Coming to the realization that the Cape Town summers are soon coming to an end is super depressing, the time is now to get out and while you do that, why not support our awesome local talent?
Photos and words by Cathelynne Walker
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.
This year was probably one of the strongest years for South Africa music. There were so many consistently brilliant releases over the course of the year and there is a very good chance that we left many out by limiting it to 15, but we’ll never be completely right. Anyway, this is probably one of our final posts for the year and we just wanted to say thank you to all our readers for sticking by us throughout the year. It is because of all of you, and the love for music, that we keep doing what we are doing and we hope to do it even better next year. Have a fantastic festive season.
1. Grassy Spark – Portal
I do this thing each year where I like to predict which local band will leap forward in terms of success, and it usually always comes true. Last year, I predicted that Al Bairre will leap into mainstream success, and they did. This year I predicted that Grassy Spark would have the same fate and with their headline local slot at Rocking The Daisies, their opening for UB40 and their stunning debut album Portal – I would like to think I was right once again. Craig Roxburgh
2. Past Haunts – Afterthoughts
Past Haunts never fails to impress me with their stunning fusion of emo, punk and post-hardcore elements. Afterthoughts was an EP that I just kept coming back to for its rich lyrical content and its anguish-laden sonic landscape. Craig Roxburgh
3. Peasant – III: No Love
It seems to have been a universally brilliant year for hardcore releases. It is like the deities controlling the hardcore scene said “let there be more great hardcore then one could possibly handle”, and that just seemed to trickle down into South Africa with the release of Peasant’s vitriol-laden EP. Angular, snarling guitars, groovy bass riffs and pent-up aggression is the name of the game with this EP. Craig Roxburgh
4. Veladraco – Veladraco
Veladraco only just released their self-titled EP and they’ve already receive a shout-out from AKA and made it to the top of 5FM Indie Chart. The band skipped into my heart with their aloof pop-punk melodies, clever song-writing and repressed adolescent angst. Craig Roxburgh
5. Caroline Leisegang – Simple Circles
Classical music isn’t exactly a booming genre in South Africa but Caroline Leisegang’s latest release managed to slip into my radar with her minimalistic approach to composing. Her simple yet beautiful melodies are steeped in emotional depth and I can guarantee that they shall improve your productivity immensely. Craig Roxburgh
6. Gavin and Krehan – The New Dope
Gavin and Krehan may be newcomers to the rap game, but as their EP title suggests: they are the new dope. The New Dope is a raw, honest exploration of anxiety and depression – something that many rap artists don’t do. Craig Roxburgh
7. Black Math – Death, Existing & Other Joys Of Life
Black Math only just released this and it already shot straight into my Top 20 with its chaotic fusion of punk and psych-rock. Black Math is just more proof that Durban is becoming a hotbed for local talent. Craig Roxburgh
8. The Liminals – Come Closer
Infectious beats – check. Groovy basslines – check. Funky guitar work – check. The Liminals have everything you need to get through the blazing heat of summer and feel good about it. Come Closer radiates with talent. Craig Roxburgh
9. Made For Broadway – Life Lessons
Pop punk is everything for me, and Made For Broadway managed to deliver the purest, most distilled version of pop punk possible with Life Lessons. Punchy four-chord riffs and semi-hardcore breakdowns dominate the album while the lyrics teeter between introspective musings and wild parodies. Craig Roxburgh
10. ISO – Polydimension
2016 heralded the arrival of ISO’s Polydimension: An album of tasteful musical integrity and complexity. The album balances the difficult line between catchiness and progressiveness, complexity and memorability, technicality and atmosphere. This album speaks through all of its instrumentalists and the vocalist and gives us musical variety that does more than tick boxes- they make new ones. The band masterfully jumps from heavier to light tones in order to create atmospheres that are delicate and intimate, yet create riffs that are worthy of a heavy metal band and combine it with jazz-like drumming. ISO’s Polydimension is an album of the year because it brings intelligence, integrity, emotional depth and a fresh sound to South Africa’s growing music scene. Matthew Fuller
11. Dangerfields – Embers
Embers is a gorgeous piece of post-punk with its angular guitar riffs and synth tones that ebb and flow like the tide of the ocean. It is an EP that is so easy to get lost in and is the perfect match for a hazy summer day. Craig Roxburgh
12. Hezron Chetty – The Fallacy of Composition
Hezron Chetty is possibly one the most unique and interesting artists to come out of South Africa in a long time. His ability to generate the aggression and energy of punk music with a violin captivated me upon the release of his debut album. Craig Roxburgh
13. The Shabeen – Folk Is Dead
Folksy punk rock is the name of the game on The Shabeen’s new album. Rowdy punk singalongs are juxtaposed next to poetic musings that rival that of Frank Turner. The band even took a pretty socially conscious move by renaming themselves to The Shabs in light of the connotations carried by “The Shabeen”.
