Men In Tightsby Rob Scher / Images by Bram Lammers / 12.06.2013
Muted applause drifts down the stairs – its decibels, deceptive of the crowd assembled. It’s cold back here. Just through the wall the sun beats down on thousands thronged around Jeremy Loops, clapping in time to his music. The amphitheatre, a backstage limbo, stands empty. Five tights-clad, painted faces pace the floor. The electric tension of a Highveld summer’s afternoon fills the room. A year ago, in this very amphitheatre, they played their first performance at Bushfire. Blowing away the tightly packed audience, that show set in motion a momentum that’s slowly been building to this moment, in the cool air of the now empty amphitheatre, as The Brother Moves On prepare to take the step up to the main stage.
The crowd has thinned a bit, more space to move. The setting sun sheds its glow on the golden tights now inheriting the stage. The tights? Many have questioned this aesthetic choice. The endowment emphasising costumes are, if anything, the perfect metaphor. Golden pillars of support, they offer more than a frequent glimpse of crack. Try wearing nothing but a pair of them in front of a scrutinising audience – they may very well be the most honest of all the leg garments. Outside of an 80’s hair metal context, they’re also kak funny. Honesty and a good sense of humour – I couldn’t imagine ‘The Brother’ wearing anything else.
“Ubhuti Uyahamba!” a call to action, amidst a rising crescendo. The thunderous sound, as suddenly as it’s risen, gives way to a gentle melody emanating from Zwash’s guitar. The song is ‘Puleng’, Tswana for rain – the calm before the ensuing storm, raindrops of melodic foreplay lulling its attentive listeners. “That storm must have passed us,” thinks the uninitiated.
“KLANG! KLANG KLANG!” Bolts of aggressive lightning, strike from Ray’s guitar.
It’s a new song, birthed from a joke. Ardent supplier of sonic psychedelia within the group, Ray harbours a soft spot for metal. It’s mostly kept under control barring the occasional shredded riff, played in snatches during practice. On one such occasion, intrigued by this high paced, unrelenting sound, Sims’ foot starts tapping the bass drum. Several months on, the riff erupts upon an unsuspecting Bushfire audience – a fully realised metal cacophony. Ray can’t hide his beaming smile, whilst Sims now a full metal convert, stands up from his stool smashing the skins. A Hyde Park housewife, replete in leopard print bursts into an epileptic fit of movement on stage. A horned beast swathed in coloured plastic ribbons appears amongst the crowd. What the fuck is going on?
At the height of the crowds confusion comes the greatest clarity. In trying to understand or classify who or what ‘The Brother Moves On’ really is, one need only observe this scene – an energetic space created for just such a spectacle. What’s the genre? A futile question embodied in the metal song blasting through the speakers – a juxtaposition of influences, a collection of brothers, moving.
There could be no better venue and audience, than those gathered at the House of Fire watching this group of musicians on this fine Swazi evening. ‘Transitional music for a transitional generation’ – it’s a description The Brother sticks to, and one adequately describing the humans who’ve gravitated to this festival, standing eyes and ears transfixed to the stage.
The show ends on an encore. Given the time restrictions on festival stages, it’s an uncommon occurrence – calls for ‘one more’ not abating until the request is granted. “Thank you for making a stranger a brother,” acknowledges Siya, as they launch into the final song – ‘Stranger’. There’s no mistaking the connection these musicians share on stage, the precision of the culminating moments of the set attesting to this – a frenzy of high tempo staggered breaks – the last bolts striking the earth. “Positive. Energy. Activates. Constant. Elevation. Peace.” A parting mantra, echoes through Bushfire. The storm has passed.
Backstage is transformed. Silence and tension replaced with relief, excitement and a purpose – next stop on the Firefest Route. “Meet back at the bus in an hour,” is the call. “You know we nearly didn’t make it to Mozambique guy. We’re not taking any chances with this one. Our flight leaves first thing tomorrow,” explains Ray between mouthfuls of burger.
Travelling through the night in order to catch a flight to Reunion Island to play their first overseas gigs at the Iomma and Sakifo festivals, where they’ll be sharing the stage with the likes of Manu Chao and Salif Keita, it’s an exciting time for ‘The Brother’. As last year’s Bushfire gig held for them, this next step may very well mark the beginning of new things for a group fast reaching the ceiling of the room they’re currently standing in.
“In the least, we’re going to the beach for a week,” a light-hearted Siya responds to my wishes of luck as they board the bus. ‘Positive energy activates constant elevation, peace’ – that mantra’s starting to make a lot more sense.
* All images © Bram Lammers