Original Pirate Materialby Robin Scher / 23.11.2010
As we descended deeper into the heart of Brackenfell, evidently very lost, I assured my travelling companions who I had convinced to venture out of the confines of the City Bowl that “it would be worth it.” A few phone calls, a stop at a garage and scenic tour of the countryside later we arrive at our venue – the Hazendal Plaasteater. The mere fact that the band we are here to watch regularly choose this out-of-the-way location as a favourite gigging spot, is just a small indication of the kind of cult following they attract.
The Plaasteater is an old converted barn come live music venue, illuminated by lamps and providing a tavern-esque intimacy. Tombstone Pete starts things off with his brand of ‘percussive guitar’. Pete is entertaining to watch as his hands move quickly over the acoustic, playing the strings whilst tapping the beat on the guitar. If I hadn’t seen Gary Thomas or Guy Buttery before I would have been more impressed, nonetheless Pete wins the audience over with his charm and bad jokes.
The stage, scattered with a plethora of instruments, then proceeds to dim and onto it step the group of pirate-folk minstrels and the real drawcard for venturing this deep behind the boerewors curtain – Mr Cat and the Jackal. The set opens with an intro courtesy of a saw and a violin bow, eeking out a haunting melody that establishes from the start that this is going to be far from your typical four chord pop song. The band then erupts into whatever it is that folk drenched in rum would sound like. Gertjie, aka Mr Cat, howls into the microphone theatrically, and we set sail, for a brief moment you could mistake the theatre for being the innards of a ship on the high seas. From this first song, the band holds the audience with a firm grip that doesn’t let go until the last note.
With each passing song, the players switch roles. Gertjie transitions from guitar and lead vocals to accordion. Jacques ‘The Jackal’ moves from saw, to lap steel guitar to vocals. JC moves between bass guitar and percussion. The other two remaining members maintain an intricate and creative rhythm using everything from a Jamaican steel drum to a number plate and a stick. If there’s one thing this band is far from lacking its monotony. The songs range from the piratey chant of ‘Walk the Plank’ to an acapella bluegrass number.
If I had to find any fault with the evening it was with the fact that the venue, being a theatre, didn’t allow for a crowd to stand near the front of the stage. Having to sit down whilst watching these guys is comparable to copulating through a sheet – Mr Cat and the Jackal is a band that needs to be enjoyed viscerally, as close as possible to the stage with little restraint. If you consider yourself well versed in the Cape Town music scene but haven’t seen these guys yet – then you’re watching the wrong bands.
As we prepared to nervously try navigate our way back to the Southern Suburbs we were accosted by a drunken, Down Syndrome midget. I kid you not. As strange a sight as this was it somehow resonated accurately with the show Mr Cat and the Jackal had just put on – not something you see every day.