Wake The Deadby Phil Wilson & Mahala High Five Brigade / 06.02.2014
Turn the clocks back to October 25, 2008. A bunch of sweaty kids have piled into a church in a quiet suburban neighbourhood on the outskirts of Durban. They’re all screaming. “This is our city of the dead!” Core band The Rising End are playing their last gig. To bring it all to a close, they throw down with a Comeback Kid cover. The rolling drumbeats of their seminal hit “Wake the Dead” triggers a frenzy, on cue, everyone in the place screams in unison. And so ended an era.
This was another time, when Durban had a reputation for its hardcore scene, and the Rising End was at the forefront of it.
The bands, those gate-keepers of the scene, slowly faded off the circuit. Fewer people attended what few shows the few remaining promoters bothered to stage. And that was it – the scene went quiet. Until tonight.
Fast forward to the now, a bunch of kids stand around waiting in Live the Venue. Andrew Neufeld (vocalist of Canadian band Comeback Kid) sits on a bench and takes our questions like the seasoned media pro he is.
“I don’t try to create a message, my songs are just reflections of my own life,” he says, staring middle-distance.
Fans will tell him that by reflecting his life, he’s helped a lot of them learn more about themselves. they’re just that kind of band.
In the moments before going on to destroy the room and the everything in it, he’ll muse about getting older and his band evolving a musical style that is both appreciated and expected by their audience.
“People have certain expectations of what we must sound like. If I want to explore another style of music, it would have to be under a different band name,” he relates , with only the slightest trace of irony present in his Canadian twang.
Local hellraisers We Were Archers get opening slot. They’re one of the few bands that has somehow survived within the vacuum that is the hardcore music scene in Durban. Their metallic edge fairly gleams, and the crowd lurks at a distance from the stage or stand in a queue at the bar. Vocalist Jarod Mason clambers off the stage and goes in search of audience participation. He returns empty-handed.
Word is out that the crowd are expected to get “intense” tonight. The bands change, the mood doesn’t. Following band Show and Tell do a better job of getting people to move towards the stage, but there remains an invisible wall between performers and the audience.
Official for band Reason To Live step up. They’re pure Jo’burg. With tattoos up to their necks and the kind of menacing personas that threaten to moer everyone in the place; they don’t encourage dancing, they enforce it.
Fellow Jozi tour mates Truth And Its Burden are left to introduce the foreigners. Vocalist Ashley de Beer moves like a dancing cobra, you’re afraid to take your eyes off him lest he steals your girl, or your beer. They are fine musicians, not missing a beat while down front Ashley charges amongst the now-writhing mass of people like an enraged bull. Could be South Africa’s finest of the hardcore set.
Comeback Kid take to the stage, emptying the outside veranda and making it easy to buy a drink. The crowd gets involved. Over and over, bodies fly from stage into the swirling mass of mosh! The more dedicated tussle with the more inebriated for a shot at the mic.
The bouncers play piggy in-the-middle trying to grab at ankles, legs, arms, anything to stem the tide of stage divers. It takes the band getting involved and administering a stern warning to the security crew to get them to chill out and let the kids have their fun. It’s moments like these that will keep this band and this show alive for us for years to come, almost just like it was all those long years ago.
“We said, we said, we said / This time was gonna be different / Wake up the Dead!”