In the lead-up to the Natural Music Festival the Rosemount showcased a tasty mix of flair promoting Ben Merito's latest album Soulful Reason, with artists that take the typical sounds of NZ, spin them around, and stamp them with their own personality. Warming up the crowd to a night of soul-driven, groovy vibes was Malachi Wehipeihana. Combining an inimitable blend of talent, it didn't take long for the audience to be captured by his charismatic presence. Rolling in and out of infectious acoustic beats, Motorboat Baby proved to be a hit, and a well-received Lionel Richie cover finished the set off nicely. The chemistry between Wehipeihana as a solo performer and the crowd is evident, with a voice that will capture you and an energy that will continue to hold you there.
On the other side of the spectrum, armed with a pink furry piano and sequin-suffused boots, the De Grussa Band brought to the stage a rare sound of piano-based glam rock with a humorous twist. The mix of exceptional vocals and piano, wireless guitar, extreme double bass action and an intriguing liveliness gives a real party vibe filled with quirkiness. With a varied set list of covers and originals, their comical rendition of Gangsters Paradise proved a highlight.
Headlining act Ben Merito filled the room with creative catchy melodies that were quick to get everyone grooving. Backed up by a band that all hold their own individual style, Merito takes their previous tone of acoustic funk reggae, and excels it into an innovative and mature light, instilled by a fresh sound of rocked-up riffs. Featuring an extensive range of songs, the spotlight was put on their new material including Freedom To Dance and Better Off Without You. Leigh Miller switching between bass to double bass added depth to the performance, whilst Merito's natural ease in his songwriting skills shone through. Great songs are not just mastered; they also need to be combined with a great attitude, and Merito definitely has this down pat.