Gig review – Okapi at The Clarence, Hinckley, Saturday 2nd March 2024

Okapi. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

Reviewed by Adam Piotrowski

The latest assignment for Music in Leicester sent the music-hungry reviewer and the most accommodating photographer and editor to the far reaches of the county, in the market town of Hinckley. One can find their way to this fair town numerous ways, which I won’t go into just now, as our primary concern is music, not travel, except to say that I walked, as my house is ten minutes up the hill from the Clarence Bar.

While the town lacks a full-time music venue, the naturally curious music lover may find the odd musical performance in one of the pubs, theatres or outdoor spaces. If your thing, is say, country music, then you would be happy to stumble upon Baton Rouge, a few minute walk down Regent Street which specializes in strong cocktails and live music at the weekend.

Since the Clarence opened last year or so, they have been Hinckley well stocked with food and drink, as well as holding regular events such as tapas and tarot evenings, film nights and live music. While the cover acts which regularly entertain crowds on Saturday nights have failed to draw me in, I was happy to come down for some Okapi.

Okapi. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

If you find you have a need for booty-shaking Saturday night drinking music, then Okapi will surely satisfy. I have seen a slightly more minimalistic version playing at the Elbow Room House Band on the excellent monthly Jam Night where anyone can pick up an instrument, play some drums or sing a song with friends and/or strangers. But I was keen to see the band in full effect and they definitely did deliver. Their funky grooves seemed to have more space to breathe in the larger performance space and if you wanted to get up on the dance floor, there was plenty of room for that as well.

They opened their set with a cool, sexy, jazzy mid-tempo number which was a nice intro into the rest of their set, which quickly got much more rhythmic, with thumping bass and saw the keyboardist switching to the trombone to accompany the saxophonist. The band’s breadth was impressive as they melded funk, soul, jazz, rock, ska and even hip-hop when the bassist guitarist dropped his instrument to deliver a handful of rap verses.

The music was something to dance to, made better by the responsible enjoyment of alcoholic beverages. Even so, inhibitions further faded when the band played the only other song of the night that had vocals. The song only had and only needed one word, ‘Tequila!’ and I bet you can hear the melody of the horn part tooting away in your head right now.

The highlight for me was a song by the name of Speedyhead, which starts with a slow rhodes melody on the keys, before a very fast and very rhythmic breakbeat jumps in followed by the rest of the band. It had that rare balance of sounding frantic and relaxing at the same time as the guitar and sax glided over the top of the beat, elongating the melody and transfixing listeners.

Okapi. Photo (c) Kevin Gaughan

The musicianship of the whole group was top-notch, trading solos and swapping instruments which allowed them to flex their sound and keep people moving all night. Okapi’s ultimate aim is to elevate people through a shared experience of genre-bending music and dance, which I think they are well on their way to achieving.

The band has recently put out a live 5-song EP on Spotify, which was self-recorded and accompanied by a video you can watch on Youtube or their website. They have also been announced to be playing at the Nozstock Festival, an established family event in the lush rural countryside of Herefordshire. Keep an eye out on their socials for further announcements of live shows and recordings.

For more info on the band and venues mentioned, please see below.

Okapi’s Website.

Okapi on Instagram.

Elbow Room Jam Night