One Last Hurrahby 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.
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.
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.
*All images © Kelly Berold.