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Us Kids Know. Eye Like Mirrors

Braamfontein Jungle Punk Scene

by 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.

Us Kids Know

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.

Us Kids Know, Eye Like Mirrors

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.

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RESPONSES (14)
  1. TheGrizzlyLumberjack says:

    was at Bridge Diner. It was incredible. Eyes Like Mirrors, are just magnificent, and Us Kids Know… wow. just holy fuck. indeed i am very excited for joburg music.

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  2. jeff bridges 2.0 says:

    Really good article. ” pegasus on ectasy” I love it!!! P.S Awesome pictorials

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  3. Hungry Lion says:

    Nice stuff. wish I was there

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  4. That Guy says:

    I’m gay for US KIDS KNOW.

    The only problem with US KIDS KNOW gigs recently is the idiot who seems to follow them around. While people crowd around small venues, eager to hear songs they might have found online or heard at a long ago gig (or purchased on a cassette tape), one man chooses to stand at the very front and the very centre of the performance. You know, where the band is. He likes to stand in and amongst the band. But he is not a part of the band.

    And then he “dances”.

    I use the term “dance” loosely here. Because as UKK deliver their special brand of energy and their moments of sighing delicacy, this man imitates a marionette being electrocuted. He closes his eyes and jumps around. He flings his limbs like one of those blow up puppet things at used car lots. He makes it his supreme mission to ensure that anyone watching UKK will be distracted by his pure love of the music.

    I’m glad he loves the music. But I love it too. And I would prefer to be able to go to a UKK gig and watch the band. I don’t want to watch the asshole who shows up to prove that he’s into it more than anyone else. That guy sucks.

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  5. Andrei says:

    hahahaha I think that asshole jumping up and down is the guy who wrote the article> I’m sorry for distracting you im just so into the music!!! SORRY GUYS

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  6. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me of melody maker description of a certain group of bands in early 90’s in london. The Scene That Celebrates Itself

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  7. Chad says:

    Yeah, those were the shoegaze bands (mostly). They were a bit more convoluted, though. Like all of them played in eachother’s bands and that kinda thang.
    Kinda reminds me of things I’ve heard about the Philly basement scene!

    And, yes, it is actually only about a handful of handfuls of us. 😀

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  8. nimbleNiall says:

    So sad to miss this, love what you’re doing UKK!

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  9. tokyostar says:

    AWESOME article! Nicely written dude!

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  10. sebonelo says:

    hahahaha, nice article drei…..

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  11. UKK SUPERFAN says:

    you guys rock my socks off!!!

    come back down to cape town

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  12. Anonymous says:

    UKK know have been around for much longer than you think. around late 2006/early 2007 in fact.
    they debuted in the back of Canned Applause when the shop was just starting out in a converted garage before it moved onto 7th even. guess who played with them? Desmond and the Tutus before they were big. it shows UKK have grown a hell of a lot and have hung in there and worked really hard and deserve all the new love they are getting.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    UKK have been around for much longer than you think. around late 2006/early 2007 in fact.
    they debuted in the back of Canned Applause when the shop was just starting out in a converted garage before it moved onto 7th even. guess who played with them? Desmond and the Tutus before they were big. it shows UKK have grown a hell of a lot and have hung in there and worked really hard and deserve all the new love they are getting.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Article’s a bit adjective-heavy for my liking,
    less is more dude.

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