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Hip Pain

Hip Pain

by Roger Young / 06.12.2009

It’s so hip right now to say that hating hipsters is so hip right now. Anything that becomes defined will have its detractors, this much is obvious. But the kids don’t care; they’re just following trends, being alternative and all that. Like Ravers, Grungers and Hippies before them, “The Hipster” has become a term, a definition but the original proponents of the scene have moved on and, if the crowd at the Assembly this last Wednesday are anything to go by, all that’s left is a couple of badly dressed art school kids who style by the numbers, look uncomfortable and don’t know how to dance. Except for the guy in the Slayer shirt, faux mullet and such a pronounced lack of bum that he couldn’t keep his skinnies up. He danced like everyone was watching and that he had been hurt often.

But enough formulaic observations on the crowd. On to formulaic observations of the bands. Let’s start at the terrible, the last band of the night, and work our way backwards to the not so terrible, the opening act.

Eat This Horse embody everything that makes people define and hate a scene. They’re terrible and they think it’s clever to be terrible. For some reason the art kids seem to think this is hilarious and try to dance to it. (Note to art kids: If something is funny you laugh, you dance when it makes you feel like dancing. Dancing is not an intellectual construct.) People are probably going to get all enraged with me on the comment boards but I’m not even going to try describe the bad shouting coupled with discordant and overly clever (but not intelligent) guitar riffs and kerplunking ratatat drumming. I am not going to engage with Eat This Horse, they take not-taking–themselves-seriously far too seriously.

Dear John Love Emma

The last time I saw Dear John Love Emma was in an intimate theatre venue (The Intimate Theatre, go figure) and I thought they were perfectly poised on the poignant side of twee. A whole rag tag bunch of classically trained and Jazz musicians making an orchestral art pop with brass, violins, and keyboards that was simultaneously uplifting and pure. Maybe it was venue paralysis but here on a rock club stage they come across as two-dimensional. Where previously Emma’s voice had been prim, cheeky and light, here it was faint and lost in the music. John just reminded me of the guy from Fame (the original) who killed himself. Except DJLE don’t seem terribly upset about anything enough to want to kill themselves or even express it wanting to, well, anything. Maybe they were having a bad night, because where before I had been entranced, now I found the music flimsy. Maybe, for me, the novelty has worn off. By removing the theater from the music, by placing themselves in an environment where the intimacy and the props are gone, they became strangely lacking. And even though kids sitting on the floor were enraptured, the jauntiest DJLE songs could only get three or four languidly dancing at a time.

Dear John Love Emma

The best and most disappointing act however was Beatenberg. Musically Beatenberg are full of promise, they make a bright jazz pop with incisive and slightly caustic lyrics, their reticence and restraint is disarmingly real. But as the opening act, and there is simply no soft way to say this, they came off lost. The stage seemed to swallow them. They had technical difficulties, (which to their great credit they played through and made work for them) and they seemed a little shy. Previously I had thought of Beatenberg as what the Beatles first album might have been had there been no John Lennon. Now I see them as a group of bright, talented kids who have some learning to do. One of the major faults to me is that although there is great variation in the songs, Beatenberg’s musical signature is still a nascent one trick pony, but a pony that will, it’s obvious from their enthusiasm, one day grow into a herd. Yes they were applauded rapturously, yes, they encored, but it seemed a hollow victory.

But by all accounts it was a crappy show, the bands may have seemed decidedly average (except for Eat This Horse, who were decidedly horrible) but part of the blame must be put squarely on the shoulders of the too school for cool audience who never once felt the bands warranted being met halfway other than in a sorta ironic distance half lidded gaze that can only make the younger bands wonder if there is any point in trying at all.

Beatenberg

I don’t have a problem with these art kids, these pseudo hipsters and their Arab plaid and beards, their ironic t-shirts and stupid hats (they will have to explain the embarrassing blog print outs to their kids one day, that will be punishment enough). But I do feel slightly sorry for them because if part of the stance of this “sub” culture is to remain distant and cool, how could they ever get to enjoy whatever it is that they overthink they’re doing?

And I’m not even going to get into the flat out, up its own bum, painfully “ironic” wierdfest that was the three bands collabing on an OutKast cover for the finale. No sir, not me, let’s let them have their moment, because if they choose to pull any more of that shit, they won’t have many.

