Braamfontein Snacksby Smooth Mike / Images by Dustin van Zyl / 01.10.2013
“You want me to write about a gig that I am playing at?”
“Ja, It’ll be a vibe. It’s the last night that the place is open. Just be honest…”
I’m standing in line at my seventh least favourite place in the world when Andy Davis calls. The security check at the airport. I’ve done the whole “Airport” thing enough to know exactly when I will and won’t beep when I go through the metal detector. I haven’t been frisked in like seventeen flights. Last time we played at the Puma Social Club there were holes in the stage after our show and I woke up with one sock missing and my shoes still on. I wonder if writing about the evening’s events is a good idea. I’ve never seen a gig review done by the band playing plus I secretly have beef with Mahala (all local musicians with anything resembling a following do, but they are all too scared to say it because they don’t want to look like they can’t take criticism). Five minutes after reluctantly agreeing to Andy’s terms and putting the phone down, I get my bum touched by a security guard for the first time in seventeen flights.
Considering how often I go to Joburg I still don’t really have my head around the place geographically. There are very few landmarks, and because of that, I never know where the fuck I am. In fact the only directions I can give with any confidence in the whole Joburg area are from Houghton to Hillbrow (You cross a main road as far as I can tell…). I do know this: The Puma Social Club is (or… was) in Braamfontein – right across the road from the fanciest Puma store in the country. I have no idea how to get to Braamfontein or how to get anywhere from Braamfontein but I do seem to find myself having fun in Braamfontein more often than I do in other places in Joburg. One of the reasons being that there is an abundance of places to buy snacks and as a fan of snacks and not being hungry, Braamfontein suits me.
We arrived and got settled and had some delicious Braamfontein Snacks. This put me in a good mood, and, when you have to perform, being in a good mood makes things a great deal easier. You see, the funny thing about performing is that whoever is watching you couldn’t give one half of one half of a tiny weency little fuck about how your day went because they are too busy depending on you to help them forget how shitty their day was – and knowing that you had a shitty day doesn’t help them do that. So while it is possible to ignore your bad mood or the fact that your dog got ran over by a car that day, it is much more fun to perform when feeling happy. The best is when you are feeling happy and the crowd is too.
And that is something that the Puma Social Club always has going for it. Happy People… lots of them. Having actual fun. Not the boring “I’m having more fun cos I’m smarter than you” type of fun that happens at places like EVOL and Andy Davis’s writing desk. It blows my mind that there are so few places that are filled with people who are actively seeking out fun. Fun is such a nice thing to have. And it’s really not that difficult to attain either. Though when you look around at the social club you start to realize why people might be having fun. The place is designed to induce happiness. There are fun things to do. Everywhere. Ping pong tables and arcade games and photo booths and all sorts of shit. And inspiring quotes all over the walls. But rad ones – that don’t make you feel like a dick for drinking too much. It also helps that the bar is stocked with all the different types of drinks and not just the standard SAB array of three beers and that one type of shitty tequila. Basically the Puma Social Club is a place where fun is encouraged. This really makes it my type of place cos we play at a lot of parties where drug taking is encouraged and I feel like fun is a much healthier and more enjoyable alternative. It also makes the people in the club a great deal more pleasant to deal with because they aren’t grinding their teeth and sweating on you or speaking about themselves a lot.
Anyways, my snack eating meant that I arrived at the club rather late and everyone inside was already waist deep in the fun that I wasn’t having yet. Everyone except the people stuck in the fairly monstrous queue outside. They didn’t look to be too deep in the fun. Luckily performing meant that I was one of probably 8 people who could get in and out of the club without any hassles because Puma takes a pretty serious “No one is special here” approach to their queues. I’m pretty sure I heard a famous rugby player jeer as I trotted in past the bouncer. Well I think he was famous… watching rugby isn’t one of my skills.
