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Albert Hall Closing

One Last Hurrah

by Robin Scher, images by Kelly Berold / 05.10.2010

The boots stared at me tauntingly, as they have done for so long. If I don’t do it tonight I’ll miss my last chance.

In hindsight it’s clear that my drunken logic was failing if I thought for even a second I would be able to somehow inconspicuously snatch the pair of cowboy boots that have dangled above the stage, and garnered my attention since my very first visit to this venue. The idea was conceived not due to a sudden desire for a pair of kitsch boots, but rather a hapless attempt at trying to hold onto a piece of an institution that was sadly coming to a close. This was the end of an era, an event comparable to that of a very well lubricated Irish wake, where for a large part of the crowd, marked the passing of Albert Hall.

The event itself was trademark of an Albert Hall party – good music, a pretty diverse crowd and a fairly decent sized headache the following morning. Gary Thomas started things off with his distinctive “just smoked a fat blunt and drifted on to stage” demeanour, but as usual played a fantastic set, knocking the crowd down with the wall of sound that he somehow seems to create all on his own. This was followed by relative newcomers to the Cape Town scene, Jakkals (pronounced Jackals, even though it’s spelt in the Afrikaans form), who continued to keep the crowd going with their ‘scenester-rock’ performance. The rest of the evening saw the party left in the reliable hands of Dj’s Tommy Gun, Toby2shoes, Funafuji and Haasbroek – all delivering thumping bass and good tunes.

Albert Hall

This is not a gig review though and Saturday night was not so much about the show as it was about enjoying one last party at the Hall – evident in the large crowd that gathered. Whilst Albert has had its ups and downs over the years it has played host to so many memorable parties from the first Balkanology event, and more personally, to some of my own band’s most memorable shows. With such a history of successful nights under its belt, along with the fantastic turnout at the farewell event, it seems left to wonder why Albert Hall is even closing in the first place.

The answer to this lies in the very same reason as to why it has come to be the unique and memorable institution that it is – its eccentric owner Gilles de Moyencourt. From the aforementioned dangling boots, to the cryptic “no smoking” mural painted outside, Albert Hall in all its odd-glory is what it is thanks to Gilles. Having bought the property and converted the bottom floor into the hall, the middle floor into a design studio and the top floor, his own apartment, Gilles has decided to go back to the life of an antiques dealer – a previous career of his. As such, expect to see an antiques shop in the Hall’s space in the future – probably not as much fun, but as long as Gilles’s in charge, certainly not short on eccentricity.

Albert Hall

With the closing of Albert Hall, Woodstock is left with a hole comparable to that of the Independent Armchair’s closing in Obs – as Cape Town loses yet another fantastic live music venue. If this wasn’t enough to come to terms with, further news of the closing down of Speedway 105 Cafe in Gardens means an even further knock, which leaves me worried as the old adage goes that “bad things come in threes” – guess I won’t be holding my breath for the demise of the Assembly though.

I might not have managed to grab hold of the memento I desired, but the memories I have of the dangling bulbs, the random assortment of hung up art works, and the French expletives of Gilles should be enough. Goodbye Albert Hall. You will be missed.

Albert Hall

Albert Hall

Albert Hall

Albert Hall

Albert Hall

Albert Hall

*All images © Kelly Berold.

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RESPONSES (10)
  1. kuriass says:

    Any further details on why Gilles has decided not to run a live music venue anymore? Was it due to financial pressure, the stress of running a busy venue at late hours or were there issues with local residents and noise levels?

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  2. Andy says:

    I don’t know but it can’t be much fun trying to sleep above the Albert Hall on a big night

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  3. bread says:

    Good piece Rob! And what an incredible party.

    DAF fashion school is on the top floor and Gilles apartment is a part of the second floor. Hehe, I don’t think Gilles gets to bed before any party is over at the Albert Hall…

    It’s not about noise issues; he will transform the biggest part of it into antique store again – Gilles real profession. He will be knocking down the wall at the back of the stage to have a display window again.

    Now I’m not too sure about this, but Gilles MIGHT not demolish the bar. The part at the back MIGHT be turned into a small space for private parties. It would probably be similar to Speedway Cafe. This is good considering they’re also closing down this week!

    Goodbye Albert Hall I will miss you!

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  4. jess says:

    now these are quality pictures!

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  5. little crush says:

    how does such a good looking photographer take such consistently good looking pictures?
    It’s a crime really! Crushes are inevitable!
    (And crushed hearts!)

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  6. damndemons says:

    the best thing about these pictures is the photographer’s ass

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  7. Raiven says:

    Well done to everyone involved with the Albert Hall and it’s history. It really had such a unique feel and this piece elaborates on that.

    I just wonder what the solution to Cape Town’s current venue situation is? It’s a topic that should be issued and addressed, preferably by people with some cash and political clout.

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  8. Max says:

    Raiven, you are right – the death of venues should arose a lot more concern that it is. Clearly venue owners are finding it hard to sustain them…what about a conglomerate of owners opening a venue? like the people from mercury linking up with, say, speedway people and doing something…? perhaps?

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  9. Womble says:

    AWESOMMMME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  10. Tommy de M says:

    Super write-up, thank you kindly!

    It is sad the live performance side is going, but at least the bar will remain there for the time being. As much as he loves the place, my dad (Gilles) is tired of the late hours and wants to go back to what he does best.

    X

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