19 December 2008
17 December 2008
Deeply rooted in America, there is perhaps no other band quite as versed in excess, its glories and failings, religiosity and damnation, as The Hold Steady. Strangely, though, they fitted in well here - a city warmed only by the pub light and the ritualistic actions of getting pissed. People brush up against each other on trains, chest-to-chest and eye-to-eye, but still manage to avoid eye-contact. There's barely a nod or a smile, just a stare at a map or your boots. But, given a pint of lager and a bag of crisps, things change.
It's the same kind of people Craig Finn concerns himself with. The narratives of Holly, Gideon and Charlemagne run through their albums, twisting through whiskey binges, hallucinations at festivals, visions of Mary and telling congregations How A Resurrection Really Feels the morning after. The stories are Kerouac (even the title of 2006's Boys and Girls in America is a nod to the lonesome traveller), transplanted using the kitsch of bar-room bands and squealing solos. They are told in a speak-sing poetic device, Finn spitting out verses like an eloquent drunk, telling you with impeccable recollection, the story of his heyday - but long after it's past. The Hold Steady verbalise my youth.
They draw an old crowd. And its the 'verbalise my youth' part, I think, that contributes to the middle-aged parents I see scattered around the bar-area. I don't really need my youth verbalised, as its still unfolding - but these people, clutching their plastic cups and adjusting their spectacles, they need reminding.
After the decent opening act (who's name I can't remember, but who cares?), the band turn up punctually, and apart from keyboardist Franz Nicolay, they look like nice, normal fellows. And I guess this agrees with the silent, bald-headed guy on my left, he taps his feet in an expression of unbridled excitement.
Hornets! Hornets!, a song about his high-school's deflowered cheerleaders, kicks into higher gear when Finn begins dancing about, like your secretly-gay uncle after a few too many fruity drinks. He's awkward and odd-looking, but completely without pretence or self-conciousness. He's infectious, and pretty soon the entire standing audience is jumping along, arms in the air, singing the easier-to-follow parts.
Most of Stay Positive, this year's critical success (as were their previous two efforts) is perfectly performed, each note in very dense compositions rings out, each syllable of every word is wrenched out. When, during the drawn-out coda of Southtown Girls, Finn recounts the "crazy year" (complete with pancreatitis!)and thanks us for "the biggest headlining gig we've ever done", he genuinely sounds grateful. The crowd applauds politely before the final shouts of "Boys and Girls in America!" are heard.
The band waves as they depart, but no-one (apart from the two blondes sitting to my right, who only cheered the older songs anyway) leaves. This was the last show of 2008, an encore was inevitable. They come back, less than five minutes after departing and reopen with Stuck Between Stations, a personal favourite (name checking both Jack Kerouac and John Berryman? Priceless). After the Biblically-epic Cattle and the Creeping things (in which living in suburbia is paralleled with the plagues), which contains the best lyric I wish I'd known when I was still at Catholic school ("I guess I heard about Original Sin/I heard the dude blamed the chick/I heard the chick blamed the snake/I heard they were naked when they got busted/ I heard things ain't been the same since") and finally Certain Songs, they leave for the last time.
There is no natural showman in the band, but Finn makes up for this with hardwork and enthusiasm (American ideals in action), shimmying around the stage during the solos and letting the crowd drown him out occassionally.
And I'm glad he's having a good time because, truth be told, I wouldn't be listening to The Hold Steady if it wasn't for him. The music is Thin Lizzy and Springsteen meets Billy Joel on piano. Not my cup of tea. But with him, bespectacled and receding hair, at the helm and singing these songs that glorify and commiserate with all that being young entails, I could sit through anything. There's no funk here. There's no pushing of an envelop. There isn't even a drum machine. But there is perhaps the best live show I've ever seen.
Shit. That last part rhymed.
06 December 2008
5 December 2008
Out of the darkness steps a large figure, I assume, in fancy dress. A massive head-piece glints in the ambient light. The crowd is silent for a moment before the intake of breath and rapturous exhalation. The giant glint jumps to the front, a deep rumble ensues. The monster, the swamp creature is... A tuba.
This is The Roots, perhaps the world's best-know rap band. An actual band. Unlike most big hip-hop acts, there are no DJs acting as a glorified iTunes playlist. There is Damon Bryson instead, wearing what looks like the internal plumbing of an entire high-school on his shoulder, dancing as best he can while he fills the theatre with a deep, young shaking bellow. Behind him is F Knuckles, who dances behind a collection of electric-green bongos and drum pads, he wears a red cap with a giant "P" on it. I assume it has something to do with Philadelphia. On a little platform, stage-left, is the keyboardist Kamal Gray. Inbetween Kamal and Mr Knuckles are guitarist Captain Kirk and bassist Owen Biddle (the lone white boy). But its centre-stage, where MC Black Thought (dress, appropriately, in all-black) and drummer ?usetlove roam. Black Thought is built like a boxer, and wears a cap that gives hims a menacing, growling look. Behind him, though, is probably one of the world's most recognisable drummers. His massive, perfectly symmetrical afro and his world weary political musings have made him the celebrity drummer of note. He's like Ringo. But he can really drum, and he's not stupid-looking.
For me, and for the 1000 or so other people filling this hall, this had been a long time coming. The opening act, Master Shorty, was pretty terrible. The house DJ was pretty boring. We had waited outside in the rain and near freezing temperatures. The beer was expensive, and the more time one spends drinking Guinness the more one realises is smells a lot like mushrooms.
They began, I seem to remember, with Here I Come (off Game Theory) and played, basically without a break for the next two hours. It was a marathon, epic, Herculean performance. There was a drum vs percussion solo, bass freak-outs and sax virtuosity. At one stage, all musicians not confined to an immovable instrument, took to line dancing around the stage. Songs that featured guest collaborations, like You Got Me were reworked and revamped - less subtle but now more like a wall of sound and melody. Black Thought was stronger than his sizable biceps, and prowled the stage, demanding more from the audience, making sure every syllable was eeked out, word-perfect.
Do You Want More?!!!??! the cry for an encore, an inevitable build-up explodes (via the modestly simple lighting) and culminates with The Seed 2.0, arguably The Roots' biggest hit. Its actually better live. They are better live. ?uestlove is the coolest drummer in history. The Roots is the most fun, funny and silly hip-hop act I've ever seen.
Ok, they're the only one I've ever seen. But I'm fairly sure (thanks to Youtube) no one else comes close.
10 November 2008
That's all from the upside down-writing gremlins for now.
The Woods, Newtown
Moe Joe (Kid of Doom)
Ever get to a point in your life when you realise that the Woods is the most fun place in the history of the world? I got to that point. I also got to the point where I forgot where I was, but that is beside the point.
Things started slowly, trickles of kids found their way into the dark club like rain water down the back of your neck, and stuck around in the periphials, waiting for some light. Moe Joe, of kidofdoom infamy, showed that he could replace the Hulk that was his drumming persona with a more subtle, laid-back DJ style. LCD Soundsystem also featured heavily, which is always a good thing.
Slowly more people got up to appreciate Moe Joe's prowess, as did VJ flikerr, who's promise to "make your eyes bleed" is never left wanting. Transporting Space Invaders and boomboxes through suburban life at an astonishing speed, he made drying laundry both bad ass and strangely threatening. Yeah.
Through the slowly building crowds came Future Records. I have no recollection of this set.
But then came Jacsharp Electro, and I do recall this set. Firstly because the term "live house music" is an oxymoron. Emphasis on the "moron". But also the singer was super hot. This was not what I paid to see. Granted, entrance to the Woods is free, but all the same, I didn't enjoy whatever was going on up there. The music was smooth and "sensual", which as we all know is a word to describe something that isn't quite sexy enough in a vaguely positive sense. This wasn't right.
Mankazam, I think, came up next with a set that began with a darker, trip-hoppy feel. Like the inside of a sewerage tunnel, things slowly lightened up into... rave. Well, that was the word being thrown around at the time. I was like: "No, this can't be rave!". People assured me it was.