14. Ohgod! – Forest Feuds
Without any vocals, Ohgod! managed to weave a complex tapestry of emotion through their use of intricate, needling guitar work layered over abrasive bass riffs and snarling licks of guitar. Their focus on the complexity and intricacies of their music is what allows them to elicit such deep emotional responses.
15. All We’ve Known – Human Nature
All We’ve Known is a young up-and-coming band from Port Elizabeth who are not afraid of hard work and it shows clearly in their debut EP release with their crisp sound and progressive tunes. Electronicore has not been around for that long nor has it been popular in South Africa, but
Human Nature is one of the first quality products to endorse this fun-loving, bouncing hardcore sound locally.With catchy, jumping techno beats, heartfelt lyrics and musical talent for days, this is well worth a listen. Turn it up to 11 and enjoy the rage! James Robert
Photo by Christelle-Duvenage
BalconyTV has been making a name for itself over the past four years in Johannesburg with some tremendous performances that are recorded and then published online for the world to see. The brand shall be bring their winning formula to Cape Town for the first time ever on 15 December with a stellar line-up consisting of Grassy Spark, Thieve, Young Hands and Well Done Sun. The show shall take place at Blah-Blah Bar with its stunning view of Table Mountain and the City Bowl making it a perfect venue for such an event. South African Music Scene is teaming up with BalconyTV to give away five sets of double tickets to this prestigious event. Just comment below with your favourite band on the line-up and the tickets could be yours!
More info regarding the event can be found here. Here is Grassy Spark’s recent Parkwood sessions recording of their new single “Feel It” if you need any convincing.
Mother City Live are delivering one of the most diverse line-ups we have ever seen next week Saturday with their exquisite Mother City Live Arts Experience. The line-up featuring the likes of Grassy Spark, Opposite The Other, Dope Saint Jude, Youngsta, Audiojerk and much more brings together ska, reggae, hip-hop, alt-pop and EDM onto a single stage for a glorious day festival of art, food and music. Mother City Live has hooked us up with two sets of five tickets to giveaway. The entry requirements are simple: comment below with why you and your squad deserve to hit up this musical extravaganza. You must also join the event on Facebook to qualify for an entry.
We’re gearing up for one amazing weekend with UB40 & Grassy Spark, grab a ticket before it sells out! Continue reading UB40 South Africa 2016
Photo by Aaron Polikoff
Mother City Live is brewing up a storm, going all out to live up to its claim of being Cape Town’s most diverse food and arts festival.
Photographs by Aaron Polikoff
The journey to Cloof Wine Estate has become something of a pilgrimage; Rocking the Daisies an annual October ritual for the vast majority of music loving millennials. The festival has raised the bar consistently and astutely over the years, their greening initiatives stoically kept, and the sheer magnitude increasing every spring.
It’s a Thursday now, eleven years down the line, a less-than-comfortable breeze is blowing and by 4pm it has manifested itself into a howling gale. This has done nothing to deter the masses from arriving in droves. A winding snake of cars is visible as far as the eye can see; the campsite is crawling with tents battling the wind and a line of rainbow flags fringing the dam flap furiously. The brand new Bridges for Music stage is bravely pumping out electro beats while echoing thwacks announce the Campsite Stage sound check. Rocking the Daisies, it’s good to see you again.
I can only brave the icy wind long enough to catch The Tazers’ rollicking psych-rock extravaganza. Within minutes the Joburg-hailing rockers have riled the crowd into a mosh-pit mood and I dodge flailing heads and elbows for a good half hour before heading back to camp.
