The Good, the Bad and the Ukuleleby Robin Scher, images Jana Grohnert / 18.04.2011
I know the drill by now. It’s one of those nights where you queue too long to warrant paying the amount you do for a drink and then try locating a position within the pit of perspiration and discomfort that is a packed Waiting Room on a hot night. On an evening like this, managing to sit through an entire set without visiting the balcony serves as a useful litmus test. Beer in hand, beads of sweat already forming I take my seat for test number one: Oh Sister, Where Art Thou?
Dressed in their Sunday best, I’m immediately inclined to remain seated, courtesy of the dapper sisters fronting this three piece. Drawing on a number of unique sounds courtesy of a ukulele, xylophone and the far too seldom used, kazoo, Oh Sister delivers a set of “old time” covers fitting of a soiree at Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Sisters Rose and Erica harmonise like only siblings could and Simon van Gend, a familiar face around the Cape music scene, offers a steady acoustic bass backing. Their upbeat sound helps to lighten the air of the room and a highlight of the set is an ambitious take on Miriam Makeba’s famed “PataPata” Song. Whilst this group has evidently primed themselves as an “events band”, one of the few ways to make any actual money in this biz, they have kept the crowd captivated judging by the still packed room at the end of their show.
The next act proves a useful example for my experiment in crowd temperament. In a show of poor lineup arrangement, solo performer and incidentally organiser of this evening’s gig, Gil Hockman follows. No doubt a talented guitarist, the problem with solo acoustic musicians is the thin line they traverse between being decent enough to entertain around a campfire, versus being a performer worthy of paying forty bucks to listen to. Gil wails out his tunes to a steadily decreasing audience, until a core group of dedicated fans – probably the same people surrounding him at the fire, are left watching the show. You could blame the heat, but Gil’s sound was just too heavy after the precedent set by the first act.
Sixgun Gospel follows, shooting straight from the hip with their southern saloon style music and injecting some much-needed groove into a tiring Monday evening crowd. Incorporating, in a similar vein to the first act, cameos from the slightly obscure family of instruments. It’s refreshing to hear the warm tone of a resonator and banjo accompanied by harmonica. Featuring a genuine Southerner (well in truth a Jewish dude from DC but the accent helps), in the form of guitar and backup vocalist Ben Bradlow, if there’s any criticism to be found it’s that this man’s vocals don’t feature more. Lead singer Danieyella Rodin sings with passion and soul, occasionally erring slightly too much on the side of passion. Ending their set with the classic Muddy Water’s track “Got my Mojo Working”, it’s a fitting end to an event titled, “The Good, the Bad and the Ukulele”.