Thursday, December 18, 2008

Road to V: Joburg

13 November 2008, Coca-Cola Dome After a long term of hard work and even harder partying, I had little interest in attending the Johannesburg leg of the Road to V final. But, according to the etiquette of the music world, I believe turning down complimentary tickets is considered rude. So I took the opportunity to see some cool music, hoping to educate my less-refined, Rihanna-listening +1. Off to the Coca-Cola dome it was, to get homesick over some great Cape-based bands. Three bands took part in the competition: Captain Stu; 3rd World Spectator and Gonzo Republic. With a great stage, huge crowd and cool graphics to set the tone, I was interested to see what these fairly-rookie bands would do with such an enormous venue. A big jump it was, from Zula Bar and Mercury to the Dome, minutes before Goldfish and international acts Maroon 5 and One Republic. But our boys did us proud… Captain Stu is funky and upbeat. An unusually large number of band members, breaking away from the average four. But the group did well to stay well-synched and in time with one another, connecting not only to produce a well-oiled sound, but also a great vibe on stage as a bunch of rockers having fun throwing their talent out there. I confess I was a little bored with Gonzo Republic. With a short set, I feel there is little time for such drawn-out instrumental interludes and introductions. I would have liked to hear a lot more singing, and here I do not count the arbitrary grunts and moans I could not quite figure the purpose of. The guitarist looked kind of drunk and the vocalist a little spastic, but it was good fun. Overall not a bad show, and I do see much potential here, though growth and smoothing out some glitches is well in order. 3rd World Spectator was the second band of the evening, but I leave them for the end. Can you guess why? Well, besides for the old chestnut of leaving the best or last, these boys walked away winners of this leg of the Road to V. Dramatic and inspiring, they rendered me holding thumbs for them from the get-go. Strongly influenced by Muse and with vocalist Peter Crafford’s vocal range stretching farther than the eye can see, accompanied by guitarists so talented they make your jaw drop, one would struggle to find anyone who can honestly find nothing wrong with this band. It’s an alliance of talent, passion and insight that combines to form that near-perfect package I look for in any band. I think I’ll start sucking up now, to ensure they don’t forget me when they reach the top. Hats off to you, boys! I’ll have my V Fest ticket ready come 2009.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zebra & Giraffe at Kirstenbosch Gardens

23 November 2008 So here’s a new venue I have not yet ranted about, good or bad. And this one will be an all-positive assessment session. Yes, the sound was good, the technicalities were all there. But for a second, abandon your obsession with detail and let’s just say that the Kirstenbosch amphitheatre is stunning. And with all the happy hippies and indie kids running around, drinking wine and generally being merry, the vibe is pretty damn perfect. Now, onto the music itself. Zebra and Giraffe. What can we say? Well, this band burst onto the scene from nowhere. Even before they had ever played live, their single The Knife was at the top of just about every chart in the country, from community radio stations like Mfm to the big boys up at 5 and even MK, the band was everywhere you turned. And their first ever live performance was at this year’s Oppikoppi in August. How many bands can boast that? And there is no indication that this brand spanking new Johannesburg-spawned act is slowing down. Their performance, I must admit, is lacking just ever so slightly. Then again, they have only been together for a few months and so I have every faith that they will grow together as a musical act. A little more energy, a little more interaction, but I can not deny how at ease they appear on stage. Another note is a minor lack of variation. Though their individual songs are mind-blowing, there is little inter-song distinction and I got the sense that all of their songs kind of merged into one. Kudos for keeping the flow going though, I guess! Lastly the performance was fairly short. But as I’ve said before, this is not a criticism so much as an appeal for more, more, more! I refused to believe that their final song was the last, and spent some time sulking into my glass of red wine thereafter… A quick rant about frontman Greg Carlin. Did you know that he produced all the music on the album, but for some of the tracks’ drums? Yes, very impressive. All the brains behind a band with a standard that could leave the international music industry speechless, this guy blows my mind every time I hear Zebra and Giraffe. But he has a girlfriend, or so we hear. So, sorry to all the shrieking groupies. You may have to wait for another century or seven before we find another one like this!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

3rd World Spectator & The Plastics

Aandklas, 8 November 2008 Despite a disappointing turnout, for which I hold exams accountable, the evening was one of good, old-fashioned takkie-burning to great local tunes. Two awesome local bands, cheap alcohol and wonderfully greasy, dodgy pub food- what more could one ask for? First up was 3rd World Spectator. A fairly young act, these guys are steadily making a good name for themselves. Having recently come second in a band battle and doing well in the Road to V quest, these talented young musicians are making a good name for themselves. Having seen them a number of times, I can vouch that they are improving in leaps and bounds, growing together into a band I’ve no doubt will take the local music scene by storm. Theatrical, explosive, wonderfully melodic rock that speaks with intensity about everything from love to politics, these guys put on a show that had their audience jamming hard in appreciation of this poignant rock! With a vocal range one can’t even see the ends of, frontman Peter Crafford has an enormous amount of talent. It seems all his Idols voice-coaching paid off, and I for one think the local music vibe needs more guys like him. Truly talented and passionate, it stands to reason then that he is joined by a lead guitarist who makes others green with envy. I look forward to seeing 3WS on stage soon, hopefully alongside some international acts, to showcase what South Africa has to offer. The Plastics are a refreshing act in their own right. A little generic, I confess [we have in-car arguments as to whether it’s The Plastics or Arctic Monkeys] but their groovy rock is sure to get your dancing shoes skanking! Tightness could use some work, as could their attitude regarding the [lack of] crowd, but other than that I had a grand time. And for a three-piece these boys certainly fill the stage impressively! Having spent time with these guys off-stage, I must mention their great attitude to music overall. Positive, hardworking and almost desperate to get their sound heard, I was struck by an ethic too few bands possess in today’s industry. Overall, a decent excuse not to study but rather jam it up with lyrics and liquor. Let’s do that again!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Green-Eyed Monster

It seems the world has been bitten by a bug. It’s big, it’s green, and it’s making a helluva lot of money for people who are already too rich for their own good. Yup, the planet is ‘going green’. And it seems the music industry is no exception. This annoys me even more than when my hippie sister tries to explain to me why, despite my coffee tasting like eco-friendly shit, organic creamer is better than milk.
I actually wrote most of this a while back, without ever getting around to posting it. Since then I received a newsletter from Black Sheep Bleach, revolving around exactly what I am discussing here. When I received the newsletter I was invited to “judge away”. Really? So sweet of you, guys, to allow me to indulge in my favourite activity!
Black Sheep Bleach’s members call themselves a “green band”. And they’re planning on winning a Grammy in a couple of years’ time. Now, I’m not sure if they intend to win one using their “greenness”, but I can assure you that the amount of talent going around is not even enough to feed a starving African baby, let alone a Grammy. Between Tom Petty and a cover of Katy Perry’s already awful “I Kissed A Girl”, my ears were less than happy with me. But I digress…
What exactly makes them a “green band”? Well, they aren’t wearing hemp clothing which they made themselves. Their equipment was all bought from some place where all the other musicians buy theirs, funding some far-off capitalist’s Malibu mansion and creating job opportunities for 11-year-old Asian kiddies. They drive to their gigs just like everyone else and no, their cars are not electric. Finally, not even their lyrics revolve exclusively around the environment. All of the above, combined with the fact that “lol” was used in the newsletter, leaves me with one adjective for this: bullshit.
The argument is that they can not go everywhere on horseback or “play plastic guitars”. I thought plastic was bad for the earth too? Fair enough, their goal is to reach people and raise awareness, but I don’t see much of that happening either. Having seen this band play twice, I still leave my lights on when I leave my apartment, my geyser has never been switched off, I smoke, I drive everywhere and I haven’t the foggiest idea even how to recycle. Hell, even my horse excretes Carbon Monoxide or something. All in all, I am an environmental disaster, along with most other people on earth. And Black Sheep Bleach has not changed that.
Apparently the band has a “desire to be real and authentic first and foremost”. Well, mate, covers are probably a barefoot step in the wrong direction. Who knows, maybe their aim is to recycle the actual music. Their plan is to expand into a “full electric outfit early 2009”. Keyword: electric. At the end of the day, the eco-friendly fever has become just another capitalist endeavour in this money-driven, slowly dying world. Is it just me, or does electricity kill the earth too? Why else are we perpetually reminded to switch off lights and geysers? Then what it is that is so revolutionary about the electric car? And your 3500% marked-up organic food is often the same mass-produced stuff that is transported by the same gas-guzzling trucks. Oh, but it does have a pretty label on it that says “organic”. Just for the record, those labels were trees once upon a time too. My point is, it’s all one big, money-making paradox. Unless you are living on your own plot, with a house you built yourself from natural materials, growing your own vegetables and fruit, making your own clothes from natural fibers and living as minimalistically as we did back when we were still Neanderthals, “green” is something you can barely call yourself with a straight face.
Forgive my skepticism and brutality. But whatever your opinion of mine, you can not say I am not honest. I, unlike others, admit to what I am. “Green” I am not. Then again, I am not running around telling everyone that I am, and I certainly do not plan to win an award for being a fake hippie. Perhaps if there were a Grammy for being a bitch…..