At the top of the stairs I bumped straight into our main contact at Puma, Alex, who offered me a shot of something fancy. It was the last night that the Puma Social Club was to be operating and they put together a lineup that pulls the numbers but because we were in a social club and not a dance club, they also kept the numbers inside the club slightly lower than you would expect. When you are in a social club there needs to be enough space to play ping pong safely, one of the plus sides to this is that if there is enough space to play ping pong safely then there is probably enough space in the rest of the club that people don’t need to rub their crotches on you to get past.
Me and Narch got setup for our show and got going fairly quickly. The sound system has always been a bit small for the size of the venue but the enthusiasm of the crowd always makes up for it (and also means that the ping pong players can carry on ping ponging without their ears bleeding). The shit popped. It was a blast. Narch’s computer threw a hissy fit about a quarter of the way into the show and I took the opportunity to make a couple friends and say hello to everyone. I won’t harp on too much about the show other than to say we had a rad time and so did the people who were watching us. About half way through our show I got up onto a stool so I could see everyone and noticed that the décor in PSC very much comprised of actual real pairs of Puma shoes and I wondered how more hadn’t been stolen. Having thrown more than one party in my life I know that décor is not something that you can depend on to stay put. Even shitty décor – let alone fancy Puma shoes. Standing on top of the stool I wondered if I could jump up and snatch a pair but decided that the stool was a bit wobbly, that I was kind of drunk and that I was busy rapping anyways so I should maybe not try that.
At the end of the show I trotted off and decided that our show was acceptable and scored us at a 6.279 out of a possible 10. Narch was happy with it as well and bunch of people came up to us afterwards and said hi and some asked if they could buy merch. Narch loves selling merch cos’ he managed to get us our very own wireless card machine and he’s pretty sure that we are the only group in the country that roles with merch and a wireless card machine in their backpacks at shows. Jack Parow went on straight after us and kept the place bumping wonderfully. I can’t say I watched the show with any level of scrutiny because to be honest I had forgotten that Andy had asked me to write a story and me and Narch were busy catching up with some homies at the bar and meeting people whose names I mostly can’t remember.
Come to think of it I can’t actually remember much up until about the time when Matt Suttner started finishing up his DJ set. All of a sudden the whole venue kicked up a level. Matt was dropping PSC local favourites, reading the crowd like only a resident can, and people were fucking out wonderfully. It was the last night at the club and people knew it. Holes literally started to form all over the stage and dance floor. Floorboards were cracking everywhere and the dance floor was doing that weird thing that the dance floor at the old Zula in Cape Town used to do where it felt kind of springy. Someone on stage started to deconstruct the piles of old vinyl that were being used as tables around the venue and was redistributing them to the crowd. I joined the commotion and all of a sudden found myself playing vinyl Frisbee. Matt played his last track and it stepped up harder, more holes in the dance floor, more vinyls flying around the place. So many smiles. PSC was where the fun had gone to happen that night in Braamfontein. As the last track finished up there was a resounding “BOOOOOOO” attempting to keep things going. Management was shutting the doors and we all had to voetsak. The Puma staff were all congratulating each other. As they should have been: The Puma Social Club was quite a fucken occurrence. It’s not often that something comes together so coherently and mixes up actual social behavior with loud music and drinking… with free entrance and no real obligations to do anything.
My only real beef with the evening was that the venue closed before I was done having fun which meant that I had to go and find my fun elsewhere. I found so much fun that when my alarm went off at 7am the next morning so that I could catch my flight, I had only had about 3 hours sleep. And for some reason my shoes were still on but one of my socks was missing. And my hotel room was a fucken mess. My backpack was lying open next to me with the Puma Social Club sign and a brand new pair of fancy ass Hussein Chalayan shoes hanging out of it. The shoes were a size 9. I’m size 10. But I can squeeze a 9 I guess.
I wonder where the fun is going to kick off in Braamfontein now that PSC has shut down?
* All images Dustin van Zyl