An Angry Fixby Tim Van Rensburg / Images by Annene Du Preez / 02.09.2011
The stage is quiet for what feels like the first time in days. Where has the music gone? The DJ in black with his face hidden is talking to sound guys and looking around in confusion. What the fuck? He starts fiddling with knobs and sound slowly starts to trickle out of those big black beasts which have been gushing music nonstop. And then boom! A green flash from the screens as the bass takes hold. You feel it vibrate around you. The heartbeat of the Koppi is back, and like some freak Frankenstein mutation the hill lurches to life with a masked mad scientist at the helm. What’s this? The monster can dance. This was Sibot at Oppikoppi, this was why I had to see him when he came to Joburg.
It was a Friday, spring was in the air and I had just moved into my new flat. It was a time for change. It was just last week. After getting settled in the new place I went on a scout about to find a place to have my head shaved. I drew cash at an ATM and in the centre I noticed a Unisex salon, went inside and asked how much it would cost to shave it all off. “Ninety fucking Rand!?” What a joke. I found a crumby little barber upstairs and made the same enquiry. “Seventy Rand!? Are you mental?” Fuck that, I left. Sam was with me and we went to get a pizza and drop some money off that he owed a girl on campus. On the way back we saw a guy standing on the side of the road under an umbrella with clippers busily shaving a young man’s head. I parked my car and took a walk, Sam decided to stay put. “20 Rand. Fuck yeah!” I got shaved, paid and we made our way home to get ready for the party.
Sam stayed behind and Mike was only getting to the party later so when I arrived I was on my ace. No stress. It was about nine and I was confident that I’d be able to blend into the crowd and disappear. Prices went up at 10 so I expected everyone would be crowding in early. I was wrong. It was empty and that made me nervous. All of my friends excluding Mike were taking the day off from this party because Grietfest was the next day and they wanted to save both their money and energy. I thought then that perhaps this was the case for most of the electronic music demographic in Jozi and that the place would never fill up. I got a beer and moved in close to the stage to have a look at the set up. It was impressive. The stage of the Alexander Theatre had become the dancefloor. The sound was good but the lights hadn’t started yet. Only one group of friends were dancing and they had the whole stage to themselves. I envied them; I knew if my friends were there we would own that stage, dancing back and forth across it embracing the space. As it was, I simply stood awkwardly to one side, dancing by myself, a weird skin head drinking, smoking and looking about like I was out profiling victims.
The first DJ was up and teasing us. Each break a little less intense then the build up promised, each of the harder faster songs punctuated by slow chilled ones. As I watched and waited a guy wearing a backpack walked in and went straight to the stage. There he started to fiddle and the lights on either side of the stage started to swivel and flash. A projected image came to life above the DJ, it was a live video feed from a tiny camera aimed directly at the decks. Lights, camera, action! The smoke machine hissed to life and suddenly the stage transformed, the music picked up and the dancers moved in and out of the smoke swirling it with their hands to the beat. I left the main stage to see what else was going on. Downstairs in the bar there was a higher density of people. I took up my role as the shadowy figure in the corner and bobbed my head to the music.
Mike arrived and we decided to head back in to see what the main stage was up to. As I walked in I was stopped dead in my tracks by what I saw. Where had all these people suddenly appeared from? It was well past ten now and the floor was finally having its face kicked in by a couple hundred feet. We made our way to the front of the crowd to get in close to the music. The bass is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Unlike anything I’ve ever felt. It vibrated up through the soles of our feet, it shot up your legs and gripped your crotch before punching you square in the stomach. You realize your chest is a hollow cavity as your intercostals flex and your ribs vibrate to the beat. Your ears are perhaps last to be violated; the sound travelling faster through solids than air. It felt amazing and the visual effects were unreal. In all the dark areas of the projected image of the DJ, amber squares pulsated to the music. There were huge lights left and right which flashed green and blue and red and had a clear white strobe effect which plunged the whole scene in and out of darkness. Lasers! But not just random ejaculations of concentrated light, we looked over our shoulders and saw how the lasers could throw the animated outline of a horse galloping over the crowd to the beat.
All apprehension about the party faded as Sibot took up position. I looked around and the place was packed. But the crowd was in the strangest formation. Imagine the bar as the beach and the stage on the other side is the deepest point anyone dares to swim out to. Now fill in the people and notice how most are packed together in the shallows, a lot are just in up to their waistline and fewer still are braving the break. That is how the crowd was spread. After pushing through to the front we found it quite spacious, which suited me since I really like to throw down when I dance. Sibot is something else; his set up looked like he had ripped the control panel out of a space ship. Buttons everywhere and he seemed familiar with all of them. Queue the epic music. Queue the mind blowing visuals. Queue the crowd, bobbing up and down in the swells, waiting for the break. It comes as promised each and every time. Sometimes the breaks come a little later than expected, sometimes one after the other, you get thrown off your rhythm, disorientated, pulled under, you push forward, your head breaks the surface, you gasp for air, the next wave is already rolling in.
At one of the most intense parts of his set I looked up and on the screen there was Sibot doing his thing. One of the small cameras was set up right in front of him and his image was projected above his head. As the song started to build and twist into something intricate, we could see on the screen a blue smoke like light emanating from his chest, just about in the spot you’d imagine someone’s soul would choose to trickle out of their body. As the song built up so did the light; getting bigger and brighter. This was augmented reality; a visual input manipulated through filters in order to express a perspective or offer an interpretation of the present reality which was Sibot. It gave you the feeling that there was something deep and profound taking place. And when the song reached its climax the light exploded fully from his chest but you hardly even noticed because the same thing had happened to you and you could barely control your movements as your body contorted to the beat.
It is a prerequisite to have a master’s degree in fucking out to electronic music in order to fully appreciate Gas Lamp Killer. His interconnecting beats and big bass drops were weird; sending you in one direction and then hitting you with auditorial whiplash that seemed to sever all ties with the norm.
I had already sent 2 messages to Sam who was back at the flat with the only set of keys; so he had to let me in. One said I’ll be home at 2:00, the next one said 3:00. I was in the process of telling him I’d be there at 4:00 when the music stopped. GLK was on the mic and explaining that the cops were bringing an end to the party. Fuck. I was not done, the music was more-ish, and I wanted all of it. That’s when GLK explained that the cops couldn’t stop the party. “Let’s take it to Kitcheners!” The dance floor migrated. Some headed for cars, others, like me, followed the music down the road. Fuck I love Joburg in the darkest hour before the dawn. Dangerous. One of the places your mother warns you about. And we the deep bass junkies, addicts “dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.”
*All images © Annene Du Preez.