Finally though, we got Data Takashi. Harder and fiercer than ever, like an animal kept caged (lets remember his recent odd timeslots) and then suddenly released, things were stronger and better than ever. Driving electro and a dance floor populated by all manner of strange and wonderful people capped a very nice set. Although, be warned: Whiskey+Data Takashi+Flikerr = Overwhelmed nervous system. But in a good way.
*Thanks to Sam Hill for the photos, they're a lot better than my attempts!
08 November 2008
Pixel Pop Halloween
DJs: Commodore64, Marc Latilla, Data Takashi, Sassquatch, Kidofdoom, ManKaZam
VJs: Chinxxx, Flikerr, Sassquatch
For the past three years, Sovereign Academy has pwned Old Halllow’s Eve with an iron paw. Following July’s graduation, though, this Friday the thirty-first was wet and waiting for something – any dam thing – to sidle in there and spook it up, 2008 style. Other than the house party mayhem of Oh The Horror on Saturday, though, nothing sidled and nothing spooked. Pixel Pop, in fact, is organised by one part of SLY – the boys who brought you Sovereign. After a shitty day (it was a dry, dry weekend) and the customary failure to dress up properly, I was weepy, pissy, amped up on Neurofen – and ready to Get Down with all my might.
I arrived to the chart-topping sounds of Marc Latilla. Familiar favourites are a nice way to ease into a party and a few special tracks lifted the set from its otherwise mediocre fug. There’s not much to say about that kind of music; what’s unfortunate is that there’s not much to say about the way it was DJed either. It was pleasant, professional and fine. I sat at a booth and watched 17 year old asses in glitter and velvet shimmy by.
With a crack and a bounce around 9.30pm, Data Takashi hit the decks and coerced the burgeoning party into fruition. It was an unusually early set for the presiding ruler of the 2am crowd, but he adapted to the earlier slot with class and style – a little more boogy, a little less bass. Airy, sweet electro with more than a twist of disco and dirty swelled up from some fairly harsh opening tracks. As the dance floor (if you can call that space between the pillars a dance floor) gradually filled, the beats got sweeter and juicier, a rival to any one of those 17 year old asses. As well as great track selection, Takashi’s mixing for the most part was smooth, unobstrusive and even.
At the same time, Flikerr’s VJ set began (apologies to Chinxxx for missing hers). With his neons and cartoons and stop motion animations, Flicker’s visuals continue to improve and evolve. This Friday, though, a lack of communication between DJ and VJ left the epilepsy-inducing visuals at odds with the smooth sex of Data Takashi’s music. Luckily Sassquatch was next in line to play, also receiving VJ power from Flikerr. The tried and tested (maybe a little too tried at times) punchy pop made sense with Flikerr’s fine touch for the cute, comical and quirky. He may be the newest kid on the VJ block but he’s fast becoming the slickest too. His regular performances (with brother, Email Checkerr as part of Double Adapter) can’t hurt either, making Flickerr easily the most prominent VJ in the scene at the moment. If he can keep up the evolution and effort, we won’t be seeing Flikerr fade any time soon.
With a few transition tracks from DT while the Sass prepared his visuals, it was on to Kidofdoom, Star Trek style. Of course they were epic and amazing, of course Peter Rodda’s lighting was spectacular, of course Sassquatch’s visuals were a sci-fi wet dream.
After a few songs from ManKaZam and the perilous task of hugging the right zombie good-bye, I headed home with fake blood (which stains) on my favourite jersey and slightly sick feeling in my stomach. The illness, for once, was not gin-related. On this goriest of nights, not a drop of fresh blood was on offer. Data Takashi was the only DJ to explore new ground – even the Doomers disappointed! I wouldn’t give up seeing them all in Star Trek spandex (Spock especially) – but maybe space travel can get boring after all. That said, it was still a great party and the best turn out I’ve seen at The Woods so far. The spirit of the panda, it seems, lives on…
27 October 2008
Sassquatch, Marc Latilla, King of Town, Young Smuts & Richard Berold
If you have a problem with Sunningdale’s Hotel, now is about the time to get over it. My fellow poster quite eloquently described its general crust after GIFT’s farewell gig, and it’s a seediness that’s unlikely to change no matter how much glitter the Cool Kids threaten to drag in. However, that doesn’t change the Real Issue – nothing can change the Real Issue. And that’s because, the Real Issue is the music. Venues and visuals and flier designs are great, especially when they’re of the caliber that we’ve been seeing out of VJs like flikerr and artists like Ben Rausch and Jean De Wet (to name drop those names I actually know). When it really comes down to it, though, glossy posters don’t make you dance. King of Town does.
The combination of Sunningdale’s Hotel and the genre name ‘Italo Disco’ attracted a certain class of clientele the organizers probably weren’t expecting – think early (laydees) to late (okes) 30s Lusito Land. It may not necessarily have been the anticipated crowd, but it sure didn’t hurt to have more people through the door than at the first Secret and Sovereign combined. The venue was busy but not packed, smoky but not suffocating, and the disco lights illuminating the tiny dancefloor were doing their disco best.
When King of Town hit that mixing deck, though, I could have been at the fish counter in Pick n Pay and I still would have been dancing. 80s space disco isn’t a genre I was especially excited about; the whole concept of Electric Affair flew over my born-in-‘89 head – as I think it did for quite a few others, hence the puny turn out of Kids in the Scene. But, of course, genre isn’t the Real Issue either, now is it? With impeccable track selection, smooth mixes and the finest control of mood and tempo, King of Town rarely disappoints – but this was something entirely in its own class. Just as I was lamenting the end of one great track, and even sweeter, sexier one would come in. Man-nipples popped, skinny jeans flared and the universe exploded into infinite golden light with Tiga’s You Gonna Want Me. We gradually regained form, mass and tailoring, but that wallop of awesome would not be forgotten. Electric Affair went from dated and creepy to a vessel for fresh genius and the hope of a brand new strain of parties to pick up from where the death of Tokyo, Sovereign and Canned Applause left us.
I don’t think disco will be the new genre to end all genres; I don’t think Electric Affair will be the new party to end all parties. What I do hope, though, is that the spirit of friends getting together and throwing parties to play the music they want to play is back for good. And if the music they want to play is disco… I’ll meet you under the mirror ball baby.
24 October 2008
Mario Marchisella, Marianne Halter, João Orrechia
After the late-term abortion that was the disbanding of Five Men Three Missing, the chance to see João (the one with the healthy hair) perform again was pretty exciting to begin with. Add in two Swiss artists with all the right buzz words (visuals, electro acoustic… uhm… Swiss.) and you’ve got yourself two space cadets eating some mushrooms and expecting some sparks. Sparks, however, were not on offer this sticky Wednesday at Melville’s Berlin.
What we did get was a slow, deep, amber Burn that turned our brains into ripe brie. Mario Marchisella along with visual artist Marianne Halter have been living in Johannesburg as part of Prohelvetia’s artist residency program, creating the piece “The Conductor’s Fear of The Soloist”. Using the multi-plugs and knobs made familiar to Joburg audiences by the looping genius of 5m3m shows, as well as “self made instruments” (including a wonky bell/cymbal type structure, two modified vuvuzelas and an empty 5l water bottle), Mario creates multi-layered though surprisingly light soundscapes. The songs are warm and easy, full of hazy lines and gentle slopes. With my modified brain I was right in there with the ebbs and sweeps immediately, but the shifting and speaking of my fellow audience members made it clear they were less engaged. The visuals (by Marianne, projected into a clever gold picture frame on the wall) were slick and attractive, but probably didn’t help to catch anyone’s attention either. As the performance grew and Mario became more animated, though, layers became more dense and recognizable and the room at large began to pay attention. Mario himself was the most concrete element of the performance. With his plastic specs, ill-fitting clothing, glossy mustache and that silver watch winking out against the Real Man black arm hair, Mario looked more like a 50s NASA technician than a Swiss musician. His attention was firmly entrenched in the sound, whether seated behind his desk full of gadgets or crouched over them in the semi squat that creased the toes of those well-polished Real Man shoes. From my seat next to the window, I was able to see every button-squeeze and bell-tinkle as it happened; the shapes and textures of the soundscapes were accessible and direct. For a while, probably in the middle third of the set, we Got It. The rounded corners and fuzzy covering were peaked with tension as the sounds grew deeper and richer. Every twiddle of Mario’s fingers held the promise of chaos and “Houston, we have a problem”.
