Fokof Returnsby Thomas Okes / 30.06.2009
Fokofpolisiekar came home to a grateful Mercury Live on Friday night, and touched base with an audience whose fanaticism first put the band on the national stage.
The event was billed for months as a “Return to the Old School”, an opportunity for Cape Town to commemorate the moment that the Fokof phenomenon got started, six years ago, right here.
Hunter Kennedy wondered aloud before taking the stage how he could be considered to be “old school” aged just 26, and perhaps it is a mark of the band’s rapid rise to momentous status in their home city that a simple gig is cause for such fervent celebration.
In 2003, Fokofpolisiekar were little-known but already much-loved. Even then, they attracted very serious attention, and the streets of suburban Cape Town were alive with a new kind of excited energy. Whatever the sentiment, positive or critical, people found themselves unable to ignore the arresting news of an Afrikaans punk band armed with some hot songs and flammable lyrics. And at Mercury Live all those years ago, Fokofpolisiekar affirmed the varying hopes and suspicions of those people, declaring their own brash intentions with a performance that concretised the band’s renown within Capetonian hearts and minds.
That show, their first ever, sparked a sequence of achievement which has now reached a significant pinnacle. On Friday this week, FlyOnTheWall Studios will premiere a documentary, entitled Fokofpolisiekar: Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do, at the Encounters film festival. The brainchild of director Bryan Little and producer Filipa Domingues, this movie has been two-and-a-half years in the making, and began when Little first noticed the electrical intensity between the band and their fans. In particular, its makers were concerned with documenting and examining the “looks on people’s faces” at Fokof gigs; one glance at the crowd on Friday night would have told them that those expressions haven’t changed a bit since the beginning.
Jaco “Snakehead” Venter commented before the show that these days, with the band’s members’ busy and successful involvement in all of their various side projects, they still come together as “Fokofpolisiekar for the love of it”. And it shows, as they clearly find these songs to be a form of release: playing a mammoth set of 18 songs, they flew around and off the stage in a five-man whirlwind of pure enjoyment. Francois hung from the rafters of the stage ceiling with the uncaring confidence of a wild man, and Wynand jumped so high and so hard that he re-injured his leg, spending the rest of the night hobbling around the stage and trying to ignore the pain.
One of the most remarkable aspects of a Fokof show is the audience itself. Much like in 2003, Friday evening drew an array reflective of almost every spectrum of white South Africa: ranging from the fanatical to the merely interested, the mass of people encompassed everybody from the slickest of scenesters to the most austere, grey-bearded professors. Tiny little emo girls braved the heaving moshpit alongside dreadlocked hippies, middle-aged skinheads and underaged, skinny-jeaned trendoids. One scan over the crowd’s heads would have registered the fact that, as in the band’s beginnings, it is impossible to place Fokof in any sort of box and leave them there.
And that is, in a sense, their lasting significance: for whatever reason, and in every way, they force an individualised form of engagement. Hunter’s lyrics bleed an honesty which is crucially absent anywhere else, encouraging and rewarding second reads and fiftieth listens. His words are given anthemic, emotional life by Francois’ vocals, cutting into the air and finding their way through the most resistant of hearts. The fervor of this cathartic outpouring becomes the catalyst of one’s own, and singing along is, finally, just a natural expression of private identity.
Maybe the evening’s most important moment involved Francois dropping to his knees and allowing himself to be mobbed by his adoring front row. They clung to him like children to a parent or believers to an altar, the dozens of reaching arms effectively demonstrating a mode of spiritual and emotional attachment to the man and his band.
Having witnessed the band’s birth, this is a crowd thankful for the continued existence of Fokofpolisiekar. More than anything, what they are clinging to is that same sense of 2003: that something big, something real, is happening here.
As Jy Met Vuur Speel Sal Jy Brand
Hemel Op Die Platteland
Maak Of Braak
Illusie Van Veiligheid
Tiener Aksie Einde
Brand Suid Afrika
Ek Skyn (Heilig)
Van Weelde En Rykdom