Seeds in the Binby Ray van Wyk / 03.12.2012
Last night I decided I would go out with a purpose other than perpetuating the usual over indulgent binge drinking and attempted self effacing narcissism I’ve grown to love (it’s not an oxymoron if you do it right). The purpose: to attempt to describe in the best way I can, what this band: The Trees, and their accomplices, mean to me and the Durban music scene. Now, with any endeavour such as this, peppered with personal bias (as I know every single member of every band on more personal levels than befit a journalist or for that matter; an intimate lover) I still believe that a certain measure of detachment can be enforced upon oneself to deliver a somewhat informative, if grotesquely biased review of a night’s entertainment. This is what we’re all here for right?
This was the first time I had been to Durban’s trendy new hotspot, The Collective, about which I will only mention the doorman’s healthy scepticism towards kids doing ‘write ups’, a fantastic placement of 30 Seconds cards (which are a very fun way of getting rid of excess drunken energy) and the overall cozy atmosphere well suited to the evening’s performance and night life culture mongers alike. Oh and the clean toilets. Something rarely found in Durban’s live music environmemts. Props.
Full disclosure: I had to do the effing sound for these dipshits because in typical Durban fashion no one bothered to even consider how this was going to be achieved. Naturally, when asked why there was no sound coming out of the speakers while the desk was peaking higher than your crazy hippy friend on New Years after 12 tabs of acid, I lent in to offer a helping hand, even though I have never studied, claimed to be proficient in, or made it known that I had any semblance of knowledge about anything sound related. I learned my way around a desk way back in the D, being a skivvie for Sibling Rivalry, taking orders from Steve ‘The Baws’ Jones. Help where help is needed, right?
Anyway, on to the music. After initial freakouts with mismatched cables, The Trees took to the stage. These guys are without hyperbole, the greatest thing to come out of Duban’s seedy underground music scene in the last few years. Most bands in Durban start off great. Well, either great or greatly disappointing. The Trees, however, are definitely in the former category and have somehow managed to synthesize a bewildering plethora of musical styles into something so essentially ‘Durban’ that it is difficult to fault even a misplaced harmony or an out of tune guitar. From Justin “Big Bear” Grady laying down incredibly tight, solid beats on the tambourine and snare while keeping it modestly un-Buddy Rich-ish, to Matt’s toned down hardcore steez, Bobby owns it on the bass, providing a solid backline with Darren bringing an essential punk element into the mix on guitar and vocals. James pulls off traditional bluegrass on the Banjo with ease; spiced with licks to make your brain do cartwheels and Hezron on violin comes across as some kind of nouveau gypsy duke, bringing an amount of class that’s impossible to conjure from any other source than pure talent and a raw love of music. These guys… seriously guys, no jokes, are the thing to look out for and follow. Darren confided that it took them 2 years to find the perfect lineup. But they seem to have it nailed. Good guys, both personally and musically. So catch them now our you’ll regret not knowing them before they become too cool to make new friends. Foot stomping post-folk vibes, if there even is such a thing. The Trees proceeded to liven up the tiny venue and send chills down my spine with every catchy chorus. Busting out a sound far too fresh to flop.
Next up was Roachy and the Rock Coaches. With a long legacy from way back when I was still 14 and thought anarchy meant an ill drawn letter ‘A’ on your shirt coupled with underage drinking and playing with one of Durban’s original punk bands Mr Smug. Roachy coos out classic punk rock songs on an acoustic guitar; rich, nostalgic and oh-so-tight. Think Bad Religion, Blink182 and Rise Against, take the punkness and make it take a cool tool. Roachy can play the classics with flare and could probably even play your sister’s wedding and have your great aunt asking who that fabulous young man is.
Matt ‘Vend’ Wilson, Durban’s own bearded dragon, was next to take the stage, or more appropriately, the platform. Here I must take pause and give credit where it’s due. Though I hesitate to use the word ‘stalwart’ which is an incredibly cringe-worthy word and seems to come from a perpetually distant generation (i.e, there was never a time when this was acceptable), and yet it seems very fitting to this much under-appreciated muso. ‘Beard’ as he is affectionately known, plays with the energy that the folks over at DIY interpret as “over enthusiasm” but from personal experience however, I know that this is Pure. Sincere. Beard vibes. As his girlfriend points out, he looks like he’s on pills when he plays, eyes rolling back in his head; stretched, sinewy giraffe neck; not just ‘some guy on pills’, BEARD on pills, testament to the incredibly euphoric and passionate way he connects with his music and delivers it to us, the audience. He seems to feel every chord, every word, every song more intensely than we can ever hope to feel even our deepest most secret emotion. His music oozes full blown suicide Sunday vibes; but with an underlying, heartfelt optimism that stops you from pulling the trigger, urging you to go on and experience the sadness; because it is a beautiful sadness, and without it, happiness would be a distant, unimaginable dream in a world never conceived of.
The evening ended with some young skyf and a few warm quarts down at the trusty Winston pub. I came home, wrote this and thought about how Durban is a place where talent springs unadulterated and unashamed, pure and vulnerable, probably even naive to corruption at first. And that, my friends, is something we can all fucking appreciate.
Photography © Lisa Herselman