Going to an artist’s hometown gig is always a bit special, but going to one at a tiny venue is a very rare experience indeed – and that’s assuming you can even get a ticket. But I found myself in this enviable position on Sunday as I stepped down into the back room of The Victoria in Swindon to watch Josh Kumra and his two support acts bring the house down.
Stepping up first was Tom McCarthy, who became the epitome of multi-tasking as he strummed guitar chords, beat-boxed and fed vocal harmonies into his looper, and wowed the packed venue with his vocal range. He sang a staggering range of covers from Adele to Bob Marley, with only a slight timing wobble as he went into one of his final songs, Gotye’s ‘Somebody I Used To Know’. He pulled it out of the bag though, singing both Gotye and Kimbra’s vocals with startling precision, before coming to a deafening finish with the aid of the ardent supporters in the room. It was a brilliantly engaging set.
Next up was Nick Felix, whose dulcet tones were an intoxicating blend of Kelly Jones, Caleb Followill and Rod Stewart. The majority of his set was original, bluesy material, some slow and some faster, for which he expertly played the guitar, both as an instrument and as his percussion. The lyrical and musical content of the tracks was fantastic, and they were expertly delivered by Felix, who again evidently had a large following in the room. With the right manager behind him this guy could be huge – he certainly won’t have to work on stage presence or delivery. It was hard to see how Josh Kumra could follow him.
Finally stepping onto the stage from within the crowd, Josh Kumra and his drummer, Carra Bacon, kicked off proceedings with a cover of Angus and Julia Stone’s ‘Mango Tree’, and the bar was raised even higher. Kumra’s vocals were absolutely spine tingling as he steered the crowd through his set, skilfully contrasting light and shade in his performance and drawing the audience under his spell. The timing between Kumra and Bacon was outstanding, and the pair played and exceptionally tight set.
Kumra played both material from his current album and a couple of covers, dedicating one track to his parents in the crowd. A comedy moment happened as his Grandad, who was also in the crowd, worked his way through the packed room to the front of the stage at the end of a song and said, “Josh! Josh! Play that song, ‘Oak Tree’!” Kumra paused, studied his Grandad’s face, and said, “I just did.” It was a special moment and this, coupled with the enthusiastic crowd that evidently contained a large number of Kumra’s family and friends, really made you feel part of a huge family gathering.
After playing a fantastic set and coming back on for two encores (with much encouragement from the crowd) Kumra and Bacon finished as they had started, with an absolutely brilliant encore of ‘Mango Tree’. It was a truly spectacular gig and it was a great privilege to have been there to share the experience. Having only ever heard his track ‘Don’t Go’ before the gig I really had no idea what to expect, but this very talented young man now has a new, avid fan.