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Hot in the City

Hot in the City

by Dave Durbach / 29.03.2010

Melville played host on Saturday to the third installment of the rock ‘n roll free-for-all that is Joburg Burning. 32 bands, 5 venues. Like any other festival, one was faced with choices. Given the packed line-up, one would’ve struggled on the night to see more than seven or eight acts.

The first three hours of the evening were a gamble of lesser-known acts. A lack of available information on the bands, save for a simple timetable, meant that the choice for most people who showed up early came down largely to calculated guesswork, an avoidance of idiotic band names (eg. “We, the Kids,” and “Dance, You’re on Fire”), or a simple desire for convenience. With three of the venues within walking distance of each other on Main Road; waiting for an elusive shuttle to the Bohemenian or Back2Basix was for all intents and purposes, a bit of a mission.

Of the three early bands I ended up watching, Short Straw and The City Is The Desert offered little to write home about. Man As Machine impressed though. They put on an intense show in the sweaty basement of Cool Runnings. Perhaps overly reminiscent of Audioslave, they pulled it off convincingly nevertheless. “I rate Man As Machine is definitely one of my favourite bands at the moment,” I overhear on my way out afterwards. I think I know why.

Man As Machine

It was really only after 10pm that things picked up. Crowds grew in size and drunkenness. Bigger bands took the stage. Hit and miss had become spoiled for choice.

Ree-Burth turned up the heat under Cool Runnings and drew a frenzied response from the crowd. Their classic rock sound may be neither the most original nor fashionable, but they make up for this in skill and enthusiasm. More than any other band on the night, they were having fun – a sure sign that these guys are going places.

Yes, that's a guitar in his mouth

Pint-sized fan appears to have buried himself in singer’s fist

Across the road, Durban five-piece Fire Through The Window put on a heavier than expected set at the Jozi G-Spot. Singer Sinead Dennis was a welcome exception to the prevailing sausagefest, and alongside Marc de la Querra the pair gives the band a Pixies veneer.

Fire Through The Window

Ashtray Electric put on a good show for the ladies but were a little sedate for the big crowd at Roxy’s. Their songs may have came off a little dull but they’re not a bad band, and at the very least they held their own.

Ashtray Electric

Surprisingly, it was Taxi Violence who stole the show. And I doubt it was the Klippies talking. Older and wiser than your average indie clothes-horses, Taxi Violence have gone from being old Kings of Leon bat-boys to crafting their own hard-hitting, grunge-influenced sound, thanks to the Rian Zietsman on his Firebird and bassist Jason Ling.

Taxi Violence

CSI blue light reveals trace evidence of body fluid on guitarist Rian Zietman’s neck. George vd Spuy dreams of drink.

I made it back to catch the second half of the last band of the night – Desmond and the Tutus. By now it’s 1 a.m. and the crowd is surging. Some party animal crawls on stage before faceplanting off the monitor into a parting Red Sea. He survives and the Desmonds wind up what’s turned into a fairly epic night of music.

Desmond and the Tutus


The latest edition of Joburg Burning will go down as a big success for all involved. It was an opportunity for young bands to share a stage with more established acts. Some were good, others were undeniably kak – all no doubt appreciated the strong turn-out and smooth organization. Audiences got plenty of bang for their 130 bucks, the variety of bands on show underlining the fact that we do have some quality rock acts in this country.

All images © Dave Durbach

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  1. growing old disgracefully says:

    “Their songs may have came off a little dull but they’re not a bad band, and at the very least they held their own.” Now that’s what pulling punches reads like.

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  2. dave says:

    witty, old man… Ashtray Electric were completely unremarkable, but surely nowhere near as humdrum as some of the earlier bands. They’re not a bad band, but on the day, given how many bands were playing, the less said about such a middle-of-the-road performance, the better.

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  3. tara says:

    please say you mean they looked like the pixies…not sounded like the pixies….

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  4. death to interior decorators says:

    Welcome to the exciting world of the South African music journalist, where plodding mediocrity is the norm, all-pervasive to the point of being entirely acceptable and almost laudable on a quiet day. Nice job you got there buddy.

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  5. Yell says:

    Your lack of knowledge of the bands and venues is fascinating. Maybe music journalism is not your strong point. It was an amazing night with really, hard working brilliant bands.

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  6. WHatever says:

    I’m from Cape Town and was up in Jozi for a week. Joburg Burning killed, i skipped the Cape Town bands cos i see them all the time. Bands worth mentioning and worth the dollar i parted with: Wrestlerish, Black Pimpin’ Jesus, Ree-burth and The ShadowClub! Hells yeah… there is some mean talent upcountry for sure!

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