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A taste of Ramfest!

Ramfest DVD Launch at Klein Libertas Theatre 24 October 2008
Ramfest is one of SA’s biggest festivals of rock, and the hype around it is growing by the second. Many of the performing bands at Ramfest are not necessarily the mainstream, commercial bands that have made it big amongst the masses who know precious little about good music. And next year’s line-up rumours promise for a festival that will be hard to forget! Friday night saw the launch of the Ramfest DVD, hosted by Klein Libertas Theatre, just to give us all a little taste of what we can expect for next year. And oh, it is exciting indeed! The night was an exciting one for all involved in Ramfest, and the guys from KLT pulled out all the stops. The setup was great [and I’m guessing fairly expensive], with impressive outdoor lighting and screening of the actual DVD. Pity the wind wouldn’t play along, but these things cannot be helped. The DVD features a number of Ramfest bands, including Taxi Violence, Foto Na Dans and the legendary Lark. Decent quality for South African filming and budget, I guess, this little sample is sure to get you excited about next year’s Ramfest. aKing was one half of the live acts for the night and, well, what can I say? Always the same, but always good. With plenty musical talent and lyrics that seem almost too poetic to be songs, these guys never ever disappoint. Having seen them live, unplugged, big stage, small stage, technical difficulties or not, I have yet to walk away from an aKing gig with a frown. Kudos for consistency, though perhaps some new material is in order? And then there was Battery 9. A little before my time, but there are few South Africans who can say they’ve never heard of these guys. With an enormous following once upon a time, they certainly made it as big as one can in the South African music industry. And the Ooms are back! But I confess I expected a bit more. Though the performance was good, it lacked the overwhelming power and electricity with which they used to perform. It was easy to spot their fans in the crowd, but then again there weren’t all that many. As for the new album, Galbraak, I am impressed. It is marginally easier on the ear than some of their old stuff and far more varied. I would suggest getting your paws on this one, it’s pretty cool. Overall, it was a great launch. Ramfest 2009 is going to be super. Fact. See you there.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SA's Tops

FYI. I'm not going to comment on this, although I have much to say. I'm just divulding this information. As polled by Mfm, the following were voted SA's Top 10 Artists 2008:

1. aKing

2. Goldfish

3. Seether

4. Zebra & Giraffe

5. The Parlotones

6. Jax Panik

7. Prime Circle

8. Freshlyground

9. Straatligkinders

10. The Dirty Skirts

And the Top 10 Local Albums: 1. "Dutch Courage" by aKing

2. “Collected Memories” by Zebra & Giraffe

3. "Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces" by Seether

4. “Perceptions of Pacha” by Goldfish

5. “Daddy Don’t Disco” by The Dirty Skirts

6. "All Or Nothing" by Prime Circle

7. “Musiek Uit Die Geraas” by Zinkplaat

8. “Net Om Die Geraas In te Asem” by Ef-El

9. "Pantomieme Op Herwinbare Klanke” by Foto Na Dans

10. “Staring at the Ceiling” by Watershed

Ok, so this little rugrat needs some educating [look, 7th Son isn't bad, but your favourite?! Really?!] but other than that this is pretty darn cute! Daisies = True love forever.

Party Hard, Tread Lightly

Rocking the Daisies goes green and does good What began a few years ago as just another music festival in South Africa has evolved into something pretty damn huge. And this year, Rocking the Daisies totally outdid itself, more than doubling turnout from last year to over 10 000 people! With 26 great musical acts, 22 DJs and a number of comedians, everyone there was kept more than entertained for the duration of this three day marathon of rocking madness! Rocking the Daisies was held at Cloof Wine Estate near darling from 3-5 October. Three days of squeaking some serious takkie, singing along shamelessly to some of South Africa’s top musicians and trudging through ankle-deep mud in oversized Wellies we returned to the real world, still enveloped in a surreal cloud of euphoria… And oh, did we rock the socks off those daisies! It seems the world is slowly cottoning onto the fact that the planet is suffering from our very industrial lifestyles, with a gradually increasing number of people ‘going green’ as best they can. And Rocking the Daisies has joined this revolution: on top of offering a weekend that was impossible for anyone to forget, the festival adds an eco-friendly pitch, with this year’s catchphrase reading ‘Play hard, tread lightly’. A myriad of initiatives were employed to keep the event environmentally aware, with Rocking the Daisies being South Africa’s very first music festival that is carbon-neutral. Waste was recycled and everything, from the soaps and shampoos to the food packaging, was bio-degradable. Friday kicked off with the Redbull Radar competition, with Cape Town’s groovy experimental rockers The Plastics walking away victorious. And it only got better from there! With a line-up including everything to Eagle Eye Cherry to Etc Crew, Fire Through the Window to Farryl Purkiss, New Loud Rockets to Nepalma, there was something for everyone to enjoy. And enjoy they did- the crowd was spectacular and even Tidal Waves, the weekend’s very last performance, had ample watchers jamming to their reggae-infused blues. Other aspects of the festival were of an equally high standard, with ample merchandise, food [including healthy meals that made a nice change from the usual menu encompassing no more than boerie rolls and burgers] and booze, though this queue was almost as shocking as the one outside the entrance! Minus the fool who so boldly welcomed ‘350ml’ to the stage, the comic masters of ceremony were well-entertaining throughout the bands’ sound checks which, loaded with such anticipation, can become somewhat tedious. The band members themselves had a stellar time, with most of them hailing Rocking the Daisies their undisputed favourite music festival in South Africa. Having not stumbled across a single festival-go-er not enjoying this shindig to the max, the general feedback bodes well for 2009, and we shall await next year’s festival with baited breath, eager for yet another weekend jam-packed full of awesomeness that will go down in every music fan’s books as one to remember.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fokofpolisiekar Launch: Antibiotika

