Jaya the Cat have been on my radar for some time now. Until I saw them live, I was unsure what genre they really were: they said ‘Drunk Reggae’ on their Facebook page, but I listened to a few of their tracks and thought that they were veering on the more Ska-punk area. Live, however, they are very much Reggae, but with strong European or American elements. For example, they play slightly faster than most Reggae bands, use some electronic samples and synthesisers, add distortion to the guitars every now and then, and even play the melodica in some numbers (such as ‘Closing Time’). It’s a little weird, but definitely fun to listen to.
Before Jaya the Cat performed, the crowd were warmed up by a support band which I think were called ‘Small Corkers’. They played an experimental fusion of reggae with bebop jazz. They also had a bubble machine, and possibly a large volume of drugs: the bassist was going completely mad in the pit, and the trumpet player looked like he was going to start crying at any moment. Interesting sound, but they didn’t seem to have any merch going, so they seem likely to be a relatively new, local band.
"They played an experimental fusion of reggae with bebop jazz"
When Jaya the Cat came on stage, I was a little worried that I had gone to the wrong venue to see a Norwegian metal band with an unpronounceable name. When, they started playing, though, they positively exuded coolness. Not the sort of cool that comes from listening to Sum 41 while doing a skateboard kickflip over an entire VHS collection of Buffy, but more the laid-back cool that’s associated with fruity cocktails, sunglasses, beaches, and Reggae.
Many of the songs that they played were real sing-along-a-thons. ‘Thank You Reggae’ has that phrase repeated multiple times that were enthusiastically bellowed, and singer/guitarist Geoff taught us how to sing the wordless vocal parts of ‘Here Come The Drums’. That last song was played in the encore, and during a couple of bits after the encore as well. Personally, I thought that the triple encore thing was the only downside of the night, as I felt that they were overdoing it. Green Day did something similar in 2013 and it felt silly then as well.
The band itself engaged well with the crowd, making a few jokes that invariably featured drugs and/or drinking too much. There was allegedly some kind of after-performance drinking session at the Head of Steam, as is traditional with many performers at Think Tank, but I am a very boring person and I decided to go to bed instead (I had lectures the next day). I did, however, pick up a nice T-shirt that said ‘Changing the world, one drink at a time’. An admirable sentiment.
Overall, Jaya the Cat superseded all expectations and I would heartily recommend them to anyone into Reggae / Ska / Ska-punk, or people wanting to expand their musical horizons, or just for a fun night out.