Howl!by Timothy van Rensburg, illustration by Alastair Laird / 17.09.2010
When I heard that the Wolves music night was called ‘Howl’ I immediately thought of Ginsberg’s poem.
“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.”
I’m ashamed to admit that at first I didn’t even make the obvious link between ‘Wolves’ and ‘Howl’. It must be my recent fascination with the Beat generation. I’ve always been a sucker for the counter-culture and the writing and poetry from the Beats blows my mind. That being said Ginsberg’s poem is far too dark and dramatic for the chilled vibes of Wolves last Thursday night.
Wolves is a discreet cafe on Corlett drive, its sign is the same colour as the wall behind it and appears to be lit with little Christmas lights. I drove past looking for it and I didn’t even see it. This appeals to me. Places which are advertised through word of mouth instead of loud signs tend to contain like-minded individuals. Everyone knows everyone directly or indirectly. A new age watering hole claimed by a close clique. Everyone is friends and so everyone is friendly. I went there on my own but didn’t have a lonely minute. Coming from the East, the hospitality of the local crowd was unbelievable to me.
Mismatched chairs and old couches give the place a relaxed feel. It’s small but its high roof and soft colours really alleviate any feelings of claustrophobia. Fortunately no amount of pastel will be able to get a large crowd in there. The fixed dimensions of its walls protect it from exploitation. I think if there were more people it would have tainted the experience. As it is, manoeuvring from one side of the cafe to the other is a montage of “excuse me” and “sorry”. Luckily after the first beer rush getting drinks becomes relatively easy.
The first set was played by Baboon Dandy, a Frenchman who plays acoustic guitar and sings fantastically. His songs were great, and his presence in that small space was unbelievable. He has a way of making you completely aware of the present moment. Your train of thought derails as you zone to his captivating voice. Colours seem brighter when you are in this state of mind; you seem to be receiving sensory inputs from mind-at-large without them first being filtered through your self-conscious. The symbols you use to interpret reality fall away and you are left with pure experience. I was fortunate enough to meet him after he played. A common interest brought us together. While talking to him I found out he had been on Nouvelle Star (French Idols) and through that had performed with the likes of Rihanna and Akon. He’s not a fan of either but that’s hardly the point. Also the male population of South Africa can rest easy because he has a girlfriend and is therefore not fucking all our women.
Next up was Night Sky Empire; an instrumental trio comprised of guitarist Thato, bassist Harry and drummer Cale. I loved their music, a mash-up of rock sounds which keep you intrigued. The progressive/alternative/indie-styled threesome delivered their music with passion and had everyone feeding off their energy. They started with a mumbled introduction from Harry. Which was different, there are plenty of musicians who can’t get enough of the mic. But as the first few chords were played, and the song started to take shape, I realized that these people don’t even need mouths, they were more than able to communicate feelings through their music. Had they discovered a new language? The “Über-Sprache”? One that doesn’t rely on symbols which warp and distort reality, muddying the waters of meaning? Before and after their set the band members could be seen milling about the crowd smiling, greeting friends and enjoying the scene as much as everyone else.
I really enjoyed my night at Wolves. The tip jar came around like a revivified-church collection; I suspect the atmosphere could have reintroduced ‘Hallelujah’ as the feel good term of rejoice it once was instead of the monotonous drone gurgling forth from Sunday services. The place, the music and the people all came together in a perfect fit. For this reason if you want to check it out, I suggest you go on your ace. The place can’t hold many non-regular cafe and live music tourists. You don’t want to disturb the vibe; it seems to be in equilibrium. The regulars will embrace you as a friend, a new face to put a name to. You will get to speak to new and interesting people about new and interesting things. I guess I just don’t want to see Wolves become too popular. Often popular places are reduced to a symbol. And symbols are a poor substitute for reality. Just ask anyone who’s tried to eat money. The problem stems from those who play the fashion game of, “I have conformed sooner then you”.
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagi-
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob-
tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!
Like I said, Ginsberg is far too dramatic.
*Illustration © Alistair Laird.
*Images © Bradley Downs.