Love is What I Gotby Daniel Neville / Images by Laura McCullagh / 11.01.2012
The first rumours of a Sublime tribute gig rumbled almost 6 years ago, sometime while sipping on ice-cold beer on the sands of the now defunct Cool Runnings in Obs. This was when the now tsunami-like wave of indie bands that dominate the Cape Town stages were but recently fertilized fetuses. A time when bands like Hog Hoggidy Hog, 7th Son, LP Show, The Rudimentals and Half Price were counted amongst the bigger bands the local scene had to offer.It took a long time coming, but, lo and behold, it did and when it did, it came in the form of, possibly, the best live show I have attended in Cape Town in the last three years. 2012 might be young but it’s probably safe to say that Friday’s jam packed Sublime Tribute gig is going to go down as one of the parties of the year.
The show was a logistical marvel – not only was there a rolling cast of musicians, numbering close to 25 people rotating the stage, performing more than 3 hours worth of classic Sublime tracks – but surprisingly it kicked off before half past 9, a rarity in Cape Town these days. By 10pm, Mercury Live was jammed packed and news of the insane queue, still wanting to make it through the doors, spurred those already pressed shoulder to shoulder, into an even more heightened fever pitch of excitement.
The evening kicked off with members of LP Show, Peachy Keen, The Little Kings and Captain Stu busting out a rendition of one of Sublimes more famous tracks – “Smoke Two Joints” – before ploughing through songs like “Bad Fish”, “Caress Me Down”, “Paddle Out” and “Superstar Punani”. Throughout this barrage of audio bliss, the musicians kept chopping and changing – guitarists becoming vocalists, vocalists swinging over to bust out on the keys and an appearance of a tight horn section to help flesh out and round off the Sublime sound. A motley mix of 7th Son, Taxi Violence, Van Coke Cartel, Half Price, Hog Hoggidy Hog, Fuzigish and Australian punk band, General Disarray members continuously drifted on and off stage, making the show feel more like it was performed by a punk/ska super-group than an eclectic mix of South African musicians. The constant shift of musicians on stage kept the energy levels high and, oh boy, did the crowd eat it up.
The audience, packed into that hot and sweaty space that is Mercury Live, was decidedly one of the most un-Cape Town crowds seen in a long time. Not only was there a healthy mix of followers of all sorts of musical genres (punks, metal heads, jazz, ska kids, trendy indie peeps and a couple of hip hop fans, thrown in for good measure), but, apart from the occasional 15 min breaks taken by the musicians in order to swap drummers, the crowd did not stop moving. From the front of the stage, right back to the sound desk there was a constantly heaving, seething mass of Sublime fans yelling out the lyrics to their favourite tracks, often drowning out those on stage, spilling beer down the tops of timid looking girls, stage diving left and right and stabbing the air with half smoked cigarettes. For one brief moment Cape Town did not seem to care what anyone thought of them.
As a long as I can remember I have loved Sublime and their music – the way Brad, Eric and Bud managed to mould and mash their musical influences into arguably a sound that has never been replicated since – One only has to take a listen to “The Rewind Selector” to gain an idea of how much Sublime drew from possibly the widest range of musicians and genres to ever influence a single band. And that eclecticism was personified by the crowd, the musicians and the vibe that night. Their music brought people together and almost always forced them to have fun. This pulling together of many different types of people and styles, this feeling was captured perfectly on that hot Cape Town Friday night. And it culminated when, at the end of the night, the crowd demanded an encore which saw every musician of the gig climbing on stage and belting out a version of “What I Got”. The sound of Mercury Live, every living soul in it, singing the familiar refrain – “lovin’ is what I got” – will live on in my mind for years to come.
*Video by Zoe Cornell
**All images © Laura McCullagh