Take it like a Manby Cleo Black, images by Claudine Van Der Walt / 31.07.2010
At first I was curious as to why Jesus had chosen the Blues Room as his ideal place of return. Then I realized that even Jesus didn’t have that much beard and He probably didn’t sound like he’d eaten gravel and a pack of Marlboros for breakfast. The Jesus wannabe whipped, from the folds of a pair of torn, baggy and dirty jeans, a harmonica… and everything else in the room became a blur. I’m a sucker for a well-played harmonica. And so began my first encounter with a bunch called Black Cat Bones. JC (vocalist and guitarist Kobus De Kock), armed with his guitar and harmonica proceeded to bellow and growl to a darkened room full of Sandton poppies, Melville hipsters and your standard dark corner alcohol abusers, about Louisiana (though it occurs to me to doubt whether he’s ever been there) and the merits of swamps and alligators. All seemed well with the quartet until they launched into a rather unfortunate Neil Young cover, but salvation was found in the very next song and lead guitarist Andre Kriel’s wah-pedal and slide guitar skills. The drummers somewhat unoriginal silk-shirt-trilby-sunglasses-at-night look may have been a nod to Stevie Wonder, or perhaps simply a styling mishap, and the bassist’s attempt at joining the Ministry of Funny Walks left me wondering what he was on and where I could get some, but both musicians more than redeemed themselves with amazing performances. As the set wore on, wannabe-Jesus went from meek and mild to fiery preacher, singing and yelling with conviction strong enough to convert the most steadfast of heathens, “Look into my eyes! Take it like a MAN!”… He was certainly having a profound effect on a girl at the next table who appeared close to orgasm every time a word left his lips. What solidified Black Cat Bones in my mind as an act to follow, was the fact that they closed with a song introduced by 2 verses written solely about Johnny Cash, and played to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues. Any musician with that much respect for the man in black gets my respect also.
Unfortunately, as many good and wonderful things cannot be said of the headlining act, Son of a Thousand Blues. I’m not a fan of funk rock at the best of times… particularly not when the singer is constantly either flat or sharp. Orgasm girl seemed to like it though, as she applauded enthusiastically and held up the goblet of rock after every song. The Brazilian sounding guitarist is evidently a very good musician, but allowing himself overindulgent 5-minute solos in the middle of almost every song in the set did not endear him to my ears. The final nail in Son of a Thousand Blues’ coffin was the guest appearance of the vocalist from Southern Gypsy Queen, a band I loathe without match. For those who worship at the altar of funk rock, Son of a Thousand Blues is the idol you should be feeding your milk to. For everyone else, I’d call them a rainbow nation band who get by on just that – being a rainbow nation band.
All the same, the Blues Room did themselves proud with at least one act that evening, and it’s a venue I would definitely suggest checking out. As everyone who lives in JHB knows well, there are few civilized live music venues left, and this one is well worth the trek into the strange and foreign land of Sandton.
* Images © Claudine Van Der Walt.