Last night I witnessed something pretty damn rad.
I was in the "audience" for what must have been the tinniest show I've been to all year. It was at the Bohemian, around the corner from my house. Truth be told there were actually about 40 people in the venue but he majority of these people though were clearly not there for the music. I imagine the collection of middle aged men that were just there to play pool were at least incredibly confused (if not deeply offended) by the muusic that was belted out from the venue's stage last. But Patrick, Cameron and I weren't there to hang around the pool tables and drink beer. We were there for Us Kids Know.
I'd estimate there were probably about another 10/ 12 people actually there to see the band. It's not that no-one likes Us Kids Know, in fact the Joburg 2 piece are pretty damn well loved. The reason behind last night's dismal turnout is the bands recent "Thank you. Fuck you." approach to marketing. Under the "TYFY" campaign Us Kids Know have been gigging quite frequently over the past few months. The catch is that they don't tell anyone this will be happening until a few days before the show. Last night's show was a record as far their "guerrilla gigging" plan has gone - they let their facebook fans know about the show a little more than 5 hours before they would go on stage at the Bohemian. Personally I think this way of promoting shows (or rather not promoting shows) is pretty suicidal and silly, but I'm not writing this to rant about that. I'm writing this to rant about the performance itself which was stellar.
I've been a fan of Us Kid Know's racket from day one. Since listening to an ultra lo-fi recording of one of a practice as "Saint George Slays the Dragon" to watching them play their first show in the parking lot outside Canned Applause, Us Kids Know have been one of the biggest blips on my radar of radness. Being in the ecstatic, massive crowd during their performance at our "Pandafest" stage at the Woodstock Festival in 2K7, it felt like the duo were about to burst out of the Gauteng underground and force their way into ears all over the country. But they didn't.
For reasons I don't know, Us Kids Know stopped playing live completely last year. I'm sure Colin's guitar getting stolen out of Chad's car had a lot to do with it, but sadly UKK disappeared into the same black hole that seemed to suck up a whole bunch of my favourite things last year (GIFT, 5 Men 3 Missing, Martian Martian).
But all that changed earlier this year when out of nowhere Us Kids Know announced they'd be playing a supporting slot for Gary Thomas at back 2 Basix. At the end of the set Chad sat yelling "We are Sad Swamps!" at the crowd. The name change didn't stick, but Us Kids Know were back which and since then have played a string of shows leading up to last night...
Maybe it's Colin's new Jazzmaster, maybe it's Chad's extra chest hair, but Us Kids Know are a whole new band. Well maybe not a whole new band, they're still two guys, one armed with a guitar, one with a drum kit, frantically jumping around between a relentless squall of ideas. Chad still freaks the fuck out. Colin still manages to jump back and forth melancholic and euphoric, atonal and melodic within a few seconds. But while they're still fighting the same good fight they always have been, Us Kids Know, last night, were like a whole new band.
Their level of energy, the songwriting in their new songs (and in their reworking of the old songs) the band's focus, and simply the fun they're having on stage all came together in a performance that left me grinning long after their solitary amp had stopped humming. It really felt like a milestone for me.
And what's even more exciting is that it was a kind of milestone;
Last night marked the final time Us Kids Know would play a show as a band that had yet to release any music.
Today, possibly right now, Us Kids Know are invading The Gem, a pretty much abandoned theatre in a pretty dodgy part of the city centre. They'll be joined by Andreas and Martinique (the guitar/ bass wielding vocalists of Sticky Antlers), a bunch of microphones and cables and a reel to reel tape recorder. Us Kids know will be recording their début EP this weekend, and it is gonna be incredible.