Friday dawns, chilly but bright, and a wander into the now open main arena reveals just how much the festival has expanded. The Green Village has been transformed into an open, vibrant trading zone, quaintly decorated with hanging plants and adorned in temporary thickets of shoulder-high trees. About 20 people are exuberantly hula hooping, and to the left you can cycle up a smoothie. The Superbalist activation station offers both bedazzlement and rope swings, while the Main Stage area is massive, a flapping roof of multicoloured flags forming the striking backdrop. I choose to give Red Tape Riot’s slightly underwhelming quintessential set a miss after one song, but Diamond Thug usher me back with their charming tunes the moment they take to the stage. Chantel Van T is a darling in over-sized rose-coloured glasses and lilting vocals. Their set is slick and slips past with effortless grace.
Several hours later finds me shouldering my way to the railing in anticipation of Native Young. This is their second year gracing the Main Stage and with both an album and a European tour under their belts the African-psycadelic-pop outfit has been high on my schedule since they were announced. Armed with marimbas, bongo drums and an array of guitars, they proceed to play a captivating set of deliciously groovy tracks until they are cut prematurely short by the adamant sound guys.
The Hemp Stage is alive and electric and I arrive just in time for the tail-end of Wandile Mbambeni’s charmingly bouncing set. He’s followed by Well Done Sun, whose unfortunate technical difficulties are offset by their eclectic melodies and satisfying tempo changes.Back at Main Stage Mac Miller is late and pretty underwhelming. I have secured myself a sideline vantage point and stay for all of three songs before turning away. It’s icy, and even the promise of Das Kapital can’t keep me from my tent.
Saturday is off to a slow start and the dismally chill wind prevails. The Lemon Tree Theatre provides some shelter and belly laughs courtesy of Deep Fried Man and his collection of droll parodies. Now it’s 2pm and Matthew Mole has raked in one of the biggest daytime crowds the Main Stage has enjoyed thus far. Backed on drums by Josh Klynsmith (Gangs of Ballet) he powers through his set with the gentle confidence of a musician still slightly perplexed at the attention he has received. His stage presence is undeniable. His performance is unrivalled. The crowd know every word, shriek delightedly when his dad joins him on stage, and roar as he concludes explosively: balancing a water-soaked drum on the hands of the audience and proceeding to beat it till the final note.
An hour later I am back for Hugh Masekela, worming my way into an impassioned crowd as Bra Hugh, slightly stooped but fiery-eyed as ever, soaks us in a glorious collection of deeply African songs. “Welcome to the township furnace!” he calls halfway through his set, and we roar in jubilant return. This performance is a treat of note.
The sun drops and the temperature with it. After donning the necessary multiple layers of clothing, I proceed to divest myself of them as Crimson House’s Hemp Stage performance spins the audience into a frenzy of fun. Abandoning them halfway through we skid into the packed Main Stage crowd just in time to catch Mango Groove’s final tracks. It’s over 30 years down the line and Claire Johnson has lost none of her verve. The pennywhistle is as sharp as ever, the energy is electric and the crowd, old and young, knows almost every word.
It comes as no surprise that Grassy Spark proceeds to play one of the most riveting performances of the entire festival. These guys know how to make a crowd move and they stop at nothing to get there. They are on fire from the moment they step onto stage, brimming and overflowing with unparalleled energy. Khaos Cotterall and Rudebobobos (The Rudimentals) saunter on only to add to flaming sparks, and by the end of the set I half wonder if Foster the People can top this.
They can’t. Despite their slick performance, unrivalled professionalism and crystalline psych-infused sound, there is something distinctly lacking. Dressed all in white and vaguely resembling a collection of clones or scientists, they barely interact with the audience and slip quietly from one song into another. Even “Pumped Up Kicks” doesn’t quite have the necessary kick and they depart the stage with little fanfare save for the multi-coloured firework display which goes up minutes later.
Sunday dawns, bright and sunny, and we can finally peel off the layers and venture with confidence into the open. The Plastics and Desmond and the Tutu’s wrap up the Main Stage with impressive vigour and in spite of the general mass evacuation of festival goers the two raked in remarkable crowds for the festival’s explosive conclusion. The Beach Bar is thumping but my feet are far too tired. Daisies darling, we’ll see you next year.
Co-written by Craig Roxburgh and Skye Mallac. Photograph by Vetman Design and Photography.
