Mystic Rhythms [No Rush]

Back in the days when I was sharpening my ears and preparing myself for eventual excessive alcohol consumption, I spent much of my so-called free time in a small bar in the town I tried to grow up in listening to Sweatband forge their own place in South African music history. John Mair was our Guitar God. Wendy Oldfield was the sexiest Rock Chick you could imagine. Sweatband rocked.
Sadly though, after releasing one album, the band split. The boy didn’t quite make it (that big). I saw John in a bar in Johannesburg a number of years later. What happened? “We had to make a living…” He still played the guitar like there was no tomorrow and coaxed applause with his playing-the-guitar-behind-his-head trick. I’m not sure the crowd knew what they were experiencing. I knew it was awesome.

Wendy grew up. Sporadically releasing albums and winning awards. Her most recent offering being a collection of children’s songs. She’s still hot. Unfortunately, John passed away in 2002.

Most of the interesting music in the Eighties was happening in Johannesburg. Making an effort to watch bands play live when (or if) they came down South was not really much of a priority for me at that point. There were other things to deal with. Like growing up. I was lucky enough to see éVoid in our Town Hall. I was even luckier to see Cherry Faced Lurchers at Jamesons in Johannesburg later. Wow.
I would have liked to see bands like Via Afrika, Dog Detachment or Ella Mental. But I was growing up.

There is one band that I’d taken a special interest in and really would like to have seen. They were rockers. They had an element of danger. Even their name should have warned you. The Asylum Kids. Soon they too would break up and disperse. If my memory serves me correctly, Dino Archon moved to Los Angeles – forming a band called DV8. This was the first time I became aware of the concept of South African musicians actually being able to ‘go overseas’ and be musicians. The realities of Trevor Rabin and Anton Fig came to my consciousness later. Trevor Rabin joined a re-imagined Yes. Anton Fig played drums on Cyndi Lauper’s first album. Dollar Brand and Hugh Masekela being in exile was part of an entirely different reality.

Part of The Asylum Kids initially stayed and formed Tribe After Tribe – achieving some success with a cover of a Bob Dylan song and their album ‘Power’ in 1985. The production on the album is a bit dull, but in time this would be remedied. Before that could happen however, Tribe After Tribe also seemed to disappear off the face of the planet. I thought.

A couple of years went by. Then I stumbled upon another Tribe After Tribe album. They where alive and well. Albeit mainly as a collective of sorts banded around the curly red-head guy. Robbi Robb. Well now… Soon I would realize that Robbi had been the creative force behind The Asylum Kids. I had managed to lay my hands on two albums, ‘Tribe After Tribe’ (released in 1991 on Megaforce – just before the label’s demise) and ‘Pearls Before Swine’ (released in 1997 on Bulletproof – another label with a limited future). ‘Love Under Will’ (from 1993) and ‘Enchanted Entrance’ (from 2002) have somehow managed to escape my collection. For now.

The three albums after ‘Power’ took some of the undertones from that album and finally managed to get a sound that many grunge bands probably still only dream of. There was a better understanding of how to translate the band’s feel into a recording. It took the all-embracing power of guitar-driven rock from as far into the earth as you can dig with your bare hands to a little higher than McClears Beacon. It feels like the desolation of the desert being made a happy place for those who race through the Karoo on their trips between Johannesburg and Cape Town. To stop and breathe.

For more familiar musical references: think of melting Jane’s Addiction’s jangling, Led Zeppelin’s meandering, Jimi Hendrix’s groove, Pearl Jam when they’re playing something from ‘Ten’, an angry Neil Young and some atmospheric moments of Slayer together and having someone pour it gently into your ears.

Pause to think.

Then go and hunt for ‘M.O.A.B. Stories From Deuteronomy’ (released in 2008, and yes – also on a small label…). This is the latest studio album by Tribe After Tribe. A live album has been released since. It is brilliant, but not the place to start. It is also pricy.

M.O.A.B’ showcases a slightly less edgy sound - as did ‘Enchanted Entrance’. It embodies a ‘concept album’ tone with interludes and readings from Deuteronomy, but there’s nothing lost here.
(It should also be the easiest of the albums to lay your hands on.)

Don’t let it pass you by.

Tribe After Tribe - M.O.A.B. Stories From Deuteronomy

Hot Hot Heat [You Don’t Get to Quit]

Last Sunday (11 March 2012, for the record) I left my flat at just past nine thinking “This is GREAT!”