Fokofpolisiekar: without doubt South Africa’s most revolutionary band since, what, 1652? This gang of walking, singing controversies is made up of the founding fathers of Afrikaans rock, and they have the following to prove it. And the band has just released a new album, Antibiotika. Exciting news for all of the angry teenagers and anyone with vaguely good taste in music. They have just completed a country-wide tour of the new album, their last leg being in Stellenbosch at the wonderful Klein Libertas Theatre. Academics, prior engagements and even food were all ceremoniously kicked aside for this gig that was quite simply impossible to miss. The turnout was phenomenal! Granted it was an all-ages show but I never imagined the greater Stellenbosch area had such an enormous throng of angry kids! Then again, the Fokof fanbase is huge beyond comprehension for a local band, even after their recent hiatus. KLT was a great venue for the event, quite comfortably holding the masses and with great sound for the outdoor show. It was impossible to get near to the front of the stage, but media privileges had me up on stage alongside these legends to take photos. Experiencing the occasion from the other side is mind-blowing. To see the passion fans have for Fokof is pretty damn mind-blowing. And they deserve it! The new album certainly won’t disappoint you. The lyrics characteristically speak of everyday local issues, frustrations and anger around the central idea that “hell is other people”. But I won’t divulge too much detail. I urge everyone out there to purchase the album, a worthwhile purchase if ever you enjoyed Fokof’s rocking tunes.
These guys are exceptionally talented artists and the gig was vigorous, explosive, loud and bursting with a turbulent fervour that not enough musicians possess. I treat this bit of writing more as a news bulletin than anything else, so go out and get your paws on Antibiotika and make sure you catch these guys live as soon as possible. You can hardly call yourself a good, sophisticated citizen until you have done so.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

eF-eL Album Launch: Net Om Die Geraas In Te Asem

Aandklas 23 August 2008
They were simply a bunch of average highschool blokes, prepubescent and perhaps a little awkward, when they first picked up some guitars and started experimenting with music. A couple of years later, eF-eL walked away winners of the 2006 Rockspaaider competition and since then, there’s been no stopping these rockers! Boasting a myriad of tracks which have dominated the local music scene, reaching the top spots on radio- and television stations across South Africa, eF-eL recently launched its full album, Net Om Die Geraas In Te Asem, touring the country to showcase music from the album. Last week, 23 September, the guys from the capital up North graced our little town to give fans a taste of the thirteen new tracks on the album.
The band consists of Fritz Bucker [vocals and guitar], Naas van Jaarsveld [lead guitar], bassist Louw Lensley and a fairly new addition on the drums, Hugo Brand. can’t be classed in a specific genre. But what is indisputable is the fact that their music has evolved in quantum leaps since their original music. The new album is evident of the lads having grown up, with greater talent as well as distinctly more mature musical influences. And just in case you were thinking you’re not much into punk rock- Net Om Die Geraas In Te Asem has a couple of slower ballad-like rock tracks with lyrics so lingering you’ll struggle to get them out of your head! Their songs are accessible to almost anyone, discussing everyday issues but cancelling out the seeming negativity by offering hope and advice too.
At the end of the day, these guys do not view themselves as rockstars, stressing that most music fans have gross misconceptions around the lifestyle of musicians. Add some great musical talent, determination and a sound attitude about their futures as musicians and you get four very ordinary guys that just happen to be making waves in modern Afrikaans rock!
The gig was well-received [unexpectedly, according to band members, in light of the fact that these boys hail all the way from the capital up North] and between lead vocalist Fritz Bucker and guitarist Naas van Jaarsveld there was ample energy going around, matching perfectly the liveliness of their punky rock sound. And the crowd joined them in rocking out good and proper! Crowd involvement was superb, and they even sent out a wee little thank-you from stage to myself and others involved. Awê!
Overall I and the entire crowd had a stellar night! The gig was one to remember, as their live performances always are, and the new album is without doubt one of the top local releases for 2008.

Friday, September 26, 2008

BandBattle 2008 at Mystic Boer in Stellenbosch

So, Mystic's will be hosting the annual Band Battle. It started last night and the final is in a few weeks. Line-up looks as follows:
Round 1: 25 September
  • Black Market Riots
  • Myesilodye
  • This Quilt

Round 2: 2 October

  • Apollo is Dead
  • Puck
  • Samaritan

Round 3: 9 October

  • 3rd World Spectator
  • Cat String Theory
  • Traffic Jam

Final: 18 October

Judges are Dirk from Ape Generals [he is awesome], that sound engineer guy from Creative Gear and Moi. Stay tuned for results as we progress! It could be cool...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

IT's Zombie Time, Kids! New FTTW Video: Last Week

Great news: Fire Through The Window has just released another video! It's for their track Last Week off their self-titled debut album released earlier this year. It's pretty cool, too! Dark, twisty but with a slapstick vein that will keep you giggling through all the fake blood and plastic swords. Catch them at Rocking the Daisies in October, it's going to be epic. Watch. Enjoy. Simple, really. video

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kill City Blues Launch

The Plastics, New Loud Rockets and Taxi Violence at Mercury 12 September 2008 Unexpectedly, this was one of my best gigs this year. I say ‘unexpected’, not because I didn’t think I’d enjoy the gig, but because I certainly did not prepare myself for such an epic evening of rocking madness!
The gig kicked off early, with a ‘launch party’ at 8pm. A bit too early for me, since I have to compensate for being unable to decide what to wear as well as getting lost. Nevertheless, I arrived long before even a hint of live music. It seemed few people knew exactly what ‘Kill City Blues’ is, and I had to explain more than once about the new rehearsal/recording studio. But whatever, everyone there had a fab ol’ time and at least we’re all wearing Kill City Blues badges.
The Plastics took the stage first and, the band having seen much success on local charts across the country, I was eager to catch them live. Their groovy rock is a fresh sound, with catchy tunes and a stroke of dance-type alternative rock that had the crowd rocking out for their entire set. The band had enough energy, even throughout their more chilled tracks and I for one am excited about an act that is so well-received despite having only released their EP this year.
Next up was New Loud Rockets. The band took off a couple of months recently to bring about some change to their sound. Reports whispered of a more developed sound, with more mature influences and less focus on the image of the band, and I was eager to see the rumoured improvements. I had a jam, don’t get me wrong, but their stuff is still pretty much exactly the same. I’m not complaining as such- I love this band, always have, and judging by the very appreciative crowd I’d say change is unnecessary. My one criticism would be that the members all looked pretty bored, except for vocalist John Seth. I was later made aware that the band had experienced a number of technical difficulties out of their control, so all is forgiven from my side. They’re only human, after all, and I have seen them pull off a myriad of great gigs. But a little more energy would do them well. Notwithstanding my small censure, these guys are astounding musicians and I have much faith in their musical careers.
Taxi Violence ended the night off with a show that simply blew everyone away. The set was long, perhaps a bit too long in my opinion, and these guys rocked out from beginning to end. I struggle to recall a gig with more energy on stage. And the best part is that every band member was involved, running to and fro, jumping up and down and doing all sorts of wacky things. And then there was Bingo, who sent sparks flying in his characteristic stranger-than-strange attire. Their hard rock had the crowd going almost as crazy as they were, the quality of music not remotely suffering off-record. I remain in awe of such quality combined with such energy all on one stage.
I left out of breath and blown away by a gig I will not forget anytime soon, and I foresee a long hiatus before this one can be topped.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Exciting news for next month: Rocking the Daisies! I’ve been looking forward to this fest the entire year, but I just about came when I read the line-up for this year. Excluding the very random, here’s 2008’s line-up: Eagle Eye Cherry Goldfish The Dirty Skirts aKing Taxi Violence 340ml Tidal Waves Plush Unit-R Fire Through The Window New Loud Rockets Mama Know Nothing DJ China Mix ‘n Blend The event is to be held at Cloof Wine Estate in Darling from 3-5 October. This year’s fest, sponsored by the likes of Windhoek, Levi’s Music, 24.com and MK, has taken on an eco-friendly slant. Whether or not that is a success, the line-up promises a rocking weekend to remember and I for one can’t wait. Stay tuned for updates, pics and the official review. Love. Music. Happiness.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Die Melktert Kommissie at Dorp Street Theatre 23 August 2008

