A Damn Fine Freak Showby Max Barashenkov / Images by Michael Ellis / 04.11.2011
Sunday morning mocks me with a soul-wrecking hangover. The body quivers with the physical memory of violent hiccups. I need to piss, but the legs refuse to serve. I desperately need hydration, but the mere thought of navigating the intricacies of glass-meets-tap sets off a robot orgy in the head. I open my lips and croak at the ceiling: “Fuck you, Sailor Jerry, fuck you.”
The night before, at the Freakshow Halloween bacchanalia, my usual problem of drinking out of boredom, depression and lack of musical erection was turned inside out. I don’t know how the rum people do it, but since their launch, they have managed to refrain from dissolving into corporate wankery and continue to throw, perhaps, the best parties out there. In the moment, the show is perfect. Clocking in at around a hundred guests, it is not too full and not too empty. There is space to breathe, the pre-band music is not too loud, facilitating actual conversation, and there are actual people to talk to, not frothing teens bent on self-destruction. And the line-up, oh the fucking line-up. I salute the choice and drink with wild nostalgia for a youth of Black Label quarts in parking lots, bicycle chains and security guard boots, floppy liberty-spikes and wasted train rides. Tonight, I’m happy as a pig in punk rock shit.
It all kicks off with Basson Loubser & The Violent Free Peace, a collective of unlikely Afrikaans rock n rollers, delivering a tight warm-up set of blues standards mixed with their own material. They’re good, no doubt, but the asshole in me cringes at the fury with which Basson masturbates his guitar neck, showing off his skill. Lengthy solos, flashy style and axe-behind-the-head antics are not my kettle of fish, but even I can’t help but move when they kick the living hell out of a Chuck Berry cover. An idiots dream has come true – finally somebody played “Johnny B Goode”.
The blues continue with Machineri, but unlike The Violent Free Peace, their set is a dreary affair. It’s always a shame to watch three superb musicians drown in their own mastery, playing not as a unit, but as individuals who have more to prove to each other than the audience. Their sound, tonight, strikes me as the most boring and uninspiring blues-rock I’ve heard in a long time, a waste of everyone’s but their own time. Sannie Fox coaxes and writhes on stage, her range superb, but hardly fitting the music. In her ridiculous make-up she comes off more as a cheap Inge Beckmann knock-off than anything else. The original is here though, gracing us with her regal presence. You know you’ve made the right party choice when the original Inge Beckmann is at the same gig. I pocket fifty hip-scene points and conclude that, despite their shitty performance, Machineri fit the bill perfectly, if only to serve as the contrasting calm before the punk rock storm to come.
Dead Lucky burst on stage with the ferocity of feral hounds, the hunger of a young band ready to lodge their boot firmly up your derriere. Dressed as nuns, with Kyle Lakey’s demon pastor presiding over the congregation with refreshingly hoarse vocals, the future of the new wave of South African punk seems in safe paws. Their sound is somewhat reminiscent of the British punk rock revival of 06/07, with a healthy dose of street and crust. They are gloriously unpolished, seductively unpretentious and the only brick that can be thrown through their window is the peculiar horn-sporting track, a collaboration with Lee Lips. It is out of place, out of sound and, well, not particularly well put together.
Yet, however good Dead Lucky are, the night belongs to The Great Apes, who lay utter waste to Mercury, once again proving that they are the best band in the country in their category. Hell, fuck categories, they are the best band in the country, period. They’re heavy, they’re catchy, they’re original, they’re still young and have all the potential to be even better. Their circus is not to be fucked with, or it will spit you out like a pile of gnawed rock n roll bones. I descend into chaos, give up control and let them ass-fuck me to Yusif’s howling of “Maaan Maaaachine, Wiiild Aniiimal, Mountaaaain!” The rest of the country has no idea what is going to hit them when these fiends finally drop their record and go on tour.
The Sunday afternoon, when I finally manage to scrape my remains out of bed, I curse punk rock and rum with a smile. I foolishly wish for every night to be like last night.
*All images © Michael Ellis.