Spawn of Belvilleby Thomas Okes / 04.08.2009
Imagine all of Fokof’s incarnations on one stage in one night. It happened in Stellenbosch last weekend. The okes, in the band and the crowd, were pretty poked by the end of the session. VanFokkingTasties!
In December last year, the short documentary 12 Mile Stone made clear just how interwoven the whole Bellville rock/indie scene really is. The booklet which accompanied its DVD release reads like a close family history, almost an insider’s inside story of intimate connections, personal jokes and privately shared experience. Likewise, the compilation CD lists a long line of lost relations, tracking down a number of teenage groups long since disbanded and forgotten. It is in these archives that we find the pubescent core of a maturing movement.
It really is quite elegant the way this event’s organisers have been able to contract the names of four bands into just one word. But as much as the title “Van-Fok-King-Tasties” refers to the bringing together of all of Fokof’s bastard children: Van Coke Kartel, Fokofpolisiekar, aKING and Die Heuwels Fantasties. Just as the makeup of those bands refers to a larger history. For instance, Pierre Greeff of current DHF fame once played together with Wynand Myburgh, of Fokof and VCK, and Laudo Liebenberg from aKING, in a band called Time Spent. Jaco “Snakehead” Venter, who plays for Fokof and aKING, and Johnny de Ridder, who plays in both Fokof and DHF, first met long ago in a band called 22 Stars. And Francois Van Coke, of Fokof and VCK, used to play alongside Hunter Kennedy, of Fokof and aKING, in the infamous New World Inside, where they penned the song “Bellville, Rock City”.
If Bellville has become this scene’s capital, then the VanFokKingTasties group is its municipal government. Each of these bands plays a vital role in growing the greater market – they are, in a sense, segments of a larger product – and the sheer variety between them is a significant part of their appeal. As a unified concept, VanFokKingTasties is incredibly well-received, and as the range expands, so does the target: be it the smooth English indie of aKING, the electro-laptop synth-pop of DHF, the grimy garage-rock of VCK or the gut-wrenching, soul-baring anthems of Fokofpolisiekar, this an audience which take it all to heart.
Die Heuwels Fantasties are a wonderful live band. They have style and verve, working hard to whip their techno origins into graceful, atmospheric life. In his frontman role, Greeff strives for a blend of snarling anguish, and with this band, he seems to have found the stage for an explosive release of his inner prima donna. In a smaller room, all of his histrionics might seem violent and even a bit desperate; here, he managed to draw his audience into a tight and unruly circle of charged emotion, and in the end he stood at the front of his stage amidst a froth of whirling and jumping, screaming and sobbing.
Van Coke Kartel followed, with upright bass, telephone-microphone and a celloist all in tow. They soon dispensed with the telephone idea, and Wynand put an emphatic end to it with a massive jumping stomp; microphone stands regularly went flying every which way, and the area in front of Francois’ snot and Wynand’s spit looked like a wrestling ring. This was a set where people fought a path to the front of the crowd just to fall off the stage. In contrast, aKING’s set was more of the sit-on-shoulders and wave lighters around variety. Where VCK seemed to play as fast as they could, Laudo appeared to take delight in slowing everything down, turning all of the head-banging into foot-tapping, all of the scream-along into croon-along. By the time Fokofpolisiekar clocked in, introduced as “die oudste band hier”, the crowd was all partied-out and in need of some therapeutic seriousness, and it was an interesting sight to see a couple thousand people drown out the band with the words, “sonder rigting is dit moelik om jouself te wees” [“without direction, its hard to be yourself”]. Given the greeting that each of these bands were given, the looks on people’s faces and the freedom in their hips, this scene has certainly found their guide.
All four bands seemed happy to meld together as a single unit, the many different members involving each other in an exhibition of their many different guises. Francois Van Coke and Jack Parow made appearances during Die Heuwels’ hugely popular opening set, George Van Der Spuy of Taxi Violence and Hunter Kennedy helped out with Van Coke Kartel’s mayhem, Pierre Greeff threatened to steal aKING’s show with a few nicely-timed stage invasions, and Fokofpolisiekar ended the evening with what Johnny de Ridder afterwards called a “good-spirited freak show”, as Greeff and Liebenberg arrived to fill in for Snakehead’s shattered snare.
With an expanding industry comes an expanding base of industrious people. Photographers and videographers clogged back- and on-stage areas alike, bumping into each other in the ever-growing mist of the smoke machine. Fortunately, the stages are growing: from here, these bands fly to Oppikoppi and its larger, equally grateful masses. In the six years since Fokofpolisiekar started this whole thing off, the music industry has grown alongside a national coming-of-age; if there seem to be a lot of bands coming out of Bellville right now, it’s because Bellville’s busy setting an example.