So here’s a genre we seldom cover: Afrikaans folk rock. In fact, I am so often let down by Afrikaans “folk rock” that it seems a genre seldom worth covering. [Hey, I am Afrikaans. I am allowed to say these things!] But there is hope, and it takes the name of a traditional Afrikaans dessert that the tannies starting making back in the days of the Anglo-Boer War [probably].Die Melktert Kommissie [The Milktart Commission, for all you souties] was born in 2002 and has since done desirably well on the local music scene, with a myriad of albums, videos, awards and chart-hitting tracks. I am an avid listener of their sugar-sweet pop-rock melodies and melancholic ballad-type tracks and, having never seen them live before, I was anxious to experience whether or not they would live up to my expectations beyond iTunes.Dorp Street Theatre was without doubt the ideal venue for this four-piece act. The atmosphere was intimate, as it always is, with candlelight and wine keeping things cosy. But everyone was in good spirits, joking around about and getting thoroughly involved in the music as only Afrikaners can. [To the pure, 100% English boy who accompanied me, my sincerest apologies. I can only imagine…] Their lyrics are exquisite in their simplicity and from their love songs to their more playful tracks paying tribute to all things local, theirs is a sound to which anyone can relate and clap their hands. Lead vocalist Lucinda may even have been better live than on CD, with a crystal-clear, unwavering voice that reached notes I wouldn’t dare brave, even in the shower. As pleasant as her stunning voice was her easy, genuine attitude in front of all those people. She, with the rest of the band, stayed entirely sincere. There was no flash attire, no false stage-personality bullshit: just pure music, purely having a good time! The band maintained energy effortlessly throughout the two-part gig and had me grinning contently from begin to end [when we stumbled home after much red wine with the band members]. Finally- a band that sounds great and is in this twisted industry purely for the love and pleasure of making music. This capitalist world of ours is a slightly brighter place for it and the music scene could certainly do with more of these! Kudos for great sound emerging from great talent accompanied by a great attitude.

The Dirty Skirts' Jeremy de Tolly:

On Unicorns, Jamming and George W Bush With an impressive record of success behind them so far, The Dirty Skirts can without doubt be named one of South Africa’s greatest musical acts at present. Having recently released their third album and preparing to jet off for a UK Tour, it certainly seems these four guys are set for great things in their future. An evening with frontman Jeremy de Tolly was not only one well spent, but provided much insight into their music, old and new, as well as life behind the scenes of The Dirty Skirts.The band was born in late 2004 and released their EP the year thereafter. The independent release saw success with tracks Feeling The Pressure and Set Me Alight soaring straight to the top of local radio station charts. Two years later the band satisfied fans with their full album, On A Stellar Bender. The band was conceived during a drunken chat between Jeremy and guitarist David Moffatt. The two members joined forces with a laptop [explaining the predominant electronica stroke in their earlier music] and began their journey as The Dirty Skirts. The mere fact that the band was conceived with alcohol as catalyst should be indicative of the crazy impulsion that continues to drive their music even today. Jeremy confesses the band’s indulgence in what they term ‘jamming’, which comprises a session of fully improvised playing on stage. Risky? Perhaps. Totally awesome? Hells yeah! An indication of the raw talent of these four musicians, hearing of such schemes is what makes their approach admirable and their music genuinely unique. And it fits in perfectly with Jeremy’s perspective of many things. His philosophy, mirrored in the band, is to live life fully and immediately, even if that means making mistakes along the way. Jeremy divulges his inspiration for the new album Daddy Don’t Disco’s final track, Wake, saying that he feels too few people live their lives truly “awake”, being aware of everything around them and seizing the many opportunities life presents.The band eventually saw the addition of two members to finally grow to the four-piece it is today. On interference with one’s personal life, Jeremy admits he would like to be able to spend more time with friends. On that note is said that the band members are quite comfortably managing juggling the two spheres of living thus far, and the opportunity to go fully international will not be passed up. Currently signed to Sony BMG Records, the band will soon leave for a tour in the UK. Though they have played abroad before, Jeremy seems confident of an even more successful tour this time round. Avoiding catering only for the South African market abroad, this tour boasts better organisation, with public relations experts behind the excursion. The new album returns to the prominent electro stroke of their EP, though not abandoning their funky Indie sounds entirely. The lyrics are lingering in their curiosity, the often strange choice of words forcing one to listen intently. The themes of apocalypse and carpe diem are strung throughout Daddy Don’t Disco, making it an album with substance without being at all overbearing.The Dirty Skirts joined forces with local bands Plush and The Beams to pay a South Africans Against Drunk Driving [SADD] at FTV in Cape Town. Though surprised by the organisation’s choice of venue, Jeremy looks forward to the event, especially eager to play for a cause as honourable as theirs. SADD was formed by counselor and social worker Caro Smit as a result of the tragic death of her son, former Plush member, Chas Smit. Perpetually taking on projects, SADD, together with SAB is currently undertaking the task of raising awareness at Universities especially about drinking and driving. Their aim is not only to make students aware of the dangers involved with drunken driving, but to resultantly change their attitude about the matter for the better. The final goal is to decrease the exceptionally high death- and injury rate in South Africa. The current estimation is that 9 000 people are killed annually in accidents involving drinking and driving, with another 75 000 being injured. SADD has always stressed its approach involving more than just talk and meetings. Recently the decision to reach people through music was made, and thus far the response seems to have been the desired one.Having spent a casual Sunday evening with Jeremy revealed an artist that is quirky but sincere, just as The Dirty Skirts’ music. Fans would be pleased to know that these are actual people with personalities and flaws who make bad jokes about cucumbers and George W. Bush. An artist who has graced every major stage in the country, aired on every remotely important radio station and featured in countless magazines, it seems there simply is no stopping Jeremy de Tolly and his team and if I know anything about music, I’ll bet they’re going to blow the UK away!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kidofdoom, Unit R and Desmond & The Tutus at Klein Libertas Theatre

2 August 2008 Without doubt one of my favourite venues for music gigs, Klein Libertas saw a large crowd filling the space in eager anticipation for this gig. A promising line-up, the bands did not disappoint and I for one could attend another one of these in the near future. Unit.R is certainly one of Cape Town’s most remarkable acts. This four-piece started without the intention to develop as far as they have into the local music industry, but since their birth a few years ago they have built up an impressive gig-record [including Levi’s Young Guns and Oppikoppi last year as well as performances with the likes of Lark and Goldfish] and have released two albums since 2006. Their sound focuses primarily on music rather than lyrics, combining instrumentals with rock, sturdy punk, and even some Indie-folk to make for a breed of inventive dance-rock that had the crowd adequately entranced by the performance. Kidofdoom was without doubt the evening’s main attraction. The four band members cast their musical flair together to make for a perfectly balanced product that has added a much-needed dimension to live music. Despite their esteem in the local music scene, they did not have the crowd rocking mad. Instead fans remained hushed and near-motionless, mouths hanging half-open in appreciation of the genius on the stage. Each track is mastered to excellence, with grand build-ups to explosive summits for each track that had the audience transfixed. Impossible to be confined to a single genre, Kidofdoom expresses an independent approach to music that has made for a sound that is entirely unique, unaffected by circumstance or sway of the industry. The band’s music allows wholly for self-interpretation from the listener, transporting one into a world where only music matters. Hailing all the way from the capital city, Desmond and the Tutus ended the evening off with their contagious melodies. The music is the quirky and exuberant stuff one would struggle to tire of. Their sound can be described as punky Indie pop with a splash of disco. Whatever you decide to name it, this band is guaranteed to get you jamming it up big time! Though seeming a touch disorganised with regard to their career decisions and –approach, I’ve no doubt Desmond and the Tutus are well on their way to bigger things.

Feeling Lucky with The Lottery Tickets

Local band The Lottery Tickets have been gigging all over the scene, with shows as far as Hermanus taking up any spare time on the band members’ hands. With the launch of their EP coming up, these quirky boys find themselves surprised by the rate at which their music careers are progressing. The band began in 2006 as a not-too-serious endeavour. Consisting of four local lads (James Regout, Robert Volker, James Acker and Mike Tymbios), the group formed in aim of escaping the done-to-death “screamo” music overwhelming the music scene at the time. An interesting group, these boys study in all fields ranging from law to the more creative such as graphic design. Yet despite their often demanding academic lives, they do a fine job of juggling both spheres of their lives. The band’s first track, titled Laura, was a coarse home-recording, circulated to mobile phones by means of Bluetooth. The song saw much appreciation from listeners and sparked an immediate interest in the band’s music. With influences ranging from Brand New to Bloc Party, the band’s sound is one accessible to all music junkies and can be described as brawny Indie pop, with a blend of sweet but candid lyrics and a pop-‘n-roll sound to the instrumentals. Their live shows are conducted with a casual (if not comical) approach. The band members have absurd nicknames such as Jimmy Scabs and Rasheye and create a blithe atmosphere by regularly dressing up in absurd attire, attempting to put the crowd at ease enough to enjoy their performance to the full. Not two years later, the band is set to launch its EP in Stellenbosch. The Lone Shark was produced and recorded with the help of musical expert Julian Bach (The Vontaines). Consisting of five punchy tracks, the mini-album is sure to get your feet tapping to their beats! Two Words has received a positive response, seeing ample airplay on local radio station MFM. The EP will be launched at The Hidden Cellar on 16 August, with bands This Quilt and The Unsung Theory stepping in as supporting acts.