There are only 8 days until Superbalist is Rocking The Daisies kicks off and excitement levels are escalating. We know how difficult it can be to decide which acts to watch, so we have compiled a helpful list of 15 acts you should definitely see at Rocking The Daisies. Hopefully, this will allow you to focus more on what you’re going to pack and how you are going to make it the greenest festival experience possible. Continue reading 15 Acts You Do Not Want To Miss At Superbalist Is Rocking The Daisies
Grassy Spark recently released their amazing debut album Portal, but they have been far too busy to have proper album launch shows until now. The band shall be launching their album on 16 September at Mercury Live and on 17 September at The Cape Farmhouse. Both shows sport amazing support acts and they promise to be amazing shows. In light of these launches, we are giving away double tickets to both shows and all you need to do to enter the contest is to comment below with which show you would like to attend and why you deserve the tickets. Winners shall be announced on 13 September.
It is 5:30pm and my daily commute from Stellenbosch to Durbanville is taking me through rolling farmland. I’m half-way through my 15th playthrough of Portal. The sun is busy setting and at that angle where no amount of sun-visor manoeuvring prevents the sun from burning my retinas. It is only by the grace of my sunglasses that I don’t spend my drive being blinded. The setting sun has cast a golden hue into the sky and the air adopts a hazy, shimmering quality with a hardly a breath of wind to provide a sense of fluidity and motion to the atmosphere. Stretches of arable land are illuminated in glorious shades of gold and dappled green. Heavy vehicles crawling along backroads have turned a usually leisurely drive into a frustrating snail-pace crawls as commuters attempt to find gaps in the traffic to overtake these vehicles. All this is irrelevant to me as within my car – Grassy Spark’s debut full-length album reflects its title and transports me to a plane of existence that is best described as aloof and euphoric.
Ska albums are meant to be euphoric. One of the core elements of ska music has always been that listening experience should not induce melancholy even if the music tackles serious political and social issues. Grassy Spark is not a true ska band but rather one that fleshed out the dying ska scene in South Africa with an exoskeleton of upbeat pop rock and light leanings towards reggae. However, they do stick true to the basic principles of ska with Portal – an album drenched in euphoria even when the lyrics strongly lean towards been quite deep and personal.
The album opens with “Here I Am” – their most recent single and also the single that spawned an entire social media campaign that was truly beautiful and inspirational. Jangling guitar riffs open the song alongside a booming brass section before giving away to what could be loosely described as a rather restrained vocal introduction that punctuates the song with a moderate change of pace. Everything gets right back on track with the rest of the song bristling with intricate and upbeat guitar work, the tremendous vocal trade-offs between Josh Riley and Yanick Bathfield, and swing-dance inspiring trumpets.
I mention the #HereIAm campaign because the campaign was very much about achieving one’s dreams, but it also created a sense of community. A sense of community seems to be at the core of Portal – an album that is bustling with collaborations from a variety of artists such as Jeremy Loops, Khaos Cotterel, Bonj Mpanza and Rudeboboboss. Loops gives the reworked “Living In Paradise” an Afro-folk feel when his harmonica and loop-peddling madness backs the use of African languages and the closing choruses. Cotterel turns “Feel It” into a sultry, reggae anthem peppered with Grassy Spark’s ska-fusion madness dedicated to the beauty of love. Mpanza adds a gorgeous swing jazz-styled male voice to the already powerful and groovy “Love to Share” – a song that will get bodies moving with its driving bass riffs and swing-electro rhythm. The collaboration with Rudeboboboss closes the album on a massive reggae-dub note that truly displays the versatility of Grassy Spark and their ability to adapt to any situation. There is just something beautiful about a band inviting so many artists to collaborate with them on their debut album. For most artists, that would be sonic suicide, but Grassy Spark has been hustling for so long that they don’t need to use their debut album to assert their sound.
Portal is made by a band that is confident in their career and in their sound and is able to use this confidence and experiment with a variety of new sonic elements such as Riley’s rapidly delivered rap vocals on “In Disguise” or the honky-tonk blues-styled rhythm that accompanies “Pyromaniac”. This is one of the best releases of the year and makes me feel rather partial to the “Local is lekker” slogan.
This week has been an extremely emotional week for me and this is thanks to Grassy Spark.