I was on my way to the Cape Town edition of RAMfest. Last year was my first excursion to this event. Then it was sprawled over three days and, I believe, very well presented. Funny thing: I got slightly lost on the way there. It was dark, and I’d never been to Nekkies Holiday Resort, o.k.…!

This year’s format changed to a one day event. I don’t know the details but I assume it was to streamline a National Tour type movement covering 5 cities in 5 days. Pretty spectacular to pull that off successfully, I think. So despite an initial feeling of slight disappointment, I set forth to go and do what I do. It‘s all about the music. Yes really. And taking photographs. I love it.
The venue had also been changed to the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch – a twenty minute drive from Cape Town. I was wonderfully close to home.

I got lost. Trying to follow the Google maps route was not such a good idea. Their positioning of the Ostrich Ranch is… well, it’s wrong. But I had no idea. I took the last major turn-off before the actual turn-off (I found out later), and spent the next hour thinking “It has to be here somewhere” while driving as if I knew exactly where I was going. I eventually got some real directional advice from a biker who was out with what I assumed to be his wife, who had just got her own bike. I envied them. For their bikes, and at that point: their much lower fuel consumption than my form of transport.

Within ten minutes I was at the ranch - not an ostrich in sight.

I parked my tired vehicle, prepped myself and headed for the only place I heard music coming from (and closest to the entrance). The ‘electronic’ stage. Then I moved on. It was hot. Very hot.

The lay-out for last year’s event allowed me to keep walking in a circle and get to see or hear something interesting soon enough.

The L-shape for this year was probably good for logistics (except possibly quite a trek to get to food stalls and nothing entertaining between the main stage at the one end of the L, and the ‘electronic’ stage at the other end). (And while I’m raising possible objections: no obvious / clearly visible medical facilities. There was a medical tent, but if you consider the heat and silly things some people do when they have their moments of unsupervised freedom without the necessary experience, it may be advisable to have medics as blaringly obvious beacons. That’s all that niggled me slightly, but I’m not here to complain.)

I planned to follow the same modus operandi as last year, despite this risk of having the hoards in the beer tent who may have noticed me think they were watching a tennis match – me being the ball. Keep moving.

Keep moving. Keep moving? In this heat?

The main stage was doing endless sound-checks. Eventually I only made it back to the electronic stage twice - catching a whole two acts there in the process.

Then I found a little corner in the shade of an energy drink sponsored tower to retreat to in my battle with the heat of sun between bands until the temperature dropped. Later I found some friends who’d annexed a little spot of shade and a straw bale and spent some time with them.

I won’t get into the little detail of every band. If you were all that interested you would have been there. Right? So I’ll save us all the trouble and quickly highlight a handful of notes:

It was very hot. I think I may have made reference to that.
All the bands playing the main stage put on extremely credible performances (despite the heat).
Watching Gareth Norwood - the bassist from Newtown Knife Gang - go wild is (I assume) almost as awesome as watching Lemmy stand still.

Respect to Francois Van Coke and Wynand Myburgh. Here with Fokofpolisiekar, they are probably currently one of the hardest working rock and roll duos about.

Hanu De Jong (this time with The Narrow) was - on close inspection - suffering from the rigors of the long distance traveler but, together with the rest of the band, put on another blistering show – managing in the process to thump a dent in the stage that took a while to fix. Always impressive, committed and fun.

After the delay – and in keeping with the theme for the day, the stage was ready for spectacular show by the band all the kids came for. In Flames. They seriously ROCKED! Even more impressive than their actual performance (for me at least) was the fact that at the end of their set, vocalist Anders Fridén got off the stage and took the time to shake hands with practically everybody in the crowd that was close enough to shake hands with. (Did you notice how short he is?) I was impressed. Very impressed. It is that stuff that makes me pay extra attention to a band. It hasn’t made me like The Parlotones’ music more though…

Did I forget to mention Awolnation somewhere..? Thought not.

The kids loved Infected Mushroom and I stayed as long as I could. Somehow the translation of an electronic collective into a stage rock type act fronted by a stick-waving vocalist just doesn’t manage to hold my attention for too long, and it seemed to be time for my next adventure: going home…

There are also other advantages to leaving at this point in a show. If you leave before the very end – you can get out of the parking area quickly. I usually stay till the very end. Just so I don’t miss anything. With the extra long morning trip still on my mind, I thought it best to capitalize on any shot-cuts I could. So off I went. Into the night.