Friday, July 25, 2008

FTTW and The Julii at Zula Bar- 17 July

Having been away for what seemed like decades, I was raring to get stuck back into the Cape Town music scene! Not a day after landing in not-so-sunny SA, I had a promising gig lined up: FTTW and the Julii at Zula Bar. With great music, great company and a great venue, what’s not to get hyperactive about? Zula Bar in Long Street is a kiff venue which I do not visit nearly often enough! The vibe and the people (mostly) set exactly the right vibe for a gig. They could, however, do with a new DJ. Individually, the songs he played were not terrible, but mixing Britney Spears and Duffy with Hip-Hop and Coldplay (!!) does not work. The Julii undoubtedly has potential, but that’s about it. Though the musical side of their act is passable, the vocals need work. The instrumentals are almost impressive, though generic. While I would normally be thrilled to see legendary influences such as Radiohead and The Cure, I was almost offended that they so blatantly steal their music, copying almost exactly some of their guitar chords. The crowd was reluctant to get into the show, lingering on the periphery of the floor. I have not given up completely on this band, though. Perhaps once the vocalist has hit puberty and stops touching himself on stage they will have my feet tapping. FTTW remains one of my favourite local acts! Couple Sinead and Marc take the stage with energy and fervor one rarely sees. Though hailing from Durbs, they had the crowd jamming their hearts out, dancing and singing along to every word! They do a wonderful job of involving the audience in their performance of upbeat Indie pop, their sound combining a lively garage stroke with sugary but fierce punk. Despite the average sound system, FTTW pulled off a spectacular show that satisfied their Cape Town fans. They have all the talent and more and I am confident that it is only a matter of time before these guys (and girl) make it big outside of South Africa.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Think You'll Be Amazed... Again

The Dirty Skirts Album Launch: Daddy Don’t Disco 20 June 2008 at the Alexander Theatre, Johannesburg
It was the day after I had had my wisdom teeth out and having lost an entire evening of gigging, I was itching to get out and jam to some good local music. What better event then, than the Dirty Skirts’ launch for their new album, Daddy Don’t Disco? My parents were anxious, concern being their parental duty I guess, but I headed out eagerly to the Alexander Theatre, armed with painkillers, GPS and the knowledge that I was on the VIP list for what I knew would be one of my gigs of the year! And oh, it was… I have been a fan of the Skirts since their debut album was released in 2005, so of course I was more than eager to see what their new album had in store for their enormous base of avid supporters. For me, the show started the second I walked in. After getting a considerably alarmed looked from some Joburg boy when I popped a small white pill with my Vodka (they were prescribed pain meds, I swear) and disobeying the doctor’s strict orders of no alcohol/cigarettes for a week, I took time taking in the venue. Every surface was covered with either projections, photos or enormous banners adorned with the album title. From the roof hung countless records with electric yellow lightning bolts zigzagging across them. Being a theatre, the venue’s sound was phenomenal! The volume matched the clarity flawlessly, making for a show that will weld its memory into the brain of every person that was there. The band took the stage, with lead vocalist Jeremy fully clad in white and sporting his usual quirky glasses. On disc, he is one very talented vocalist with a lot to live up to. But I am afraid to say that live… He is just that much better! I was astonished by the performance, immediately convinced I could never word the experience adequately. Jeremy had his crowd entirely absorbed in what he was doing, his incredible voice projecting into overt facial expressions and lucid hand gestures that made their music come to life, breathing awe into everyone listening. I was a touch disappointed with the (lack of) length of the set, albeit only because I could have endured hours more of such music. The performance was exactly what one envisions for a live show: dark, sweaty, a bit cramped, but unforgettable, with illustrious verve on stage and a discharge of absolute talent! The new album incorporates a sound similar to their usual Indie Rock, though this time it is considerably more alternative. There is a far more prominent electronica stroke this time round, with tracks such as “Witches Bewitch Us” keeping things eerie yet unique. The lyrics differ from track to track, with some being peculiar, some simple and others downright exquisite, with lines that will haunt your thoughts with their sheer invention. The album is fairly toned-down, with nothing too overbearing. But that’s not to say it won’t blow your mind, merely that you can listen to it repeatedly without wearing it thin. I have no doubt these boys will knock the socks off the Pohms during their UK Tour in August, but I can hardly wait for them to get back home so I can experience them all over again.

Rocking Against Racism

Ubuntoer II: Die Helde, Zinkplaat and New Holland with Tidal Waves Tings ‘n Times, Pretoria, Wednesday 18 June 2008
The evening began with my getting lost. As usual.(I am beginning to see a pattern in my writing here.) I found myself alone, in Sunnyside (the siff, dangerously dodgy core of Pretoria), getting frantic and teary-eyed, with little idea where I was and even less of an idea as to how to get where I was supposed to be. Oh, and did I mention that I was sporting stilettos and a My Little Pony t-shirt? Not ideal. But thank goodness for family and technology: a long and tearful cellphone conversation with my brother got me to Tings ‘n Times. Regrettably, I missed New Holland’s performance but from what I hear they have only improved since I last saw them which, trust me, says a helluva lot! Plus I spent the last night of the tour having many shots with TeeJay, which made up for missing their show and assured me that he is still as kiff as ever. I must add here that the Gauteng crowds suck. At least, compared to the Cape crowds they do! They just kind of stand there, fairly still and eerily quiet, gaping as if they have never heard good music before. (Judging by the revolting garbage played in their clubs, perhaps they haven’t.) By the time I had paid exactly twice as much as I would in Stellenbosch for my usual drink, I was considerably unhappy. But, not to be stopped, I grabbed hold of every familiar, Stellenbosch/Cape Town-based face there and together we made sufficient noise and squeaked sufficient takkie, as good supporters should. I am a fan of Die Helde and their live performances have yet to let me down. With enough energy to keep their chilled yet vibey Afrikaans Indie rock very much alive they took the stage with an easy grace, live shows being nothing new to them. Their sound is as accomplished live as on disc, and I had as good a time as always watching these boys perform. Tidal Waves is a Johannesburg-based band that had me instantly captivated by their music. The five-piece had the dull crowd jamming to their sounds, hailed to be “Original music for original people”. Their music is a funky reggae that will doubtlessly get your dancing shoes skanking, especially when you get a load of their proper Afrikaans treffer, “Lekker Lekker Dans”! These talented musicians jumble in some powerful rock, ska and nostalgic blues to sing about war, poverty and the government with an engrossed enthusiasm that captivates their audiences. A fitting band to have play for the cause of raising awareness about racism in South Africa, theirs is a sound you’d be unwell not to enjoy, with bewitching vocals and sheer gift that will get their tunes desperately stuck in your head. Zinkplaat is without doubt one of my favourite local bands, thus watching them was the highlight of my evening. Not only are their lyrics hypnotic in their simplicity, but the sound that this band emanates on stage is pure energy, pure art. Words struggle to explain watching Basson and Bertie face-to-face on stage, playing to one another, entirely lost in their own soulful universe. It is the utterance of a magnificent conversation, without saying a word. Their connection and talent, not to mention Beer’s remarkable skill on the drums, is what brings their music to life. Watching them renders me speechless, electrified by memories of Bullybeef and campfires gushing through my South African veins. Despite my strong dislike for the place, I had a superb evening rocking against racism. Yes, I arrived late and shaken and the crowd was not nearly as cool as the ones in the Cape. But seeing these guys perform made it all better. I even spotted a pair of gumboots and that, with the music, almost made me feel like I was back home. Despite the shoddy Gauteng crowds, it appears that the Cape’s musical exports are universally awesome.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

