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.