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Drawings of Penises and Breasts

by Ray van Wyk / Images by Purity Mkhize / 13.12.2012

At 16:50 I frantically pull in to the parking lot of the Maytime Tops liquor store forgetting that it’s Friday and that they only close the shop at 7 or so. There are a few things that need taking care of before I can get down to the show; so I buy a few Faxe 10% Extra Strong beers and a pack of cigarettes for the missions, trying to come up with a way to approach the review of a band I didn’t really have much interest in seeing. Positive, I remind myself, stay positive, at least then when they are shit I can say so with a clear conscience, happy in the fact hat I had given the experience the opportunity to bloom into something not wholly hateful.

After dinner, and another 3 Faxes, I decide to try ask what other people thought of the bands, getting some premonitions and opinions, and then using these to come up with all means of convoluted extrapolations about crowd support, target audience, effect etc. to be compared with my own opinion of what I saw on stage. This is the development of process, I quietly congratulate myself. I think wrongly a lot of the time.

Arriving at the Bat Center we are once again reminded of the strong police presence at the Durban harbour. Police in uniform lounge around outside and make everyone who has ever so much as been near a person smoking dagga (most of Durban, really) fearful. This is half their function, and one at which they always seem to excel eat. Checking in at the door I can hear a band playing inside. I ask Stef, who tells me it’s the Anti-Retro Vinyls and that they just started.

Anxious to get inside, I remind myself, stay positive, as I walk in the door but am immediately disillusioned as I hear Greg Allan cry-singing and playing an acoustic guitar to a 20 strong crowd of teenaged girls with Chris trying to keep up on the drums behind him. They are playing with less than half their band and I need another drink already.

I want to grab a double gin and get back to the hall but the bar staff overcharge me R10 and hand me an orange ticket with a number printed on it, apparently their way of trying to ensure the glasses come back, or just a clever way of taking advantage of drunk people.

My notes now remind me of a subtle grungy feel in their ‘pop-punk with an edge’ sound that gets all the young girls in the front row moist. All I can hear in my head is that promotional song done so shamelessly by The Finkelsteins for a pre-social media instant messaging service called “QQ me”. 90% of their fans are far too young to remember this and the people who are are scattered apathetically around the margins of the arena style seating look bored or are locked in to private conversation.

Next up Black Math, a fairly rencent addition to the Durban music scene, still developing but certainly on their way to a stellar sound. The best way I could describe them is a powerful, angry mix of Queens of the Stone Age and The Hives, spliced with some Brit Rock reminiscent of The Who. Cameron, their lead guitarist and vocalist wails like a banshee into the microhpne and amazes the crowd with terifically technical guitar solos, from time to time. Still a little showy, but they are finding their feet. The crowd lap them up and there is a general sense that what this band is doing is right and good. After a few songs I retire to the bar and then outside to sip smuggled Malibu and Sprite with a friend. We discuss the entertainment and make fun of Loopy and her attempts at picking up girls by pulling the fame card. Loopy then likens herself to a certain SA muso (Toya De Lazy) who recently performed at this years Miss SA Pageant and then going to Villains pool bar with a bandanna over her face, to disguise herself, and the sweet, sticky concoction comes spewing out of my nose.

By this time my notes are frantic and barely legible, however the next band, Short Straw, made enough of an impression to be somewhat memorable. The set started off bareable enough, reminding me of a desperate attempt to sound like old South African favourites Boo! Turning then to a softer sound. Subtly depressing, think Motion City Soundtrack but less successful. Not slit your wrists depressing, they still had that clap-clap pop-indie, feelgood element, but towards the end of their set they started turning. Suddenly an immense sense of boredom overcame me with a song almost as stiff and lifeless as its inspiration, ‘Keanu Reeves’.

Maybe I’m just not hip enough and am missing something but everything from here on felt forced. During the last song I could stand, I turned to Robyn and yelled: “THIS SOUNDS LIKE A BAD REIMAGINED VERSION OF ‘SWEET HOME ALABAMA'” Her face drops: “IT’S LIKE YOU READ MY MIND, DUDE!” I’m not sure how long these guys have been around, being from Johannesburg this is the first time I’d heard them, but they give the impression of a garage band experimenting unsuccesfully with a wide range of musical genres. So, we left and waited for the main event, Asleep in Transit, somewhere our ears weren’t being brutalised.

“Who? Oh, Asleep in Gig you mean?” – Almost everyone’s response to what we were doing on Friday.

Asleep in Transit’s American twang gets to me a little bit and it’s not easy to get past even though musically they impressed. At least this is what I think my notes say. Their sound is best described as ‘pretty indie pop’, a gentle aura of Death Cab and The Postal Service with fast, poppy drums and haunting synth. Their new EP Kaleidoscope is easy to listen to but also fairly easy to get bored with, although the production is excellent on every song and the artwork on the sleeve is nice. There is very little else to say about them, although I have a feeling that they are one of those bands you will either love or hate. Strangely, I cannot seem to make up my mind but I would definately recommend them to a friend with skinny jeans, fake reading glasses and died black hair who needed cheering up after listening to Nick Cave all day; if I had one.

The last two pages of my notes are dotted with drawings of penises and breasts, and on the last page a cellphone number written down in case the police who were arresting me on suspicion of being tired and driving stole my phone. I learn the hard way that speaking about ‘ways of circumventing the traditional proceedings’ leads to nothing but confusion until somebody mentions those magic words: ‘spot fine’. I walk back to the car after being locked up in the police van for over an hour, only to be let out after a Lexus driver in a similar predicament pulled up behind us. We flat out refuse to pay the sole officer they send to collect their takings, but they couldn’t have been expecting much from the kids with a plastic packet for a petrol cap… this is where my memory and the notes end.

*All images © Purity Mkhize.

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