Querencia – a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self
Just a mere month ago I discovered a bunch of guys on stage that blew my musical mind to bits. Brynn captivated my soul at Up the Creek with their powerhouse performance, musical magic and array of deep rooted lyrics. They demand connection to their audience, they require attention and Brynn is currently securing fans everywhere they seem to trail.
Brynn’s aptly titled debut album Querencia is in my possession for review. I imagine my current feeling resembles as one who is in possession of gold. Not only my excitement, but my expectation levels reached a standard I was weary these guys would not touch base with. They took those presumptions by the collar, grabbed on and surpassed all preconceived notions with flying colors.
Unvarnished is the one word description I would utter about this album. The richly textured lyrics, the finely executed musical genius of this quintet, rounded off with well mended talent, all poured into a raw blend of arrangements leads to an album I can binge upon. Unvarnished means straightforward, not covered and I feel this describes Querencia as a whole. The album possesses an attractive purity that leaves me at ease to repeat these songs, loud.
Each song structured on this album, places me in a different range of the emotional palette. Some with harder rock infusion , some with softer ballads which ensures a more vulnerable state of mind. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen such a strong line up of musicians come together to create The Quan.
Please don’t judge my current need to refer to the classic Tom Cruise movie, Jerry Maguire. The scene where Cuba Gooding Jnr. stands naked in the locker room and tries to explain the meaning of the word quan to Tom Cruise. Armed with an expressive face and matching hand gestures, Cuba utters,“ It means love, respect, community and the dollars too. The entire package. The Quan.”
Brynn certainly contains The Quan in my humble opinion. This album secures a deep love for the tender reflection they display in the plethora of arrangements to form this piece of gold. Respect has been earned in a rather short space of time for each of these musicians. Jules Terea’s vocals contain an elemental edge and range that ensures the essential punch to Brynn as an entity. The rest of the members attains a strong performance signature that makes Brynn explosive live and on play. Dave van Vuuren on lead guitar displays finely crafted skills which lures in your being, combined with Hezron Chetty on violin who creates heart piercing crescendos. Alex Similie (bass) and Eddie Kriel (drums) compliments the whole attire in showcasing their need to push their boundaries in their selected crafts.
Exploding on the scene ferociously, Brynn has harnessed quite a community with their music, which is admirable in its own. The dollars is in the mix, because I do hope these guys take their career and make a proper living out of their talent, I would like to see them hang around the scene for quite some time. In short Brynn is the whole package, Th Quan.
I will single out 4 songs that I keep close to my heart and loud in my ear. Cotton Mind, Querencia, About Time and Almost Blind seals the deal to the epiphany of an album. Please make sure you make time to go see Brynn live, as I feel to truly appreciate this album you need to experience their dramatic performance for yourself.
Magical. EQUINOX 2018 definitely tops my list of festival experiences – the attention to detail, organisation and production was second to none. The intimate, recklessly abandoned crowd, together with the mystical venue created one truly enchanting atmosphere. The musical progression from techno to psytrance to progressive on a single stage is also not something I’ve seen before for a weekend event.
I’m going to approach this review a bit differently by trying to build on an analogy that was running through my mind constantly over the weekend. Lately I’ve seen a number of movies/series that have emphasised the enhancements of virtual reality (VR) and gaming – creating alternate worlds for us to explore and experience things we wouldn’t normally have access to. Well, perhaps it was just the recency of watching these shows, but throughout the weekend, all I was visualising was how the EQUINOX team had built an entire new world for us to explore and enjoy.
Video game and VR designers spend months designing their worlds; they have absolute freedom to create whatever they want. It’s all just 1s and 0s, thousands of lines of code, where they ultimately try to create a world that they feel you, the consumer, would get the most enjoyment out of. Well – this is exactly what the EQUINOX team did. Those woods were completely transformed. There were visual cues everywhere – from a massive chameleon in the trees to secreted deity faces sculpted onto random trees; small figurines scattered around the grounds to the immense eye of the stage. Countless artworks all contributing to building a unique environment for us.
Now, the best games often provide you with an open world – this is where the limits or boundaries of where you can explore aren’t easily perceivable and you have freedom to progress as you want. However there is always a singular theme or purpose that ties everything together. EQUINOX provided you with a similar freedom with the stage being the focal point and dancing being the main theme. You could go wandering in the forest, bounce on the jumping castle, laze in the ball pit, walk the tightropes, rejuvenate in the campsite, gaze up at a sky perfectly lit up with stars, interact with the numerous dogs – almost like in game critters, watch the fire dancers or just gambol about. All whilst being constantly drawn back to the stage where we had pure freedom to dance and let loose.
