A Fat Ska Beatingby Andrei Van Wyk, images Paris Brummer / 02.06.2011
The South African “rock” scene is largely dominated by indie-dance and synthetic blues rock that often obscures the true spirit of the music behind a façade of borrowed gestures, expensive haircuts and colourful skinny jeans. But not tonight. Tonight I’m watching Fuzigish!
Back in the early noughties, we had a strong punk rock scene. It prodded and challenged and ended up representing a legion of angry young suburban youths. Though many misunderstood it as a pretentious anarchic mentality, it was anchored by a few true believers who would let their souls hang out like a beer gut over the belts of their music.
Now Fuzigish are for many, South Africa’s first punk rock band. Veterans of many country-wide tours pushing that potent ska sound which battered ear drums and ignited moshpits across the land, transforming metal kids and emos alike, from moody or violent monkeys into dancing fools. Fuzigish have long done god’s work helping beat challenged misfits find their rhythm. They’ve spent more than a decade pursuing and perfecting their South African punk ska sound and will certainly go down in history, right alongside Fokofpolisiekar, as a band that left a permanent scar on the face of South African rock music.
The parking lot of the “legendary” Cool Runnings in Fourways is filled with kids and punctuated by the smell of zol. I don’t know if its weed or the excitement but I’m feeling light headed. The line to the entrance already extends right across the parking lot. The outside area is saturated by old time punk rockers who look like forty year old men who left their jobs at the insurance office early enough to get a quick mohawk cut on the side of the road. There are little girls in tight spiked up dresses and teenage boys choofing their lungs out. There’s a bunch of guys standing across from us who look like they’ve got six tubs of hair-gel in their creatively structured mohawks. At a Fuzi gig, the mo is always in fashion. I don’t remember punk rock shows being this rough or showy, but it still has a clean sincerity which hits me in the gut.
And that’s why I’m here. For the fat ska beating I’ve longed for, for years. We walk around with the smoky braai smell running through the air, hair and staining the linings of all the leather jackets. The bar is packed, the stench from the toilet floats over all, mixing with the cigarette smoke and cheap beers, which are being downed consecutively. Young girls in the skimpiest of dresses flirt with old boys with too many piercings. Even jocks that have travelled from Sandton show up. I now know how unprecedented Fuzigish’s influence is. Kids from all around drive great distances to show their allegiance.
Soon the lights go off and the sound of guitars tuning and bass drums thumping shoots into the smoky dark. The crowd begins to get restless. The silhouettes of the four punk legends emerge and the crowd releases a great roar. A rapid bass drum beats in anticipation of the frenzy which is to come. A sliding guitar leads into “Burn the fucking house down” which opens with the lyrics “Fuzigish is who we are!” all met with high praise.
The thought runs through my mind, that Fuzigish is an idea more than the band and as each kid in the crowd sings back every line they participate in the revolution they have started. Jay Bones’ voice has a calm and soothing tone as shouts “Move!’ and “Jump the fuck up!”
As the pit gets more and more brutal I linger with my eyes closed and just sing the lyrics. Kids are running up to the stage just to get a feel of Jay’s leg, as they pull themselves up to stage dive. I watch as they jump through the air and crowd surf. Greased by sweat. A fear comes over me and the violence heightens. Rockwell’s bass sends a thumping roar as it pounds like a hammer, the rhythm running through the feet of every kid with the opening of “Uncle Shifty”. Big Willy jumps and punches the air. He grabs kids by the neck and sings the lyrics of “Scratching” into their ears. He brings out a giant beer bong with a giant dick on the end of it and watches as young girls suck on it. I just stand there amazed.
Everyone pushes and shoves just to get a lick of Big Willy’s Big Willy. Their energy on stage is unmatched and their sound is perfect. As they pound through their set every song gets a great roar from the crowd, still screaming every lyric to songs like “Monique” and “Mr. Mean Man”. The violence which they have caused doesn’t take their minds off the main goal, which is the music. Though they’re often seen as just a punk band, Fuzigish’s music has an integrity like a sacred musical exorcism, leaving kids splayed on the speakers and hanging onto chandeliers.
Too soon the show ends and even though I had hardly moved through performance my body feels battered. I feel complete.
*All images © Paris Brummer.