Everyone for Everythingby Adoné Kitching, images by Tehillah Uys / 13.09.2010
‘This is why you have to like Pretoria,’ says my friend between air punches and hair flicks, ‘people here take what you give them, they always support whatever bands are playing’. Moments of wisdom followed by fits of dancing. She’s right. Pretoria crowds drink the metaphorical Kool-Aid that the stage offers them. And nowhere does it show quite like here: ‘Springday’
Every year Tuks gives its students a day off to soak up some sun and get silly. So here we are, at Harlequins rugby club, to do exactly that. The slow start of a day off and some parking trouble means I’m late. As I walk in Wrestlerish are finishing their set with “Bad News” and I can imagine the crowd getting country and singing along to the hit that has made its rounds on TuksFM, MK and even 5FM. For me, today’s line up screams ‘fuck it’. Fuck your expectations of a band that blows your mind, your ideas of something new. Fuck it, let’s party. The crowd came to hear what they know, to celebrate in the comfort of familiarity. And to tell you the truth, so have I.
Purple armbands are on, here we go. To the left the bar and a mechanical pig, to the right a foam dome and the stage. In the middle? Well, it pretty much feels like a very, very (very) big backyard braai. Picnic tables, umbrellas, and every type of floral print you can imagine. We brave the long queues of sweaty students, get a drink, and head over to the stage where Captain Stu are getting ready to play. The initial small crowd shows that the boys from Cape Town are the only ones not too well known around here yet. But when the ska pop starts the barefooted gather as if called. A few songs into the set and mini skank-pits are emerging. A rugby team-esque group of guys, all wearing matching wife-beaters decorated with Afrikaans obscenities and spray-paint, move closer, tap their feet and then give in completely. Pardon the cliché, but Captain Stu’s energy is infectious. They play a solid set and I am impressed most by their bassist. A pirate laugh or two and you can see that these guys are having fun on stage. I’ll see them again later, arms up high, supporting the rest of the bands. For now, they leave the stage having gained a number of fans.
Wait, rewind. How did I end up covered in foam doing power slides in a jumping castle like dome? I guess Springday wants you to rediscover your inner child. Well, inner child found and it’s time for Straatligkinders. If the music is the Kool-Aid, then this band is Jess Johnson. They know exactly what the crowd wants, and how to give it to them. The masses flock and I get there in time to hear the MC introduce them as, “the protectors of Afrikaans hardcore”. He might be alluding to a song, but for these kids they are something to believe in. For me, the charisma of the vocalist fails to carry his performance and it is left to the rest of the band to make up for it. Everybody else seems blissfully unaware of this fact and hands are flying and mouths chanting in unison. The twins on rhythm gives the band a backbone, they’re always tight and energetic. Knowing their market all too well, Straatligkinders throw in their version of Kurt Darren’s treffer “Kaptein”. Deal sealed. This is Pretoria at its finest.
Now it’s time for some ‘original music, for original people’. But really Tidal Waves, how original is the music if we have been ‘lekker lekker dans-ing’ to the same set for about three years? But the girls didn’t put on those dresses and the boys didn’t cast their shoes aside for nothing, so, we dance. The guitarist steals the show with his cool bluesy attitude. Their blend of rock and reggae riffs has made their music accessible and it clearly shows. We buy some beers from a guy willing to sell them and wait for the next act.
The crowd may hang on the lips of Straatligkinders, but I prefer the lips of Isochronous. This band has yet to let me down. Every show lifts you from where you are standing, and lets you float in the air for a while. Today is no different. The vocalist guides you through their tempo changes and electro breakdowns. I’m surprised that the same people that sang along to their favourite ‘treffer’ are now also spitting out the lyrics of a progressive rock band. But hey, isn’t that the point I’m trying to make? Isochronous play with passion, their songs are strong and the sun shows its approval by heading west.
So as the heat dies down it’s time for arrogance to take the stage, uhm, I mean Ashtray Electric. Their Indie Rock sound is laced with attitude, and too much of it. On the monitors, the frontman takes his place and makes dramatic hand gestures as he sings. The man can interact with a crowd, I’ll give him that. Noticing my boredom induced by Asthtray’s lack of original energy, the dancing lady of wisdom says ‘but just look around you’. Right again my friend. This is when I realise that this is not about me; it’s not even about the band as such. This is about what they can give to the crowd of adoring students. And from what is going on around me, they have definitely given them the perfect end to Springday. For his grand finale the frontman jumps into the crowd and the masses roar with delight.
It’s seven o’clock and the party moves to Hatfield Square. I’m way too tired for that so I’m heading home. As my feet dangle out the window of the car, in the cool spring air, I find myself thinking ‘I do like Pretoria’. When a stage is shared by a country pop, afro ska, rock reggae, progressive rock, Afrikaans hardcore and an indie band, it usually implies that there is something for everyone. But today, it was everyone for everything. Pretoria does support whoever is playing. They not only take what they are given, they make it their own. They dress it up in floral, wrap it up in wife beaters and sprinkle it with Afrikaans pop, but it is their own. And there is no denying that once you can do that, anyone can feel at home. Until next Springday then, Pretoria.
All images © Tehillah Uys.