Each attendee could also create their own characters for the weekend. You could be anyone you want to be with no predefined culture fits to consider. Now, a lot of people find it easier to interact with others through the guise of a computer screen – here in this fantasy land there was no need to hide. There are none of the boundaries society seems to place on us that limit our interactions to those from our friendship circles or workplace – you could easily walk up to anyone and just start up a conversation. One of the key aspects to many games has to be the interaction with other characters; you can hear their tales, receive some knowledge or get clues on how to progress further.
I honestly think this was core to what made this event so special – everyone was freely communicating, constantly sharing stories and laughter, motivating one another, etc. This was aided by the incredible Funktion1 sound system – with more than enough volume and clarity for you to fully immerse yourself in the music, yet you’re still be able to hold a conversation with the person next to you. Quick side thought, while mentioning the music: so games also always have soundtracks right? Well, you could see the stage as providing us with an absolute treat of a soundtrack that was audible from anywhere on the grounds – a constant backtrack to our weekend.
All together this created an extraordinary unity in the crowd; one that provided everyone with a sense of comfort and freedom to be themselves and dance however they pleased. Why worry about how you’re dancing when everyone around you isn’t – zero judgement. We were all on that floor for one reason – to dance. The floor was also incredible spacious – allowing the crowd to easily move in an almost Brownian motion resulting in a constantly flowing dance floor full of energy. For instance, if you zoom into the cover photo for this review here, you can easily identify every single person in the crowd – all with faces of pure bliss. There was no more spending hours lost trying to find your mates.
I’m sure most of you know that EQUINOX also run their ticketing system with quite a unique invite code structure. This is were previous event attendees get a code that they can share with a few friends who will then be able to buy a tickets and in turn be able to invite their friends to the following event – building a network or tree of people (the concept behind the EQUINOX logo). This is also very similar to how a lot of games run their pre-release testing and allows the organisers/developers to track users and cultivate the experience to include only like-minded individuals and keep out any problem causers. The organisers were also actively engaging with the crowd over the weekend to build their own perceptions of their attendees with the goal of also implementing a reward system for those that help contribute to the quality of the experience.
There were also so many layers to the production – every aspect could be interpreted in many different ways. The most obvious being the stage: as a whole it was a huge eye, but each element of the eye was an artwork of its own – all working together to create a living stage. However, the visuals didn’t just give the impression the stage was moving, the quality and layers of effects gave it texture. It was almost as though you could reach out and touch it – the inner rings’ lashes ‘feeling’ like soft feathers.
Practically every game is designed to tell a story; to provide entertainment through a series of chapters and levels. Well, EQUINOX managed to curate their line-up in such a way that there was a constant progression of musical energy, going through different stages, with each set being provided by a new storyteller. A conglomeration of some of the best artists from around SA – featuring many names well known in the Joburg scene that we don’t often get to hear in Cape Town. And every single act playing utterly top-notch quality music – taking full advantage of the expertly tuned Funktion1 rig. The passion and dedication Dale and Hugo have for those speakers and programming them to sound the way they do is phenomenal.
We started off with Chapter One – an intro to the weekend initiated by a debut live set from VO who provided some ambient sounds that built into an amalgamation of deep and tech elements. This deep, techy progression continued through the afternoon/evening with artists Bameano, Patrick McCreanor (ES), Craig Shacid, Mogey and Daniella Da Silva each providing us with their unique styles that flowed perfectly between one another.
The evening peaked with Weekend Heroes (ISR) and Nick Grater bringing the slightly harder techno selections while Defuse and Bander & Lewis continued this, providing tracks for the more ‘industrial’ techno lovers. And closing off the first chapter, Erebus brought in some more melodic elements with his sound. All together, a chapter mostly focused on the different styles of deep house and techno.
And so began Chapter Two – my personal favourite. Things kicked off with LEEU who played a downtempo/chill set – easily adding an extra hour to the already 90 minute live set – something anyone that’s prepared a live set knows is no easy task. Almost providing a musical reset to the dancefloor and playing to a select few didn’t hamper LEEU from performing one of the most impressive sets of the weekend; a perfect backtrack to those chilling in and around their tents – easing everyone into the Saturday.