This is Mettle

“There are the people of the day, and the creatures of the night. And it’s important to remember that the creatures of the night aren’t simply the people of the day staying up late because they think that makes them cool and interesting. It takes a lot more than heavy mascara and a pale complexion to cross the divide.” I was sitting in my bedroom, busying myself with perfectly innocent student activity, when I was summoned to my closest encounter (thus far) with hell itself: Metal for Motherfucking Africa. (I am not entirely sure if this was the event’s official title, but it is what the gathering was called all night by everyone there, and so the adjective stuck). Of course, I had no choice but to attend. Not only had a close friend invited me, I was also listed as an official photographer which meant free entrance and being duty-bound to make an appearance. Fine then, it was the very least I could do and I was on holiday, after all. And so I grabbed my camera and set off, wholly unaware of what was in store. They say ignorance is bliss, but I’m sure that, had I been aware of what lay ahead, I would either have prepared better (mentally, and perhaps armed myself with garlic) or simply not gone at all. Alas, Mother Nature (perhaps Lucifer, in this case) continues to practice an oddly cruel sense of humour. It was a decent venue, one of my favourites, which generally hosted superb music gigs at which I had become a regular, to put it slightly. But tonight, I became quickly convinced that I had taken a wrong turn, fallen into a black hole of sorts and tumbled, head-first and camera-in-hand into a hellish nightmare. The venue’s populace greeted me in a tsunami of pitch clothing and ghostly complexions. Their eyes were sunken and either vacant, closed or penetrating as if their glares were sucking the very goodness out of me. Their hair was black, the only exception being a full head of luminous green curls and the odd bit of purple, white (I don’t mean blonde, I mean a slain-unicorn silver) or angry red. There were dreadlocks, flyaway curls, greasy rats’ tails and what was artfully similar to those abandoned bird’s nests that just hang in trees forever, without use, because the bitch wasn’t satisfied with what her hubby had produced. One thing they all had in common was that they scared me. Once inside, I couldn’t decide whether the light made me more or less terrified than the eerie moonshine outdoors. In the end I decided that it made little difference and turned to alcohol to ease myself a little. I focused on scowling perpetually and turning down the corners of my lips, fearing they would claw out my blue eyes if I dared look anything short of miserable. Not that I wasn’t… Where did these people come from? The town is not a big one and, being largely populated by students, one is sure to have seen most of the people that live in it at some point. But I had never seen a single one of the beings in this entire place before. I knew this because they are fairly noticeable and especially so in daylight, I’m sure. Was there some sort of secret metalhead society, the seemingly ordinary student members crawling out from under rocks, morphing into these demonic vampires when the sun goes down? It was more than just emo make-up and piercings; these things had ceased being human from where I was standing! Next I found myself at the stage. Desperate for some artistic proof that I had actually been to this occasion, I stood at the very front, waiting for some action. And action I got. Plenty of it, too. I found myself, not surprisingly, at the very core of the moshpit. I have since firmly adopted the belief that there is a God; the mere fact that I was not trampled to death is adequate evidence. I was knocked over a couple of times, though two of these were even trailed by an apology (evidently these boys were Afrikaans metalheads). The moshpit enclosed a bizarre culture I had not been exposed to before. The aficionados were viciously adoring of the music and had no manner of expressing this zeal other than physical violence. (I have never understood this redundant phrase. I mean, if not physical, then what kind of violence are we talking about exactly? But I digress…) They began to shove one another, jostling and heaving against friends and foes alike. The fray intensified with each thrust and sooner or later everyone would have a chance at falling down. Someone would help you to your feet, of course, albeit only to kick you down again. The cesspool was like some sadistic cat-and-mouse game that was far beyond my comprehension. Satan himself graced the stage. He was bald, pale, and aggressive with white irises and a frizzy ginger beard long enough to blowdry. He was exactly as I had always imagined! I must say I did not appreciate his incessantly calling me a ‘motherfucker’ and asking whether I was having a ‘motherfucking good time’. Jared Leto, perhaps, but no other man has the justification to address me in this manner. Even more terrifying was one of his devotees who had caught my eye from the very start. (This says a lot, since there was plenty to focus on. I’m sure I passed as a junkie rocked on some sinister drug with my lively eye movements which resulted from being utterly confused as to what or whom to stare at!) She was skeletally thin, and equally pale. She wore torn fishnet stockings and pieces of material I’m sure were intended to be a top and skirt, though they were only about 10cm long each. She also wore no underwear! (I only know this because at some point she was lying on the floor, spread-eagled and unconscious, divulging more information than anyone cared to have.) Her shirt read “Whore Insane” and I contemplated telling her that she must have mistakenly switched the two words around. Finally I found myself a safe perch from which I could not only take pictures without a fear of being crushed, but also survey the belligerent throng in confused amazement. What a peculiar culture. Then again, I am sure they would scratch their black heads in perplexity if they were to watch my behaviour on a typical (significantly less eventful) evening out. Eventually I concluded that they were simply different to me and no less strange than the blonde things running around town making out with poles to the sounds of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. A little more intimidating, I’ll admit, but only because they don’t weigh less than their GHDs. The evening was like watching a philanthropical documentary and it had certainly been a learning experience. Not only did I know to avoid these festivals in future, I was also vastly more appreciative of my music. Still amazed at having survived the ordeal, it was only the following morning that I realised I had been wearing a pink Pringle jersey all along.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

aKing at Dorp Street Theater

27 May 2008 I hadn’t yet seen aKing live when I heard they would be gracing our little town with their presence. Having listened to their album (Dutch Courage) countless times, this was one gig I simply would not miss, come hell or History 214 exam. The atmosphere was exceptionally different to what one would usually experience at a live performance. Especially because of their esteem in the local music scene, one would expect a characteristically wild night, with excessive dancing, drinking and bad singing (from me, standing as close to the stage as I can without being arrested or something). But Dorp Street catered for a show that was ideal for the true aKing fans. The small crowd, all seated, remained hushed throughout the act, genuinely appreciative of the musical genius on stage. There was no shoving, screaming, having your toes crushed by some Afrikaner who has not yet realised that there is a reason he is a prop, not a dancer... And for the first time in a long time the alcohol went only from hand to mouth, rather than hand to all-over-my-(formerly)-white-jeans. The ambience was comfortably intimate, with a distinct air of awe from the tranquil group of fans. Even the lighting added to the character of the show. I was less than impressed with the sound, which kept failing- a bit of a killjoy, no? But I guess it happens, even to the best of us, and that certainly wasn’t enough to keep me from having a perfectly enjoyable evening. Neither did it seem to perturb the band, which simply picked up precisely from where they had been dropped, perfectly in time, as though nothing had happened. I always thought that doing a Fokofpolisiekar spin-off was a brave move, due to the expectations, if not stigma, attached to taking over from one of South Africa’s greatest rock bands. But aKing failed me not, with a first album that is hard to get tired of. Dutch Courage is a collection of tuneful rock, with straightforward- but simultaneously compound lyrics complemented by a voice that orders attention. And it’s even better in real life! Their live performance is scarily analogous to what they produce in studio, the band suffering no weakness when faced with performing on stage. But what impressed me most, besides for Hunter himself, was the energy. It was not overbearing so as to detract from the actual music, but it was there, so thick it drowned the room in a viscous layer of reverence. Hunter kept the crowd hypnotised with his alluring talent, never once slackening the grip he possesses so artlessly over his fans. I must be honest and say that some new work may be in order. As much as I enjoy what I’ve heard thus far, I am ardent for more! However, my avarice is simply a sign of appreciation and I do not doubt that aKing will please their followers with whatever they conjure up next.