We just never got to the problem. We never hit the spark. The Burn was good – the Burn was great. Its probably the best Burn I’ve had in a while, and I’m the kind of girl who goes looking. My dead academic brain couldn’t even begin to understand the kind of inspiration that bore such unique, innovative and exacting use of sound. It was genius; it embarrassed me. But by the last song most of the original audience had bailed. Those who hadn’t left were wasted, gossiping, lolling on the upstairs couches oblivious to the performance right below them – and my space cadet partner and I were trying a lot harder than we should have been to keep our mouths closed. Maybe we’re just not ready for this. We (the mass mind, royal We) are supposed to be going through a karmic cleansing for at least the next 90 years – Hitler, Apartheid, global warming, the inability to listen to more than 45 minutes of experimental music… With a few words about thank you for listening, we had a short break to try to recover our minds before Mario began his set with João.
I was late. Berlin was besieged by the overdressed and underfed (and, I guess, due to exams, not too much young blood), and the stage area (if that) was empty but for the dozens of little musical contraptions. Laid out on the tables were empty tomato-cans, bits of sandpaper, fancy looping equipment (including a very sweet looking Kaoss pad) and a vintage selection of guitars, amps and, uh, vuvuzelas. The squishy sofas were evacuated soon, and out of the crowd stepped João Orrechia and Mario Marchisella. Past a projector, which beamed images onto a makeshift frame of people walking across said frame. I'm sure it had a meaning of some kind, but I was busier watching the performers. Both carried themselves in an air befitting the groovy librarian you never knew. It was an aesthetic well suited to what we were about to witness.
First Mario, his giant retro spectacles testing the strength of his nose-bridge, sat down, leather boots turned up and gadgets turned on. With what looked like an ice-cream stick, he tapped a 4/4 on a tiny bit of tin-can architecture, then looped the beat. João whipped out a vintage Eko bass and recorded a short riff. Slowly, in a methodical, brick-laying sort of way, each element was tested, recorded and looped. Occasionally, beats and twitches were modified and edited. Like an exploded view of a skyscraper, everything suddenly clicked back into place, the building was complete and everything was in its right place. And then everything died.
The songs were built like one-off pieces of art, temporary and fleeting. Beautiful because they sounded amazing, but also because you knew that they would soon be gone and could never be the same.
I was happy, though, to be aware of the creation before me. Sure, I can't tell you today what I heard, and sure, you may never know, but the fact that I heard the music of these two men with a few strange instruments is enough to keep me happy. I was trying to find some reference point to describe what i heard ("Four Tet, but simpler and cleaner... or not like Four Tet at all..."), but I ran myself in circles and decided that there was no real point.
I couldn't start describing it even if I wanted to.
Big thanks to Sam Hill for the photos for the night - they were awesome.
10 October 2008
9 October 2008
The end of greensiforturbo is upon us. This is a sad moment. Having only seen them live twice, at Shut Up I'm Dancing parties, I'd forgotten just how good they were. They're really good. No, they were really good. They made the Gummy Bears' theme better that the original material. They took everything I like about Grandaddy and the Flaming Lips and added their own splash of pop-post-punk to it and ran with it. They ran so far and fast I even forgot they were from Centurion.
That was a brief epitaph.
Now, on with the show.
For those of you who do not know, all of you, I live near the venue. I walk on the otherside of the street when I need to pass. There are ladies of the night near the doors. The Sirloin special seems special for all the wrong reasons. Also, I'm a pussy. The bar-restaurant area was specially imported from 1972 Bloemfontein. It smelled of vomit and moldy carpeting. It smelled of the old and sickly. This was ok, I guess, because Commodore 64 was busting out some old favourites (Tokyo Police Club, Peter Bjorn & John, Modest Mouse et al.) and slowly people moved from the benched eating area toward the makeshift dancefloor. I like hearing old-ish indie songs. They make me happy and warm with recognition and nostalgia.
But soon, draped in a green glow and ironic t-shirts, arrived GIFT. Such an acronym has never been more accurate. Starting with the crowd pleasing Gummy Bears theme tune, warped into something completely different, soaked in synths and reverb, it gave the song some strange sense of pathos. Yes. Stitching together the pop-sense of Grandaddy and Lips recordings, plus the wistfulness of late-90s Death cab (you know, when they were good and not creepy) GIFT worked their way through a really good set. The keyboards and some inventive drumming set their sound apart from other indie-pop acts that we've seen recently. Sadly, however, the band is no more. Drummer Rod Roodt is leaving our shores, and the band (quite honourably) have decided not to attempt to replace him. So that's it. I'm glad I saw them one last time, and hope you've had your experience well documented too. If you weren't here, however, you would have missed all three DJs storm the modest stage and rock out with the band for the last time. It was truly heart-warming stuff. As is Rumba.
As people milled about after the show, Sassquatch moved things up a gear, with more electro-indie, with new remixes of song we know - which is also like the warm feeling we got before, just with added "wow, that's funky" in the mix.
And, as the candied cherry on top of an wicked-awesome chocolate sundae, Data Takashi rounded things off. Swinging from Beach Boys sing-a-longs to the awesome blending of "Crying " off the new TV on the Radio to "No Diggity" by Blackstreet (my personal favourite moment of the night, thank you).
It was a fitting goodbye.
06 October 2008
The Alexander Theatre
easytiger vs. DJ Badly
King of Town vs. ManKaZam
Data Takashi vs. VEREVÜLFF
I don't know if you've heard. The world's money is falling apart. Its stuck inside vaults and no-one can lend or borrow it. House are soon to be repossessed and turned into Gulags. We're all doomed.
Through the smoky haze (caused by the burning of pension funds) comes a single piercing beam of light, one blinding vision of a better tomorrow. Julius Malema. Also, the End is Free. Malema, unfortunately, had a prior engagement and was unable to attend.
He missed out. There was a glorious sense of dignity I felt as I was frisked by the now familiar bouncers: I could have a night out, dance to awesome music, talk to my friends and be choked by a smoke machine, for free. This is what Lenin envisioned for the Soviets. One continuous frisking. Also, free parties.
I got there rather early (say 9.30), desperate not to miss out on my free entry to the free party and the free admission stamp thrown in. Slowly the place filled up, like rain in a bucket, and volume levels rose. Also, rain-into-bucket-style.
The dance floor was even dimmer than usual, only the bar and DJ stage were truly visible - the only important things one needs to see, of course. Added for tonight was a tiny dancing podium in front of the DJ-area. Girls flooded it before realising that 10 people could only stand and look silly, and not dance and look silly on it. Amateurs.
And indeed there should have been dancing, on the stage and on the floor - but not on the concrete balcony, according to the bouncers. The DJ battle-format employed was appreciated by the crowd (the largest here, I estimate, since the Desmond album launch), and put out electro, with odd splashes of pop favourites and old school hip hop novelties too keep us singing along. Particularly appreciated was the remix of Beirut's "Nantes" and Kris Kross' "Jump Jump", to which we all put our clothes on backwards.
Having been out to other venues in recent times, I've come to appreciate old Alex a bit more. The massive capacity, as well as the moderate temperatures are really welcome. 88 was a reminder that sweating like Bear Grylls in the Sahara is a look that only works for him.
This week, after the free-experiment (which, I hope, worked financially, for all our sakes) in social upliftment, we return to boring old capitalism with Greenisforturbo and The Horse Productions Launch Party bringing us back to poverty.
That's what happened in the USSR too, right?
