By Kaylene Overall
As I stood at the bar on Saturday evening, I couldn’t help but stare at the overhead screen just behind the stage. Clips of black and white horror films were being played on repeat, complimented by the cardboard cut-out teeth that decorated the room. I spent at least five minutes pointing out which monster I recognised before being distracted by the shiny, swirling strobe light. Small things, small minds, I suppose.
Being rather early in the evening, there weren’t a great number of people present. Excluding the hipsters, that is. It seemed we’d stepped into room filled with pubescent members from the cast of Juno, Youth in Revolt or Adventureland. Wait, those films are too mainstream. Sorry, my mistake.
Parting through the sea of plaid button-up shirts and skinny jeans, we made our way to the front, where Matthew Mole was saying something about his drummer, Jack straw, not being present. Having never seen Matthew Mole perform before, I had no idea if he was jokingly referring to the song by the Grateful Dead, or if he really did have a drummer named Jack Straw. I doubt the hipsters knew either. Before I begin, may I just urge musicians to name the songs they’re about to play? Okay? Thank you kindly. It saves me the trouble of doing things like this:
Track one (see what I mean?) was, to put it simply, a love song. The seventeen year olds in front were holding each other and singing along. You can be sure that that particular tune will be labelled “their” song, to be remembered for the next two to three months of their relationship. Bless. Well, it was a very pretty song. Even I almost felt all warm and fuzzy inside. Almost.
Matthew Mole has a perfect pitch and made use of a backing track and kick drum to enhance the quality of his performance. His music is calming and one can only smile when listening. His style is incredibly reminiscent of Jack Steadman from Bombay Bicycle Club. It turned out I was correct in my association when he did a very beautiful cover of Dust on the Ground. He seems like a very humble fellow, conveying a sense of wide-eyed confusion and excitement – the typical sweet, sensitive type who’s just playing for the fun of it. He made an incredibly brave and daring move, deciding to cover MGMT’s “Kids”. I’m happy to say he pulled it off, and remains charming and unfettered.
In between sets, Angel Blythe Campey attempted to wow us with her stand-up comedic skills. Unfortunately, there were more raised eyebrows and embarrassed chuckles than sincere guffaws of “OMG SO FUNNY!” Mildly offensive jokes about the Taliban (in this case, two men named Muhammad) using Blackberries to plan a terrorist attack, and topics such as the KKK, tend to result in stilted reactions. Rookie error, Angel.
Al Bairre lifted my spirits considerably with their fun and uncomplicated indie material. They had the crowd bopping around, momentarily disabling the previously pretentious atmosphere of side-partings and thick-rimmed glasses. Their symphonic indie rock should be labelled as an anti-depressant. Nick Preen is a fantastic frontman and the Johnson twins are some kind of superpower –they sang and played several different instruments such as the cello and ukulele, swapping them up for each song. Al Bairre creates a happy bubble that you never want to leave. It was an ecstatic step away from the redundancy and unoriginality that seems to have emerged in the Cape Town indie rock scene. Their cover of “Brimful of Asha” by Cornershop was well received and brilliantly done. The only other thing I can say about Al Bairre is that they just are. They do what they do and they have fun doing it. Those kids are a talented bunch, that’s for sure.
Juke Royal surprised me in a very big way. I had heard their “Maiden Voyage” EP earlier this year and hadn’t been very impressed. They bowled me over this time. The stage went dark and the overhead screen began a countdown before assaulting us with horror clips, the backing track reaching a heart-stopping crescendo before the lights went back on, revealing Juke Royal in all their glory. Then they began…
Their first song, which I assume was called “Smile at danger” was a treat, with a strong bass opening, backed up by keys. Dayne Malan is a real gem, working the keyboard and the guitar like a demon. The effect of the keys tied everything together, and without it I highly doubt the music would’ve rendered the same positive effect. Rob Smith (with a name like that you have no choice but to become a rock star) sounds a bit like Anthony Green and Claudio Sanchez and has a relatively easy stage presence, bass guitar in hand. The majority of their tracks impressed me, and I found it difficult to crit their performance. It was all so much more potent than their previous work. I basked in the melody of “Saturday Night” and the solid beat of the drums made way for the clash of guitars and bass that seemed to mesh so perfectly. Juke Royal proved that musicians are a deadly aphrodisiac, judging from the reactions of the female members of the audience. There was the issue of sound during their performance, with feedback make its presence known in a rather painful, screeching manner. They also played a very sexy little number, designed to get the hormones pumping. Rob Smith cradled that bass like he was about to make love to it, which only encouraged the crowd. Jonathan Searle is a wonder on lead guitar as is Luke Godfrey on drums. Their set was tight and showed a maturity and professionalism to their performance that I did not expect at all. If they sounded that good live, I can’t wait to hear the album.