Mall Rockby Andrei Van Wyk / Images by Paris Brummer / 09.05.2011
“Hey, let’s go to Hooters!” I say half-jokingly. I get the ‘not a fuck’ look back from Paris. We walk up to the huge opening of Tanz Café, attention diverted to the walls which are smothered with gig posters. Jesse Clegg and the Spring Bok Nude Girl are heroes in this place. It’s Farryl Purkiss and Taxi Violence tonight, I take a deep breath and sigh saying to myself “Okay! Let’s get this over with”. The thick blue lights from inside shine against the stairs near the entrance. I watch my feet as I walk up looking at how they move in the fluorescent lights. The place is packed with men in suits and young girls in skimpy dresses handing out shots. There’s an old lady sitting at the table near the entrance violently devouring a steak and a young couple on the couch next to the stage kissing sporadically in between watching the sound guys set up. At the bar, uptight yuppies test their pick up lines on a group of girls who look underage. Paris and I look at each other wondering if we’re in the right place.
I walk across the floor looking around like Dorothy as she wanders down the yellow brick road and stare at everything like it was new to me. I’ve watched a ton of gigs here but tonight it seems different. Candles are lit romantically on the tables which cover the dancefloor and the smell of meat and beer fills the air. The entire room gives me a feeling like we just gate-crashed a corporate team building event. High class thirty two year old men talking about last week’s rugby and their young wives bitching about their kids.
Thankfully Farryl Purkiss starts playing almost immediately. He has built up a great following through his brand of subtle folk-rock which eases into the ear and seems to cause a bit of friction in the jeans of the women listening. With nowhere to sit, I find a spot next to the stage. Purkiss begins the set by explaining his use of a loop station and defending himself from the ideas that he uses backing tracks. Soon that smooth guitar is looped and lyrics of love and melancholy are whispering over the crowd. He moves through his set with precision, hitting songs like “Better Days” and “Kissing Devils on the Cheek” with an avant-garde sincerity that rings true for me. But there’s a darker thought nagging my mind. Even though Farryl displays a great appreciation for the experimental, with a use of phased guitar and off kilter melodies; a lot of his songs still come across as nothing more than simple folk-pop which seems artificial and processed. The same ideas regurgitated over and over again. As he reaches the middle of his set it is quite clear that the crowd have lost interest. However it’s open to debate whether they were interested in the first place. With the incessant pub conversation drowning out his voice, his skilfull guitar playing and humorous inter-song banter can’t save him from looking like a cheap hotel lobby act. It’s a shame really, because he expresses a clear sincerity which I appreciate.
Tanz Café, although a perfect musical venue, is ironically a place for the “musically retarded”.
Taxi Violence moves quickly on stage setting up their gear and checking microphones for a partially acoustic set-up. I respect the sense of urgency in their live shows and their ability to control the attention of the crowd. They burst on with an over-powering guitar surge which grabs the crowd and holds them. Their brand of clean (almost synthetic) blues rock jumps from table to table blowing out the candles and shedding darkness over the floor with an ominous but exciting tone. Playing their trademark “Venus Fly Trap” they take control of the room causing middle age women in short skirts to dance, holding their glasses of wine high in the air. As the song finishes, the attention they had commanded so well dissipates to be replaced by the pub banter that drowned out their Farryl Purkiss earlier. From then on, their guitars sound bland, the old slides generate little faith and their drums rumble under the surface with no sense of purpose or reason. I watch over from the side of the stage with a blank face. Though they played a half decent set, they remain in my eyes, a half-realised band. Their bluesy rock tones seem to be missing an overarching direction; a unity that’ll take them to the next level and force some kind of engagement from the audience.
As the intense feedback from their last track subsides, microphones and amps are hastily packed away, I can’t shake the feeling that my time has been wasted. The vibe drowned me with the smell of cheap cologne and cooking meat. I can hardly remember the music. Tanz Café seems to have turned into a restaurant and pub with a bustling social scene, that incidentally hosts live bands.
*All images © Paris Brummer.