The KoalaTeas // RasTamils

Zach Van, Jake Letkeman and Christian Saiyes of KoalaTeas at the Cavern on a night last week.

A word on the Cavern: I have been there many times and danced my ass off (right?) and it’s small and dark and a challenge to shoot in but also holds many good memories.

The KoalaTeas

I have to start by admitting I know everyone in this band. All good friends. Also, all incredible musicians. I’ve seen them in other bands as well, primarily Hooch and the Howlers, but also other stuff.

So I knew it was going to be good. They played a set mostly of covers, which I think suits The Cavern, because they can appeal to just about everybody. And they did. They played a range of stuff, from Chet Faker to Gorillaz to real rock to a bunch of other stuff, like all of which I recognized and really enjoyed but can’t quite recall now?

Anyway, these guys work together great as a band. It’s like almost too much good for one band. Shaun carries so much complexity and dynamic range to the group. Jake and Christian can carry a serious rock or funk tone to the group, and Zach’s probably one of the more adaptable drummers I know in terms of style.

Shaun plays an interesting instrument with a keyboard and a mouthpiece, what’s it called?

I feel like I can sense the musical talent on stage grinding up against each other, producing some sparks of intense creativity. Jake and Shaun lead the group in terms of melodic direction. Even while playing covers, these guys manage to make their instruments the focus of the tune, the sounds and skills they play with, instead of just the song itself.

Shaun grabs the reins sometimes. You can tell they pick covers with intention. They want to make you dance, help you enjoy yourself, while having fun on stage and doing something challenging enough to keep it interesting.

when the lead dudes had a moment

I’m not really a fan of covers. Like, not that covers aren’t good. I just prefer hearing something I’ve never heard before, prefer witnessing people let go of a part of themselves into the atmosphere at a concert.

But damn did I enjoy the covers these guys played. It was quite a range. I wish I remembered names (goddamnit Jen). So many people danced. There were a number of unfamiliar faces in the crowd that seemed rather into it, too. I guess I should have expected that, having seen them before.

This was a highlight for me

My favourite part of the set was when Adam Gaunt got on stage to sing. I grew up with Adam, basically living in his house hanging out with his family since I was in the third grade. I watched him learn to sing, perform, make people cry with his voice before, and blossom into a full musician through my highschool years. He hasn’t played a show in a while, so I got pretty excited to hear he was going to play with the KoalaTeas.

Adam’s got a strong, full, rough and bluesy voice. He can hit the high notes when he needs to, he can thin out when he needs to, but all round he’s got power in his voice. And it really topped off their songs this night. You can hear the classic training behind Adam’s sound.

They also welcomed Mac up to the stage to play harmonica

The guest performances for the show rounded out the sound. They’re already a big, full band, but having those little touches top it off really did it for me.


Franklin Fernando



I was pumped to see these guys again. I saw them for the first time at the Lenore house show a month or so ago. They were amazing.

They are the most legitimate reggae band I’ve seen live. Ever. Now, I haven’t seen many reggae bands. But I really like the way these guys play. They start off with a good reggae beat, work in nice melodies and tunes, and meander from one piece to the next. They have very noticeable changes between songs, but they don’t always stop and break between songs. A lot of the set flowed together in a way that kept me moving. The way that seriously satisfies me on studio recordings.


shooting at the cavern means shooting around that neon red applause sign.


I’ve never seriously listened to reggae, though I’m familiar with the idea of it. These guys get it pretty versatile. They bring in that classic reggae rhythm and vibe, and move it around a variety of styles of song. Some upbeat. Some chill and easy flowing. Occasionally Riley comes in with some guitar, and the tone shifts towards a rock sound for a moment.

I had brought a friend and fellow photographer with me that night. He’s from Brazil. He remarked to me that the show that night reminded him of being back in Brazil — the first band played covers, and then the reggae band. And he was impressed. So if you can’t take it from me, maybe you can take it from him, I’m not sure what the music scene is like in Brazil, but I can sure as hell say I know what it’s like here in Winnipeg and i’m not totally surprised we have a fully formed, impressive reggae band here.


shot by Buio Assis

Not that I want to rank within a band, because it’s really these guys coming together to make strong music, but I must say most impressive is their keys player. I think he’s blind, or partially blind, but he seriously rocks. And I’ve heard him mention like five other instruments he can play too. He often took the melodic lead on songs, floating to the top of the mix of instruments, providing delicate accents and strong carrying tunes.

Franklin, the lead singer, often interacted with the audience, too. I felt bad, because the Cavern has a tendency of emptying out after 1230, which is usually around the time a headliner starts. And these guys, had they played earlier, I’m sure the whole room would have at least been swaying, if not really groovin’.

Either way, Franklin kept talking to the crowd and kept people involved and kept my attention the whole time. He even reached out and had us sing along for a bit, which is great for someone who’s just getting to your band. Bring me in!



I’d see ’em again.




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