[LIVE REVIEW] Hot Potato Band // UOW Unibar // 09/03/19

Hot Potato Band graced UOW Unibar with a night of high energy, funked up jazz on Saturday night. With a band that can perform with up to 16 members, this acoustic group isn’t missing a beat with their New Orleans brass band sound. Joining us on the night was Simon Ghali, the leader of the group on Drums; Ben Goldstein on Vocals; James Mackay on Tenor Sax; Edward Tan on Alto Sax; Peter Orenstein on Baritone Sax; Max Mallen-Cooper on Trombone; Paul Murchison on Trumpet; Daniel Moore on Sousaphone; Marc Malliate on Percussion and Drums; and James Swanson on Bass Drum.

They kicked off the gig with ‘Mystery Man’, a fan favourite since it’s release in 2016 which meant that the dance floor was packed from the get go as people flocked to groove to their pop/jazz vibe. This was later joined by another fan favourite from their first album ‘Sail Away’ which featured an amazing trombone solo.

As well as old favourites the band played new tracks of their latest album ‘Stitch Up’ released last month, such as ‘Thick’, a playful song comparing love to Avocado and life to Sourdough that ends with an epic Tenor Saxophone breakdown from James Mackay. ‘Positive Vibrations’ showcased an amazing stage presence with the band showcasing a battle with the sousaphone in the centre of it, slowly advancing towards the centre before being pushed back the other way. They took a step back from their usual high intensity beats with ‘Silver In The Moon’ to offer a moment for the audience to appreciate their diverse skillset, however it wasn’t long before they continued with their funk driven tunes, bringing out an orange flower boa, and draping it over Ben’s shoulders and informing us that they are taking us on a trip to an island far away with ‘Pitaya Dreaming’. This song had a really cool moment which featured some playful beatboxing/drums call and response before Ben spun his flower boa around in the air like a lassoo and threw it out into the audience.

The band also took a moment to pay homage to where they started – as an instrumental group only, performing ‘Spudwhiskers’ which showed how well the band could capture you with or without vocals. In addition to this, they played a few covers, which the band originally used to showcase the potential of their unique group, giving the audience a familiar tune to dance along to with ‘Redbone’ originally by Childish Gambino; and ‘Dang!’, originally by Mac Miller.

They tried to end the performance with ‘Let It Go’, another fan favourite from their first album with an amazing trumpet solo, and audience participation as they become the backing choir for the band, chanting ‘Let it go’ on a loop while Ben riffs over them with vocal ad-libs; however the audience demanded to hear more, chanting “One More” as they left the stage.

Hot Potato Band is known to often come back and honour the requests for encores, and they did that, surprising the audience with not one, but two extra songs – ‘Island’, which started with Ben acting as a conductor as he built up their return with instrumental swells from their ‘Intro’ track to create suspense and tension.

This was followed by their traditional encore piece ‘This Is How It Should Be’, the bands first original song. This song is full of energy, but it starts with total silence as Daniel begins the song with the star of this piece: the sousaphone and its amazing deep bass sounds. As the piece builds, Daniel remains a central focus of the performance, jumping around and bringing the enthusiasm so much that that during the sousaphone solo, the band and audience bow to him in adoration.

‘This is How It Should Be’ is a great example of how the band continually bring the high energy vibe, not just in their awesome playing skills, but also in the way they interact with the tunes, whether it be jumping around on stage like the Daniel with his sousaphone; cheesy dance moves from the saxophone, trumpet and trombone players; or dramatic stick movements from the drummers in time with the beat. An amazing performance which flew by all too quickly.

Review – Elysse Turner.