From here the day just escalated. Artists that usually play at night were playing morning and early afternoon sets, but the energy from the crowd allowed them to do as they pleased. These names speak for themselves: Wulfsohn, Ryan Hill, Mark Valsecchi, Stab Virus, Deadbeat FM and Stereotype all played an exquisite selection of absolutely powerful, banging techno. As a techno lover, I really couldn’t have asked for a more star studded lineup of local acts. Every layer and element of their tracks perfectly reproduced on the Funktion1 system – telling a constantly evolving aural story.
And even though the music was slightly slower than the trance most of the crowd were used to, everyone was easily able to find their own groove. Ending off the first half of our experience was a special techno set from internationals: Sawlead Ground (ISR). I could honestly write an entire paragraph on every artist that played this day, but to refrain from boring you with that detail I’ll blanket it as a chapter of sonic excellence and powerful, psychedelic techno.
Chapter Three – the beginning of the trance so many were waiting for. But first we had RoomMush who absolutely blew me away – seeing this man progress over the last few years has been incredible and he left no question that he is the king of the Minimal Psy genre in SA. He even played his new Crash Bandicoot Bootleg to add to my game analogy. From here we had Sawlead Ground (ISR) play their second set. The duo having spent a great deal of the event hanging out with festival attendees had a great connection with the crowd which was clearly evident in the way they interacted with and controlled the crowd – throughout both their sets.
And just like that the proper psychedelic trance had arrived. Positioned perfectly between the Israeli internationals we had the two main guys behind EQUINOX playing an incredible live set as Quantum Project. Timelock (ISR) and Gonzo then followed with some no holds barred trance kicking the energy in the crowd up to its definite apex. This all leading us, in under 6 hours from the end of the techno, into someone I personally rate at the forefront of the South African psytrance scene, Rubix Cube. And Kieron definitely gave the crowd exactly what they were waiting for – some full on psy madness. Closing off the psytrance focused chapter was Deliriant & Dan Scot – two names synonymous with quality psychedelic music.
And so we reached the final chapter of our euphonious journey – the progressive Sunday Funday. Phixius’ and Bongi’s energetic sets lured the crowd to the dancefloor and set a great tone for the day. This was followed by festival favourite and super enigmatic Portal building a truly electric atmosphere on the dancefloor. We then had 34° South playing a, as he describes, prog-monster set leading expertly into the Sunday Funday legend – HEADROOM. Having seen almost 10 sets from this man this season so far, I’m always in awe how he still manages to completely blow me away – both with his track selection and mixing – every single time. Watching him experiment with his mixing and his joy when it works is truly inspiring – a true master at his craft.
And finally we had German’s progressive maestro – Querox. He kicked things off in full throttle – breathing even more life into that dance floor with an incredible fusion of lyrics, synths and driving bass lines. And for those of us that made it through to the end, Querox even spoilt us with a bonus round! When he saw the Sunday crowd he told the organisers he’s playing an extra hour and a half – doubling his set length – and the organisers just couldn’t say no. It’s not everyday an act of this size has the opportunity to play for such an intimate crowd – it was a truly emotional experience.
One of the aspects of a festival I, and most people I know, always struggle with is when the sound cuts. Most of the time we have a massive artist closing, playing a full power set – and then it just ends. Music off. Crowd chants possibly get an encore or two and we’re mostly left feeling slightly dumbstruck – not knowing exactly what’s going on. Well, not at EQUINOX – we were spoilt with an emotional progressive journey in which Querox eased us down – only ending at 8pm on the Sunday evening!
But an event like this doesn’t just happen – it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, planning and mostly passion. Everyone involved with the organisation and running of the event are absolute experts in their fields – logistics, venue, sound, visuals, etc. The sheer amount of preparation the organisers put in is also definitely worth mentioning; building an entire new ablution block with mesmerizing views of the landscape while you showered, two new bridges over the empty river bed (probably the only thing I could think could make the event better is this being full of water, but since it’s a seasonal river there’s not much that can be done to help this) connecting the festival area and the camping site as well as the ridiculous stage build that took weeks of on site development. The venue was also kept perfectly clean; constantly having cleaners walking around, picking up stompies from the dancefloor, emptying bins, etc that kept the venue looking immaculate.
And finally, to Ryan, Jéan and rest of the EQUINOX team – thank you. It was an absolute honour to be a part of this magical event. I look forward to seeing how your concept and goals for the event play out over the next 5 years at this magical venue!
