Sailing with the Beastby Max Barashenkov, images by Adriaan Louw / 22.10.2010
The Beast stares at me from across three drafts with eyes that scream “I need action! And you will be my wingman!” He looks good and, judging from the way pre-drinks had deteriorated into wasted slurs, it’s going to be a good night for him. I’m on an unashamed drinking trip – anything to break the boredom of another show review. Hyenas with full pockets and lasagna at home try ambush us at the Shack, but we are after a higher quality of game tonight and are in no mood for Italian cuisine. Onwards, to the palace of hip, indie vagina! On to the Assembly!
As with the festival, the Rocking the Daisies after-party boasted some of the finer meat cuts of Under the Mountain, the Beast was aroused by the possibilities, I was more alarmed by the price of beer. Drinking on a budget can turn you into an ugly human being, concerned with only one question – where the fuck is Jerry? Women, conversations, bands, they all become tertiary – you scribble down notes, but not out of any real interest, merely out of the necessity of a frail memory and a semi-retarded sense of duty. The Beast keeps me on course, as I do him, and drags me to the stage where tight-jeaned hips are already swaying to the second band, the Holiday Murray (mercifully we missed the openers, Jakkals – one less depressing paragraph). We stand amongst the environmentally shell-shocked cattle, take it and then…horror!
Hippie Regeneration 3D! Have we reached the point when the hip crowd turns to tree-hugging rock ‘n roll? When they realize that leather shoes are made from animals and looking good is expensive? You are a lot cooler when you love the planet and act like a bored stoner on stage. Fuck me, if you are going to go all out arty-bohemian-folk and bring a violin into it, then please use it as something more than a background prop-noise! Once you tap into the Holiday Murray vibe – it’s just a re-hash of 60s rock ‘n roll/country sensibility, and to our tongues it is stale. Which isn’t to say that this is a bad outfit, their set is tight and the sheepish demeanor is appealing, in that Hello-Kitty-cute way. Listen to the winds and you will get the impression that Holiday Murray are the hottest thing since the crucifixion – every other douchebag with aspirations to belong is having a spastic shit about them on every street corner. And admittedly, half-way through, I’m merry enough to enjoy their set, but then that over-irrigated, under-trimmed fool from New Holland weasels his way onstage and the band turns to Insta-Shit. Someone please buy him a one-way ticket to Auschwitz and if Holiday Murray are riding his coattails, send them along. Gas showers of average! Ovens of recycled rubbish! Fertilize the fields and watch mediocrity bloom!
The problem with music journalism is that it is so god damn boring. The sour reality is that there are only so many ways you can say a band blows or doesn’t, there are only so many times you can watch shit acts before you turn into a highly fanged individual. The only alternative is to drink, and to drink for free, if you can. The Beast is locked into a courting ritual with something pretty, I’m about to lose the ability to communicate and The Pinkertons have just barged on to the stage. Christ almighty, what a crock of shit, mood-killers extraordinaire. Would anyone care if there wasn’t a pretty girl coaxing out sexually arousing deep notes? Probably not. And as the spotlight stays on her – the formula becomes more and more obvious: flashing lights + poon = sell. Hey, let’s put a Debbie Harry knock-off in front of some pre-digested rock boredom and watch the crowd thin out with every song, until you are nothing more than a pathetic filler band. The people have voted with their feet – Get thee to the compost heap!
I’m still no closer to finding Jerry, or any other free booze, and am now in a thoroughly foul mood, one step ahead of the Beast in the drinking game and two steps away from being inside out. He runs up to me with a feral grin and drops the announcement that he has accomplished his mission. I feel proud and tell him that the night is still young and he can do better and more. He agrees and disappears into the forest of ass just as We Set Sail begin casting their strobe-induced hypnosis. In my state, I’m deeply grateful – this is the kind of band that makes it all worthwhile, that inspires, that allows for something good to be written.
The first time I saw them, I became a fan. Tonight, I’m a disciple. Every instrument, every member explodes in their own way, each in his own zone and laying down his piece of something beautiful, something that is almost beyond words. They slip from trance-like mellow, to almost metal heavy, into trumpet-driven dance hooks over precision drum-work, all without losing coherency and singularity of sound. I’m lost in the complexities of guitarist Adam Hill’s peddles, in their proper utilization and the ethereal noises they create. My whole being is infected with them, every pore is silently howling – “We Set Motherfucking Sail!” The vocals are spellbinding in their absence, spurring the crowd onto their own interpretations of the music, their own outlets of the feeling. This band doesn’t build you the gateway, they merely show you where it lies, how you get there and what you see when you do, is entirely up to you. Somewhere in their poetry, I see the Beast with his tongue coiled around a pair of sexy legs, I give him the thumbs up but he doesn’t notice. For all intensive purposes I consider my wingman duties fulfilled and surrender memory and sobriety entirely to the best band in Cape Town. To say that We Set Sail will be huge would be rather prosaic and the only words of warning are those of hope that they will not let their imminent success go to their heads and turn them into snobbish rockstars.
When the black recedes and recall is restored, I’m outside the Shack, again, it is getting light and the Beast is passed out in the car, content bastard. There are people around me, who they are I don’t know – they could be vagrants, they could be musicians, they could be a gang of Nigerians who have just had their way with me. I don’t know and I don’t care, because somewhere in the mire of the night, I must have found Jerry. At least it feels like I did.
*All images © Adriaan Louw.