Generation Nextby Adoné Kitching, images Paris Brummer / 24.09.2010
Tonight is like a film. A shot of heroin pumps through the veins of the protagonist, he realises he has lost sight of the dreams he once had and runs through a deserted city in an attempt to escape himself. The ocean swells and breaks with a thunderous roar, the first aeroplane takes flight, two lovers find one another after years of separation, a warrior returns victorious, someone climbs Mount Everest. In a small, dimly lit club, a few friends meet to dance, to smoke, to pass their time in the company of others of their kind.
Music, and especially instrumental music, has the ability to engage the imagination of its listener. We create in our minds an image or a picture, one that is drawn with the rhythm of the music we are listening to. Or, well, at least I do. So in a small diner, safely tucked away under the Nelson Mandela Bridge, that connects Braamfontein to Newtown, I’m transported through three visual spaces, three movie scenes. Bridge Diner is a warm little place. The crowd, who are mostly close friends and band members order pizzas and beer and wait for the bands to start. Dressed in a style very similar to the Cape Town indie scene, I am pleasantly surprised at the lack of pretence of these people. No clicky business. This is the underground. Thirty odd friends, driven to try something new, to get something out, to give each other a chance.
As Night Sky Empire takes the floor (there is no space for a stage) my heart sinks a little. Without a front man the spotlight is obviously shone stronger on each instrument, highlighting flaws that could’ve been masked with strong vocals. They attempt a post-rock, progressive sound, but as each song degenerates into a standard half-time chorus, I can’t help but feel that their post-rock elements have not been explored enough. Their combination of rock riffs and predictable drumming brings their sound down. As a few people react in a Nirvana crowd-like sway, I am taken into a drug film. Green and yellow grading, shadowy corners. Light bulbs and burnt spoons lay strewn across the floor of my imagination. Night Sky Empire can be heard, first as background music, then, it takes over the scene. In the bassist’s case, the spotlight is done a little justice. He reminds me of Jack White and Jesus and plays with the shy confidence of an artist who knows his instrument well. His fingers climb up and down the neck of his guitar and with this he directs every song the band plays. Despite his excellent playing, the band as a whole fails to impress. You can hear glimpses of the sound they are trying to create, but the potential is lost to messy drum rolls. The music sinks into a grungy monotony.
I’m left feeling a little anxious, two more sets? That’s a long time to listen to something that bores you. But, when the next band faces the Bridge Diner crowd, my heart, which had previous sunk, is taken and shot straight into the air. Eyes Like Mirrors are exactly what you want from a progressive instrumental band. They play with remarkable energy and the echoing guitar immediately fills up the room. To me, this is the soundtrack to all that is heavy and beautiful, to climactic and cathartic experiences. In my mind the camera sweeps over the ocean, dreams come true, a battle is won. The music allows your thoughts to flow over all the good yet to come. A little melodramatic maybe, but at least you can tell I enjoyed their performance. The keytarist plays with his back to the crowd, some of the band is playing in socks and you feel as if you are in a friend’s lounge where they have just picked up their instruments for a spontaneous jam session. The drumming patterns are not exactly unpredictable, but they are not forced and manage to engage the crowd, drag us into the music. Although it is, at times, hard to tell songs apart, each one has its own motion and flow. Eyes Like Mirrors avoid the trap of monotony with build-ups and visuals that compliment each song.
Tennyson Extended end the night on a middle note. Their set is average, but still fun. With a sound that speaks of influences from The Strokes and The Editors they evoke images of exactly where we are. A club scene. The camera follows a lively group of teenagers walking through a wall-papered corridor into a tiny club with minimal lighting. Some dance, some rock back and forth, others keep time with their knocking knees. In this scene, Tennyson Extended would play. They are less refined than Eyes Like Mirrors, but the drums and bass work together as they should. Their confused, yet solid breakdowns and mix of different elements of indie, rock and reggae makes for a lively, energetic show and it is clear that Tennyson Extended are a party band.
Although I would never call my film Generation Next, like the cheesy Sunday Times youth culture survey, but tonight the title makes sense. This was a gathering of people excited about something different. And so, they come together to see what they can do. To have fun, to perfect their art and to offer those who will listen the opportunity to hear something interesting and fresh. The night as a whole is a movie scene that surprises and excites me. In a small club, under a bridge, you can see an image of people’s genuine love for music and the sense of solidarity it gives. I hope to hear, see and experience more of these gatherings in the near future.
*All images © Paris Brummer.