Mahala Presents | Shameless Plugby Roger Young / Images by Paris Brummer / 22.02.2012
On Saturday night, at The Assembly, we at Mahala held our first Debuts & Experiments evening; they’re a kind of low pressure, free entry event for new bands to debut, or any band to debut new material, or to experiment, in front of a fairly chilled crowd that is mostly just there in case something incredible happens, or not, whatever. Low pressure except, that is, for the inevitable review.
But it is, both ethically and intellectually, a pretty stupid move to try both organise and critique an event, or even to critique the performances within an event you are organising. Sure, you can get a feel for what happened and judge by other people’s opinions whether it went down well or not, but the kind of distance necessary to describe and evaluate these performances objectively, when you’re busy actually corralling the performers, as well as dealing with all the other little details, is never going to be available. On one level I’m trying to get out of saying that we promoted the gig too little, too late, and our turnout could have been better, and on another level I’m trying to say that any critique I level will be tainted by these factors. To this end, I’ll keep it brief.
Fun Toy was our regular monthly last minute addition to the line up. All electronic pads and nobs, Fun Toy opened up the evening with a down tempo set that had a light glitch feel. Sprinkled with guitars, samples, lite-drama breaks, and post-dubstep sub bass, it felt like it deserved a hash laced sunrise and not a club littered with kids who didn’t quite know what to do with its hazy nature. But more than this, the Toy was an active and commanding presence on his machinery, bouncing around at, at least, double the BPM of his tracks, while laying out strong and nuanced set.
MacGuyver Knife delivered a set of solid, but generically indie rock, underpinned by a superb, albeit at times frilly, rhythm section. They have a fair amount of Brit Pop influence in the mix, specifically in the chorus harmonies and the guitar work. But MacGuyver have some stomping songs and they pulled the biggest crowd onto the floor all night, even if there is something a little reticent about them; they haven’t quite relaxed into each other as a group.Their guitarist comes across either indifferent or nervous, while, at the centre of it, their vocalist hasn’t quite found his stage persona, or mic technique yet; he just doesn’t have the same confidence as he does on the album. The overriding feeling I get from MacGuyver Knife is that all they need is more gigs, more support slots, before they find their total groove.
Oxblood’s set was all colliding beats, simple piano-like accents ,and staccato stabs that felt like they were being looped backwards; simultaneously schizoid and chilled. It was a weird choice on my behalf to put him on at that time, especially after the rock of MacGuyver but the crowd got into it, while Oxblood in his fairy light turban stood back behind his machine. He wasn’t as active as Fun Toy, coupling this with his almost black headgear, it added an odd, is-there-anyone-playing-this-music?, edge to his performance; it’s one thing to recognise that electronic performance is about persona and presentation, but Oxblood’s presentation resulted in an absence from stage. Musically, however, he was far from absent, with his complex and interpolating rhythms, coupled with a manic trip-hop type sensitivity working toward a slo-mo sci-fi showdown.
Manqoba lays down his flow, back and forth with his hype man, over a rising and dramatic chant, for the most part in Xhosa, their vocal gymnastics blending into sing song at times. They have a pure energy about them; that total and smiling confidence of young guys who know that they know how to spit. But Manqoba also creates hooks out of his flow, there is no relying on borrowed samples here, and their backing tracks posses gangsta epicness. It’s all in the force though, Monqoba bashes through his rhymes like he’s taking out a village of snipers in an RPG with a submachine gun; the vocal dexterity reducing the remaining audience to shocked, jaw dropped, stares.
The evening was rounded out by Exorsistahs DJing a set of nineties pop, and hip hop classics, it was probably the best set of the night, well that’s what they asked me to say, and they have great hair, so how could I resist?
Next time, for Debuts & Experiments #2 on the 24th of March, we promise to get someone from beyond the Mahala High Five Brigade to review, instead of me having to subject you to my ethical dilemmas. And now, on to the photos and bitter-of-youth captions.