It’s the toughest thing in the world doing reviews in the Cape Town area. Despite The Beams lead meneer Paul Maree’s claims that he “doesn’t know why the song’s called Two Degrees“, it’s pretty obvious that in the Mother City, everyone just seems to know everyone. Which makes separating the actual gig review from your gushing pride in your mates about as difficult as castrating a hedgehog.
The Ragdolls are a spanking new band that has risen from the ashes of Just Sarah, and features the three original members, plus new guitarist Julio Brandy (and his beautiful Gibson Thunderbird). A badass image, a wall of hard alternative rock with moments of clarity and band communication shining through. The Ragdolls are refreshingly conscious of their image as well as their sound. Dressed in black, with a short school tie and a few pins, badass front lady Sarah unleashed the eternal question: “do you wanna paaaaarty?!!!” About Autopilot or Creed-heavy, and constant, classic alt rock.
|Newbies The Ragdolls and our old friends The Beams|
Surprisingly, Taxi Violence took the second spot (instead of the headline, as the only act with a full album), but got the already-primed crowd to no-elbow room in no time. Since about Rocking the Daisies, this band’s been picking up on the radar, with a number of people in the venue commenting on their radio play and wearing their shirts. No, not their actual shirts, just the ones they sell for money alongside their debut album Untie Yourself.
Performance, performance, performance. From the start, these guys always manage to get into the zone, but still don’t stray from the audience. George chirps constantly in-between numbers and in-between straightening his stylish, feminine hair (yeah, it wouldn’t be a review without a dig at him, cos he’s a legend, and so is guitarist Rian Zietsman). Jagermeisters backstage straight after the show. If there’s one SA rock act you should be checking out at the moment, Taxi is it.
After a short hiatus, The Beams took off. I’ve been watching and chatting to this band for a year now, and while they’ve got the EP ‘business card’ under their belt, their show is still all about the live act. Moments include Paul relentlessly thrashing the cowbell with a tambourine, Jay’s persistently impressive power-drumming (on an unusually side-aligned drum kit – wtf?). Amrik is clearly getting more familiar with the mike and Boško…ah, well, Boško. Catching the eyes of the front row girls, as usual .
Two criticisms on the whole: SA music has the tendency to be ‘all music, no hooks’. Not to say that the crowd didn’t sing along to Untie Yourself, and most of The Beams tunes (download free & legally here), but a repetitive, melodic catchphrase and loads of eye contact will go a long way.
Also, the rock sound has been defined by volume since Bob Dylan famously pronounced, “Turn it up. F*cking loud.” But the real challenge for emerging bands is to master dynamics – louds and softs. Break it down, build it up. They’ll eat out of your hand if you can get it right. Remember: playing the guitar is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire.
The tall and the short of it? A straight, three-act line up of local guitar bands that left the audience clearly satisfied, and an evening well spent at the Mercury, for the second night in a row. And for the record, there are loads of people in Cape Town who are slowly realising that the scene is moving outwards. Check out Mzoli’s Meats on a Sunday, for instance.
The delightful presence of South Africa’s most gentle touring bands.
Just Sarah. Ragdolls frontlady in her moment.
We approve of this logo.
Bring on the Violence.