Braamfontein Jungle Punk Sceneby Andrei Van Wyk, images by Paris Brummer / 02.05.2011
It can take forever for a new band to gain the audience they deserve. They run around from one dingy bar to the next hoping that at least some people will come and watch them. Most give up in the eighth painful month of going unnoticed. They travel the Joburg streets with waning hope, the dream of filling clubs and bars all but dead. But for every hundred thousand misses, there’s a hit. A band that pulls itself free of the sludge of indifference.
In 2008 Desmond and the Tutus appeared in the right place and time. If you ask me, Us Kids Know are poised to take over. Equipped with child-like wonder and genuine eccentricity, Us Kids Know offer something new. A fresh-sounding post-rock, influenced by afro-beat, indie and surfy, serene dream-pop to create a “jungle punk” thing that audiences are rapidly latching onto.
I’m at the Joburg launch of their new E.P Jingle Jizz. I’d been waiting a week for this line-up, playing alongside the headlining Kids were Vampire 9000, Eyes Like Mirrors and newcomers Balcony – but then everyone’s favourite Christian Vampire injured himself in a freak Banjo accident, driving a stake through “the 9000” appearing on tonight’s bill. That still leaves plenty to stay positive for.
Earlier that night, Paris and I are bored in my room, waiting for Eric to show up, and my phone finally vibrates with the words “IM OUTSIDE”.
We cruise up Jan Smuts and reach Braamfontein, passing WITS, where everything seems ominous. Faulty street lamps shine that failing municipal orange over the pavements. Paris looks back at me with a smile as we arrive at the place, Bridge Diner.
Everyone’s inside already due to the extreme cold. We hear rumbling guitars and a bass drum through the walls. It’s the opening band, Balcony¸ sound checking. They’re young (started by twee klein Afrikaans seuntjies Hanro and Anton) equipped with cello, guitar and some serious synth. Their sound suggests Broken Social Scene fighting it out with the Danish giants Under Byen. The cello anchors the synth and gives everything a lovely spooky ethereal tone. They have a good sense of melody and this amalgam of folk and post-rock shows real promise. But they do the “infinite build ups”, which swell only to implode once too often. Their lack of range and depth means the crowd forget them early into a very short set.
Eyes Like Mirrors appear next and they are a weird looking band. There’s lanky Ben, Quiet Jason, Pale Shannon, and kid-like Matthew. But they leap into a soundwave that throws us all backwards and shakes every bit of sense out of me. Their jumpy notes snap at my nerve endings. They make a righteous noise. Opener “A forked tongue cuts like a knife” has screened imagery of science labs and howling animals. Samples fizz by. The whole song lifts into the air like Pegasus on ecstasy. They own the room in this moment and deepen the thick spree of sound with thunderous volleys of violent danceable drumming. Wow! Every build up approaches biblical rapture and you wonder if there is a god. They end their incredible set with a jolt. We are stunned.
The room empties like lungs and goes silent after that and we go outside to feel the cold on our skin. Paris shows me her band pictures but I’m watching Us Kids Know set up. How are they going to follow that?
The floor is covered in roses and glass lights. The show begins with slow abrasive guitar chimes that signal a great set to come. Brilliant writhing songs like “Parachute Pants” and “Tick Stapping” zip through the crowd like flying piranha fish. A great “African post-Hop” vibe unites us. The flashing floor lights burn afterimages into my eyes. Confetti pops into the air. Everything is threaded together by Chad’s frenetic drumming that pounds the floor like roadwork. Us Kids Know are masters at tempo twisting mood changes made with effortless joy. By the time the night ends, I’m dizzy at the promise of the bands. They have real depth and enough going on to keep us caring about their destinies. That’s excitement running through my veins. The ascending Joburg music scene just put a big dumb smile on my face.
*All images © Paris Brummer.