The Lottery Tickets, New Altum, Gravity Wins Again and Yes Sir! Mister Machine

Hidden Cellar 31 May 2008: The event was set to turn Stellenbosch and all its rockers on their heads, and this was no false promise. The Hidden Cellar hosted four bands in one evening: The Lottery Tickets; Gravity Wins Again; New Altum and Yes Sir! Mister Machine, working together to craft a night of mind-blowing rock I will struggle to forget. The Lottery Tickets, in their curious, casual approach to performing, burst onto the stage not only singing “YMCA”, but sporting outfits that would have made The Village People positively swell with pride, I’m sure. With lead vocalist Robert Volker keeping things amusing with his peculiar “radio voice”, The Lottery Tickets did a fine job of performing their chilled music with just the right amount of oomph, making the crowd feel comfortable in the setting as well as easing them into what would evolve into far more hardcore music. Gravity Wins Again did not blow me away. The performance was average enough for me to take a break from jamming like a lunatic in stilettos, and so I watched from a chair in the back. Look, it didn’t make my ears bleed or anything, but the band certainly didn’t blow my hair back either. With a passable musical formula, their sound is uncomplicated, making it fairly accessible to any plebeian who knows precious little about good music. You have to give them credit for rendering the crowd fairly appreciative. I remain sceptical as to what this says about the crowd. New Altum had the party rocking out once again, with a more hardcore sound. Despite my salivating in fervent anticipation for Yes Sir! Mister Machine to take the stage, I did enjoy New Altum. Enough, even, to torture my feet a little longer in those ridiculous shoes. Their music has an interesting experimental nature that keeps it slightly apart from your usual screamo stuff, while they create a feel of never trying too hard to say something. Rather, they say whatever and hope the crowd walks away having experienced something more than another band. Well, that’s what I felt. I could be horrible wrong... Finally, finally... Yes Sir! Mister Machine stepped onto the stage. I must inform that I replaced my stilettos with flats for this one which, trust me, is quite a big thing for even the least girly-girl out there! That should give an indication of how eager I was. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Yes Sir! Mister Machine is a band everyone should experience live. Their sound is hardcore with an experimental line strung throughout, mixed with strokes of hardcore dance music. The music is even better live than on disc which, trust me, says a lot! But what had me speechless, besides for having screamed my lungs out, was the sheer energy on stage. So some of their moves may be a tiny bit generic, but can you call it generic of they do it even better than the originals? The involvement with their crowd was overwhelming and I felt like a kid in a candy store, utterly confused as to where to look or what my favourite part was. The performance called for a moment of silence afterwards, not only to catch my breath but to take in what I had just witnessed. The bands jointly created a perfect build-up to end the evening at a zenith other shows will struggle to crown.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bullets From A Pretty Blue Gun

Local band The Pretty Blue Guns is an exciting export, offering an unusual slant on alternative rock and blues. Barely of age, these young lads are certainly not letting their age count as a disadvantage in their careers as successful musicians, having played gigs at numerous venues and events across the country. With the recent release of their EP, “Dirt”, their future is a thrilling prospect indeed. Based in Stellenbosch, the band is made up of local boys Andre Leo (vocals and guitar), Lucas Swart (drums), Brandon Visser (guitar) and Greg Thompson (bass guitar). Though they have only recently begun to take their music seriously, the band members have been playing together since their high-school days- Visser and Thompson are currently in Matric at Paul Roos Gymnasium. The ensemble began as mere pleasure with Leo and Visser playing acoustic, old-school blues and toying with writing their own music. From there the hobby grew into what is currently a possibility for great things in the local music industry! The Pretty Blue Guns will play at this year’s Splashy Fen in KwaZulu Natal. Plans for the remainder of 2008 include Rocking the Daisies as well as a video launch in August. Finally a tour of the East Coast with fellow local music act Howard Roark, presently in the very beginning stages of planning, is on the cards. Other than their bigger plans, the band can be found regularly in Stellenbosch and Cape Town’s music venues with other esteemed artists. On playing in Stellenbosch, Leo stresses the band’s focus on keeping their approach personal and intimate, performing regularly at the site they have come to know and love. When it comes to work such as advertising and photography, close friends are asked to undertake projects as extensively as possible. Their sound is a coarse blend of old-school rock and Indie blues, along with a garage-rock stroke that makes for a sound that is entirely their own. Aside from their ability, their live performances are carried out with a violent energy that keeps the crowd rapt with craving. With influences such as Kings of Leon, Tom Waits and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, it is easy to see the origin of their lyrical inspiration. The words are candidly sinister, with an understated, biting wit that is hard to find in music today. Though young, the band is anything but juvenile and while not yet dreaming of being international superstars, they don’t plan on bowing out of the music scene anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Loud Rockets and The Beams at The Assembly

The Beams & New Loud Rockets at The Assembly: 24 May 2008 The Assembly is without doubt my favourite music venue in Cape Town. Besides for getting phenomenally lost getting there (I live in a small town, ok!), I was lank excited for this gig. But nothing could have prepared me for what I was in for on that fateful Saturday night… I have seen New Loud Rockets on more occasions than I would like to calculate, because I know even I will think I sound like a crazed groupie. The band has yet to disappoint me. Possibly the only thing better than singing shamelessly to the cool Indie Rock and –Pop strokes of their EP, Let’s Play House, is seeing these boys perform live! While lead vocalist John Seth sounds at least as good live as on CD, the intensified instrumentals only do the band justice when they step out of studio and onto the stage. That, combined with the fervour of their sizeable- and enthusiastic posse of fans, always makes for a performance to be remembered. But for once I am going to cease my unrelieved ranting of the Rockets and focus instead on their opening act: The Beams. Even the boss’ insistence at their awesomeness did not set me up sufficiently for how much I would dig this act. Originating from Cape Town, they have adequately dominated the local club scene and, having not yet celebrated their second year of existence, they are hard to keep up with: the band has already seen two performances at Rocking the Daisies, one at the Oppikoppi Easter Festival and many more which my word-count restrictions do not allow to be included (if that gives you any idea of the extent of this list). Their sound is undeniably Indie, but it is far less exclusive than most Indie acts I have stumbled across in my lifetime. It is an eclectic fusion of post-punk stadium rock, with strokes of Brit pop and dance, along with a transparent influence of the old-school rock that never fails to make the crowd nostalgic: The Smiths; Joy Division- I could get hopelessly carried away! But perhaps the only thing more notable than their talent is the frontman himself. I have watched countdowns celebrating the men dubbed ‘The Greatest Frontmen of All Time’ and I can confidently say that Paul Maree has what it takes. Not only does he sing (and quite ably, at that), but he graces a score of (somewhat random) instruments, keeping the show uniquely exciting. On top of his palpable talent, he possessed enough energy on stage to render the crowd hypnotized, dancing throughout the performance, not once distracted from the theatrics- and musical genius unfolding in front of them. Having seen The Beams, I got lost, once again. This time, however, it was in the sheer excitement of having discovered a treasure of a band that reiterates why I am in this industry and why the South African music scene is so exciting right now.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Setting South Africa's Music Scene Alight

