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Pop Burns

by Alain William, images by Luke Daniel / 03.08.2010

“Pop” has become somewhat of a dirty word amongst many who consider themselves fans of “alternative” music. However, I’m of the belief that a good pop song is still a good song nonetheless and Dance You’re On Fire have proved that. They’ve been around for a while now, having released an EP already as far back as 2008. After a lineup change, they’ve dropped a lot of their more progressive-leanings, exhibited on their debut release, for their current pop-styled rock approach, and it seems to be paying off for them – if their recent radio-play is anything to go by. With two singles, a fair share of 5FM airplay and a music video under their belt they trekked to Cape Town to play a few shows for the first time in their present incarnation. 

The first evening of their tour kicked off on Thursday at a small venue in St. James (between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay) called the Octopus Garden. I’d never heard of it before, but I chalk this up to the fact that I’m not entirely in-the-loop as to where all of the fauxhemian hotspots in Cape Town happen to be. The show was to be an entirely acoustic set, with only vocalist/guitarist Tom, and guitarist/keyboardist Adrian taking to the “stage” to do a short set. They started off a bit rough, possibly due to Tom having literally just arrived from the airport, and partly because they lacked a certain fullness that might’ve been achieved with the addition of their other members. I feel that a more fleshed out approach would really help them do justice to their songs in an acoustic context but they were impressive, and definitely set the mood for Captain Stu. 

I’d never been a particular fan of Captain Stu, and I’ve tended to avoid live shows of theirs, but I was thoroughly impressed with their acoustic set. They played with absolute enthusiasm, and seemed to be completely in their element. It was a pleasure to watch them, and for me to put aside my prejudices when it comes to anything ska-related means they must surely be doing something right. 

The combination of two good bands, and an enjoyable, relaxed atmosphere resulted in a really pleasant evening – an appropriate warm-up show for the rest of the tour. 

The second show of the tour took place at Mercury Live on Friday night. Dance, You’re On Fire were first to take to the stage and because of them playing the opening slot, they didn’t play to a very full crowd. However, they completely delivered, and anybody who saw them was impressed with their tightness and super-catchy pop hooks. What makes this band interesting outside of the pop sphere is that they tend to add elements to their songs that don’t necessarily fit into the canon of quick-success pop-tricks – weird timing, interesting guitar parts, excellent drumming and the addition of keyboards all help to separate them from run-of-the-mill pop-rock bands who get by on an abused, tired pop formula. 

Next up were Pretty Blue Guns and their set kicked off with me cringing at their awful interpretation of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska classic “State Trooper”. Between songs, my interest was piqued when the vocalist asked the crowd “So, who here likes country?!”, followed by “and we’re talking about good country!” Country happens to be my first love, so I hung around for a while only to realize that their interpretation of “good country” is still more Billy Ray Cyrus than Townes van Zandt on the credibility scale.  I moved outside, but managed to catch lines such as “Ain’t nobody gonna love me like the devil do”, and, being acquainted with the Holly Golightly version of that song, I couldn’t help but feel as though the Country Gods were frowning upon Mercury. 

New Holland took to the stage next and they were everything you have now come to expect from them: tight, and fun to watch. I feel like the highlight of their set is Freedom – an obvious choice, but I always find myself with that song stuck in my head for days after I’ve seen them live. It’s no surprise that they seem to have quite a following – their catchy, accessible songs and the arrogant charm of their Vince Noir-ish frontman seem to be a combination for success. They definitely had the largest draw of the night, and were an appropriate end for the evening.

The final show of the tour took place at Aandklas in Stellenbosch. The timing for this show was great – all of the students had just arrived back to start classes again, and nobody was in the middle of writing exams. Despite the fact that a Vanfokkingtasties show was taking place on the field right next to the venue, the turnout was still really good. Once again, Dance, You’re On Fire played first and were again very tight. They have a confident stage presence, possibly the result of the members having been in numerous bands before; namely Rife, Dead City Centres, Andre van der Walt etc. The band is essentially an amalgamation of various influences and musical backgrounds, and this synergy has resulted in the onstage show of a band who display performance and song writing prowess far beyond their years. 

Captain Stu took to the stage next with an electric set, and to me, it somehow lacked the intimate charm of their acoustic show a few nights prior. They were tight though, and the crowd loved them. They’ve clearly mastered their craft, and I can now see why they have such a dedicated following. 

Once again, New Holland closed the evening and delivered. While sitting outside in the freezing Stellenbosch air, a friend and I commented on how they’ve become so comfortable with their set that some of it sounds as though a CD is being played over the PA. All in all, the tour was a success, and if the crowd response to Dance, You’re On Fire was anything to go by, they’ll only grow more and more with each return to Cape Town. They’re currently finishing off their debut full-length, and have since released their second music video – so, keep your eyes on MK, and your ears on 5fm, and you’re bound to hear more from this promising band in the very near future.

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