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Bowl Cuts

by Kavish Chetty, images by Tim Hulme / 08.06.2010

The Assembly is filled with kooky kids and about a quarter of them can dance. Some look like they’re performing a full-body dry-heave set to music. Some are taking Mark Twain’s advice and dancing like nobody’s watching (only, come on fucker, this is Cape Town, this is the Assembly, everybody’s watching and their self-conscious eyes are laughing). Others look pretty damn good. A little dance-off got sparked near the back, before the Thought Police showed up and shut it down, nodding their heads disapprovingly, saying “You’re having too much of your own fun. Come on and have our fun, but have your own fun someplace else.” Some girl did a handstand, prompting a wave of applause from the audience. But then, some boy did an even longer handstand, causing the crowd to split apart like the red sea and lust for dance-battle. The girl then goes for a half-hearted head-spin, a sort of don’t-try-this-at-home breakdance move that lasts two rounds and fizzles out. The boy then sort of dolphin-bellied his way across the dancefloor, and then back-flipped. The audience’s jaws hung slack, and the girl mimed slashing her own neck with the edge of her hand. She had just, in the parlance of our times, got her ass served.

It was at, likesay, quarter-past-ten, when the sound-system at the Assembly went batshit. When the clock strikes ten, that means conversation time is over. That means it’s time to get primal, get sexual. The bass was so deep you could feel your blood shudder; so heavy, the whole room quivered with its vibrations. Girls involuntarily came. Dances got increasingly more spastic. I don’t actually know what this type of music is called. It might be dance, or trance, or house, or electro. All I know is, it’s properly percussive and it hypnotises people. Its repetitive rhythms hook them onto the dancefloor; the DJ is God. He knows this. I can see it in his face, in the way he drags on his cigarette before tweaking a dial or pushing up a slider. The loops dry out into a thin treble wave before crashing back with plangency. Electro-riffs that you heard half an hour ago suddenly return, altered, but familiar. The music commands the bodies of the dancers. You can totally smell the lust and fresh sweat.

Goldfish are pretty distinctive, but what can you expect from a live show that you wouldn’t find on their albums? Have you been to a Goldfish concert before? They’ve hooked up a bunch of television screens on the stage, and they show a steady stream of trippy equaliser graphics and animations. I only noticed half-way through that the occasional Miller advertisement was sneakily flowering up alongside all the other pictures. Ah, so we’re being brainwashed. Figures. House gigs, in your correspondent’s humble opinion, don’t have the same organic feel that the better rock ‘n roll concerts manage to achieve. There’s always this lingering sense of the synthetic. Admittedly, they played long and hard, and have a chance to experiment and re-work their material to feed off the energy of the crowd. But I reckon if the band wasn’t actually there, and their music was just coming through the speakers, the crowd wouldn’t have given a shit. Dance music is about dancing, not the theatre or spectacle of the band itself. And don’t get me wrong; the whoops and cheers of the crowd say it all. Goldfish are well-loved and excellent at what they do.

I didn’t hang around right until the end, because I was promised they were partying until 4 AM. But the venue swelled to its maximum capacity pretty quickly, and from my vantage point, crotches were grinded, asses were shaken like dice. I used to think of Goldfish’s music as being serially uncool, but that doesn’t mean it can’t coax some pretty contortions out on the floor.

All images © Tim Hulme.

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