All images © and courtesy Dain Withani

17   12
RESPONSES (29)
  1. ex fashion victim says:

    Hay Roger Zeno, it appears that you are now living in Cape Town? If so maybe some adjustments would be in order. Firstly, you need to socialise a bit more. Strike up a few conversations with these “hipsters” at the venues and you will find that the fashionable=superficial tag doesn’t always fit. Some of them dress as daringly as they exercise their ears. Secondly, did you notice that DJLE and Eat This, Horse share members? If the one band shows promise in your mind then maybe the other will in time too? Cape Town prides itself in bands that are not as obvious and entertaining as the pulp outfits treading the boards in Durban & Joburg. We plan to keep it that way, so get used to it.

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  2. noman says:

    OutKast.
    Integrity of writer (-600).

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  3. jezebel says:

    hey ex fashion victim

    I was in full agreement with you feelings on Cape Town and music right up until your last two lines. In porn terms, that’s called the money shot.

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  4. Roger Young. says:

    Story going up a day early without writer checking the sub
    Integrity of Editor (-1200)

    Yeah, we’ll fix it.

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  5. Andy says:

    hey fuck you… file good copy

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  6. Nathan Zeno says:

    You two, get a room.

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  7. Tara says:

    so much lurve

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  8. ex fashion victim says:

    I don’t get the pornographic analogy. Would someone care to explain?

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  9. Roger Young says:

    EFV, let me try to unpack what jezebel might have been alluding to. The first part of your comment was a very fair observation (although based on what empirical evidence I do not know) I think she (As I do) agrees with the spirit of it. But in your last two lines you assume to speak for the whole of Cape Town, take a large swipe at all other bands from other towns and reveal yourself to be, in some way, part of this scene or even of one of the bands and very very pissed off that your precious little scene didn’t get called groundbreaking. It’s like you got so excited you pulled out and came all over yourself.

    DJLE & Beatenburg are bands that may have a future if DJLE can translate what they do in smaller venues to bigger spaces and if Beatenburg get back together after Matthew comes back in August from Berklee. Their recorded stuff is gorgeous and i hope that the planned album launch comes off next week. Eat This Horse havn’t performed together for a very long time and I think were just so happy to be on stage and among friends that they played like they were at a birthday party.

    The Bottom Line is this. These bands need to learn to play to audiences outside of their scenes if they want to have any longevity. Part of playing to different audiences is the ability make slight adaptations to venue and mood. Another part is accepting that being in the public eye invites criticism (which, you know, is a good thing) and that taking what they can from that criticism is a valuable way to discover what they want to change or not change in their continual growth. People who take umbrage to criticism are people who are generally not so confident about the work they are producing. Someone like you complaining about this criticism just confirms what I was saying in this article. They play to an overly fawning scene that regards them as cool and does not actually engage with the music, this limits the bands in terms of the benefits of genuine honest feedback.

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  10. Dear Roger Zeno says:

    “The Bottom Line is this. These bands need to learn to play to audiences outside of their scenes if they want to have any longevity.”

    what bollocks. Metal appeals to metal heads. Celine Dion appeals to divorcess. Norweigen Death Metal appeals to … like 8 people. And twee, annoying indie-acoustic appeals to “hipsters” . So what if they have fawning friends instead of “Real”, discerning fans? You yourself point out that music is meant to be fun, and playing it enjoyable. Possible, then, that this is the “hipsters” (whatever the fuck that means) way of having fun with their friends/”scene”? Just because you don’t see it, or are not a part of it, doesn’t make it inherently dull and pretentious (though dull and pretentious it may very well be).

    To challenge that bottom line of yours, maybe it is not a bands duty to be accessible to other fractions of the market, but yours to be able to contextualise your criticism thereof in a credible, acessible way? Going off about “scarves” and “skinny jeans” and “hats” just sounds ignorant and silly. It is, shock horror, possible to give a shit about how you look and enjoy following fashion without being a pretentious, superficial little twit. And just because its beyond your frame of reference or understanding or interest, doesn’t mean you gotta throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nor does it mean you have to hide your fundamental dislike for something behind supposed “justified viewpoints” and “balanced opinions” about it. If you hate it, hate it. Don’t be shy. At least, then you will find your fans among those that feel the same. No one likes a fence sitter.

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  11. Alex says:

    Hello Roger and friends,

    Usually I wouldn’t deign to reply to such an article but I feel some clarification is in order. Note that I can only speak for Eat This, Horse and Dear John Love Emma as I am a member of both.