I took a wrong turn. Again. Despite noticing the short string of cars behind me take a right-turn at very dark intersection, I thought I knew exactly where I was going and I turned left. I soon noticed that the moon was on the wrong side of the road and that I was traveling North instead of South. I spent another hour thinking “There’s got to be a sign somewhere” - hoping to find something to give me direction. Wherever I was had no road signs. Until I eventually reached a t-junction indicating that I’d been on the Old Malmesbury Road. This is far from where I was supposed to be heading, but at least here I could make a decision to turn and drive in a direction that would eventually get me closer to home. Where was the moon? I checked and made a right-turn and after quite some time – found Durbanville. I was in familiar territory with streetlights and road signs.

After a long day’s driving and a great RAMfest experience - I got home and when to sleep.

Day Of Thunder indeed.

RAMfest Cape Town 2012
RAMfest Cape Town 2012
Audiophile 021
Audiophile 021
Das Kapital
Das Kapital
Newtown Knife Gang
Newtown Knife Gang
Hog Hoggidy Hog
Hog Hoggidy Hog
Taxi Violence
Taxi Violence
The Narrow
The Narrow
In Flames
In Flames
Infected Mushroom
Infected Mushroom

Photography by Tim Honey

The Space Sound Gives Us

How many albums take you back to a feeling you can almost smell? How many of them do you (still) own? And then: How many of those are still classifiable as awesome!?

Siouxsie And The Banshees’ ‘The Scream’ is one that does it for me. One thing that has kept the group fresh has been a flow with the times. No – that doesn’t mean they’d sold out, but like with everything in life – you have to move with (or against) the throng of the masses to some extent. Everything is relative.
An architect (unless they’re designing branded generic corporate environments) would be seen as redundant if they kept designing the same building. (Generic housing complexes form part of generic corporate environments and could be dealt with separately – let’s stick to a non-greed driven, vaguely creative world for now, shall we?)

Musicians – like architects – that can adapt their art to maintain an essence of relevance within a continuously changing environment and retain their integrity are few and far between.

‘The Scream’ is almost surprisingly well put together considering the raw punk sentiment of 1978. The follow-up (and second) Siouxsie and the Banshees album ‘Join Hands’ seems to embody the discord and messiness much more accurately and is pretty close to disastrous. Fortunately ‘The Scream’ managed to transcend all that and captured the raw energy in a way that is still compatible with anything you’ll find today. Not that there’s much to compare it with. Breaking boundaries in music can make you unique and memorable or call you out as rubbish. If ‘Join Hands’ was our first introduction to the Banshees… Who?

Siouxsie And The Banshees - The Scream

New Possibilities with Red Hot Chili Peppers

With the exception of ‘One Hot Minute’ I’ve never been a great fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

However the song “Factory of Faith” from ‘I’m With You’ (released in 2011) came up on my playlist and caught my attention. Not instantly recognizable as a Red Hot Chili Peppers song probably helped. The five year break since ‘Stadium Arcadium’ probably also helped. So here goes another listen to the album…

It seems that the band has somehow (finally) reached a point where trying to be something has finally been taken over by just being who they are. There’s an ease to the flow instead of an angst-like urgency – not unlike what you’ll get on ‘One Hot Minute’. The production doesn’t even smell like Rick Rubin, so there are quite a few strange things happening here. The atmospheric layering on “Even You Brutus?” has moments that make you think they (or you) have been listening to Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’.

There’s still the lyrical silliness that often comes up in their work (“Ethiopia”) and generally a familiar tone to everything, but they might just have grown up. So if you really like The Peppers you’ve probably bought the album already. If you’re not really all that familiar, this could make for an eased introduction.

But wait… Is my first post really about Red Hot Chili Peppers?! Oh No!!

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You

The Introduction

We’ll start off by explaining why things have come to this.

I’ve spent 23 years in music retail - a business that I got involved in due to my ridiculous passion for music.

Those who’ve spent any time with me when the subject of music and CDs comes up know that it is one of the rare moments I seem to just not be able to keep my mouth shut – or am even more speechless that usual. Now I’ve been retrenched and I need a space to talk.

This is intended as a relatively open forum, so feel free to have you say – to a point.

You might like or not like what I have to say. Deal with it.