Kongos brings South African roots to Detroit

Photo Credit: Molly Schwalm

Last Wednesday Kongos performed at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit.  It was one of the first shows for the band’s debut Headlining tour, Lunatic.  When Kongos arrived for their sold-out show in Detroit, they brought bands Sir Sly and Colony House with them.

As the first opener, Sir Sly, took the stage, the tone of the show was set with the band’s rock/techno undertones and lead singer Landon Jacobs’s almost eerie vocals.  The crowd was skeptical at first, as most are of unfamiliar openers.  The ghostly beginning of the band’s first songInferno didn’t exactly have the crowd screaming, but by the time the chorus hit, almost everyone in the building was enthralled.

“I had never heard of Sir Sly before the concert,” said senior Jacqueline Welday who attended the concert with fellow senior Jaya Jankowski. “But, they were amazing live.  I went home and bought their album that night.”

Unlike many openers, Sir Sly managed to not only warm-up the crowd but to truly entertain them.  This was seen in their closing song “Gold”, when Jacobs scaled the speakers and proceeded to climb out onto the edge of the balcony. All the while, he continued to wail into the microphone and balanced on a thin ledge.  To the absolute delight of the crowd, Jacobs finished the song on top of the highest speaker with a spotlight shining on him as his band members watched him with surprise.

After that outstanding performance, Colony House took the stage with roaring approval from the crowd as they were slightly better-known in the Indie-rock community.  Colony House did not disappoint as an opener by keeping the energy high and contributing their original style to the show. Lead singer Caleb Chapman even held up a sign stating that ‘water is a human right’ in protest of the water shut-offs which have been plaguing Detroit residents.

Finally, Kongos took the stage, starting off their set list with the popular “Hey I Don’t Know”.  The band consists of four brothers: Dylan, Johnny, Jesse, and Daniel Kongos (the sons of singer-songwriter John Kongos).  They also were raised and started out in South Africa, which is evident in their music as they mix the usual rock image with a variance of  vocals and include an accordion accent– played by Johnny Kongos– in most of their songs.

The band’s diverse sound clearly pleased the crowd, as many people attempted to crowd surf. At one point, Daniel had to ask them to stop so that they would not interrupt the show.

Kongos finished off their set list with “I’m Only Joking”. Giant smoke rings were blown over the crowd and hung in the air, creating a hazy, energy-filled final song.

“ ‘I’m Only Joking’ is one of my favorite Kongos songs,” said Welday, “and I’m so glad they performed it last.  The smoke rings just added to the effect of the song.”

The band soon retook the stage to a roaring crowd and played a surprising encore consisting of two covers: “Tolokoshe Man” by John Kongos and “Blue Monday” by New Order.

“Each group had their own unique sound,” said Jankowski. “It was fun getting to listen to a variety of music.”

The entire concert was a refreshing spin on classic Indie rock, and the opening bands set the tone perfectly for Kongos.  The venue, St. Andrew’s Hall, was also an appropriate scene for the show as it was standing-room only which further allowed the crowd to ‘get lost’ in the music.