Two Misses, One Winby Andrei van Wyk / Images by Paris Brummer / 20.09.2011
I’ve never seen Cool runnings filled with this much passion. It’s like I’ve entered a utopian parallel universe where beer flows in moderation while conversations are absent of profanity and the reckless aggression which plagues the South African live music fanbase. It feels like the whole of Boksburg is here. The air is heavy with expectation which breathes life into lungs of the ageing anarchists and naïve scumrockers alike. The cigarette in my hand slowly turns into a useless stump, pillaged of its contents by the breeze. The bar is full of people having meaningful conversations on the rim of their beer bottles. The lights dim as the music blasting from the speakers from an iPod playlist slowly fades all eyes shift towards the stage.
With an interesting name, Knave cause me to ask why South African bands insist on drawing influences from the nu-metal sounds of the 1990s? Their guitar riffs have a predictable chugging, mixed with palm-muted riffs which are reminiscent of Swedish melodic death metal band In Flames and vintage, albeit less skilled, Slayer. Over the past few years metal seems to have grown in complexity the further micro-niche-ing of niches, and I ask myself, why do bands hold onto this pathetic, repetitive beefcake rock of yesterday? Knave is just one example of the pretentious and overplayed “hardcore” rock that has been regurgitated over the years with little in the way of innovation. South African metal bands like Facing the Gallows and The Dead Will Tell are just as guilty of scrounging in the excrement of overseas artists for their sound, searching for that elusive nugget of referenced-originality that their audiences will eat up. But the fact remains, South African metal fans don’t care about the originality or complexity and just seem to want the repetitive, hard hitting growl music to shake their heads violently up and down to. That raw emotion, no matter how derivative, is what most SA metal fans look for.
From one 90’s influenced band to another, Voodoo Child take the stage with an infectious swagger in the loose limbs of lead singer Lebo. I look up from the side of the stage and watch their lazy but entertaining set. I’m starting to wonder if the 90s were the most influential era in rock music. In the South African rock scene, that seems to ring true. The mixture of genres such as funk and hip hop have become important in the progression. Voodoo Child’s guitars slide with a twangy distortion which coats the thumping bass. They move around stage with a calmness that makes what they do come naturally. The crowd seem to slightly confused as to why they’re on the bill, crammed between the far heavier Knave and Fokof, but are entertained nonetheless. Their expectations of rough hard edged rock have been replaced by an acceptance of slick beat driven funk. The mood on stage has shifted from abrasive to glossy. But Voodoo Child’s performance lacks the energy needed to actually spark something more than simple humming and vague hip swivelling in this crowd.
Fokofpolisiekar is a band that has come to mean a lot to young South African kids. Many have ruminated on their influence on the direction of South African rock. With their first EP, As Jy Met Vuur Speel, they blew the lid off a malcontent generation of young suburban Afrikaans youth. As they grew, and slung out albums they challenged a host of verkrampt social norms and gave contemporary Afrikaans culture a good shake. In a way it was a revolution built on the strength of their songwriting. Simple verses and choruses and driving rock riffs. I just wish there was more debate over the songs, rather than if the band is still together. Walking around in between the performances one question bounces from group to group: “Hey! What’s up with the line up? I hear Hunter and Snake aren’t here!”. With half the band missing I begin to realize, tonight’s headliner is actually Van Coke Kartel covering Fokofpolisiekar songs. The bar is abandoned as everyone piles in to watch what’s left of the band. Fokof burst on stage after an almost non-existent setup. The crowd begins to run in circles and violently grab onto Francois. His energy is magnificent. He moves like Henry Rollins on tik, jumping into the crowd with a vicious release, as every lyric moving from his lips is given meaning by his whole being. Wynand stalks the stage with menace. He stands over the crowd, letting his sweat mix with the blood flowing from the noses of the kids in the mosh. The guitars surge as the hard hitting drums force the message of liberation and disdain for authority through the air.
As the last note drifts away through a drone of feedback I look around and watch as the limp post-coital crowd wipe sweat from their foreheads. The air is heavy. In the parking lot all the cars are blasting Fokofpolisiekar and I think, two misses and one win.
*All images © Paris Brummer.