01 October 2008
Is TV On The Radio.
This is not an outlandish statement. This is not hyperbole. This is just fact, and (like the phenomena of gravity or climate change) this fact is proved by mathematics and scientific reasoning. The mathematics and scientific reasoning involved is far too complex to explain here, but trust me: it exists. It proves the fact. Therefore it is fact.
Perhaps you're sitting at home reading this (as many thousands doubtless are), and wondering: "But hey, aren't, like U2 the best band in the world?". The which I respond "No", and also "Buy a new brain." There may be other pretenders to the throne, most of which are simply pretenders, and never The Pretenders. Radiohead, perhaps, come closest to the title of Best Band In The World Today. But they do not clinch it. They would win, hands-down, the title of Best Band Of Our Generation. But TV on The Radio pwn all others due to one simple reason: Dear Science,.
In the two or three weeks since I've, um, owned the album, I've listened to it with varying degrees of concentration. Firstly there was Golden Age - with its Thriller-esque vibe and promises of light at the end of the tunnel. Along with Dancing Choose, a fervent rap-soul combo underscored by urgent horns on high-alert, I found the immediate, primal dance to this album. But once you delve deeper, into a song like DLZ, with its slow build, barked chants and trip-hop feel, you begin to truly understand the genius behind this band. Cryptic lyrics, impassioned "ooohs" and "la's" from Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe and moulded and crafted by bespectacled Dave Sitek. Sitek, producer and multi-instrumentalist has largely ditched the bombastic aural assault of TVOTR (also great) previous albums, instead clarifying and enhancing the tones from his guitar as well as giving bassist Gerard Smith and drummer Jaleel Bunton more of a platform than they've had before.
What is truly impressive, though, is that TVOTR have managed the transition from underground cult-act, to this major-label release with the dexterity other similar bands couldn't manage. Recently Interpol (also New Yorkers, also jumping from indie to major) put out the heavy, rather leaden Our Love to Admire, and the Shins' Wincing the Night Away just didn't work out as everyone hoped it would.
2008 and TVOTR is different. Everything that made Desperate Youth... and Return to Cookie Mountain great, but perhaps stopped those albums from being amazing, is still here. But a new sense of depth and an appreciation for structure is evident on Dear Science,, and that makes Dear Science,...better.
Simply put, no band has come close this year to matching TVOTR. Listen to Love Dog and then try and argue differently.
Indie-psychedelic-hip-hop...has a ring to it.
Koushik works in creating hip-hop based downbeat tracks that guarantee head bobbing and/or slow swaying. Koushik is often compared to popular contemporaries such as Four tet(who released Koushik's first single on his Text label), RJD2, DJ Shadow and Caribou. Although similar, Koushik is the rebellious supernatural lab experiment that escaped and is spreading his own brand of rainbow-sunshine-happy goodness. Koushik incorperates melodious psychedelic tunes inspired from the 60s, old school regimented hip-hop beats and his soft spaced out vocals into his tracks. Koushik’s new album Out My Window (released on September 30, 2008) is the neatly presented example of his mad skills.
19 September 2008
On one of those whims that catch us every so often, I decided to go to the trendy Gleneagles Road in Greenside.
"Why?" You may ask.
I suggest to look up the word "whim" and understand.
After circling the block twice, looking for parking, we squeeze through the single glass door into a hot, sticky, tiny cavern, filled with people and chairs and enough paraphernalia to start a riot. Once inside, a contrast greeted me: the music, thanks to Mr.checkerr started out with indie-pop throwbacks - The Strokes, The Hives, Blur and Digitalism. It all went over well with the odd crowd, seated in their odd seating-arrangements. Good music, but strange people and a stranger venue. The evidence that this is a "Lounge Bar" or something equally pretentious is ubiquitous. There is dancing room for perhaps twenty people (if that), but space enough for huge tables, chairs and Ottomans. Here too were people who frequented "Lounge Bars". They were dressed like they planned something special - make up was bright, t-shirts were too tight. Also, unintentional rhyming is cool again.
Projected on the back wall were Mr. flickerr's stop animation graphics. They jumped and moved so fast, seizures would have been a common dance move. Yes, it was intense, but awesome, like a shot of adrenalin to the system, enhancing the music blasted out near my vantage point. Neon and action figures featured prominently as things moved into electro territory. The music and visuals really worked well together, which isn't surprising, considering Mr. flikker and Mr. checkerr are related. Had they not complimented each other - they would have been the worst sibling pair ever. Yes, worse than Cain and Abel.
The dancers had a good time, and so did I. But I left, slightly unnerved by this new scene. Everything in this street was too clean and the people didn't even smell that bad. Maybe I hate their cleanliness, but maybe it was because I didn't actually know anyone there.
I think that's more likely.
16 September 2008
We started this blog as a mouthpiece for the music-scene of South Africa's largest city, the hub of the continent's economy and the place with the biggest Nelson Mandela statue. But week after week we seem to be seeing great bands, from everywhere but Joburg.
Is the pressure of living in this place draining the creativity of its citizens? Is there such a thing? And surely bigger cities - London, New York, Tokyo - have more people, and more congestion and more soul-sucking - but that hasn't stopped awesome bands from emerging, has it? No.
Five Men Three Missing (now Five Men Five Missing) were the premier local, nay, national band. But they too have disappeared - lost to the ever multiplying hoards of Pretorians and Capetonians. Not to say that I don't dig those people, I do - my reviews of Cabins and Kidofdoom were more marriage proposals than anything - I just want to see more indie bands from the places I know. I'd like to walk around Wits or a shopping mall (How wonderful! How spiritual!) and see people in bands that enthralled me that weekend.
But alas, it is not to be.
15 September 2008
Nike Freestyle Relaunch Party Thang - Alexander Theatre
Fire Through the Window
Oh, how we llove the corporate sponsorship! To hook us cool kids in, Reebok or Nike or Puma got "online" with "facebook". There they advertised a seemingly awesome gig, featuring bands all the way from Durban (Fire) and Cape Town (The Beams), plus Pretoria's finest (Kid) and Joburg's favourite DJ (Data Takashi). All of this - but wait! There's more! The shoe sponsors were giving away free pairs of their produce.
Oh, such promise.
I'm really only bitter because the shoe giveaways were only for girls (because real men like walking around barefoot). I'm also bitter that, in order to win the said shoes, you had to dance the hardest in front of the band. So, in order to be a winner - one would have to: (a)be a female; and (b)dance to music as if you were enjoying it thoroughly.
This posed a problem. As a male, I was automatically excluded from the draw. I also didn't really feel like dancing to Fire Through the Window or The Beams. Had I been born, say, with a vagina and with the ability to dance enthusiastically to music I didn't particularly enjoy - I might have some shiny green shoes on today.
The Alexander Theatre, it seems, is now the be-all and end-all of venues in Joburg. I've been there at least once a month for the past three months. Its like that kid you went to school with who you now see fairly often, but you wish he wouldn't talk to you. I don't mind it, I just don't have much to say.
Fire Through the Window, who also played at Oppi were up first with a similar set. It was all winks and coy smiles from the singer, and rock-guy action from the boys - who seemed to be having a good time. Although there was a misstep during "Nothing Compares 2U", the Sinead O'Conner/Prince cover, everything else went according to plan. While fun and cute, they are somewhat novelty-driven - where everything is explained by a ironic cheer or smile, and no-one asks any questions. Not much is missing, the indie-pop is cheery and singable, and they carry their songs well. I just didn't really like the music very much.
Next, were the Beams, all the way from Kaapstad and who started brightly. After the sunshine of Fire Through The Window - the Beams filled the cavern with smoke and something seemingly more intense. With synths and cowbell breaks, and heavy-bass driven riffs - they seem to cross the gap between indie-rock and electro funk. With more energy than you could shake a Eskom executive at, singer Paul jumps and squeals and pounds his keyboard like a man on fire. His voice, somewhat reminiscent of The Cure's Robert Smith, veers wildly, as does his dance-act (which includes much thrusting). Listening to their studio work, there is a level of subtlety that is lost when they take to the stage - however, the energy exuded seemed to make up for the difference. A good performance, yes, but the actual songs could do with more breathing space.
