Sex Whale Cultby Max Barashenkov, images by Ashraf Hendricks / 21.07.2010
Inge Beckmann stands on a stage built over the Mercury Live dancefloor, the crowd sits around, the room reeks of heavy “art” and a voice somewhere is screaming: “Why is everyone so god damn quiet?! is this a church?! and what the fuck was that?! A song?! All I heard was bleating!!” Maybe we are meant to feel the reverence of a religious ceremony, a ritual sacrifice to Beckmann with our time and money upon the altar? Tonight’s show borders on a cult mass, the audience’s faces stern and tight-lipped – not a hell of a lot of fun floating around these walls, only the zealots in the front row shaking their heads like drones. I’m waiting for Inge to start passing out the Kool-Aid.
Sadly, she doesn’t, launching instead into another song that throws my addled mind back many years, when, as a confused Russian kid, I had first discovered the whale-call booth at the Cape Town Museum. Then it was beautiful, now it’s painful. Similarly, when I saw Inge last, at Ramfest, she was majestic, a goddess with a full band behind her and I couldn’t tear my eyes or ears from her. Thus I came tonight expecting an encounter with a siren, a close-up of the South African alternative sex symbol, but all I get is a knock-off Diva Plavalaguna from the Fifth Element, and she ain’t even blue. In her defense, Ms. Beckmann herself looks uncomfortable with the lack of movement on stage, yet she believes completely and utterly in every note she projects and in some songs this conviction infects the crowd, making them bob in unison. She kicks the shit out of the song about the devil and there is something Bukowski about the poet-boy who recites lines to her accompaniment, still, I don’t know when “intimate’” and “acoustic” began to be translated as candles, stinking incense and a sitting audience more concerned with their freezing asses than the music.
This begs the question – who are these people and why are they here? They seem to be a motley collection of hipsters, safe and comfortable in their cloak of other hipsters, a dash of indie kids in pointy shoes, some lesbians holding hands and a few randoms, expecting something more. It says something that sixty percent of them are up and out of there even before the band has left the stage. An ugly hypothesis rises – the “big time” South African music industry is so inbred and small that, instead of real acts, it produces hyper-inflated whales, that float not because of talent, but because of trend and cool (see for example the Fokofpolisiekar mammoth and its numerous spin-offs). When a band, or artist, becomes big enough to draw a crowd for an acoustic show, they are ultimately already fucked empty of anything of value. This thought completely ruins the evening, and I agree with a snatch of conversation I overhear – “We should all just take heroin to this music, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a chemically induced downer.”
The rest of the night, I refuse to think about music, instead wondering what Inge Beckmann would be like in bed. Would she be gentle, ethereal like her voice? Or would she fuck like an animal, caged by her own image as the sexiest woman on the SA alternative circuit? Does anyone know?
* All images Ashraf Hendricks.