Rock Jocksby Michelle Marais, images by Mánielle Brits / 20.07.2010
With its poster clad interior, reasonably priced alcohol and tremendously diverse crowd, The Mystic Boer is the most appealing thing about Bloemfontein. Fittingly then, it played host to the aptly named MK Mystic Sessions.
In spite of the bleak weather I excitedly made my way past a queue of shivering session-goers – Oh the perks! I haven’t attended a gig at The Boer since varsity and knew that my rapidly diminishing adolescents might nip my excitement in the bud… it didn’t.
Around nine a group of youngsters approached the stage. I cringed. We don’t do matching attire Dave… and no, a skinny jean does not up the cool factor of a coordinated fashion flaw. I found a spot close to the conveniently situated bar and prepared myself for some nastiness. As I closed my eyes the preparation proved pointless. The frontman had remarkable range and the music was satisfactory. “Chidori isn’t half bad”, I said to my unimpressed boyfriend. “Few people attend a gig to listen with their eyes closed”, he replied. I shrugged in consent and sipped on my cheap red wine.
A short interval later the brothers of our Bellville Beloved, New Holland, took to the stage in grand fashion. Never having been disappointed with the fresh-faced foursome, I moved away from the bar, towards the stage, soon to find myself infected by the enthusiasm of an energetic head bobbing blonde. I soberly shuffled from side to side singing along to oh-so-catchy choruses from their Exploded Views album. New Holland’s magic lies in their foolproof approach to performing. The lyrical content is clear-cut, the music undemanding and the delivery effortless.
Pretoria based 2006 Rockspaaider winners, Ef-el, followed as the main act. I wish I had constructive commentary, any commentary really, regarding their performance (or lack thereof) but alas the show time saw me topping up my glass in the incredibly inviting VIP area. I was forced, of course, to do so in a bid to fight off a wintry night. A fair amount of wine-induced-mingling had me join the rock outfit as they sweatily collapsed on the “sexy couch” for a quick chat. The sudden departure of former drummer Hugo Brand in early 2010 came as a bolt from the blue. After a decent dry spell Ef-el found two new additions in the shape of Herman Rosslee on drums and backing vocalist (soon to be pianist) Francois Viljoen. Frontman Fritz Bucker was glad to announce that he believes the rebirth holds promise of innovative material come end of year.
Saturday’s conditions were less dreary and subsequently skyrocketed attendance. The Boer was chock-a-block with an assortment of attendees eager to honour the last of the holidays.
Bloemfontein spawn, Colourblind was to fire up the night’s musical mayhem and so they did. Standing in a horde of rapidly increasing drunkards all I could think is “Lord, where have I been… where have they been all this time?” Irrespective of their inane, post-apartheid name and sporadic onstage hesitation they blew me away with inventiveness and originality. Boys, rename and relaunch, today.
Fourty five minutes later, an instant calm washed over the rabble as eerie rockers The Pretty Blue Guns stirred Saturday’s sauce with their introspective subject matter and bluesy beats. The Mystic Boer barely host blues bands and this became apparent as the predominantly hardcore gathering silently retired to their shadowy seats. I enjoyed their set. It was everything I’ve come to expect from the Stellenbosch outfit. Tight – despite the fact that Jonathan Velthuysen had to stand in for Gregory Thompson on bass – contemplative rock executed with the fervour known only to this genre.
The evening concluded as Bellville based rockers Van Coke Kartel took to the stage in an attempt to fight daylight. Frontman Francois van Coke put his mouth to the mic and, in next to no time, locals crawled out of the woodwork. This year saw the duo make way for a quartet as they fixed Jason Oosthuizen on drums and Jedd Kossew on lead guitar. Good for them. Good for us. Their sound was surprisingly full, riffs more varied and it seemed as though the extra pair of (competent) snare-hands gave van Coke ample time for his habitual stage antics whilst holding his own as vocalist. Favourites off their earlier albums had an assemblage of fans rampantly moshing, so much so that the wine and I had to remove ourselves in order to prevent physical harm. In the closing stages of their set I found myself on my tiptoes, peering over a sea of heads in order to catch a glimpse of the on goings. It was then that I realized this group of seasoned musicians are no longer lurking in the shadows once cast by Fokofpolisiekar. They have become what their fans deserve, a distinctive b(r)and worthy of our time and hard earned cash.
Following the superb music was an even better shindig. Musicians and fans, Rock-Jocks and religious Goths united under the dimmed lights of a busy bar. Until a socially inept individual thought it a good idea to introduce his fist to Van Coke Kartel’s bassist, Wynand Muyburgh’s face proving why this run of the mill metropolis should only be spoilt with an event of this nature once a year.
* All images © Mánielle Brits.