    First, let me congratulate you for making at least some attempt at constructive criticism. I’m generally disappointed by the lack of thought that goes into reviews of my band(s). I read them all, of course. I want to know what people think of the bands in which I’m involved as I care about it quite a lot, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was my primary endeavour.

    Anyway, past reviews have generally fallen into one of two antipodean categories: the blunt and overly enthusiastic ‘proudly South African’ category and the vituperative ‘fuck the scene, bru’ type reviews, invariably plagued with negative hyperbole. I imagine the writers of the latter think they are very funny, incendiary people (see: cevron) and the writers of the former are really sweet guys. Neither group are particularly bright nor useful. It is unfortunate that we so often get lumped into the ‘hipster’ or ‘scene’ clique but not entirely unexpected given our social proclivities and style of dress. Of course these things are poor predictors of our approach to making music and our attitudes in general but you can be forgiven for conflating them. A lot of people do.

    (Aside: I admit that I would never reply to a positive but badly specified review. There’s just no incentive to do so. However, I feel it is necessary to defend your criticisms in this public forum.)

    The ‘second category nature’ of your article isn’t immediately apparent. That is, you do at least perfunctorily express some aversion to the Eat This, Horse (musical) aesthetic and the article is ‘kinda long’. However, this is mostly for show. Your distaste for the music and the performance are used to justify some other position with implications for ‘the scene’ – an apparent bugbear of the Mahala writing staff in general judging by the few other articles I’ve read. This is fine, you’re well within your rights to criticize ‘DA SCENE’ and I sympathize with your opinion. I can imagine some people would find that apparent circle jerkiness quite annoying. Personally I find it quite difficult to care about such inconsequential matters.

    Responding more specifically to your criticisms, you didn’t like how it sounds and conclude that we’re taking “not-taking–themselves-seriously far too seriously.”? You also appear to be claiming that everyone in the crowd that was (pretending to be) enjoying the show was being ironic. This is absurd. The fact that I’ve taken time to reply to your article should be proof enough that I DO care about the music. I guess it could also mean that I enjoy arguing over the Internet (which is true!) but it’s mostly the first one.

    I don’t think Eat This, Horse are terrible at all (but I’m quite biased); I certainly don’t think it’s clever to be terrible (this position is not biased). How would you infer something like that from one performance? You’ve made a very strong claim on very shaky grounds. You’ve then gone onto to use this strong claim to make a blanket statement about a large and heterogeneous group of people. I hope you understand why this is a little bit silly. There are far better examples of why people that move in such circles are more predisposed to liking something for the ‘wrong’ reasons (which is what you’re stabbing at, right?).

    I will concede that Eat This, Horse were sloppy on Wednesday which obviously hindered the performance. I will also concede that, at present, there is very little incentive for us to put a lot of effort into live performances (in terms of polished musical presentation) as we’re currently prioritising writing and recording new songs. There is very little to gain from playing live shows in Cape Town and South Africa unless we get gigs, as you say, ‘outside the scene’. Even then we don’t really expect to convey what we want to sound like effectively given member and sound constraints. We decided, rather, that it’s far more effective to focus on recording, familiarize people with the songs, and then perform the songs for them. This is more of a long term plan and is more fun for us.

    We enjoy performance though, and I think our energy and enthusiasm on stage is a testament to this (even if this isn’t always obvious – speaking personally most of the time I’m too busy trying to concentrate on remembering parts).

    I read your follow up note and I think it does a far better job of making a valuable point than the original article. Yes, it does sometimes feel that once established a band can play just about anything and people will go apeshit. The problem is that you then assume that we can’t play to audiences outside of ‘the scene’ (whatever that is) which isn’t really that true. Oh well.

    I imagine you would be tempted to begin any criticism of Eat This, Horse’s actual music as follows: “I thought it was so terrible that I assumed they were being so ironic that they weren’t being ironic that they were! Boy THOSE guys sure overthink things it SURE IS PRETENTIOUS!” Sorry to preempt you but note that this would be a far crueler indictment of your ‘artistic ability’ than ours and I hope it is immediately evident why this is would not be particularly sensible.

    Seriously, we don’t think that much when we write these songs (“clearly – do ho ho”) in terms of conveying an artistic message or attitude or whatever (the nebulousness of your article makes it difficult for me to defend a position so I’m assuming a number of things here). Of course we’ll try to invoke certain feelings or emotions within songs but our approach is almost entirely aesthetic. If you don’t like it then that’s absolutely fine, but it is inappropriate to criticize us for some assumed subtext with such conviction. We play music we want to hear and enjoy playing – hopefully some other people enjoy it as well.

