Two Doors, Social Media and some Gumby Andrei Van Wyk / Images by Charlie Sperring / 06.03.2012
When the announcement of Two Door Cinema Club coming to South Africa was made, there was pandemonium on Facebook. A free show can make you wonder. With over 8000 responses for tickets one should ask, do Two Door Cinema Club actually have 8000 fans in South Africa or was it just a bunch of cool-hungry people ready to snatch free tickets to an international gig? And with all the hype surrounding the gig, was the band brought here based on their popularity or amazing talent? And would they have achieved the same amount of numbers in attendance if the tickets cost R362 each?
The bus ride from the airport to the secret venue can only be described as ‘painful’. The drunks shouting at the back and conversations running back and forth. An atmosphere filled with hot air. A couple of girls in the front. One: “What is a 5 Gum?”. The other: “It’s an event planning company… I think?”. With many curious as to what kind of music Two Door Cinema Club play, others were more curious about 5 Gum. The bus drove around the airport and down a desolate road. It runs through poverty stricken townships and leads up to an old mining area with shiny obtrusive projections running up and down the silos. The sandy area is covered in wife-beater wearing drunks and high heeled cosmos tripping over wood chips and buying overpriced drinks.
I walk past the bar and into the roofless warehouse, which houses a wide stage and a vast crowd. The Plastics play their brand of generic indie pop. ‘They stand’ is the best description that can be made about their live performance. Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Pascal Righini has a strange way of captivating a crowd with his simplistic, almost childlike, voice and lyrics. It’s a beautiful introduction into what could be a ‘wild night’. Karl Rolhoff’s bass is surprisingly care-free and flows with no real effort but is effective in its partnership with the equally light-hearted drumming, which expresses a post-punk influence with straight forward beats and rhythms. Though everything is executed beautifully, with a pop precision, the simplicity runs too far, leaving them and the set largely forgotten. Singles ‘Caves’ and ‘Caroline’ receiving a truthfully positive reception. Everyone in the crowd does the generic cheer after each song, which has turned into a ritual rather than a true expression of appreciation. Everyone holds onto their overpriced Black Labels and chew on the complimentary gum to ease their minds into the acts to come.
Ashtray Electric are a band who have made a name for themselves in the South African music scene, with a balanced mixture of pop and underground international influences. They begin their display of slow, laid-back rock mixed with delicate and well timed melodies. The crowd know and love them, their blend of echoed lingering guitars and hard drums setting a serious and highly ethereal tone. Their sound is built on constant layering of soft and gentle tones with Andre Gideon Montgomery Pienaar’s vocals the simple, driving force in the music. Crowd-pleasers like ‘When Sex Becomes A Sport’ and ‘Quite Overstared’ draw a glowing response. But Andre’s voice, filled with that pseudo-sincerity, does more in irritating than impressing. But the crowd shouting along makes it worthwhile as they overpower him and mute him out completely.
But Two Door Cinema Club is who everyone wants to see, just to kill the curiosity. The Irish trio burst on stage with great force as the guitars glide across in a rhythmic shock. The perfect sound engineering and precise instrumentation makes their performance technically amazing. They move up and down the stage as they own the crowd, who dance and guess the choruses, only getting the last hook of each song right. Kevin Baird’s bass pounds on the back of a disco-beat as Sam Halliday’s jangly guitar echoes through the warehouse. Lead vocalist Alex Trimble caresses the crowd with a soothing voice reminiscent of Robert Smith but with a more calming tone. The band emerged out of the dance-punk and alternative dance scene of the mid to late 2000’s in the UK, along with bands like Foals and Klaxonswere, influenced by post-punk legends such as Gang of Four and Public Image Ltd. Their sound is fresh but one should always ask: “How long will it last?”. Each song gets more and more repetitive which is easy to dance to, but not musically challenging. It all inevitably leads up to the signature single ‘What You Know’ which solidifies their performance as “okay”.
But the real question remains in the air, why them? Why did a band with only one moderately successful album and two NME nominations come to South Africa? Only a handful of people had heard of Two Door Cinema Club before they came, and 10% of that handful actually liked or listened to them regularly. So what was the point of bringing them here? It obviously wasn’t an attempt to make money as the tickets were free. And if the tickets were sold, would people have reacted as crazy as they did all over Facebook? I guess it just goes to show the power of free internationals. After the first announcement people were quite aloof to the idea of Two Door Cinema Club. But after the free came around, people lost their shit. A slew of photos of girls with Two Door Cinema Club signs and messages proclaiming how they “Knew Two Door Cinema Club before they were popular”. A feeding frenzy ensued.
The entire show was an exercise in effective cultural brand marketing. Bring out an act that acts as a catalyst for cool. Mix in the promise of exclusivity, coat it in trending anti-everything branding, and lo and behold – 5 Gum’s social media campaign to reach, and entertain, a disaffected‘technocentric-youth’ is a success. Well executed sirs.
*All images © Charlie Sperring