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I love Desmond & The Tutus

by Hugh Upsher / 26.02.2014

I was sad about what appeared to be an “uninspired” Desmond & the Tutus performance at Up The Creek festival. When it was suggested I catch them at The Assembly I was seriously concerned that it would only reinforce my speculation that The Tutus had lost their jive. My other option was to go to the Dollfins album launch at The Pit. Based on a previous experience I had there, I can tell you that it doesn’t matter how many cool, black and white photos of punk shows at skateparks you’ve seen, it is not good idea.

So it was that I ended up climbing The Assembly stairs to catch the last couple of songs from Holiday Murray. This is a band that I thought were set for early retirement when the members realised they couldn’t keep their private school lifestyle going based on a Debonairs advert royalty cheque split four ways. Anyway, they are still alive, sounding as they always have.

I was loitering near the stage area before Desmond & The Tutus came on when I realised how much of an impact UCT ‘O’ (for Orientation) Week had on the crowd. I didn’t even have to rely on my eyes as the few interactions with others I had either started, or ended, with me admitting my age. One girl had the nerve to point out: “Oh ,you just dress like a 19-year old!” I had no idea. I was relieved when The Tutus took to the stage in their Valentine’s Day Matric dance swag with singer Shane going so far as to sport a properly hilarious jerry curl.

I stood by my friend in the sweaty epicentre of the eager crowd for the entire set. We sang along, we high-fived strangers and made a waving claw gesture with our hands. Mostly through direct instruction from the stage. This is something that happens at every Tutu’s gig, a now long-standing tradition. There was an adorable one-man mosh pit tirelessly bouncing around like a puppy looking for a play thing. He kept getting the kind of glares where you could tell people were just thinking ‘Come on dude, it’s fucking Valentines Day!’ The remix of  their classic ‘Kiss You on The Cheek’ infused with that other club classic ‘Ignition’ has become a staple of their sets, due to the unlikely (yet genius!) infusion of R Kelly and harmonica. A definite highlight of the set.

After the show I thought I’d hang out by the side of the stage to strike up a conversation with the band using my ridiculous amount of Desmond a& the Tutus trivia and journalistic charm. After complementing the guitarist on a well played show he gave me a gratuitous thumbs up, he could have also just been rolling up his sleeve. But I believe it was more of a combination of the two, where the end the result was me getting positive reinforcement AND his sleeves were effectively rolled up. That wasn’t going to be my in.

the roll up

I turned back to my friend to analyse the gesture and strategise a new approach as some nubile with hair moved in. A few moments later I was asked by said hair model to take a photo of her and the band using her smartphone. I was surprised at how annoyed I was by this request and I decided I should include myself in the photo.

cell photo

I decided that for my second attempt at interaction, I would have to come on a bit stronger. I was torn between asking if their heavy metal alter egos ‘Deathmont & Thyne Tutus’ would ever resurface, or mentioning that I saw them on their very first Cape Town tour playing Armchair Theater with since-forgotten band Eat This, Horse! (An early band featuring John Withers of John Wizards). I went with the latter and the following interaction took place:

Me: I saw you guys when you played Armchair Theater with Eat This, Horse!

Guitarist: Wow. [pause] That was a while ago. How old are you?

Me: 26

Guitarist: Wow, you’re old. Most of our fans are much younger.

Me: [pause] Probably because your music is immature.

red graph

The band left soon afterwards, cramming themselves into an ugly little red car and soberly riding off into the darkness. In conclusion, Desmond & The Tutus have not lost their jive and I overheard that they are working on a new album. So that’s cool.

Illustrations © Hugh Upsher

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