    PARODY VERSION: I PERSONALLY thought your article was shit, I conclude with certainty that you take not taking yourself seriously very seriously. You want to know why I thought your article was shit? TOO BAD, IT JUST SUCKED! Oh and also this article was written in a certain way, you clearly can’t write any other way. Also, everyone who reads this website is a piece of shit and is exactly the same and this is hindering JOURNALISM in South Africa!

    If your goal was to provide the much needed constructive criticism that bands in South Africa need, then I think you’ve failed. Hopefully the reasons why are apparent from the preceding text.

    Wait, what? Enough about Eat This, Horse.

    Your criticism of DJLE is slightly more fair. I think the music is strong enough to stand on its own (without the ‘theatre’ and ‘props’) in a recorded format but in a live context the venue may be extremely important. At the Intimate Theatre, for example, Emma could play on an actual piano which added a certain richness to the sound. The acoustics were, naturally, very different. Furthermore, the music is more mellow and personal so yes – it probably is better in that context. Also, getting the sound right for such richly arranged songs is incredibly difficult and often beyond our control, especially when venue equipment is of questionable reliability. Maybe we do need to adapt our shows to live performances better, but there’s only so much you can do.

    I think it is misleading to imply that DJLE depend on theater and props. I hope future releases of recorded songs will abrogate such notions. It is more of an indictment on differences in the sound quality (correlated with venue and therefore context) and the proclivity of the author to be woo’d by such slight variations than on the band itself. Ideally you’d be focusing on the actual songwriting but I worry that you may not have the ability to do so. Not because I’m making some assumption on your ability to understand music, but because a lot of the intricacies are lost in a live context. Unfortunately that’s just the way it is.

    I really like Beatenberg. That’s why we like playing with them.

    The OutKast cover wasn’t ironic. We really like it and I wanted to sing it especially. I was partially against it at first because I thought some asshole reviewer would scream ‘irony’. Being proven right is seldom pleasant when one’s predictions are pessimistic.

    In conclusion: We’re just writing and performing how we’d like to. John and Emma, the primary songwriters for EtH and DJLE respectively, are far more inclined to put a lot of effort into the songwriting process than anything else. I can assure you that they invest vast amounts of time into creating this music. Dismissing it because of some perceived shortcomings of the bands, which in turn appear to be nothing more than misdirected criticisms of the fans, is unfair and unhelpful. It does very little to contribute to your ostensible goal of providing constructive criticism (something that IS valuable and potentially useful to us).

    We put a lot of effort into writing and performing music, we would expect the same from reviewers. Sorry to climb into you like that, I hope it was constructive.

    Regards,
    Alex

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  12. Alex says:

    PS: Sorry it’s my previous post is somewhat convoluted. I was too lazy to edit it. Can you maybe forward it to your editor?

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  13. Roger Young. says:

    Gee, Am i only allowed to either “Hate” or “Love”? I like 2 of the three bands, i stated that clearly. The gig was Kak, I stated that clearly. The bands have promise. I stated that clearly. Some of the audience at this gig didn’t seem that interested in the bands only at who was looking at them while they posed or danced. Also, stated clearly.

    If you refer to a previous story on Beatenberg and DJLE you might see that I basically said (as i remember) that the audience loved them and engaged with them and they performed brilliantly.

    When a scene is about 80 people who don’t care about the music and about 30 who do, how much fun can the musicians be having? This is what I mean by playing outside of their scene, I did not suggest they play outside of their genre.

    Oh and Norwegian Death Metal appeals to a substantial amount more that 8 people. Oh! what you were being snarky! Sorry I have no idea how to read nuance into the written word.

    But you will now reply to this determined to have the last word and be right. The world is not always black and white, my friend.

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  14. Roger Young. says:

    Alex

    a: Previous Post was not intended as a response to you but rather to Dear Roger Zeno.

    b: Thank you for taking the time to respond. seriously, I for one really appreciate it. I must agree that this is probably not my best piece of analytical writing. The internet is a bitch as you know, trying to write about three bands in a short space with a dash of humour and self defacement tends to mean that either we loose readers or cut exposition. Maybe “it’s so hip to say hating hipsters is so hip right now” was a pretty lame attempt at prefacing the coming remarks as not-to-be-taken-too-seriously. I know it seems to be house style to hate The Hipsters, I for one do not think they even exist, I think it’s a handy internet catch all phrase that does nothing to further discourse. But its hard to fit all of that stuff in and keep people reading.

