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Gazelle

Novelties and Party Tricks

by Andrei Van Wyk / Images by Hanro Havenga / 11.10.2011

Sweat oozes from the windows of the dubstep party next door as the bright light illuminates the wet faces of the kids dancing outside while trying to grab a smoke. The inside of Town Hall, Newtown, Jozi, is hot in temperature but cold in spirit. The corners are crammed with people too shy to dance to the hi-fi sounds of Two Door Cinema Club and Foster the People. Others just stand awkwardly next to the toilets waiting for their girlfriend while frustrated adults, pushing the upper age limit, struggle to get along with the young, half-drunk bartender.

Shortstraw

Shortstraw make their way through the smoke and up onto the stage. The crowd is elated, felated, as the band hits their first note, opening with the song “One Long Day”. Its big chorus and angelic harmonies draw a great roar as everyone sings along. Shortstraw, are an obvious Johannesburg crowd pleaser. They have a canny ability to write catchy pop songs which saves them from ending up in the category of “pretentious rock”. They hold a genuine edge, but I can’t help but wonder about some of their lyrical content. While songs like “Underfed” have an addictive afro-pop influenced guitar line and an epic chorus, the verse lyrics hold almost no substance. Strange enough, their hit, “Keanu Reeves” is the only song people really want to hear on the night, but I find it both boring and unfunny. As a band Shortstraw are on the fence. They could go either way. But they need to temper their sense of humour with their musicality quite carefully, or risk becoming that band who sang the novelty hit “Keanu Reeves”.

Holiday Murray

OK, this next bit is going to be a bit contentious for a lot of Capetonians. But it needs to be said. Holiday Murray only have one really good song in their catalogue – and this, obviously works against them. Their set is kind of samey and invariably comes across as ‘twee’. Having seen them on Youtube, on bicycles, riding through the lush Cape Town burbs singing the highly catchy “Jirey” which, with its Vampire Weekend inspired guitars and solid rhythm, you can’t help but enjoy. It’s an amazing song. But the rest of their set seems both boring and uninspired in comparison, typified by the sparse sound of instruments imprecisely trying to come together. The dry guitars and thumping bass seem to fight against each other as the drums coat the set with monotonous energy which leaves only the drunks in front moving. Others just stand and wait it out. It’s all quite frustrating because songs such as “Stop Thief!” begin with interesting guitar lines and a captivating energy but soon lose that vigour in a lazy performance. Other songs such as “Copperwire” and “Antagonizer” just seem to enhance that dry energy. The audience guts it out, unimpressed and disinterested in the four guys on stage.

Gazelle

Finally, it’s time for the pudding. Or is Gazelle the main course? Hard to say. There is a silence punctuated only by conversations and the clink of beer bottles being kicked across the dancefloor. A man in a mirrored visor and a leopard skin scarf walks with his arms straight and his legs flailing towards his booth. A dreadlocked drummer lays down a solid beat which is covered with understated and ever growing synth-line. Gazelle have become a group who have captured a loving fan base with their special blend of afrobeat, electronica, reggae and dub. They dodge the customary forms of categorization. Too hip hop to be rock and too rock to be rave. And don’t forget the house. Charismatic frontman Xander Ferreira, dressed in an Ndebele patterned suit and Ray-Bans, slides and jumps on stage with a loveable arrogance and a high pitched, almost nasal voice. He’s almost as charming as DJ Invisible’s spastic dancing. Hits like “Die Verlore Seun” and “Chic Afrique” show that the band has a sense of humour but driving bass, the rough synth and back-beat drums keep everyone focussed on what they really came to do. Gazelle are a dance band.

Alas due to small technical problems the performance suffers as the synths go out and the vocals are cut short. Which is a pity, really. Once the music is played, the people slowly filter out into the night, either joining the dubstep kids next door, or filtering across the bridge and back into the burbs.

Gazelle

Gazelle

Holiday Murray

Shortstraw

Holiday Murray

Gazelle

Gazelle

*All images © Hanro Havenga.

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RESPONSES (16)
  1. shepard00294 says:

    Awesome, well written article!!!

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  2. LDP says:

    Rad photos! Nice one Mr Havenga.

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  3. damian says:

    The photos look like they’ve been taken by a liam lynch-adriaan louw copycat

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  4. Tim says:

    Damian looks like he’s been taken by a 9 inch man ho on crack…

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  5. CherryFresh says:

    Damn fucking right, Holiday Murray blow whales.

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  6. The ghost of Dimitri Tsafendas says:

    Damian’s a poes

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  7. john says:

    Actually damien makes a good point. Been noticing it for a while. Glad he pointed out the observation and not me.
    But this isn’t about photos. Great article andrei! This and the previous one are probably your best so far! Keep up the good work! @andy you have a winner here

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  8. stan raptor says:

    god Andrei, get a fucking sense of humor. shortstraw dont take themselves seriously and that one of the greatest parts of the band, their lyrics dont need to be deep and meaningful for it to be a great song, i for one would rather have a laugh and a dance then stand around listening about how some guys heart bleeds cos his mother didnt love him, thats what makes rock boring. much like your previous band i believe.

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  9. Andy says:

    Allow me to play devil’s advocate, but I’m not sure A.Louw and L.Lynch have such an identifiable style that another photographer can dickride on… you know what i mean? I mean everyone’s shooting the same bands, at the same venues on digital and then tweaking in post production… so it’s hard to lay claim to a specifically identifiable style – and then attribute it to another photographer. Know what i mean?

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  10. Yola says:

    I think the article is awesome!!! and @stan raptor, Andrei have a good point with ShortStraws sense of humour it does get irritating. their only known for ‘keanu reeves’ and thats it.

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  11. Cuervo Geek says:

    Awesome shit!!! @Andy, more articles from this guy!

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  12. Reply boy says:

    Very Well written article 🙂 I kinda agree with Damian, the photo look like Liam Lynch/Adrian Louw photos. This Photographer needs to find his own style.

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  13. Fonseca says:

    Love it!!!

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  14. YellowElevator says:

    What is it about these photos that apparently look like Liam Lynch’s or Adriaan Louw’s? Are those the only 2 photographers that any of you have ever seen?

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  15. Felix says:

    @stan raptor shortstraw are fun and yes they do have a sense of humour – but andrei is talking about how if they don’t watch it, they’ll be seen as a band like Flight Of the Concords – who built themselves to be a purely comic band (and we love them for that). But if the concords were to write a serious song with lets say, realistic lyrics, no one would care to listen.
    So I think if shortstraw want to be taken seriously as a professional band (which they established themselves as – not a comic band) they need to shape up a bit. I love shortstraw, and they’re album is great and I love a good laugh too – I mean who doesn’t? But they’re shortstraw, not flight of the concords and not Tenacious D.

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  16. Danny says:

    Bangin party! Gazelle rocked it out real nice. What most people never realised or gave a shit about was that twelve and thesis were meant to follow (for desert). So they got on stage around 2 and started setting up to a crowd of ten who just didn’t notice them. The cleanup staff started packing away the speakers in front of them. A pretty hilariously miserable way to end a Saturday night. Is it that we don’t pace ourselves for nights past 2am in Joburg, or that T&W just aren’t worthwhile? It just seems to me like most of the time Jozi’s dead by 2 or 3 latest 4:30.

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