Ever so slightly I shift my feet from side to side in anticipation, palms sweaty, heart palpitations fire up a notch, stomach butterflies, an amalgamation of physical signals goes through my whole body in mental preparation for what is about to happen next. In the mounting moments I know I will be seeing a band live, one I’ve dreamed of seeing.Still, I remember the first night my mother made me sit in front of those brown Kenwood speakers to hear Claire Johnson belt out perfect vocals. Here I was, aged 33, finally to experience all that energy and talent in action. Continue reading About a certain Creek…
Hectic. There’s no point denying it – that was a rough weekend. Heat, cold, sandstorms, a torrential downpour – we had it all. What was, only a few years ago, a lush landscape next to SA’s largest dam, was now a barren, dusty badland. But what an atmosphere the setting created… It’s always been a dream of mine to attend some of the massive international psy festivals such as Boom, Ozora, Doof, etc and it felt like this weekend gave us a tiny taste of what those events would be like. Continue reading REVIEW: Rez Fest NYE 2017 – 2018
Still buzzing from the phenomenal experiences at the We Love Summer stage at Daisies, I got a strange sense of excitement when someone told me to go have a look at We Love Summer’s website for details on their season opener – before things were released on Facebook. As I hoped – We Love Summer was returning to Blue Rock! My first ever WLS, and still my favourite to date, was at Blue Rock and walking out of last year’s ‘Final Blue Rock’ was slightly emotional, but the trek (somehow I always forget there isn’t a path on the right, through the top bushes, and end up bundu bashing) down this weekend felt idyllic.
Last One Alive are relatively new to the Cape Town and South African music scene, however this project has been over 2 years in the making, and comprises of a super group of local musicians with a wealth of experience to their name. Even though they are relatively new, they have already won a SAMMA (South African Metal Music Award) for their music video for their single ‘Kiss the Ground‘.
Nestled behind a dune, a few meters from the sea, Endless Daze is an intimate venue spoilt for choice, where I got to see the bloody OH SEES!
There is nothing better than a small festival done right. For a small stage, the quality of sound complimented every artist that performed. They had killer playlists for the change over’s between sets that featured artists such as Kurt Vile, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club to name a few, which kept the crowd happily waiting for the next set.
A quick tent set up in a small campsite, a stone throw away from the main area and stage, made for a weekend of utter convenience. You forgot your smokes, needed to quickly change into something warm, craving a quick jump in the salty ocean, or were struggling to walk straight, nothing was too far or difficult to find. It seemed to be a familiar crowd of old friends all coming together from different parts of Cape Town and even a few that left the coup to Gauteng to party and appreciate live music. I felt like I knew most of the people there, so if you lost one friend for a certain period of time you were probably with another friend that you haven’t seen in a couple of months or years.
The fact that the venue is not too far from Cape Town was a game changer, we left straight after work post the Friday traffic, knowing we would soon be enjoying sets of psychedelic rock with a cold beer in hand.
Having not seen most of these bands live, I was in my element, listening with live virgin ears. The fact that Retro Dizzy’s lead guitarist still managed to perfectly stay in sync with the band whilst performing acrobatic acts kaalgat, was commendable and a joyous spectacle. Fridays International act was Moon Duo. Embarrassingly so, I had not heard about them until the festival, but I felt like they were constantly transporting me through a psychedelic wormhole and I wasn’t complaining.
Cutting the music at 2 am on Friday didn’t phase many people, because it forced everyone to be fresh for the early Saturday line up. It was a festival where you could find a comfy spot or a nifty four post hammock and chat with your buddies whilst enjoying the live music. The weather was delightful and many people took to the beach for a salty swim or just a moment to relax in the sun on the Saturday.
Sunset is always a tricky timeslot to get right, but my god did Psych Night kill it with the powerful embrace of Amy Ayanda’s performance. I don’t know Amy Ayanda well, but that womxn held that crowd like no other local artist at this festival to a point that I felt like I did. I didn’t want her set to end. I am too excited to witness the continuous success of this wonderful performer. Amy was bloody mind blowing, possibly the best local performance of the festival if I had to single out one.
This photograph encapsulates the culture of the weekend for me. It was a place to come and appreciate live music with your mates. The festival gave me a sense of it being run by a group of people who have a deep passion for live music who wanted to share and enjoy it with their friends. This photo is an overlap of two friends chatting at Endless Daze with an action shot of the Floors Live set at the electro dome at Daisies. Daisies keep up with the contemporary, but the personalized feel and the live rock culture that Endless Daze succeeded in creating is one of the many successes that Rocking the Daisies has lots over the past few years and is lacking so much.