Following a recent decision to take a Gonzo approach to my journalism, I couldn’t be happier to receive a message from Marc de la Querra stating simply “We’re in Bohemia, if you’d like to join us”. Is there a better way to interview a band than getting to know them over a couple of drinks, cigarettes and dodgy pub food? I think not. Marc is a guitarist and vocalist for a Durban-based band called Fire Through The Window. He is joined by Sinead Dennis who, above being the lead vocalist and the girl who gets to play their very cool star-shaped tambourine, is Marc’s girlfriend. Other members are Matt Coombes on the bass guitar, Sidney Rash on drums and guitarist Peter Babol. The five members differ in many ways with varying ages, studying everything from music to design and marketing- throw in one girl and you have a team that will undoubtedly make for interesting conversation, not to mention pictures from music tours! The band began in 2007 as no more than a hobby, call it a side-project if you will. Marc was involved in another band at the time, but sat down one day to write some songs for his girlfriend. When discovering that Sinead was pretty well-endowed herself when it came to music, the pair started writing together. As much as this kind of gesture would normally make me feel nauseous, one can’t help but know that this time it’s different. The band’s lyrics are catchy, but by no means cheesy and the words subsist with such candor, one can’t help but smile and tap your feet to their sound. Their live performances are a time period of sheer sincerity, blended with a vigour few bands possess on stage. And obviously, it works: Fire Through The Window has spent two weeks at the number one spot on the University of Johannesburg’s radio station for best local act, they reached the sixth position on Five FM’s ‘High Five at Five’ countdown and their single ‘Just Like You Are’ is featured in an advert for Apple’s iPod Nano as well as being one of the featured tracks on MK 89’s soon-to-be-released music DVD. On top of this, the band is all over the place, getting plenty of airplay on radio stations across the country and satisfying their followers with ample live performances. After recording their work “just for fun”, the band got a contract with local record label, Witchdoctor. They describe the label as being unspecific and never pressurising them with regards to decisions. On why they released ‘Just Like You Are’ as their first single, I am met with a simple answer: It was the first song Sinead and Marc wrote together and it just felt right. Fire Through The Window recently had their first performance in Stellenbosch- understandable, seeing as they live so far away. But we are guaranteed to be graced with their presence in the near future and it seems the town and its music-junkies made a good impression. Other shows to look out for include Rocking the Daisies and various smaller gigs in Cape Town. When asked to compare their hometown to the Cape, they point out that they are less known here and that each crowd really depends on who they play with, but they are in the process of expanding beyond the comfort of Durban where they say they are “spoilt” with loyal fans. With regard to pursuing a career in music, the band highlights the superiority of the international music scene, pointing out that, despite the vastness of the market for “mainstream” music, there is also enormous opportunity for alternative sound. They compare the scale of South Africa against bigger markets, while contrasting the actual feel of the music. But they certainly are not saying no to the idea, and much time was spent debating the possibility of juggling an international music career while living in South Africa. On being the only girl in the band, and one of the few in the industry, Sinead immediately states that every band needs a girl, voicing her frustration over dealing with disorganised (all-male) bands. She also tells that she is not often taken seriously and that she is denied many ‘privileges’ as people presume she is either a ‘manager’ or ‘girlfriend’. The male members, naturally, tease her about being emotional, yet it seems that Matt, though male, may be even more guilty than Sinead of “being a girl”. Overall Sinead does good work of breaking many stereotypes around women in the world of music. Their style is unspecific. Influences include Broken Social Scene, Kings of Leon, Johnny Cash, even Stevie Wonder, though ultimately the band sounds little like any of these. But their sound is a unique assembly of buoyant Indie with beats of sweet punk and explosive garage pop strokes, all mixed with a pleasing sincerity that makes the band so real, and simultaneously, feverishly addictive. Finally, they’re here. A band like this is so damn hard to find.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll

My very first thought when I set foot in the dingy, smoky room was not the stifling heat, nor was it the fact that my favourite song was playing overheard in the darkness. I didn’t even notice the gorgeous guy standing right next to me. Instead, my mind focused solely on the fact that I knew almost no one and that my Louis Vuitton handbag stuck out like a colossal neon sign with the word ‘Joburg’ written all over it! There I was, the paradoxical wealthy, Joburg indie. I mean, who ever heard of Indie Barbie? Cinderella Barbie, yes. Disco Barbie, definitely! But Barbie has never sported skinny jeans and her pink iPod has too much Kelly Clarkson to make room for The Strokes and Kings of Leon. But I was there, and determined to make a night of it! The video launch promised a night to remember, with two great bands and similarly impressive videos that could even pass for having been made somewhere outside of Africa. My love for music was what made me stick through the stares and judgements that were inevitable. Sooner or later, some guy wearing his pre-teen sister’s skinny jeans would point a black fingernail behind my back and ask his friends what I was doing there. But I was determined not to care and set out dancing as close to the stage as is possible without appearing to be a groupie, moving like no-one was watching, my Nine Wests never staying still! Hey, at least now I know why they’re called pumps… Surprisingly, the expected blows of prejudice never happened. Maybe I just didn’t notice because my eyes were mostly closed as I grew more and more absorbed in the performance on stage in front of me. Or maybe, just maybe, I had exited society’s sector that I had lived in for the better part of my life, finding myself in a utopia where everyone was different, and not for the recently fashionable statement of simply being alternative. A private universe where not fitting in means you have something in common with everyone else and acceptance is part of the package. Yes, I had bowed out of that claustrophobic world where everyone has too much money and too little fun, that standard thrown at us every day from beauty magazines which boast girls whose shoe collections probably weigh more than they do. I was not drunk, nor was I wearing the miniest of mini skirts I could squeeze my starved body into. I had not spent three hours straightening my already straight hair or finding a shade of blusher that perfectly complemented my outfit. No point really, seeing as most of the guys were wearing more eyeliner than I was anyway. But I was happy, and I was me. Just me, and that was good enough. Not surprisingly, my platinum blonde friends failed to grasp what I had experienced as I attempted to put words to the feeling the following day at the equestrian club. Either that, or they were too distracted by the fact that my French manicure had been replaced by black, chipping-in-places, R9.50 nail polish and that my hair accurately looked like I had spent all of seven seconds pulling it back into a bad-hair-day ponytail. But that was also alright. Each to his own, I guess, and thank goodness I had found my own. More importantly, I learnt about the utter euphoria of defining myself within myself, not by the people I’m with. There’s more to me than my appearance, but the next time someone looks at me for too long their jeans will tighten around their ankles, their hair will straighten and they will see what I’m really all about. In the words of The Smiths’ Morrissey, “What can I say; someone has to be me so it might as well be me.” In future I will invest my money in 100 tickets for music gigs, rather than buying one small Louis Vuitton clutch. Do the math, judge me. Finally, I can honestly say I don’t care.

Quiet: The New Loud

Local band New Loud Rockets has just stepped onto the South African music scene and is already making good work of being a successful act. Consisting of students studying in an array of fields, from law and business to medicine and the more artistic, the group seems an unlikely combination. Though still in mint condition, having only entered the scene seriously in 2007, their lack of experience has done nothing to slow them down. Currently voted number one on the University of Johannesburg radio station UJFM for the most popular local act, their single Bleeding in a Cab is heard on numerous stations across the country, including our own MFM. The band shows an exciting new style and, having no distribution contract as yet, they are gracing venues country-wide with their presence, going as far as Durban and Johannesburg. They do, however, plan on being in studio again later this year. Bigger performances to look out for include Rocking the Daisies. These shows do much of their advertising for them, as well as the ever-popular and easily accessible internet sites Facebook and MySpace. At present they remain satisfied with keeping their approach largely personal and moving at their own pace, with no pressure from a record label and balancing their lives outside of New Loud Rockets with ease. Their musical inspiration includes rock stretching from the 90’s and ‘old-school’ to more recent acts including even Afrikaans rock, a cacophonic mixture that may explain the band’s individuality that the South African music scene has not yet experienced! Lead vocalist John Seth does however emphasise that the band members currently have to endeavour to find “what they’re all about” in order to keep their music original. Another important decision to make with regards to becoming musicians is whether the band will stay local or broaden its horizons to the music scene abroad. Seth stresses that the market does not accommodate both. The curious band name boasts an even more curious origin and comes from a statement members heard that “quiet is the new loud”, with a bit of help from a cereal box at breakfast! On being a rockstar, Seth says it seems surreal not being a just a “normal person” anymore. He also talks of receiving e-mails from strangers on a regular basis, as well as being offered many “favours” from girls who are fans of their music! But ultimately, this fresh sound comes from a group of very normal people who just happen to be exceptionally talented musicians.