13 April, Lourensford farm
Upon first hearing what this year’s Coke [Zero] Fest line-up would be, I thought the insertion of the word ‘Zero’ applicable: the international line-up paled in comparison to 2008’s, largely because of the inclusion of Muse last year. I cared little for seeing any of these bands live, bar Oasis. Snow Patrol was bound to be on the boring side of average on stage, and realistically, when last did anyone listen to Bullet For My Valentine? But it was Oasis, combined with curiosity around how our local bands would fill a significantly larger stage and –venue, that had me actually splash out R600 [serves me right for being fast asleep regarding media passes] and end off my ‘Easter’ weekend the way it should be done.
A few alterations were made just prior to the actual Fest. First, the venue moved from the Cape Town Ostrich Farm to our small neighbouring town, Somerset West. Beautiful though the views were [as pointed out by Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody], Somerset West can barely cope with its own traffic. It was a bit of a nightmare, with most people spending at least an hour to get out of there. Secondly, two international bands pulled out: Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Bullet For My Valentine. I really could not have cared less, and I know of few people who took up Computicket’s very generous money-back offer because of their pulling out.
I arrived at 11.30am, almost to the second. Making my way to the stage, I could definitely hear Foto Na Dans playing, and I assumed there had been a shuffling of the line-up, as Die Heuwels Fantasties were set to perform at 11.30. This was not the case; everything had simply commenced earlier. I am not sure why this happened, but as a result thereof countless people eager to see Heuwels missed out. I was fairly annoyed, but powerlessness and anticipation of the rest of the day made me shut up and smile. This rarely happens.
Foto Na Dans is not a band that should play as early as they did [11.30, if you recall]. Nonetheless, they played a great set that did not suffer from a lack of impressive lighting to accompany it. LeRoi, slight though he may be, held his own on that stage like a pro, his larger-than-life voice booming out over the masses, insisting everyone present listen. The rest of the band was notably engrossed in the music too, and I sensed sincere appreciation for the opportunity to play on the same stage as these esteemed international bands.
I had not yet seen Cassette live, and I was interested to compare my middling liking for their music to my opinion of their live performance. The performance was good, though perhaps not quite as impressive as one would expect considering their track record, which includes countless SAMA nominations, a number of tours abroad, a deal with Sony BMG and having opened for the likes of Pink and Eagle Eye Wank. The lead vocalist gets well into his singing, which is great to see on stage. The woman on his right, however, is dead boring: from the sound of her voice to her pencilskirt catsuit, I was not at all impressed. They may not have blown me away, and I felt quite distant from their performance, but their easily listening was well-received by most.
I must give Zebra and Giraffe credit for a much better performance than the last I saw. I am not simply redeeming my apparent unpopularity for a previous negative review; they certainly upped their live game! I get the sense that, owing to the fact that frontman Greg Carlin created all of the material by himself, the other band members feel disconnected to it in a sense. Perhaps it’s a lack of feeling as though that music belongs to you, that makes you play it differently. Whatever it may be, this feeling is either waning, or simply ceasing to have an effect on their live shows. I thought the intro weak, but none of that for the rest of the show. There was more energy and –involvement from Greg as well as his fellow band members. And they are well-liked across the country, so I have little by which to criticise this particular set of theirs. Here’s hoping they keep it up, because I like it!
As with Zebra and Giraffe, my last review of The Dirty Skirts was not the most positive. But I am a fan, and I certainly did not let one under-par performance change my opinion of them as a live band. The Dirty Skirts seem very at home on such a big stage, in front of such a large crowd. They are veterans who have got live performing waxed! Homewrecker sounded the way it was supposed to, and we all danced along to some catchy indie pop-rock vibes. Jeremy de Tolly seems genuinely appreciative of his fans every time, and they ooze passion for what they do. The Skirts give off an air of ease with being on stage, whilst never losing their professionalism at all. It makes for a textbook combination that accounts for their successfully pulling off live performances as they do.
Last up, locally, was aKing. The starting notes rang out clear and powerful, commanding attention. Though I much prefer their Dutch Courage material, they gave us a taste of both old and new and I know the next album is anticipated by all, if only to see how it will compare to their debut. Guitarist Hunter Kennedy is not only a musical genius, but an idol to many, and he always puts on a good show, even in subtlety. Die Heuwels Fantasties vocalist Pierre Greeff made a guest appearance, which added an unexpected but quite beautiful element to the show. I got a slight sense of rush throughout the set, though this could easily be pinned to reasons backstage that were unknown to the spectators. It ended off decisively and with force, bringing to a close a tight set from musicians that make me proud to associate myself with our local music scene.