The chilled listening culture of the weekend was definitely interrupted by certain artists, where one had to stand up in appreciation and rock with the music. One of those definitely being Amy Ayanda, but BLK JKS was a set for moving and grooving. I even had to abruptly end a conversation to go watch their electrifying charm.
The Saturday international act was the OH SEES. Never have I ever seen two drummers on a stage, perfectly in sync and on point. The small intricate melodies amongst the pleasant repetitiveness acted as a lure for my ears in between my constant headbanging. The complexity of their sound is pure genius and the fact that Audio Pimps were able to create a kick-ass sound rig to compliment their sound, a gnarly double thumbs up!
It was a lot of fun having the After Hours set at the end of the night, to wean the crowd off from the Saturday line up, but it would have been better if the Saturday night could have only closed around 4 am. The majority of the crowd were still pumped up from the great Saturday line up and still keen for more music, so we just hung around after the music cut off, talking crap until the tiredness kicked in… I wished that the Psych Night organizers gave us a little more time to wind down.
Endless Daze was a great success. I can only wish for another, hoping they keep it small and continue with the culture of live acts. Thank you Endless Daze, see you in 2018!
Getting down to the nitty-gritty of Psych Night’s Endless Daze festival… There’s few question that one has to ask yourself regarding the current setup and the future of the festival by Ashley Brown.
How sustainable is the Endless Daze brand?
From watching their team shuffle some cooking oil, food coloring and water in-between some glass kitchenware for visuals and making use of a very small pool of artists in small local venues like Mercury Live & Aandklas Stellenbosch to being engulfed into South Africa’s most finely polished music festival.
Looking at the sustainability I always admired Psych Night for their efforts but I was skeptical about the success of the brand in a long-term, not because their hearts weren’t in the right place but mere the trendiness of the handful of attendees when they moved to bigger venues like Klein Libertas & The Assembly… I wondered if the brand wouldn’t become like many Bree Street restaurants – super successful till everyone has had their share on Instagram posts and the next trendy spot pops up.
Foundations, friendships, and the psychedelic cult.
Sitting at my tent this year, I hardly knew the exact timings of the performances except for a handful of acts like Retro Dizzy, Medicine Boy, Mr. Cat & The Jackal, Dangerfields, The Valley, The Tazers and After Hours a neighboring campsite came to introduce themselves and handed some Mary Jane to whoever wanted.
It’s at this time when I could draw a comparison between the organizers of the festival, their ways of life and the sponsors they’ve involved. Psych Night is a collective that host events celebrating psychedelic rock in South Africa and the inspiration thereof. The brand was conceived by a group of like-minded friends all involved in expanding this love to the South African music Scene. They haven’t only built a love for or discovered and taken the managerial ownership of a genre but they’ve built a culture around it.
Each member plays such a critical part of the Psych Night Mark the visual artist and one of the first to travel to Austin Psych Fest, Micah playing more of an admin role in the team, Andre mainly seen as the face of their brand within the festival organizing circuit due to his involvement in one of South Africa’s psych rock influenced bands before the days we could identify the genre The Pretty Blue Guns, Raoul the famous tattoo artist and another leader of psych rock & Simon the guy behind some of the most trendy not only South African illustrations and posters but international as well.
It took them four years to put together their first festival and five years to cement in their brand’s future.
Will Psych Night grow their festival to the size of an OppiKoppi, Rocking The Daisies, etc?
As a festival attendee, I seriously don’t hope so as a fan of the brand and hoping for some more elaborate bookings that must South African rockers could dream about like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of The Stone Age – I hope so. The question is, will Endless Daze be able to maintain their authenticity and true love for music if they do grow their size to double or more the current size? I highly doubt Endless Daze is a product that was born to bring tons of money to the pocket of the owners and it can be seen and felt through the people they attract and the passion that is emitted in all aspects of the festival.
Is the demand for psych rock in South Africa sustainable for years to come?
Undoubtedly, would the demand of the genre rapidly grow outside of the current borders of fans that haven’t been involved with Psych Night’s 5-year journey, most likely not, but they could attract the rockers out there looking to OppiKoppi and Rocking the Daisies for rock n roll acts and reminiscing RAMfest. Thee Oh Sees were the most bad ass rock n roll act I’ve seen in years better than Foo Fighters live and really challenging my personal favorite rock act Biffy Clyro. I really hope that Psych Night will try and open their borders a bit more by booking more rock acts without losing their soul.