Finally, in high spirits (or perhaps just high) strolled Kidofdoom - who took to the stage as the closest Joburg got to a hometown band. We here live in the hope that one day soon Joburg and Pretoria will melt into one, forming a megatropolis - Jotoria - so Kidofdoom can belong to our city. Tonight they eased through Space Walk and Doom Tumour as well as the Super Mario cover they've made famous, with a sense of fun and, well, sex.
As noted by those around me near the front, both Richard and Barend spent most of the show violently thrusting their guitars and crotches before the fits of laughter took over. The band didn't even skip a beat when a rather slim gentleman got on stage, whipped off his shirt and swung it around his head. The stage invasions, the thrusting, the man with no shirt - they didn't detract. The show was awesome. I love Kidofdoom. To one friend who complained their music was "depressing" I offer two rebuttals. Firstly, you haven't seen them in fun-mode. Secondly, your face.
14 September 2008
The new TV on the Radio album has, like anything worth caring about, been leaked.
This, however, has given us the ability to give everybody's favourite Williamsburg-Nigerian-indie-funk-noise-do wop-soul band a listen. Something to follow Return to Cookie Mountain would have had to be special; having listened to Dear Science a half dozen times so far, its safe to say that TV on The Radio are still ,very special. Oh yes.
Just know, should you be waiting for September 23, that you will be happy and warm inside; safe in the knowledge that despite their major-label switch, Tv on the Radio still kick it like Michael Jackson.
01 September 2008
27 August 2008
22 August 2008
Desmond and The Tutus/New Loud Rockets
88 Lounge, Norwood, Johannesburg
First up - let's all salute the bouncer with the "High School Musical" t-shirt. It takes a man truly in touch with his masculinity to pull it off, and by god, did this guy pull it off.
It's been a long while since I've been to 88, and I seem to have forgotten just how chic and trendy it was. Not trendy, say, in the way new-rave was for six months last year, but trendy in terms of the people who come here. They are a trend. It's strange. It seems these strapping young men actually want people to know that they spend a lot of time working out. Their girlfriends are all the size of their biceps. Perhaps they enjoy symmetry. The small interior "lounge" area is sweaty and packed with people like sardines in a can. Did I mention the word "sweaty" yet? It'll be used often today.
Let me remind us all of the last time I was here. It was to attend the album launch of The Sick Leaves, and I got a free bottle of water. Does anyone know what happened to that rather cool band? If so let me know. Maybe they got lost in Germany.
Let it be known that Love on Rollerskates were the opening act. The opening act that I missed. End.
I do, through the masses and vintage wallpaper, manage to see Cape Town's New Loud Rockets as they burst into flames before us. Channeling early 00s New York nostalgia, and combining the swagger and charm of The Strokes and The Walkmen, NLR stuck to the dress sense of those heady days too. All of this made for a band I'd like to take home. Musically, I mean.
They crafted tight, hooky songs, filling the gaps between leads and words with a clever, sneakily funky riff or fill that made me smile. Although I doubt anyone would class them as originals or mavericks (and neither were most of the nu-indie scene NLR emulate), NLR were polished and accessible and smart enough to stand up and sound like the music we all like to hear. Also, the bassist was rocking the Richie Tenenbaum look, and the band sported very healthy facial hair (apart from the lead guitarist, who is probably in Business Management Sciences, or something).
Cries of "Rockets! Rockets! Rockets!" filled their final moments on the stage (the old, disused chant of "New Loud Rockets! New Loud Rockets! New Loud Rockets!" was retired due to audience-fatigue). I was sad to see them leave, and later would be even sadder on my way home as I forgot to buy their EP.
Retiring to the outdoor tented area... thing, I manage to breath in some natural (and comfortingly polluted) Joburg air. This is a mistake. Making my way back to a decent vantage point to see Desmond is impossible. People are standing on ottomans and dancing is now a contact sport. Having seen Desmond perform three times in about a month, I feel I've exhausted all my opinions of them. I did make a mental note of trying to warn children of the dangers of the "German Modern" dance. The loss of an eye is no laughing matter, folks.
Scanning, as I do ever so well from the back of a gig, I do see a young gentleman wearing a beret, and one wearing (with no sense of irony) a modern football t-shirt. I thought both people were rather strange and possibly stupid. Also, while scanning, a girl, after pinching me, asked me write about something. She told me this something rather emotionally and begged me to include her heart-wrentching story. I didn't have the guts to tell her that I couldn't here a word she was saying. I apologise, but feel free to comment and tell us of the injustice here.
Finally, in this place of sweat and biceps, played Richard III. While most seemed rather disinterested after the Desmond gig, those who stuck around got some Bloc Party remixes, that further emphasised the night of nostalgia that seemed to cloak us all. I didn't mind though, sometimes hearing songs you used to love with people who loved them once is a nice way to spend the evening.
26 August 2008
The Bohemian, Richmond, Johannesburg.
Kidofdoom (acoustic) and Cabins in the Forest.
The Bohemian in somewhat of a Joburg institution, apparently. I cannot attest to this. I can, however, tell you the following: it's dark and gloomy, smoky and vaguely reminiscent of pizza and egg cartons… It’s also a pub, which makes it a terrible venue for an intimate acoustic gig featuring two of South Africa’s most excellent acts. Yes, Steve Hoffmeyer included. The fact that about half of the patrons were here to simply get drunk and shout “Wat se jy?!” at their 'mates' on a Thursday did not make for a receptive audience.
While we listen to a 90’s alt-rock soundtrack (R.E.M, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Violent Femmes) Cabins deal with a slow sound-check rather well, (“Make the stomp-box less…bombastic. It sounds like the Footsteps of Godzilla!”). This sound-check was indicative of evils we’d later see revealed.
Lounging on the decomposing couches near the front of the stage are the various members of Kidofdoom. They looked relaxed, partly due to their uniform of jeans and t-shirts, but also because the last time I saw them was at Oppi - a massive, expansive ordeal that surely must have ripped a number of nerves to ribbons. Here, however, in this second-hand armchair of a pub, they seemed to exude a certain laid-back vibe that belies their intricate, complexly evolving sound. Four take to the small, red-curtained stage, with drummer Joe on keyboard duties for tonight. Strolling leisurely and not without a few laughs (and who said instrumental-post-rock-sci-prog had no sense of humour?) the first few songs fall into place well, despite the frankly terrible sound. Barend's bass sounds like a cat with its head stuck in a tin can. Not a good tone.
While making an attempt at providing subtle synth-whispers while keeping a straight face, Johan eventually departs the stage, much to the amusement of all involved. The disappointing thing was that, due to the fact that most of the audience wouldn't "shut the fuck up" as I kindly requested, and that the sound was fairly horrible - "all involved" was a small number.
Kidofdoom ended up as an acoustic duo, and eventually included a particularly awesome muted-trumpet solo. Lord, you have yet to invet a more mournful instrument!
While I would not class this rather informal performace as "monumental" (good), or "face-melting" (Oppi-good), it was fun to hear the songs I've gotten to know so well in a different guise: like seeing a photo of someone you had a crush on, only they're much younger -it's different and strange, but the things you love are still there.
Straight outta CT (and still hanging around since Oppi) was Cabins - who, sadly, have done away with their healthy beards. A moment's silence, please.
A moment's silence, however, is not what we get. Instead, the incessant whine of conversation robs Cabins of the hushed hiss that suits their performances so well. Worse still is the sound - the range of their chords and voices both driven at once overwhelms the speaker system - static mush is a third member tonight. The sound issues clearly bothers the band too, as they have to constantly (sometimes mid-song) ask for their levels to be adjusted. Despite the techinical difficulties, Cabins still show that they're really good at this stuff - and drown out the crowd and the faults with flamenco flourishes and staccato bursts. Toward the end of the set, their frustration is clearly visible - and sours the struggling mood. "Frenzy" is ended early due to the glitches, which sort of sums up the evening. Throwing in comparisons of Oppikoppi to Mordor and Splashy Fen to The Shire helps lighten the mood somewhat... Mordor can be fun too, apparently.
