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Puma Social Jozi

Me, McGee and Nimrod’s Right Side

by Hagen Engler / Images by Paul Ward / 18.10.2012

At midnight we decide to leave the party to avoid embarrassing ourselves. Two hours later, we leave the party. Which is no reflection on the party. More on us and our inability to leave well enough alone. Friday’s the first official PUMA Social Club event in downtown Braamfontein. As we point out to anyone who will listen, Early-Start Syndrome is sometimes an issue with us. With any luck we’ll manage it properly this time.

The free-drinks situation bodes ill, but we’re optimists, so fuck it. We’ll cast ourselves bodily upon the wings of coincidence and see where we touch down. The event is on at some cunningly discovered and renovated upstairs venue just a few blocks up De Korte Street from Wits. The guys from Tidal Waves are on the pool table, there’s a bunch of gaming options set up, it’s warm as toast up here and bollocking down outside.

So it’s warm sanctuary and a big load off. Like not having to get out of bed because it’s election day. “We’re expecting three hundred people,” someone announces optimistically. At this point there are four guests in the place. We secure a chicken-and-harissa sausage with wedges, kill it with mayonnaise, and nurse a &Union with PUMA king Brett Bellinger while we’re still presentable.

PUMA Social Jozi is a local manifestation of a global campaign for after hours athletes worldwide. It’s been rolled out something something. Blah Estonia, something about Bloc Party and then we started talking about this other time he partied with us in Cape Town.

At this point the only thing to look at in the place is a girl in figure-hugging office gear playing pool. So we do that. On the balcony outside, we bump a crew all in suits to celebrate someone’s birthday. Themba’s got an electro blog, and he’s doing a masters through Stellies. He also used to write for Mahala, but he stopped because of all the trolls.

Ja, you cunts.

McGee arrives with his camera just as Zander from Jack Parow pulls in. There will be a steady stream of local artists to starfuck later in the evening, so me ’n McGee quickly shoot through some gaming while it’s empty and we’re tidy enough to play. He klaps me at air hockey, but I like to think I got the better of him at the two-ball ping pong. We never get on the pool table, but take a snap in the photo booth and unwisely mail it out into the public domain.

McGee declares himself opposed to Foozball as a concept, and the arcade games require coins, so that leaves the bar. The promised four hundred are all of a sudden all here, and getting to the bar has become a ruck. One we are happy to negotiate for free beer.
“You clean out, and I’ll be the fetcher.”

Nervous by the sound desk is Vampire 9000, who will shortly take the stage to unveil a Killers-y Interpol-y take on the one-man band situation. He heads down to Great Dane to get into the zone for his performance. By that stage we’re on the smoking balcony finding out about touring the USA from Zakes of Tidal Waves. Those okes hang with Ziggy Marley, man. Austin in the bowler hat tells me his band Savage Lucy won Emerging Sounds, which is great for them, but I’m not saaked right now. I’m busy harassing Tumi from the Volume about spoken word and stuff. He’s nursing a Dominican cigar and getting ready to share a stage with Saul Williams tomorrow night. Nice. The guy must go represent.

At 8.30 we upgrade to vodka and me ’n McGee strike another deal.
“You work, I’ll queue.”

Tidal Waves are proper professional, and perhaps conscious of the hipster demographic, the set they deliver doesn’t even feel like reggae. It’s more rock to me, and tighter than a hamster’s hamstring.
“Are we gonna dance, massive?”

By the time that’s done, the place is so rammed and up for it, we give up finding McGee and just hand his drink to whoever’s next to us and start a conversation with them. It’s a guy who does renovations. Then it’s Shotgun Tori, then it’s the drummer for Kite Rider, then it’s that Austin with the bowler hat again, then it’s the American dude from that cellphone ad. Then it’s Desmond & the mother fuckin’ Tutus, who aren’t top of the bill for nothing. It’s white funk like you seldom see, and if they’re not opening for the Chili Peppers when they come, there’s something wrong.

“Daai bass player is poes goed,” opines an audience member. The Desmonds should put that testimonial on their blog, because he bloody is. Groove is exactly what’s required right here, in the boogie zone. There’s stuff from their world-class Mnusic album, and funk-rock versions of some pop hits. All eyes on the stage, all hips wiggling.

Dunno why I used to not dig them. Probably just jealous.

By midnight, it’s a cash bar (for us media larneys, alas it was a cash bar all night for the punters), and we make our doomed vow to leave immediately, screaming some desperate directions to Goodfellas in the corner of the bogs, the only sonic refuge. But it’s Friday night, so between that cup and this lip, many slips. There’s queuing, vodka, girls on the balcony, Austin with the hat, vodka, McGee, ping-pong, early 90s techno… queuing at the bar… McGee.

Our phone records show our driver was dispatched at 1.18am. The final note from that night reads, “The quest for Nimrod’s right side.” We never want to find out what that’s about.

*All images © Paul Ward.

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