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Planet of the Fakes?

by Max Barashenkov, images by Mark Reitz / 26.08.2010

Talk about failed expectations and let-down hopes. There is a girl, she has a sailor hat on and a fake moustache and she is, perhaps, the hottest thing I’ve seen at the Assembly, ever. I want to fight her boyfriend and hold her hand and tell her beautiful things and dance with her in a magical world. Then the Great Apes take the stage, she takes off her moustache and all dreams crumble. She’s just another non-descript indie girl in a crowd of others just like her. This, sort of, goes for the band as well.

The Great Apes have excited my ears for sometime now, murmurs in dark corners about something different. Having put together the ‘experimental’ music festival at the Albert Hall sometime ago, I figured a band with such drive for interesting sounds will offer a touch of special themselves. Sadly, I find myself not understanding them, only seeing a tight spazzed-out garage rock outfit and nothing beyond. Their music is not infectious, bordering on the complex and crying out for a better vocalist, who, despite his furious flailing and wailing, failed to grab me by the balls (and it is almost prerequisite for a frontman to give them a little fondle, otherwise, why are you on stage?). At times they do break into great noisy shit, aural pandemonium of the highest order, but it’s too little and too late. It won’t be right to dismiss them on this note, because there is something more to them, I can see it in the dedication on their faces, a certain grim satisfaction at their sound, I just didn’t manage to tap into it – this perhaps is an indication of a great, challenging band. And I will be the first to admit that they don’t just require more than one listening/watching, they deserve it.

On the other hand, the one that is frail from too much masturbation, Throatball do not warrant a single minute of your time. Imagine the most rubbish of hardcore punk bands. Got it? Dilute that with the lack of any kind of songwriting ability. Did it? Mix in the most un-engaging stage presence ever and a vocalist who wears an unexplainably stupid mask. Visualizing it? Now add five liters of fresh, steaming shit and you will be somewhere close to Throatball. It’s the kind of music that stops being exciting when you turn sixteen and, perhaps, they would go down great at a Wynberg Sports Club all-ages show, around the 10pm slot, when the kids are wasted off their faces and can’t tell music from jerking-off. At the Assembly though, they make me scream: “get off the fucking stage, or better, just quit, man, just quit, because if this is what you are putting out at your age, then your value as a musician is a resounding zero!”

It’s an unfair shame that Alive At Midnight play first, before the dread of Throatball, because whatever the second band fails to achieve, the opening act get right, they get it surprisingly very right. Alive At Midnight play the kind of music that is made for wasted singing along, for fists pumping in the air, for crack-broken gang vocals, for rock ‘n roll brotherhood. They’ve got everything – a half-sane vocalist that gets more and more naked as the show progresses, a great guitarist that squeezes some of the most driving rock ‘n roll riffs and licks on the South African scene and a solid rhythm section who keep it all together and roar through the backing vocals. They will, mercifully, never be too popular, never will they bow down to commercial pressure – the music is just not girl-friendly enough to keep drawing the Assembly female goddesses and, with them, the male gig-goers – unless South Africa (or is it just Cape Town) wakes up from its indie-pop-rock delirium – it’s just too dirty, too raw, too ugly for the mainstream. They do have some tracks that are flat and non-descript, like the painful ‘Inner City Shuffle’ which, by all means, should be cut from the set list, unless they add a shitload more groove to it. But when they kick into their title track, ‘Alive At Midnight’, you forget all about the little flops – it’s a real anthem of joyous destruction, of laying waste to yourself and everything around you. I’m standing there, in the early paper-thin crowd, and wishing I was like the guy in the middle of the dancefloor – he had three tequilas in a row before the show started and now is lost in a manic rock ‘n roll flip-out. Good man, this country needs more of his ilk.

As we leave, I see my sailor girl again and now she nothing more than a port-side hooker, but maybe, just maybe, if she puts on that hat again and glues on her moustache, I’ll dream of her again.

*All images © Mark Reitz / The Assembly.

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