All in all, I blame the venue for two rather disappointing sets. Both bands showed glimpses of what they're about - and Cabins, despite the constant annoyances, were still ereally good (and they are especially suited to this kind of gig). It's just disappointing when talented performers are undermines by the venues which should be supporting them.
23 August 2008
This is Kid Of Doom and Cabins In The Forest live at Bohemian, the performance was truly awesome. The venue itself lacked an intimate feel that would have greatly improved the atmosphere created by the music. Simply put it was stuffy, noisy, and congested.
17 August 2008
2. Cabins in the Forest/Guy Buttery (as a 1-2 punch of folky genius)
3. Lucky Fonz III
Some honourable mentions: Yesterday's Pupil, Desmond and the Tutus, Fire Through the Window, Mix & Blend, DJ Nisker: One and Natalia, Twelv & Thesis.
15 August 2008
Moving on, for we have a busy day to attempt to remember: first up on the James Phillips Main Stage was Fire Through the Window, who hail from somewhere with a sea. I saw them perform at one of the very awesome "Shut Up, I'm Dancing" parties last year. I was not impressed then, but due to some aggressive prodding on the part of my friends, I went along. I was pleasantly surprised, which is always the best kind of surprise. Poppy and generally inoffensive, they bopped around sweetly while we waited for our headaches to dissipate - and managed to live down their introduction: "You may have heard this band in an ad for an iPod!".
The Kick, who followed on the seemingly cursed Most Amazing Myn Stage, did not, however, get the set they would have liked. A truly awful piece of planning meant that a band, who sound like Led Zepplin having sex with The Mars Volta in a black hole with absolutely no connection to sunshine, were playing to a sleepy crowd of drunks and a few fans. This was not mid-morning-having-brunch-with-your-girlfriend's-family music. It deserved a dark dive bar, with toilets that don't work and 5-for-the-price-of-1 whiskey special. Instead, with the birds tweeting and most people still asleep, they struggled to build any sense of atmosphere. This was disappointing: even though I'm not partial to music that The Kick makes, they are very good at making it. Technically, they tick all the right boxes and put on a powerful show. It's a pity, really - Oppikoppi is somewhere people should be able to hear new music, but it was not to be.
Enjoying more success was Isochronous (who are praised in this week's Mail & Guardian), who took to the James Phillips Stage at about midday. Led by Kidofdoom guitarist Richard Brokensha, they played a tight, strong set - full of hooky lines, catchy lyrics and Tele-heroism. Along with Kidofdoom - Isochronous are proving that prog is not dead, its just dusty.
On my way out, to get some food and some rest before Desmond and the Tutus, I catch a slight bit of Gordon's Suitcase with Strings and Skins. Don't ask me what I remember.
Right, so it's Desmond Time. Let's get a few things out of the way, before I am stoned to death (with added ironic dance moves). I like Desmond and the Tutus. I think they're fun, and have some catchy lyrics about girls and stuff (what else is there? "Imagine" was about booty too, you know). I cannot, however, condone the mass-hysteria that grabs hold of a crowd when these skinny white-boys take to the stage. Have you people seen what mass-hysteria can lead to? It's a gateway drug, I tell you! What next? Political rallies? Gang-warfare? Taxi Violence?! I just can't afford to get that excited. I'm sorry. They were, however, very good. They came on in dramatic fashion, two memebers being carried on. The boys from Pretoria (represent!) played hits, "Kiss you on the Cheek" and "She Hangs The Pictures" amongst others, to a healthy throng (wow, what an awesome word!) while still looking cool. Impressive. I, however, am still not moved to craziness. I just feel as if I've passed the stage in my musical evolution where having fun is the be-all and end-all to music. I know, this is somewhat counter intuitive, but let me explain. I listened to fun music, yes. I liked Vanilla Ice when I was young. I liked Roxette too. They were fun. I was not able to form coherent sentences. See a pattern? I'm tired of simply, having fun I need something more. I need to be challenged, I need to be offended, I need to not understand. Desmond & the Tutus? I get them, I understand their music in the same way I get The Strokes. But I cannot, no I cannot! be truly in love with what they do, because it's too easy. I've read Dostoevsky and can't go back to Harry Potter now, no matter how fun and addictive.
I know. I sound like some kind of snob, but I swear to you... Ok, fair enough, I am some kind of snob. Forgive me.
Fearing I could not stand the sexiness that is Koos Kombuis, I decide to follow the other "minorities" (here at Oppi, black people, Indian people, coloured people English people, indie people and random people) to the Sipho Gumede stage to catch the very cool, chilled and sexy 340ml. Fate, however, had different plans for me. Instead of walking to the stage to the sounds of 340ml, I am serenaded by Obita (not a completely terrible thing). This is because the entire Sipho Gumede bill is running 45 minutes late. This seriously fucks with my timetable, as Lucky Fonz III is playing straight after 340ml on the Gito Baloi stage, which is 5 minutes and one daunting uphill away.
I persist and decide to watch whatever I can of the Maputo Mob (Wham! Bam! Alliteration!) before running to catch Lucky. I'm glad I did stay, because despite being annoyed with the generally tardiness and the two guys behind me who kept asking for their photos to be taken, 340ml were awesome. They were helped by a really receptive crowd (the rest were all at Koos), who cheered, puffed, passed and reminded me that despite the horrors of Xenophobia, South Africans can still have a good time regardless of nationality. It was a Hallmark moment, with added herb. Having, sadly, only caught 20 minutes of the set, I was off and running.
I made it to the Gito Baloi Stage just in time to hear (but not see): "Hey, I'm Lucky Fonz tha fird" sighed in a thick Dutch accent. I took a seat near the rear and watched as this jangly fellow, with only a guitar and a nearby piano, started his set. I kind of expected something else from Mr. Fonz. I'd read reviews comparing him to Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan - but also to modern folky men, like Conor Oberst, M. Ward and Will Oldham. I, therefore, expected a show draped in quite, intense melancholia, littered with quiet "thank yous" and "thank you very much-es". But no, Fonz baited and toyed with his crowd - challenging them, taking questions, telling jokes, hiring smokers to act as human smoke machines, singing in Afrikaans. He was hilarious and silly and occasionally rude - in some ways, more Ryan Adams than Conor Oberst. His songs, however, were short vignettes of war and loss, they are letters from soldiers girls left behind. As people laughed at his asides and odd accent, once every now and again they'd fall silent. They'd hush around a strangled cry, or a plaintive note left struggling to stay alive. He'd cut through the bullshit, the laughs, the playfulness with such clarity that the voice he carried could not eek out any more emotion. And, as the crowd recovered, hearts in throats, he moved on. The songs, simple Americana tunes, chugging on to familiar melodies, were still sung in a Dutch accent - an endearing juxtaposition. I was glad I left the others behind.
Now, with Fonz still a warm memory, I had four hours to kill.
I did the hour-killing with as much efficiency (and FREE SPRITE!) as possible. Now it was time. I hoped, I prayed, I doomed.
Kidofdoom climbed onto an unrecognisable James Phillips Stage, lightsabers stood upright, the landing area was bathed in purple. On both flanks were giant screens - displaying dot-matrix graphics. Something special was about to go down...
Kidofdoom took to the stage. Soon we neared sensory overload - strobe lights beat our pupils into submission, the spacey synths washed clean the kinetic drumming and sharp guitar bursts, bass-lines circled the rest, throbbing in my feet and hands. The people around me stared at the screens - cityscape's and ocean waves, galaxies and rocket ships, they all seemed to fit what we were hearing. There was an epic, intense, otherworldly edge to what they did. Even though, at some stage, the visual system failed - the songs were there to put those same images in our heads. Raucous and thrilling, they played without abandon or restraint. Drummer Johan pounded out tricky beats and rhythms, odd time signatures and cymbal crashes with the mad energy of a banshee, while guitarist Ryk stood to the side, sanguinely carrying most melodic duties with a cigarette in hand and aloofness in spades. Isochronous' Richard and Ben of the Visuals rocked out on keyboards/guitar and keytar respectively - all is well in South African music. I have the proof right here.
