Of Bacon, Snouts and Everything Hogby Max Barashenkov / Images by Moonbeaming.co.za / 17.01.2012
The last horn riff has rung out, the rude boys have skanked their last pit, the South African ska scene fades into a checkered memory. Hog Hoggidy Hog, the last tangible bastion of the genre, have played their farewell show on Friday, a final wag of corkscrew tails. After 17 years of honing their chops on local stages, they’re off to the more profitable sties of Europe, where a tight ska-punk outfit is still appreciated.
They leave as legends, having etched their snouts into South African music history, but the question that matters is – why should we give a fuck that they are gone?
The answer, or at least one of many, takes the stage first tonight. Peachy Keen’s line-up are all veterans of Hog pits circa 2004, when Riot At The Madhouse shows reigned supreme and punk rock was on everybody’s lips. Arguably, without Hog Hoggidy Hog, without their infectious energy, we wouldn’t have Peachy Keen. Nor would we have The Plastics, nor Enmity. More than half of the musicians currently plying their sounds on Cape Town stages owe their inspiration to the Hogs, from the street-punks of Dead Lucky to the Mike-Zietsman-third of P.H.fat. The same, to a certain extent, holds for Jo’burg and Pretoria, where their influence was only amplified by their sister band, Fuzigish (also a faded star). Hog Hoggidy Hog made it cool to pick up a guitar, to sew patches onto your denim jacket, to get fucked up on quarts and stage dive like a witless fool. The lessons learned, that spirit we all tapped into, while pogoing and sweating, will stay with us till we can’t get it up anymore. Now the South African Ramones are gone.
Say what you will about them, but Hog Hoggidy Hog lacked neither talent, nor professionalism. Real musicians have real jobs and the Hogs epitomized the statement, playing for 17 years out of sheer love for the music, for that high of being on stage and seeing venues erupt. Never rich, always almost poor, they toured because for them it was the most fun they could have. Their family was large – along the way they managed to bring together a motley gang of punks, skinheads and fiends, from fans to other musicians – and tightly knit. The organic ease with which they assimilated additions to their line-up – Ross and Lee in early 2000s and Sean Devey (the drummer being young enough to be Sean Snout’s illegitimate spawn) in late 2007 – only exemplified the honesty with which they approached their craft. One would be hard pressed to find another South African collective that functioned quite the same way the Hogs did.
Judging from the turnout on Friday, I am not the only one who shares the above sentiments. A parallel can be drawn with the success of the Sublime Tribute show at Mercury the previous week – the venue packed with people who came to pay their respects to a band that inspired and brought joy for years. They were all there, the young punks and rude boys, the long-haired metalheads, grizzled gentlemen well into their forties, the somewhat less-grizzled wives of the gentlemen, and all of them swirled in a flurry of dance, grins and spilling beer. Even Half-Price, playing second, seemed to fit into the general elation – they might be passé but it’s clear that there are enough people in Cape Town who still want big fat titties in their face. The Hogs themselves were, as always, on top form, delivering a face-melting two-hour set, brimming with singles, guest appearances and almost forgotten classics – ‘Just A Lie’ made more thighs moist than Ryan Gosling. The hooves were up that night, glistening with content sweat, and I was there, a fan among fans, both happy and forlorn sad.
“Still, so what?” sour tongues will whisper. “No one cares about the Hogs, it’s just nostalgia.”
Perhaps they will be right, but the departure of the Hogs, being the largest drawcard in terms of crowds, is a huge blow to the already frail punk movement. The ska bands that still toil up in Joburg – the rude crusties of Skunks and the progressive fellas from Fridge Poetry – will surely perish without the fire of Hog Hoggidy Hog. Ska, in South Africa, is dead and only assholes rejoice at the passing of a genre.
*All images © Moonbeaming.co.za