A Bizarre Night at Roma Revolvingby Russell Grant / 10.03.2014
Last week I caught Durban’s newest musical add-on, Mickey Burns, at the Roma Revolving Restaurant for The Bose Experience. The Roma Revolving Restaurant is an age-old Durban institution. For many decades it has sat atop the Durban skyline, rotating on its gaudy axis and filling patrons with classical Italian food from a menu that I’m sure has never changed. It feels like being on set of The Godfather, complete with mysterious airs and dodgy dealings.
The show wasn’t technically at Roma itself, but in a small, cramped room one floor down (the entrance to which was a discrete door next to the ladies toilet. Remember the air of mystery I was talking about?). Inside, it was stuffy and hot and awkward. No open windows, and limited floorspace made for sweat patches and weird conversations as we did our best to navigate the tiny space between the bar, the toilets and the stage. What was even more awkward (and at times quite humourous) was the fact that the smoking area was above the restaurant (through a fire escape next to the kitchen), meaning drunk music fans must stumble past annoyed diners and waitrons every time they crave a loose. The view is worth it all, as we sat on couches in the upstairs sky bar area, looking down on our enigmatic city as we rotated high above.
Hezron Chetty, better known as that violinist from the Accidentals, opened proceedings with a solo show; all expansive pedal boards and loops. Hezron is awesomely talented, make a point of seeing him.
Next up was Mickey Burns. They were doing an acoustic show on the night, and had recruited guitarist Daniel Basckin to fill out their sound. The first show I saw of theirs (at Live) left me a bit cold. They are a bunch of talented musicians who make music that draws a lot from what is cool at the moment within the affluent, white, middle-class music listening population. They are by all accounts a blues band. There really is nothing much more to it.
Mickey Burns’ frontman, Jonas Barausse hails from late disco rockers The La El’s. His voice suits the intimate vibe of an acoustic set . Less overt frontmanship and easier on the cheese. He just works the songs, and it’s good. I’m a much bigger fan of the sparseness and stripped-down nature of their unplugged set, and the crowd appreciated it too, many bravely opting to stay in the cramped room instead of escaping to the sky bar smoking area.
They played a fairly short set, which was strangely riddled with sound and technical issues, not a great advert for Bose, the sound company sponsoring the event. Micky Burns were followed by Veranda Panda; Durban’s staple electro-violin duo; as entertaining as they ever are.
This event was classic Durban: weird venue, forcing awkward interactions amidst sweat and sound issues. Shady-looking Italians optional. But we Durbanites are a hardy bunch, not too hard to please, just give us a smoking area closer to the stage and we’re happy.
All images © Rusell Grant