One Night in Cape Townby Karl Kemp / Images by Saskia Swanepoel / 20.08.2013
Relativity has a way of screwing things up. To some, twelve Black Label dumpies is a breezy Friday, and for others, an anachronistic blur of questionable decisions and liver poisoning. Similarly, concepts are often easily muddled. What is good ‘art’? When is it meaningful? Should we even attempt to provide an objective framework for critics to work within? Can the people that actually ask these questions at exhibitions in Cape Town buy their pretentious spectacles and vegan meals at the same store? At least we can all agree that Andy Warhol was a cunt. Some things are beyond doubt.
Like the fact that late 90’s nu-metal was a terrible, terrible period for music. This is its final ejaculate:
Groups like Korn and Deftones had their moments, though. A lot of angsty kids in the early 2000s had those moments with them, this writer included. Which brings us back to the problem of universally accepted paradigms: are the Deftones nu-metal, was Grandwest empty as hell last Thursday for their pre-Oppi show, and should I even mention Yellowcard in this review? The more pragmatically useful answers to these questions are no, yes and ‘who?’ respectively.
Manchester Orchestra (from the States coincidentally) opened proceedings and they were surprisingly fantastic. They played a beautiful mix of modern hard rock infused emo-pop and it blended wonderfully, hitting the sweet spot between ironically witty lyrics with clever melody breaks and a rumbling guitar sound that had real teeth, even in the echoing emptiness of Grandwest. Not once did they descend into that familiar whinging gallop that was so popular in the early noughties, a gratuity that fared well with their original take on a tired genre. Did I forget to mention that their keyboard player had half a drumkit set up behind him which he turned to periodically to do mid-song battle with the more well-endowed drummer behind him? Against all odds, this flashy gimmick worked incredibly well and blended subtle drumwork into all the right sections. They were equal parts Foo Fighters without the drudge, and Biffy Clyro without the sheen of their latest material, and left their small but dedicated local fan-base in teenage ecstasy.
Saying that Yellowcard was terrible would be like saying rectal cancer is a slight inconvenience. They sucked, hard, for five whole songs, and then I could take no more.
Luckily, Deftones came on scant minutes after their ‘set’ and dropped slithering riff after slithering riff immediately, taken mainly from their two latest albums, Diamond Eyes and Koi No Yokan. They weren’t as tight as their polished recordings hinted at, but wouldn’t have pulled off the show they did if they were. Here, the finer points of stage performance were left by the wayside along with the pretences of never having dug Linkin Park. It’s not like they were chucking shit at each other or puking into the front row’s mouths; the songs were simply that heavy. And not in that chugga chugga bullcrap way that deathcore or metalcore or queercore or whatever-the-hell-core is – the lyrical content, groovy slams, ethereal vocals and intense familiarity all meshed together in a twisted way that dragged the entire (now properly swollen) crowd along down a depressed path littered with delirious memories and drenched with angst.
It was like frontman Chino Moreno took the departure of recently deceased bassist Chi Cheng, internalised it, and then spewed it out with all the clinical patience of Ted Bundy skinning a face. And God, was it universal. The usual crowd of sad looking goth teenagers were all too present, their collective indifference registering on the Richter scale, but spotted here and there were 16-year old jocks, middle-aged couples, alt kids from successful Cape bands… and all of us, even the goths, jumped the fuck up and down when they played “Elite” off White Pony and all of us, to the man, hit the off-notes on the chorus in “Sextape”. “Knife Party” embodied everything the Deftones are: a sinister, suicidally thoughtful act that raises maniacal shivers with cinderblock riffs and drumming. The entire show carried on in this vein, with Moreno’s vocals crouched over it all like a horny gargoyle on a church spire, until the obligatory break before the encore, when he re-emerged with S’effrican scarf draped around his sweaty neck. He’d done his homework on third world countries and their vices, condescending recognition being chief amongst these, and performed admirably.
Our nationalism sated, Deftones then proceeded to tear the half-full arena apart with a medley of songs from their very first, most humdrum material ever. They’d slowly hypnotised us over the course of an hour to believe that we were indeed back in 1994, in the calm before the storm, right before the movement was compromised and definitions were blurred, and capitalised fully during the encore whilst our apprehensions and preconceived notions were still skewered by the preceding brilliance. The entire set coalesced in the devolution of their credibility and “7 Words” (with a chorus that literally consists of the word ‘suck’ and a bridge that tries too hard to be a Wu Tang Clan number) proceeded to transform the semi-full arena into a graveyard of skeletons in low-slung pants slamdancing to a skeletal groove in carefully crafted darkness, all the better to share the angst in, and we ALL lost our minds completely and collectively. Because who cares about paradigm shifts anyway?
* Images © Saskia Swanepoel