First up for the international acts was Panic! At The Disco. I remain confused as to why everything happened so early, as these guys played in broad daylight, rendering the potentially impressive lighting useless. I am not the world’s biggest Panic fan, but they put on a good show live. 4.0 GPA students, they highlighted the distinction between local- and international bands’ live performances, suggesting not incompetence in smaller bands but a sense of experience- the kind that is palpable upon seeing the end-result . Frontman Brendon Urie delegates energy to all band members, and there is always someone moving. Expressive and bouncy, he shows good voice control considering some of the bizarre pitches he has to stretch for. I honestly thought it all a step down from how it sounds on disc. Nonetheless, the highschool boys in skinny jeans most girls would be pushed to squeeze into were satisfied as they sat atop shoulders [their girlfriends’, as suggested by Brendon] and sang along in full force to every word. I have never, as the rest of the world seems to, confused them with Fall Out Boy, this being a comment many made when asked what they thought of their set. While they may not change your life, they are fun for a bit of sing-along and bop time.
I was really not all that excited for Snow Patrol, expecting a tedious wait for Oasis. Post-performance, I have new-found respect for a band which put on one of the most extraordinary live shows I have ever seen. The lighting was dazzling in its black-and-white simplicity, ditto the screen displays which were mostly just shapes that hypnotised, dragging you right into the universe of their music. Mesmerising, yet straightforward and unpretentious, it mirrors what they produce. Frontman Gary Lightbody’s voice is as beautiful live as on disc, and I have rarely seen an artist on stage become so entangled in his own music. Theirs is the kind of power indie pop-rock that makes every girl wish she were the one to whom Gary is singing. We all had goosebumps, and no one can deny at least one moment where you linked a Snow Patrol song to a past event, and what you felt at the time. So very romcom, their music is sure to make you fall in love. Inserted between songs, in the middle of songs and everywhere else were protracted instrumental interjections that seemed to last forever, pushing tracks to a beautiful apex, only to bring us back down to earth with lyrics that express so magnificently something essentially very candid. The music comes from the heart, and maybe that’s why everyone can relate so much: we have all been there before. Gary Lightbody makes himself human, and at the same time a subterranean alien angel of sorts. Entrancing, and crushingly solid from start to end, I now have to call myself a fan...
Last up was Oasis, the one I had been looking forward to for a good nine hours in the sun. Oasis seems to be a band one either loves or hates; I seldom come across a neutral median. Regardless of partiality or lack thereof, nobody can claim to be unaware of just how successful they are. Kicking things off with Fuckin’ In The Bushes, it was perfect:
We put this festival on you bastards With a lot of love We worked for one year for you pigs And now you want to break our walls down? You want to fuckin’ destroy us? Well go to hell.
It may be about music, but it is also about what they have become as a result of it all. Liam Gallagher expects to be revered by his fans, and he has no reason to give them anything back for it. He has an arrogance about him second to none, and he does not for a second attempt to conceal it. For those who expected a show with a bunch of guys rocking out on stage and telling South Africa about its beautiful people, it was obviously a disappointment! It’s Oasis, for goodness sake. They do not need anything but themselves and their music. From what I heard this show was markedly better than theirs in Johannesburg, with Noel almost giving away that he was really relishing it all. The lighting put Snow Patrol’s to shame, and I can honestly say that that in itself was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. It was colourful, it was black and white, cold and blue, it was erratic and it was impossible to take your eyes off it! As for the displays on-screen behind them, these took a more material form, elucidating to an extent what Oasis’ music is all about. It was art, war, violence, the past, childhood, girls, memories, emotion and, of course, themselves. As far as musical talent goes, they are way up there with the bests in the world. The debate was whether Champagne Supernova or Wonderwall is their best song. For me it is neither, but even more difficult than choosing my favourite track of theirs would be deciding on a singly favourite part of their performance. It may not have been what many expected, but that is the beauty of their music. It may not be rock ‘n roll as the masses have come to understand it, but shut up and look closely and you will find it is rock, and music, in its most chaste form, but on the inside.
Oasis live was perfect.
And I don’t believe in absolutes, so for me to say that is quite something.