore album, re-released in February 2014 with Epic Records. The album is filled with infectious accordion melodies and catchy, simplistic choruses. Jesse teased about the sophistication of the lyrics saying, “This next one’s really, really deep, I hope you guys get it.” He followed with “I Want To Know” which repeats the phrase “I want to know” six times with some lovely guitar and vocals to deter any boredom from the repetition. KONGOS also relied on cover songs for some zest. They played their version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and “Come Together” and kept the sound fresh by inviting their stage manager Mo Gordon on stage to rap over the tracks.
The encore, “Tokoloshe Man,” was a tribute to their father, John Kongos, who originally wrote and performed the song in the 1970s. The tune fit neatly into their style; it sounded like them, with a groovy, hippy twist. The song went well with their set’s motif which included slideshow of family photos during the song “Escape” and a song in homage to their hometown of Johannesburg titled “Traveling On.”
Eleanor Rigby Live:
The tour will wrap up on the March 28th with a performance at Lollapalooza Brazil. The band stated their plans to return home to South Africa afterward to begin recording their third album.
Tokoloshe Man live:
Photo from 2014 by Jonathan Marlow