Dans dans dansby Alex Sudheim, images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 09.02.2010
A scrum of sweaty fratboys stand shirtless and sweating before the stage chanting “Francois! Francois! Francois!” exhorting their hero to join one-man-band Yesterday’s Pupil to form the spastically-monikered Oorlog Frankenstein. Eventually the erstwhile Fokofpoliesiekar frontman and Van Coke Kartel singer emerges in typical style, stumbling about in bewilderment like a stoned Womble.
But then he gets a chokehold on the mic and tears it a new one. Unleashing indecipherable prophecies of doom in a voice that veers alarmingly from Viking roar to banshee wail, Francois van Coke is a bearded male version of Linda Blair in The Exorcist, all maniacal glare and wild sweaty hair. With Yesterday’s Pupil’s squawks, squeaks and squelches bouncing around on a trampoline of rubbery beats and basslines, the duo provide a convincing answer to anyone who’s ever asked themselves the question: “I wonder what it would sound like if Mastodon, one day, you know, just felt like jamming with, say, Stereo Total?” Then van Coke is plucked from the stage and borne aloft by his adoring horde of musclebound manne in a rarely-seen deleted scene from the South African student production of 300.
Before the show I’d checked out a few of Yesterday’s Pupil’s videos on the net and the lad’s schtick sure is sussed. With his deadpan expression; bemused gaze directed straight into the lens and the videos’ stop-frame-jump-cut aesthetic featuring many instruments played by one man, Yesterday’s Pupil looks like he’s auditioning for Flight of the Conchords. And, just like the offbeat compositions of Bret & Jermaine, the songs are catchy, bouncy, clever and funny while Mr Pupil is undoubtedly a prodigious talent: drums are thrashed, guitars shredded, keyboards banged upon, microphones sung into and all manner of electronic hocus-pocus conjured up to create delightful merry-go-round music from Mars.
And, despite but one skinny bloke, he does a pretty fine job of occupying the entire stage. Cryptic metal slabs are fiddled with to set up some banging beats and gyrating melodies before he scampers off to bash the daylights out of a drumkit before returning front and centre where some serious axe-wielding ensues during which the riff of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” is gloriously brutalised. Tons of fun but Autechre he is not: it is impossible not to detect the whiff of a dead Goldfish when the electronic/live juxtaposition appears a novelty-laden showboat that makes too easy an impression on the easily impressionable.
Pretoria’s melodic rock band Isochronous are slick, professional and predictable and even though the venue’s awful dimensions (big, booming, box-shaped gym hall) don’t do their sound much justice, the band is stuck on the “epic rock anthem, big British arena-packing band style” setting and that’s just the way they like it thank you very much. It’s as if a team of top-level sonic geneticists went into a laboratory and created the perfect mutant hybrid between Editors, Coldplay, Muse and Keane. Their formula is designed with a sold-out Wembley Stadium in mind and I’ll be the first to congratulate them if they make it there.
Moonchild’s soulful, swinging, New Age grooves were tolerable enough in the early stages of the evening and Fruit & Veggie’s miscreant fusion of reggae, rock and hip-hop, like a shard of glass in the ocean, gets smoother and more polished each time it is washed up on stage then sucked back into the sea.
All images © and courtesy Kevin Goss-Ross