I’ve known Grassy Spark for a few years now. From working at the rehearsal studio where they practised when I was still a student, by booking them for shows and also attending an unknown amount of their shows, I’m privileged to have called the guys, my friends. Continue reading Grassy Spark: #HereIAm
Yesterday saw Oppikoppi announcing that US metalcore titans August Burn Red shall be bringing their untempered aggression and seductive melody to South Africa. Today, they promptly followed it up with the announcement that local ska-fusion heroes shall be performing at Oppikoppi. This marks the first of many local artist announcements that shall begin populating the Oppikoppi line-up. Hopefully this shall detract from people’s incessant complaining that their music taste is not being validated on a public platform.
Stay tuned to South African Music Scene for all the news regarding Oppikoppi.
OppiKoppi: The lovely young taken to the unsea brought to you by Windhoek, Red Bull, Jose Cuervo and Hilltop Live
Dates: 5, 6, 7 August
Venue: OppiKoppi Farm, Northam, Limpopo
Tickets on sale from 23 March
– Kreesmas Tickets: R650 (30 Nov – 24 Dec) – SOLD OUT
– Early Bird Tickets: R800 (valid until 1 April) – CLOSED
– General Admission: R850 (2 April – 31 July)
– Late Tickets: R950 (1 August – 7 August)
NO TICKETS WILL BE SOLD AT THE FESTIVAL
Tickets on sale here.
Assembly & Jose Cuervo have teamed up to bring you a Mexican Fiesta this coming Saturday featuring some of Cape Town’s coolest party acts!
Continue reading WIN: Jose Cuervo Presents Grassy Spark & Friends at The Assembly
As I’ve written before, an artist’s first album is always interesting. An artist’s first album is a statement of who they are. It’s what tells listeners their general direction and identity as an artist minus any pressure of following up as they consider two things: what has received a positive response (and, conversely, what hasn’t), as well as where the artist wants to go creatively—balancing these two things is not always an easy thing to do.
For this reason, then, a first release is a unique opportunity for an artist to introduce themselves, giving a first impression to listeners. Just as somebody’s impression of me starts to form upon my introduction—“Hi, I’m Matt; I write for SA Music Scene—a first album introduces listeners to an artist. The question then is, from this first impression, do I want to get to know this artist?
Comparable with artists like Jack Johnson and Jeremy Loops, Sean Koch, a Cape Town based singer-songwriter has made quite the statement with his debut EP, Natural Projection. The rich acoustic guitar tone, complemented by percussion and an idiomatic constant kick to ground the music in its folk music roots.
You can just picture the tumbleweed as the EP opens with an almost Western feel. The doubled vocal it opens with, complete with a slight disregard for intonation, completes this, really setting the scene. However it’s not long before the mood lightens with the entrance of the drums, bound to get the foot tapping.
But before we get too carried away with the almost Wild West sound of the first track, “Flow”, track two takes us back home, combining a care-free mood with a distinctly local flavour—a song aptly named: “Good Times Keep Rolling.”
The care-free mood these first two songs shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the Kommetjie surf culture from where Koch is from. A serious merit of the album for me, however, is how well rounded it is. We have the upbeat, carefree as well as the more serious, audible in “Rock Bottom Avenue.” However, what the listener will find is no lack of cohesion. What we hear is versatility within a genre and clear evidence that Sean Koch is comfortable and confident in what he is trying to achieve. All the way through, through the ups and downs of Natural Projection, we have an unmissable folk sound, from the foot-tapping upbeat songs like “Good Times Keep Rolling” to the story-teller song “Rock Bottom Avenue”.
The professional, polished sound, as well as the versatility, demonstrated through the album should come as no surprise—for this EP Koch worked with some of SA’s finest: Yanick Bathfield and Josh Riley (Grassy Spark), Tessa Johnson (Al Bairre), Anya Zinn (Birthday Girl), Jess van der Merwe, Ross Hillier and Shaun Cloete (Los Tacos), and Byon Willenberg. Produced by Shaun Cloete and recorded by Giles Hardcastle and Dean Bailey, it’s no wonder this EP sounds as polished as it does.
A first album is like an introduction. You can decide for yourself what your first impression of Sean Koch is from his debut EP – as for me, I want to hear more.
Each year kicks off with much excitement regarding new dreams, new adventures, new challenges and most importantly in our opinion brand new album releases to get excited about.
We compiled our Top 30 most anticipated album, and EP, releases for the year in no particular order, please feel free to comment with albums or EPs you are excited about! Continue reading 2016’s Most Anticipated 30 Albums!