Show Us Your Vaaliesby Sean Magner and Ashleigh McCulloch / Images by Chantel Clark / 15.09.2011
Tonight the stage is set to be invaded by some of Joburg’s finest. The main performance area is barren. Non-descript, non-smoking bodies lurk up against the wall, hovering in the shadows. While buying our drinks, the first band begins to filter onto the stage looking a bit like a wedding band from the early 90s.
The One Night Stands sound is hard to pin down. They start well. The bass-lines, possibly their best feature, are solid and the guitar had a good polished sound the rest however, weren’t too convincing. Frontman and guitarist Lu Depina, was a little presumptuous – It was around 930pm and they were expecting the crowd to groove and bounce along – as you may have guessed, it fell flat. This is Cape Town. We need to be drunk for that. Kudos to him for trying, but after a while the interaction seemed feigned and insincere, looking like a mixture of Right Said Fred, Bono and the Edge.
Their sound is described on their Facebook page as an Alternative/New wave/Indie band, and this ambivalence is apparent in their performance. Their sound mashes things together and creates a red-headed-stepchild of a sound. It just doesn’t fit in. “[W]e’re not breaking new ground/ but it looks good/ tastes good and feels like it should” lyrics of theirs which ring true, albeit their perception of what is good, in both our minds is somewhat off.
This thankfully is where the night picked up, in performance as well as crowd size. Dance, You’re On Fire are a band much more sure of their direction. Blasting out with a gargantuan wall of fury, the two opening songs off their album Secret Chiefs – “Little War” and “Killing Time” – filled the entire venue with a new kind of energy; polished and tight. Their brand of ‘Radicore’ has the perfect mix of pop catchiness, searing riffs and a slight scattering of emo-fringe that unify into something that is truly their own. The one problem manifests itself with this sound is that at times it can sound quite similar to its American counterparts, flirting along the borders of mimicry and invention; these moments are, however, few and far between.
Vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Tom Manners has a distinct tone, hard enough and high enough to not meld with the tone of the dominant guitars. The banter between him and Adrian Erasmus, Lead guitar and keys, is fun and not wasted on the audience, who were quite ready to respond.
Shadowclub were the dark horses of the night, a three piece for the purists. With a bass as heavy as the Romanian People’s Palace and a guitar sound overdriven in to a realm of dirty, drunken Louisiana blues. Stripped of all pretension, they exude a confidence which had the audience bobbing away to their relentless charge. Jacques Moolman’s voice is something to behold, it floats fluidly between high ethereal screams and foundational deep rich tone. I had read a review in their press release about their sound being described as the Black Keys fronted by Jeff Buckley. Prematurely I called bullshit PR, yet when they were performing it was no mystery as to how that notion came about.
Desmond and The Tutus were up next and this is where we had to agree to disagree. Ashleigh sees something inherently embarrassing and juvenile about their music. Shane Durrant’s banshee shrieks of “Steve!” or “Peter!” or saggy Speedo’s can really induce her to cringe. Sean however couldn’t disagree more, although it seemed odd that the Tutus were coming on after the predominantly rock ‘n roll acts; a decision we perceived as somewhat misplaced. The Tutus were up for it though. They managed to absorb previous acts energy and amplify it out tenfold. Their antics were contagious, most notably Doug’s guitar aerobatics where as majestic as Free Willy breaching the waters.
Even more impressive though was the new material. Fitting seamlessly into their current repertoire of tracks from Tuck Shop and & The, yet progressing to a new-found, more mature sound. A little less disorderly than previous material, and even though it was only 3 days old, it was remarkably coherent. Most of the crowd was dancing for once and better yet, could German Modern. Their show ended with pleas for an encore and Nic knighting a long-time fan with his bass guitar and promptly giving it to him.
Double Adapter was up afterwards but we simply couldn’t face it. The cacophonony which ensued had people in a feral bass binge; our ears simply couldn’t take it. Luckily though, some respite was found in the form of DJ Sideshow. Spinning a sweet medley of tunes, mashing the genres with an ease like no other. The sounds of Nic Cave, the Pixies and Radiohead were more than welcome, filling our tanks with a warm comfort, preparing us for the cold mission home.