Zink Waves, Tidal Plaatby Andy Davis / 08.03.2010
I’ve been following and writing about Tidal Waves for a long time now, I own all their albums and know their set backwards, so I’m always looking for a different angle. This Friday produced exactly that, a unique, once-off collaboration with Zinkplaat, set on a wine farm just outside Stellenbosch. The sum-total of my knowledge of Zinkplaat was gleaned from watching their music videos on MK. I was attracted to their earthy roots rock on tracks like “Piekniek” and “Hondeklipbaai”. There’s a wild originality to their sound that seems to be lacking in so many of the hip, new “manufactured” Afrikaans pop rock bands that have flooded the scene since Fokof kicked down the bedroom doors of every disaffected, angsty, hormone-rocked suburban teenager from Centurion to Welgemoed. That and they play a lot of harmonica. And for me there’s nothing sweeter than someone howling their original melodies through the ol’ blues harp. In many ways it was a perfect fit for a unique co-lab. Two bands with radically different styles and approaches, but strong similarities running through their creative output.
And so I’m parked on the stoep of a wine farm, overlooking the steady flow of cars in and out of Stellenbosch. The vineyards are pregnant with fat, juicy grapes and there’s an air of laidback expectation. The crowd is only about a hundred strong, but they fill up the long wooden balcony, filling in the rows, old toppies and tannies at the back, young scenesters in the front. It’s in an intimate gig, everyone seems related in some way. There are no tourists. The vibe is particularly mellow, a lot of the kids aren’t wearing shoes. We’re all sharing benches around large tables and being introduced to strangers as if we should all know each other if this thing is going to work. It’s kif. Both bands mingle in the crowd, talk story, laugh, backslap, perform complicated handshakes with fans and friends, as we all dissolve the week with sips of pinotage. Zinkplaat finally kick off proceedings with their crowd-pleasing boere-rock foot stompers. Having been together for seven years with 3 full length albums under their belt and offering that unique raw rock sound, Zinkplaat are no pretenders, and they set to work like the seasoned pros they are. But their whole set is so relaxed, so natural, it’s hard not to be swept up in it. Even if you’re the only one who can’t sing along to all their songs.
Soon enough, they invite Tidal Waves on stage to mash up “Hondeklipbaai”. Zakes from the Waves steps to the mic with his harmonica. Jaco doubles up on lead guitar and Drumbo is adding layers to the percussion. Then Tidals and Zinkplaat swap places and the Waves belt out about eight or so of their biggest hits, including their “reggae-niced” cover of Koos Kombuis’ “Hartseerland”. This cranks it up a notch and kicks off the dance floor. People are skanking out some funky chickens on the Beyerskloof stoep. Finally, Zinkplaat storm back on stage to share the space with the Waves. It’s tight up there with nine people, but immediately you feel the sound amplify. They kick off with a Zinkplaat classic, “Piekniek” and then mash straight into a cover of Bob Marley’s Exodus, with Sam doing the vocals from the back behind the drum kit. By now most of the crowd is on the dancefloor and the toppies and tannies at the back are stomping their feet and sloshing their wine. The crowd is baying for “Lekker Lekker Dans” and “Alles is Befok”. But the dudes aren’t finished yet. They rock a unique cover version of “I Shot the Sheriff”, before succumbing to the crowd and belting out a joyous version of “Lekker Lekker Dans” that gets the whole balcony heaving.
Then it’s all over as quick as it began. The bands are back in mingle mode. The smell of African tobacco wafts through the crowd and everyone shares their mutual appreciation of what they’ve seen. Bertie from Zinkplaat is knocking back a glass of wine, handing out CDs and having a conversation with his two mates who are heading back to the plaas to start a braai. It’s well after 11pm and I look incredulous. “Nee man.” He laughs. “This is normal.” A young couple are kissing, while in the background an old toppie is laying his appreciation on thick, while Zakes just smiles and nods with humility. People are slowly slinking off into the night, knowing that we witnessed something special. Something we should see more of.
All images © Andy Davis