Applause seemed sparse from where I was standing, most newcomers seemed dazed and slightly confused about what they were witnessing ("Do we clap at the end of songs? When are the songs over? Do they have laserbeams?!"), but the crowd stayed until the last note rang out, the band triumphant and defiant of most conventions at once. This is what I meant when I said I couldn't love Desmond & the Tutus: I gotKidofdoom. I really did.
Finally, the last act of Oppikoppi 2008 was upon us. Alas, things were not going well. Data Takashi had drawn the Most Amazing Myn Stage, hardly intimate and most probably cursed, and was set to play after the truly horrific noise made by Thys Nywerheid. Not a good combination. This rather painful fuck-up meant that the final set played was poorly attended with Data fans clamouring for warmth. His set, however, was designed to keep us poor, frozen souls moving and warm. Our extremities were awakened, our blood pumping and, closing in on 4a.m., the thought of sleep put on hold while we broke it down for the final time.
So, there we go. It was dusty, dirty, loud and beery, yes, but it was also an opportunity to make new friends and hear new music. It was a chance to be reminded that sometimes, no matter how shitty you think this country might be, we still know how to throw an awesome festival.
14 August 2008
Warming the crowd up first is Richard III, who mixes indie-pop favourites (The Strokes, Feist etc) with harder beats, which works pretty well most of the time - serving up dancable tracks people recognise and sing along to.
Next on the heavily green-lit stage is Tasha Baxter, whom I miss due to a reason I don't remember. An interesting side note, however, is that the funniest T-shirt at Oppi read "I Want To Pound Tasha Baxter In The Vag". Simpler, better, faster.
I get back for Mix & Blend - out of Cape Town I think. Mix & Blend are made up of three (?) DJs and were joined by one vocalist (and honestly, they could have done without him). Their "Blend", ahem, of hip-hop beats, horn samples and vocal loops were properly funktastic - in the way of intelligent mixmasters before them, they didn't need an overweight dude shouting "Yo yo, outta Cape Town y'all, all original!" at every other moment - they were instrumentally diverse and creative enough with their tempos and timing that they really stuck out - 3 DJs and a crowd of millions... They entertained, though, despite the single flaw.
DJ Nisker: one and Natalia followed M&B with a simiar set-up (though with two fewer DJs and a sexier singer) and were pretty impressive. The dreadlocked spinner kept things in good stead, with deep beats and some pretty interesting samples. The vocals this time were better suited to the tracks, and actually added to the music, instead of detracting as it had with Mix&Blend.
A quick stop at the rather lively Most Amazing Myn Stage to catch a bit of Fuzigish (conclusion? Eh, not for me.) before I'm on my was back to Sipho Gumede for Twelv & Thesis, a new-ish duo out of Jozi. They delivered an hour of deep, lung-shaking drum and bass, and scattered vocals, urging the healthy crowd to drop it, shake it, etc. Which they certainly did. It was aggressive and intense, and if we were exhausted afterwards, I couldn't imagine what they must have felt like.
Finally, Friday wound-down at the Gito Baloi stage, which benefitted many acts due to its smaller, more intimate size. Yesterday's Pupil provided last-night indie vampires with electro-funk, loops and vocals, which as I recall (all I recall) impressed me enough to keep me awake.
Finally, with god's grace and the devil's cold closing in, Sassquatch took to the recently vacated stage - all 7'8" and yeti like growls. Ok, not really. But the part of his set I did catch was freaky-cool and ass-shakingly approved.
And then I fell asleep.
The day starts late, much lazing around the campsite is enjoyed, water is drunk, teeth are brushed, thorn bushes are urinated upon, Coco Pops are devoured.
Excitement begins to build around noon – for today’s line-up inspires some hope for the salvation of our parched souls. Cabins in the Forest is followed by Guy Buttery, with Richard III, Twelv & Thesis and DJ Sassquatch performing at well spaced intervals.
I arrive at the Gito Baloi stage a good half-hour early, my anticipation met with my inability to correctly judge walking times and led me to Janice Half-Jack. Janice sang and strummed while Half-Jack (Ja? Ck?), I guess, offered moral and melodic support. She needed it. Somehow, much of South Africa’s music is stuck in mid-90s American “alt-rock. This can be the only explanation for the Alanis-esque vocals that plague the very MOR tunes that were so very earnestly sung. Why would a nice Afrikaans girl insist on sounding as generic as she did? Anything in actual Afrikaans would have at least made her slightly different. I guess she read my mind, as she did sing a song in Afrikaans. As the song began, I mistook it for a John Mayer cover, until I thought: “No, wait. This is too boring to be John Mayer…” Her social-commentary track, “Simple Thing” sounded like like Phil Collin’s “Another Day in Paradise”, but for the narcoleptic set. Oh dear lord. “Everyone’s a millionaire without a single thing,” she sings. Well, then, we’ve all fucked up.
A trip to the bar later, and Cabins finally took the stage. Yeah! Whoo! In T-shirts and socks (and jeans, ladies), they both kind of look like Sam Beam of Iron & Wine fame – or his younger, better-kept brothers, perhaps. And when the first stomp-box is stomped, something altogether different happens… We hear the first awesome set of Oppikoppi 2008. Andy and Gary pick and wince and scream through gradually epic tracks, playing around with odd melodies and harmonies as they nimbly pick at their strings. The audience closes their eyes and take in something broad and lunar. Their songs evoke empty roads, dusky drives, a sense of impending… unknown. “Just because you feel like toast/ Doesn’t make you someone,”, but no, we are no-one. We are not toast. We are here and, for the first time this weekend, dozens of people are focussed on one point in space.
Even the rather heavy-handed “Army of the Disenchanted” works as a chugging, simmering condemnation of “school-yard bravado”. The Anti-Bush polemic is a little too overworked by now, for my taste - but they still sound good. The indie-kids and long-haired hippies salute what they’ve witnessed with hearty applause and whistles, and any band with a didgeridoo as part of their set deserves some thanks, at least. Oh thou of little hope! We are all saved!
In a one-two guitar hero combo, Guy Buttery takes to the stage. Some divine intervention (or just smart organisers) planned this set-list, obviously. He sets up his guitar, sitar and, uh, saw, barefoot. With a quick “Hello Oppi!”, he gets underway. Over the next 40 or so minutes, Buttery treats his guitar like a princess, like a whore, like a red-headed step-child, like a living beast. He taps, he slides, he picks, he wows – he plays a saw! He also manages to be technically brilliant, but never showy or masturbatory – a feat unappreciated by many, but oh-so-important. Never does he force you to think “Wow, this guy’s an awesome guitarist,”, simply because you’re too busy listening to the array of sounds he produces, drawn into a musicscape of completely unheard of proportions. Although he may perplex the uninitiated “Bru, when does this oke sing?”, he deserves more plaudits than I can manage to type. The brilliant cover of Joanna Newsome’s “Book of Right-On” ends his set, we wake from a peaceful dream and head downhill for some lunch.
13 August 2008
Day 1: Thursday
Diesel is a bitch. R11,84 per litre. R600 gets us half a tank in Lucy our trusty green Landy, and the six of us are off – leaving the gleaming green metropolis of
The long and winding road (N1) has roadworks in abundance. Turn up the stereo man! Blast “Crosstown Traffic”! Vent our frustration, carry our eagerness to
Three hours later and already we’re sweaty and dusty. It’s a bad combination. The sweat trickles, the dust sticks to the trickling sweat, stopping the said trickle dead. The dusty sweat-trickle solidifies. Suddenly you’re in a mud field all of your own. This is
Our campsite is on “
The second reason no one turns up on the Thursday is due to the fact that the Wishlist bands have centre stage. They will have no names but for “Wishlist Band” printed on the rather well thought-out programme. They deserve no names. They are Pick 'n Pay items. They are the bottom of the barrel. They are the homeless shelter's sustenance. This is an early sign. Unequivocally, with little shame, these acts are terrible. The first band we see features a female singer dressed in a black wedding dress. Holy “Pows!”, Batman! They sound something like the following equation: Creed + Evanescence+ Nickleback + Horror = The Most Boring Thing In The History Of My Brain.