Come to think of it, they’ve come to a point in their industry where I think they could book any international act they feel would represent them because we as music listeners have come to know them as some of the very best curators – Endless Daze 2017 was one of the most perfectly crafted line-ups from beginning to end.
How big of a role does the location of the festival play?
Due to the target market of the festival, I feel that the festival’s layout plays an absolutely crucial role, most festival attendees were young professionals who are financially stable yet haven’t started settling down yet and the mere fact that one could leave after your work on Friday and still enjoy the majority of the festival after setting up tent and then have a small trip back to Cape Town so that you’re freshened up for work the following Monday is a massive bonus.
Art and music and was Endless Daze able to let their finishing touches bring the festival experience together?
Mutualism the cornerstone of Endless Daze, from the layout, the size, the installations, the bar sizes, the ergonomics,
Have I as a rocker fallen involve with Psych Night to the point that I cannot see it’s minor flaws?
Undoubtedly, yes… Endless Daze is the best and true supporter of live music and possibly the only festival who passionately and spiritually support the live music industry and I believe that their attendees will not support them if they were too severe of course. Although it’s easy to overlook some of the minor critics I have there are a few elements that could be bettered: Firstly the entertainment duration, ending off a night at 2 am is just not enough although bars would probably be forced to close at 2 am I would love entertainment to carry on till 4am and second although I tasted some of the best festival food to date at Endless Daze 2017 it felt like the stalls weren’t able to supply the demand of a number of people – especially that amazing falafel wrap stall.
Francois, Wynand, Hunter, Johnny, and Snake have delivered another album so perfectly crafted and relevant to the time of its release, just like they always have when we were still teenagers – angry and desperate to find ourselves.
We don’t have to shy our faces when people talk about being Afrikaans, there’s only a handful of Afrikaners holding onto racism and apartheid – we’ve shown the middle fingers to our parent’s ways, the wrongs in Christianity and we’ve formed our own persona’s in the new South Africa. We aren’t pissed off anymore, we are proud of who we’ve become! Continue reading [REVIEW] FPK – Selfmedikasie: The result of our youth!
Winter Vortex. With the season having ended roughly a month ago, the hype that built for Phoenix: Festival of Fire was insane. Every seasoned trancer I know has been telling me about Winter Vortex for as long as I can remember and this year I knew it was about time I made the mission and attended. Continue reading Vortex: Phoenix Festival of Fire 2017
The first thing to deal with is the wool in your mouth, the indelicate gunk that’s apparently sealed your mouth and eyes shut – as if your body knows that waking up is not advisable and has unsuccessfully moved to prevent the bad decision. But, the noon-time sunlight has already rooted you out, so you enter the land of the living anyway. It’s the slight pang of guilt that’s gotten you – or at least that’s what always gets me – the fact that you’ve slept through another perfectly good morning due to the raucous night had till 3 am.
Next thing to deal with is that same light – it hits you when you open your eyes and you realise that, yes, you have apparently made it home in one piece – though you may not remember just exactly how.
Then there’s the slight dizziness, the still aching body, the dirty clothes from the night before which all come together to cement the definition of this morning: hungover. Very much so. But, was it worth it? Hell yeah. Cuz last night, you saw one of the best things you’d ever seen; one of the gigs that you know is gonna stick with you for a while. Cuz it reminded you what music is about.
That’s what seeing The Medicine Dolls live was like. See, they’re a band that gets it. They get what it’s all about.
Frontman Greg Allan takes to the stage with an animalistic prowess, demanding attention by the mere fact of his existence. Exuding energy in all directions, as if his tentacular hair were the source of an artistic electricity, the dude commands the room like a Glam-Punk Jesus, wielding his guitar like a weapon in defense of all the shit the weird kids hoped they’d see when they were finally old enough to get into clubs like the one the band would be blowing up tonight.
Tonight the mainstream dries up.
Alt-culture takes to the stage and pushes the thermostat up to its peak – threatening to blow its gauges, flood every available orifice, as every person in the room sets their sites on a single goal – making this night one to remember.
As ever-ready, ever-epic drummer Anro Femurs bashes out his part with precise strokes and bassist Bex Nicholas (Arabella) gives me all the feminist energy I could ever need, the band plays on with a power that deconstructs the boundaries of the space. The trio creates an interactive system reminiscent of all the shots of punk and post-punk gigs we millennial revivalists wish we could’ve been in in the 70’s and 80’s. Dead Kennedys, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Slits live. Performers jumping on and off stage – into the crowd – drinks flowing, energy flashing in all directions. A concept we thought was bygone – revived in a small, dark room in Cape Town.
