Music Reviews

”I Felt Instantly At Home With This Audience” – Live Review: KAWALA @ Rough Trade

Isabelle Hunter

KAWALA are a British indie-folk band, formed in 2017 when Jim Higson (vocals) and Daniel McCarthy (vocals and guitar) met as students in Leeds. From then on, the band expanded with Reeve Coulson on bass, Dan Lee on electric guitar and Ben Batten on drums. On March 7th, the group performed an acoustic set in Nottingham’s Rough Trade to celebrate the release of their debut album ‘Better With You.’ Isabelle Hunter Reviews.

Upon entering the venue, I knew this would be a show to remember. From first seeing KAWALA supporting dodie 3 years ago, to seeing them perform on the headline stage of Reading Festival, the intimate feeling of Rough Trade felt a touch more special for the entire audience.

The minute KAWALA bounced onto the stage, Jim and Daniel’s connection was clear through their interactions with each other and with the audience. They never failed to make the audience laugh with their quick wit and humour in between each song. Jim even completed each track with a ‘rock-star air punch’ – when he didn’t do so after the more downcast song Sailor, the audience reminded him of his rock-star status by gesturing the punch back to him.

‘’I’m living the dream!” Daniel shouted, explaining how one audience member from their previous shows got so excited about Daniel and Dan Lee swapping guitars mid-set. It just goes to show even the more tedious moments of the show brought excitement and energy to the crowd, waiting eagerly to know what was happening next.

I really felt this could have been a full-blown spectacle of a show with all the trimmings

With all 5 members of the band packed tightly onto the small stage of Rough Trade, scattered between instruments galore, they played through a selection of songs from their debut album ‘Better With You.’ Despite the set being acoustic, I really felt this could have been a full-blown spectacle of a show with all the trimmings. The level of instruments that built up to create a sound so similar to the produced album version was mind-blowing, and it made me wonder what a KAWALA 2022 show must be like in full.

Each track from the album flowed incredibly well – it truly was a celebration of their music, and it was clear to see the band’s excitement for the release. From dance hits such as Jesse C’mon and Ticket to Ride, the more sombre moments of Echoes and Sailor had the audience gripped to the point where you could hear a pin drop. At one moment I noticed a girl stood close to me with her eyes closed, slowly swaying and singing every lyric perfectly. She was beaming, and I felt instantly at home with this audience.

Jim and Daniel never failed to encourage audience participation from the excitable crowd. As the acoustics can only go so far, they asked us to complete the ‘ooohs’ in the back of Never Really Here For Long, creating an ambient and choir-like moment that rippled through the crowd.

KAWALA knew exactly how to keep the energy so poignant throughout the set and ended on a brilliant high

Finally, in what felt like a treat at the end of a perfect set, the band asked whether we would like one more of their ‘classic’ tracks: either Animals or Do it Like You Do. Both are hit tunes, but for me DILYD hits slightly different as it was the first ever track I heard of theirs live back in 2019. Luckily for me, we managed to shout loud enough for the band to play both songs, and the crowd were overjoyed.

I’ve never felt so connected to a band during their show before – KAWALA knew exactly how to keep the energy so poignant throughout the set and ended on a brilliant high. I cannot wait to see what is in store for KAWALA, and highly recommend catching them on their headline tour in April, or one of the many festivals they are embarking on in the summer.

Thank you KAWALA!

Isabelle Hunter

Featured image courtesy of Isabelle Hunter. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @kawalagram via No changes were made to these images.

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