Instead of staying around the Most Amazing Myn Stage and The James Phillips Main Stage, we head over the Koppi to the Sipho Gumede 206 stage, which, guessing by the name, will offer more “urban” fare. The layout is both genius and retarded – the steep slope, dotted with rock and grass offers a good seat, but also a veritable cliff-face to the imbibed. I decide to cross that horrific injury when I come to it - or it to me.
The rest of Thursday is spent drinking atop the Koppie, warming hands around the campsite fire and trying to sleep with the cries of “Oppi!” confirming our location. We know, buddy. We know.
Friday promises more in the way of people, music, dirt and beer. All hail the weekend.
Wait, hold on. I have not one, but two(!) anecdotes to share.
The first concerns a young man named Dewalt who stumbles upon our small circle asking "Did I hear you guys speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ?". We answer: "No, dude,". He doesn't mind. Soon he's kneeling in an oddly suggestive way and staring deep into my eyes. "What do you know about The Lord Jesus Christ?". "Uh, I prefer Gandalf," is the first thing that pops into my head. I resist. I do not want to be sat upon by Dewalt. I mumble something non-commital, Dewalt mumbles something about "fokken communists".
The second, which follows about ten minutes after the Dewalt incident, involves corporate bribery. "What do you know about Levis?" asks a young lady, dressed in a black 501 shirt and kneeling near our twice-invaded circle. "Uh, I prefer Pep," I mumble. She grunts something like "Fucking communists,". We did end up with free t-shirts though. Levi's wins this round.
We're hard at work (well, after Top Gear ends, anyway) at posting some truly rad stuff from this year's Oppikoppi music festival. It's a little daunting, if we're being honest. Everything is still coated in a slick coating of dust, beer and sunscreen, and there are large parts of the weekend lost to my memory. Dude. Seriously.
But we'll be hitting you with the performances from your favourite bands, reviews, pizza tastings, beer sniffing and general fuzzy awesomeness as soon as possible.
Keep on keepkeeping.
06 August 2008
05 August 2008
1: It is generaly a cool track
2: the music these Dj's played was too ridiculous for me to use.....seriously though it was stupid.
The only reason people danced was because it was music they had once heard on Highveld Stereo
when they were 8. There is a very good reason why we dont like the Sanlam money song.....its absolute crap and bloody old!!!!!
02 August 2008
Alexander Theatre – Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Ah! Shit! Line!
No, not that kind of line. I’m not that cool or rich or… you know… bad-ass. Plus, anyone who snorts shit that makes you more of an asshole must be some kind of asshole-savant to start with. That’s the kind of statement I can’t afford to make.
The line in question slides out of the entrance to the new, latest “hot” spot (it’s pretty damn cold in there), the Alexander Theatre. The queue snakes some fifty-meters, and a short foot-race ensures I’m there only slightly ahead of some enthusiastic Pretorians and their cigarette smoke. The guy, no, the man in front of me is old enough to be my former guidance councilor in high-school. This is a different crowd, I note. In my notebook.
It’s a different crowd, a big crowd, an older crowed, an excited crowd. It’s a Desmond crowd. Finally, twenty-minutes later, I’m frisked by the huge doorman (oh, how welcome his warm hands were!) and squeezed into the over-populated Beijing lobby. It’s tiled in black-and-white retro linoleum and has a coat check. Coat checks are strange. I’m South African. I’m from Joburg. I do not hand my clothes over to strangers and expect to get them back. That’s my goddamn coat, lady.
I managed to be caught in the jet-stream that leads to a massive, hangar-like room. The ceiling is a good three- to four-hundred metres above my head. Or so my approximations conclude. The walls are black, and the graffiti reminds you of where you are: “Othello – June ‘70”, “Grease ‘92”, and the less obvious “PDC Rule, OK?”.
The stage is manned by a DJ queuing up 80s novelty-classics on his Mac Book Pro, beneath an arch of multi-coloured balloons. No, there’s no Sugarhill Gang or Cameo, but that “Hey Mickey! You’re so fine! You’re so fine you blow my mind!” kind of novelty song that gets people off for no other reason than the fact that they know the words. This is all a little too white.
Luckily there’s a bar (actually, there are two – we’ll visit the other later) at the far end of the hangar. I attempt to slide through the crowds, all stealth-like. But I feel like Mufasa just before the wildebeest started stampeding.
The bar is poorly stocked and understaffed – it takes an entire AC/DC track (“She shook me all naaaight long!”) and much general bitching with the guy next to me to emerge with a Jameson on ice and with R18 less in my pocket. A quick tour of the lobby and a suspicious-eye on the coat check girls before it’s back to the hangar to catch the main event.
Being somewhat short (totally average height… for an Asian… woman.), I can’t tell the bassist from Marty Scorsese. I few young, sprightly ones begin climbing the ladders leading to makeshift balconies dotted above the Tutu’s. I pocked my pen and notebook and set about climbing the rungs, one hand still clutching my tumbler and the other pulling me up rather high. From my new vantage point, I see both Desmond and his Tutus doing their stuff – and, take note you local bands, they’re fucking awesome. They’re polished but energetic; they’re having fun and actually entertaining the crowd. And this size crowd needs some entertaining. Of course everyone’s into it – it is their album launch after all, and they’re the only band performing – but they’re making sure our R50 bucks feels like a good deal. The drummer’s kinetic and playing with a confidence that belies his rather drab black shirt. Dude should be rocking a sock, or a James Brown Funk-Suit. The bassist and guitarists both avoid that “Hey, man, I just play guitar” cliché and actually do more than stare at their fretboards. Mr. Frontman sings and shouts between the indie-pop licks and beats with a sense of real purpose, and also announces, “Hey, we’re Desmond and the Tutus” more than strictly necessary. That’s alright though, its all part of the show. Flicking between laid-back and crazed (wide-eyed, like a man stumbling out of a Brakpan strip-club at 3a.m.), he promises kisses on one’s cheek and bemoan saggy-bottomed Speedos to the rather over-enthused blondes right in front of him. The shake their hair too violently to be considered sexy – which is very, very violent indeed.
From way up high (I’d guess three- to four-hundred metres up), the crowd gradually turns from violently convulsing blondes to the Serious Listeners (who stand in the classic indie-guy pose: Converse toes pointed inwards, skinny-knees locked in skinny-jeans, dress-shirt untucked and creased like the Devil’s laundry, ironically-cheap beer in one hand, the other hand adjusts his eyeglasses so as to better capture the scene). The goodtime guys and gals are still swarming the bar at the back, but they’re lucky. The sound at this gig is what I call The Money Sound. It is brilliant. Well-balanced and clear, the vocals aren’t completely muddied by overly loud bass and drum mics; guitars sound crisp and immediate, all of which lets us, the precious audience, enjoy the songs as well as the performance.
After a cry of: “Encore! Encore!” (Where on earth do they think these things up?!) the band depart. Soon after the balloon-infrastructure collapses (speaking of which, have you seen the Radiohead video for “House of Cards” yet? Go. Now.), and that’s my cue to get off the concrete slab above the heads of the unsuspecting and make my way to the other bar.
That’s it, truth be told. Over to the coat check girls to validate my parking ticket and warn others about the second-hand coat deals, and I’m once again in the cold July night-time. The street smells only of cigarette smoke, marijuana and the boerewors-rolls of the near-by vendor. That’s a decent combination at this time of night in this part of town.