Guys. Punk /Post-punk is alive and well. Bands like these prove it.
So, have a listen to The Medicine Dolls’ new single – “Excuse Me Misbehaviour” – below:
Seriously, you gotta check these guys out. Like a really good friend of mine declared on said the hungover morning after: “It’ll change your brain.”
The Curious Incident are a unique success story of how two musicians from different sides of the world managed to find each other in England via the way of the Netherlands and come to form a band that would carve out their own little niche in the Brit-pop movement. The Curious Incident is a combination of a vocalist and guitarist from South Africa, known was Kairo, and a drummer from Indonesia, known as Diaz.
My first exposure to the band was in the form of their EP Penny Lonesome and the tour of South Africa that was spawned from that release. The band has somehow managed to constantly tour South Africa and find a unique place in the local music scene. This could be that they don’t seem to be much bigger than most of South Africa’s indie bands and can comfortably fit onto most tour line-ups without having to charge fans an arm and a leg to see them. Their EP was a jangling burst of Brit-pop and came from a time where Brit-pop, and indie rock, was focused on producing music with pronounced guitar riffs and jangling melodies.
Their latest single “Behaviour Saviour” sees them moving away from this kind of song structure and rather embracing something that is much more laid-back with tropical overtones. A lot of the single puts me in mind of the tropical dancehall indie-pop that La Roux delivered with Trouble In Paradise, but with a lot more guitars and a lot less synth. The guitar work takes on a much more intricate style and is often punctuated by neatly constructed guitar works. Diaz’s drumming has a lot more rhythm to it than previous releases and this gives the song a foot-stomping kind of energy while still sticking to quite a subdued atmosphere. It is the kind of song that you would just lightly sway to while occasionally breaking into frenzied dancing.
You Me At Six had a career built on defining the adolescent angst of emo teens on the back end of the mid-2000s emo movement. Pop punk and post-hardcore was being replaced with edgy alt-rock and mainstream metalcore. It was in here that You Me At Six gained traction and success with the new wave of emo kids who gravitated to a strange spectrum of easy-listening yet edgy alt -rock and angst-ridden metalcore that was dripping with just the right amount of abrasive riffs and screamo influences. Their first three albums positioned the band in the middle of this spectrum with their simplistic edgy alt-rock formula and occasional leanings towards metalcore influences. They even got Oli Sykes and Winston McCall to feature on songs in order to give them credibility with the edgier emo kids.
Fast forward to 2014, You Me At Six had just got their first number 1 album in the UK with the release of Cavalier Youth. The band performed a complete turn-around with their music and delivered a radio-friendly stadium rock album that would change the course of their career. The album saw them refining their songwriting and their entire approach to creating music. It was possibly the strongest album that they had released, until now. You Me At Six has just released their fifth studio album Night People – a dark and gritty stadium rock album that truly sees the band coming into their element.
They are at that stage in their career where they are finally finding their groove and defining their sound. This is apparent from how their songwriting has greatly improved since their debut album. That obviously comes with gaining experience but if the band had continued to purse writing angsty alternative rock they would have stuck to the lyrical tropes of love and failed romances that defined their earlier music. At face value, Night People would seem to be about nightlife in the UK, but upon deeper inspection – Night People delivers a multifaceted examination of the darker aspects of human existence. Lyrical themes hint at the doubt that is intrinsic to human existence, the darker thoughts that plagued the night hours, and they even tackle relationship problems with fine-tuned maturity.
The album opens on a gritty and loud note with title track “Night People” delivering a burst of loud stadium rock that has clearly been designed to induce mass singalongs with its meaty drumming and soaring choruses. It opens the album on a strong note and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Namely that this album is going to be wall-to-wall alternative rock designed for wooing major arenas. Intricate melodies and neatly constructed guitar riffs dripping with the grit of the London nightlife dominate the album on songs like “Heavy Soul” and “Swear”. These are neatly complemented by Josh Franeschi’s dynamic vocals which easily switch between melodic, soulful croonings and edgier alt-rock snarls.