    The principle problem with writing or performing for an audience is simply this. Once the words have left your mouth you cannot control how people perceive them. I was merely calling Eat This Horse as I saw them, my impressions of the live music were what I saw, that does not mean I “saw” correctly, or more to the point, saw completely. To me, at that moment, it seemed like you guys were taking yourselves too seriously.

    As to Dear John Love Emma, upon rereading, again, the above I realise that I did imply that they were bad because they had removed the theater and props, but I also did include the intimacy within that statement. Earlier I also stated that it might have been venue paralysis. But yes, maybe more clarification there was needed.

    Maybe including my (badly thought through) critique of a non existent scene within a comment on the music was a a mistake. But the root of the criticisms still stand. I thought the audience did everyone a disservice by not engaging with the earlier bands. I though all performances had technical issues and I felt that Eat This Horse were just plain nasty, maybe I need to see you/them again, maybe my opinion will change, maybe it will not.

    Again thank you for your reply.

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  15. Carol Reed says:

    It looks like the guy from the band just proved that he takes not taking himself seriously far too seriously.

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  16. Alex says:

    Hey Roger,

    That’s totally fine. I more had a problem with your assumptions regarding our approach which I felt were a touch unfair. I suppose I would have maybe preferred more discussion of the actual songs, although I acknowledge that probably wouldn’t be as entertaining for everybody else. Thanks for taking the time to engage.

    Alex

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  17. Dear Roger Zeno says:

    Yawn. Your review still sucked, old man.

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  18. Roger Young. says:

    @Alex – A pleasure.

    @Dear Roger Zeno – That’s the best you got? Try Fat or Ugly, they hurt more.

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  19. ex fashion victim says:

    Nice to see others chipping in while I was getting on with my new career in adult cinema. That’s a fair amount of back pedalling that our Roger did there. Maybe in future he will take the less obvious Cape Town bands as seriously as they take themselves and consider all the angles before posting another review. Oh, and ditto for his hasty opinions on the bahavior of audiences in this town.

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  20. Roger Young. says:

    Jesus, EFV, can’t you fucking read?

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  21. Chev Chelios says:

    Well, I didn’t see the gig and I will agree that Roger is both fat and ugly, but usually he does have a vague idea of what he’s rambling about. The majority of posts on this wall seem fairly intelligent and educated, so if nothing else the article did provoke some intellectual discussion.

    I will now go on to make several sweepingly unfair generalisations and pigeonhole all your smug little opinions into comfortable stereotypes. Fashionably, musically, and creatively EVERYONE (except me) fits themselves into a neat little genre, and if they deny it they’re lying. Nobody wants to be a lone wolf, so just admit you’re a sheep.
    All live music sucks donkey cock and all bands are gay. Norwegian Death Metal is the only sort of aural stimulation I’m willing to expose myself to, and when I say ‘expose’, I do mean naked.

    And I’m sorry, perhaps I’ve been misled, but aren’t hipsters some kinda undergarment?

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  22. Ricky Verona says:

    Sorry. Had to crank up the voltage. I personally think Nathan-Roger “Culturati” Young -Zeno would spend his life giving himself oral pleasure if he had the dexterity.
    By trying so hard to live outside the “boxes” of “conformity” he is placing himseld at the centre of a bland square.

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  23. Simon Ringrose says:

    ET,H are internationally the coolest band I’ve heard all year, and I enjoyed the “looseness” of the gig, it’s so boring watching a well polished band play the same set every time.

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  24. DJ fuck says:

    don’t mean to brag, don’t mean to boast, but I’m intercontinental when I eat French toast.

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  25. The Searingly Obvious says:

    A: “It’s so hip to say that hating hipsters right now” and “People are probably going to get all enraged with me on the comment boards but”

    B: “But the kids don’t care; they’re just following trends, being alternative and all that.”

    The guy is fucking with you for the fun of it.

    ps : Never misinterpret “sloppy” for “looseness” ETH admit that they gig was sub par themselves, christ they practically admit to not caring about the audience.

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  26. Roger Young. says:

    I love it when people leap to my defense and can’t even quote me properly.

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  27. SNOREFEST says:

    wow, best article I haven’t read all summer. too long, fucking waste of time

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  28. Sameer Adams says:

    shut up simon, you deek

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  29. Robin Brink says:

    Hey.

    Nice photos, I like them.

    Beatenberg is spelt with an E at the end, not a U.

    Thanks.

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