Through the throng, we can just make out the door opening, and two older ladies come wobbling out of the door to the Puma Social Club. In fedoras and that short, blond hairdo that you get. A little shambly, but loving it like they don’t get out much. Then comes the chirp of the night.
“No! I didn’t stand in line for two hours to see two grannies come out of the club!”
Ha! LOLs to the fkn max and true that. But the fact is, the ninja with the one-liners probably stood in line closer to three hours to get into tonight’s party.
Mercifully there aren’t too many grannies in there.
This is how the non-VIPs experience the Puma Social Club. Inching along a pavement in De Korte street in a crushing hell-scrum of humanity. I arrived at 7.45pm and got in at 10.39. By that stage I was so psychologically broken, I was actually disappointed. I’d been hoping to crack the full three hours.
But bouncer dude must’ve liked my polite groove and he ushered me in with six or seven others.
That line was a thing, hey. Girls huddled round their Blackberrys, their cleavages illuminated in the glow, kids firing up chrome, multi-cone bongs like revolvers, street hobos joyfully bitchslapping hipsters…
All within one-square metre of humanity.
Misinformation campaigns about “five-rand tequila shots at Great Dane. Right now! You guys should go!”
Some homie in a basketball vest explaining to Laurie Levine how the music industry works as we take a step to just below the 79 De Korte sign.
“Dog, I’m Zulu. I ain’t got time for this bullshit,” at about 1.15 from these guys in the gym vests calling each other sbali, “Right, my dragon?” as we reach the sign outside the SD Bhubha Driving School.
The guys from PE leave to try Gin after about two hours, but the rest of us stick it out, tempers miraculously in check. Even when drunk street homie barges and slaps his way past 200 people and expects to get in.
Some guy who should be a hostage negotiator calmly talks him down and convinces him to leave the queue, while the rest of us joke about, “Dude, is he even registered on the website.”
Like running a marathon, queuing for three hours is as much a psychological as a physical challenge. You’ve got to fight the urge to quit, resist getting bleak and ruining your own evening and by Christ, hope your phone battery lasts. The all of us are huddled around our communicators like braziers in a blizzard.
Security are professional to the last and we feel like we’re at least being treated like people, even if there is an element of cattle at an abattoir to this thing.
Big black dude in the suit stoically works his clicker. Two out, two in. three out, three in. Though that becomes increasingly rare as headliner Zaki Ibrahim is hustled through the tiled Social Club door and up the hallowed stairs to Valhalla.
By the time we follow her a half hour later, it’s a bit of an anti-climax. Her performance is awesome. A funked-up king-woman scat-inflected soul journey with divas in sequined shades like disco S1Ws, a rhythm section in bandit scarves and dozens of braided women gasping in admiration.
It’s Björk meets Eartha Kitt meets post-electronic soul meets me by the Street Fighter machine nursing a Heineken, doing some stretches.
It’s Zaki’s gap-toothed grin, braids flying, tussling with her co-stars, homegirls in headwraps, hands aloft on the dancefloor and one last song for the road home.
The venue itself if comfortably three-quarters full, drinks are freely accessibly and you can get as close to the stage as you like. Despite spending 2h54 queuing with my face in some guy’s afro, my fuck-Puma vibe never materializes.
The party is impeccable, if a little similar to the last one, and the crowd-control is by the book. The performances are what sets these evenings apart, and Zaki Ibrahim is nothing if not a unique artist.
After standing in that queue, it was like finishing the Pirates half-marathon and they having a Janelle Monáe concert at the finish line.
Lady was on fire, but I peaked an hour early, there on the pavement outside the driving school, as I got my phone tangled in some girl’s microbraids and a guy in a trucker cap chowed his Nando’s off my shoulder while someone rammed their gate remote in my ass.
Doesn’t get more social than that.
*All images © Dustin van Zyl.