We Own the Skyby Nathan Zeno / 29.09.2009
It’s a good idea, an exhibition of recent flyer design coupled with a multi-faceted gig featuring performances from some of the artists and bands on said flyers. A sorta celebration of the less appreciated side of independent promotion. That WE OWN THE SKY takes place on a rooftop gallery in downtown Joburg adds to the persistent feeling I get that I’m somewhere in my past.
It starts when I buy my first drink and discover that the girl working at the bar looks suspiciously like my first girlfriend. I can’t tell why, maybe it’s just the braces. I find this incredibly attractive, the fact that she smiles at me (yes, I am an idiot, for so many reasons) makes wonder if it’s a smile of vacantness or she’s flirting, in which case she would have to be pretty vacant, I’m no catch. The problem with this perception/whatever is that it makes me feel creepy, but I can’t help but feel it and, as I get drunker, start to try ham fistedly act on it.
Wandering through the exhibition I am taken by the handmade feeling of all the works on display. The Fire Through The Window series is particularly absorbing. I’ve seen them before online, but seeing them poster size and beautifully reproduced makes them so much more, well, impressive. The gallery has hung these from a line of string with pegs, the flyers and posters block mounted on the walls are elevated to art by the way they are presented and then the gallery asserts the cobbled together feel with names of artists written on walls in Koki pen (I can’t work out if the misspelling of Colwyn Thomas’s name is intentional. I hope it is, but probably not). From Yesterdays Pupil posters on walls to KIDOFDOOM shirts for sale to I heart Durban e-flyers (the vaguely sexual flyer not the vaguely scatological one) projected to all nature of the acoustic/electro music scene persons represented, there is something deliciously non-professional about the whole scene. Not badly done but rather more nascent. The fact that most of the people here seem to know one another doesn’t feel up its own ass, just familiar, warm.
Up on the roof there is a band playing whose name escapes me. They sound a little like a wanna-be KIDOFDOOM but as the musician next to me says, everybody has to start somewhere. It’s funny though, they sound like a band that itself sounds like so many other bands or maybe I’m po-mo-ing out. Anyway, the last time I saw the building across the 19 floors down gap was when I was working as a set builder for some lame TV series and I had to make it into an office or something. Something about the way that building stalks me all night makes me feel uneasy.
I am determined not to miss Righard Kapp’s set but the bargirl/ex girlfriend surrogate is downstairs in the gallery bar and the queues are epically long. Well, they’re epically long everywhere, this place is getting packed. I try explain my feeling of creep and inability to not act on it to an artist/singer friend who promptly misunderstands me and goes to talk to the bargirl. Who I think just looks creeped out; I get all embarrassed and feel like a 15 year old and not in a pleasant way. No surprises there, then. I find myself outside, in a McDonalds surrounded by distinctly non-electro/acoustic vibes. I wander into a parking lot, all the cars are covered in a white powder, someone has set off a fire extinguisher covering everything in uniform white, the fluorescent light adding to the shadowlessness.
And I’ve missed Righard Kapp, but I don’t know it and I run up stairs and have a context shifting moment when I find that all in front of the stage are standing in awe of João Orecchia, as I suddenly am too. I was far too passed it to take actual note of technical details but man, there is suddenly a strange lilting ghost cave feeling in my chest and the beauty of the moment is arresting and I’m no longer drunk at a party but somehow in the sky, okay, maybe a little drunk.
A little while later I’m kinda standing on my own and rubbing my gracious stomach, feeling at one with the not too distant lights of Hillbrow when my photographer (I use that term loosely as this night he forgot his camera) comes up to me and tells me to stop frightening the Asians (I say Asians because, in the morning, I remember them Japanese and photog insists they were Chinese) who are sitting on a step directly in front of me shielding their eyes.
I’m surveying the height and thinking about how many glasses must get dropped down the middle chute of the building when KIDOFDOOM start. The guy next to me says something like “This band sounds like the library music you get in sound studios that they use on pace-y infomercials”, which is funny because when I used to work as a sound engineer on pace-y infomercials I used to really get into that library music. KIDOFDOOM – either you get them or you don’t and I think I’ve been spoiled by hearing them too often over the last few weeks, so I go downstairs to discover that the bar is closed. Suddenly I need my space and I find myself wandering through the parking lot snowfields.
And then I realize I haven’t seen my lift/pseudo photographer for a while so I rush upstairs. KIDOFDOOM are still playing and I find the guy in a huddle with three others near the front of the speakers and I indulge in a little light air punching. And then we are leaving, and as we walk away, I notice there is another little bar and in it is bargirl/ex-girlfriend surrogate and I am filled with an urge to tell her how I never really loved her, but it comes out as “Can I have an Amstel” which is funny because that kind of thing never happened to me when I used to be an ice fisherman in Alaska before the Spanish flu epidemic.
1 – Exhibition – © Alastair McLachlan
2 – Joao Orecchia – © Samantha Hill
3 – KIDOFDOOM – © Alastair McLachlan