Clap Your Handsby Roger Young / 21.09.2009
It’s no secret that The Arrows have a largely Christian following, and given their brand of bubbly jazz pop it’s also no surprise that most of the following is pretty young. There is something fairly brave (or is it perverse?) then about their relentless quest to bring their music to the heathens, especially seeing as the heathens aren’t listening. The Arrows could probably pack out any church hall, but they choose to perform at secular venues. Whether this means that they believe their music has relevance outside of its strict Christian dogma or they think that by playing music that preaches the “word” in these non church venues they might bring some people over to the love of the church (notice here I use the word Church and not Jesus) is irrelevant because The Arrows have squandered the good will that people who are not of their belief system had toward them with a music video last year that basically defined all belief systems not their own as evil. So at the time of releasing their new album they are in a difficult position if what they want to seek any credibility outside of the church, because in general they are not attracting a non-faith crowd. Further to their strategy is the partnering up with good non-Christian bands, I presume to bring the unbelievers to their gigs. Well, it worked. Yesterday’s Pupil played with The Arrows in Durban and yes there were about five unbelievers there.
Something about the way Max Gateway was set up did not allow for people to stand in front of the stage. The fashion venue’s ramp was in the way; many of the Arab plaid dressed young affluent Umhlanga kids were sitting on it, above the stage almost, so the dynamics were weird to begin with. Then Yesterday’s Pupil got up on stage. Immediately there was something incongruous about this mustachioed man banging out the electro from his laptop and synth to a sitting down crowd of non drinking teenagers in a well lit space. The looks on the faces ranged from confusion to disbelief. The girl in the rouge pink stretch Lycra pants who was with us was dancing, dancing hard, and she was the only one. Something about this seemed wrong to me, like why aren’t these kids into this thumping electronica?
Yesterday’s Pupil was oblivious to all of the subtext. He continued to rock out, playing “Psycho Sexual Hold” non-ironically. I noticed some girl dancing over in the other camp. Pink pants says “yeah they’re getting into it” and starts making out with the girl in the blue dress she bought with her. We think everyone is looking at us, but as our resident mathematician pointed out at the time, the more we were displaying our wanton disregard for their belief system, the more we looked like either future sermon subjects or potential converts. The dancing girl has some guy talking to her; she looks ashamed and stops dancing.
YP is about to start another song, somebody comes up on stage and talks to him, he looks confused, says something like “Okay, I’ve got to hurry up” and then launches into “Lines and Colours”, a song that was banned from MK because of the chorus “I think I like you, like you like cocaine.” He sets it off and I’m expecting trouble. By the second chorus he’s pasting a sample of “Censorship” over the cocaine. Looking around, the faces in the crowd may not even be noticing the subtext either; they are that hard to read. YP walks into the crowd with his guitar and gets his only scream of the night when he plays his “Billie Jean” riff. He can’t help smiling in a “what is up with these kids?” kinda way. Pink pants is almost getting bored with the crowd not really taking her bait, her few attempts at screaming “I love Jesus” at them angrily fall on tolerant ears.
After his last song, which features a very long drum solo, stage managers on the sideline looking at watches and a few tapping feat and clapping along spikes of interest amongst the seated, the kids go wild with applause and screaming. I’m a little taken aback. What I’ve taken as lack of interest or even maybe shock is merely a group of people who are not used to, or don’t know when it’s appropriate to dance. Taking the mic, thanking everyone, announcing The Arrows, he as a force of habit says “They’ll be on in fifteen minutes, why doesn’t everyone go grab a drink”. I’m sure some kids in that crowd wished they could and many hated him for tempting them.
Regardless of what you think of The Arrows’ music (and we will be reviewing the CD next week) you have to admit that they generally choose to play with pretty good bands. However if they’re going to stop merely preaching to the choir, they’re going to have to shrug off this perception that they’re preaching at all. It might help their cause if people danced at their gigs.
Pics – © Yusuf Laher