However, Night People is not just a rowdy alt-rock album. It has a softer side that comes out on songs like “Take On The World” and “Give” which see You Me At Six pursuing a much softer sound as acoustic guitars and piano melodies come out to support Francheschi’s vocals. However, “Give” fades into electric guitar parts and this shows how dynamic You Me At Six can be as a band. They have several songs on Night People that transition from softer, melodic sections straight into bawdy stadium-rock singalongs. It is this dynamic that shows that they are a band truly in their prime.
From the Old Biscuit Mill to the Old Castle Brewery, Woodstock is a suburb never seen without bustle on a bright Saturday afternoon. It was, therefore, surprising that what should have been a day out for the whole of Cape Town’s summer-body populace was instead a poorly attended showcase of brilliant artists without a muse.
Mother City Live was held on the 26th of November at Trafalgar Park in Woodstock, or so it seemed. Despite the well-organized and enthusiastic event staff, the largest audience that this event would see was only around one hundred people strong – and that was nearly midnight. This lack of numbers was amplified by the fact that the venue was simply miles too big for the turnout.
Carrying the burden of this slow start, The Liminals were keen to unite the drips and drabs of scattered festival-goers in their bass-heavy, moody funk – and they were taking no prisoners. The talented front-man and backup vocals contributed seamlessly to the synergy of blues, bringing with it a wave of sound best suited to sunset. It was only a pity, then, that their set was scheduled so early, so as to fade away against the background of the blazing heat and a small crowd of ten.
Good music and good food are often coupled together, and in the mother city, this should be no exception. Unfortunately, Mother City Live fell short here again, offering very few food choices and all very far-removed from the main festival area. The bar area, small and poorly cordoned-off, was similarly not suited to accommodate for crowds, and it is with this information that one wonders whether or not the organisers anticipated many attendees or not. In between the food court and music area were the lonely tables of two to three artists, whose works, undoubtedly beautiful, would mingle only with one another for lack of new discourse. While these factors cannot solely be blamed for the overall poor turnout, they must nonetheless be taken into account. Warm beer never made a happy hipster.
Where other features failed, music came to the rescue. With sounds like Janice and Lana Crowster mixing in with Opposite the Other, good energy and variety were the words of the day. When it comes to attracting the largest crowd, the likes of Tehn Diamond must be accredited with the opening of the faucet. Introducing a sound that was pure energy and shamelessly black, the trio succeeded in opening the floodgates to what seemed like the beginning of the event. It is a great task that stands before any band that must open for the main act, and Tehn Diamond did not hold back in ticking any of the boxes. It was by the end of this performance that the MCs handed over the audience, whose eyes glittered with the colours of Africa, to Jimmy Nevis.
It is one thing to be introduced as constituting the main act, and another entirely to act as such. Jimmy Nevis succeeded in laying the lights for his own runway, guiding the plane safely and taking off into the air with splendour, energy and poise. A performer at heart, Jimmy succeeded in capturing the audience as if each individually by the hand, whispering sweet nothings into their ear and allowing them the favour of calling his name into the night.
It was therefore with a heavy heart that the talented and upbeat Grassy Spark saw only half of the audience remain for their performance. Diverse in sound and teaming with eclectic energy, the two front-men took no notice of this slight and continued to entertain, with the comfortability and ease of a band practice in the garage.
The night was still far from over, and many more artists such as Phresh Clique and Simmysimmynya graced the stage, regrouping the audience for the final few acts, ended with a bang by DJ Diggy Bongz. Even this was not enough, and it was with light feet and bright eyes that festival-goers skipped their way into town to various unofficial and official after parties.
There are rough patches – plenty of them. The venue needed some second thought; the food needed a major boost and the bar: some market research. Improvement in these areas is sorely needed, but with those few changes, I am confident that this festival will go to new heights to unite and showcase great African talent. While it can definitely not be called an Arts festival at this stage, Mother City Live 2016 was a big reminder to all that as long as the music is good, everything else can be excused.
The first time I encountered Veladraco was when they opened for Tweak’s 10 year reunion tour at The Assembly. I was exhausted after a long week at university and was probably only there because Tweak was a defining part of my childhood. I had arrived there just before Veladraco took to the stage and had plonked myself and my girlfriend on those leather couches that lined the back wall. Those couches were actually insanely comfortable and will be forever missed. As soon as Veladraco finished their first song, I said to myself: “this is my new favourite local band” and it was probably because they embodied everything that I love about pop-punk and more specifically a style of pop-punk that I lovingly call “shitty pop-punk” – a brilliant style of pop punk that abandons polished sounds in favour of authenticity, honesty and sheer rawness of emotion.