Monday, June 21, 2010

Good weekend: Bridge Empire and the Pie Wars


This Monday I'm feeling kinda frazzled. Like my brain has been fried in all the awesome that went down between Friday 9PM and 11ish last night. It's been pretty damn cool.

At about 7 on Friday Anja and I load up Ingy and once again made the drive through to Pretoria.

I don't think I've been to "Full Moon" since it changed it's name from "Cafe Arc" like a year or two back. As far as I can remember the last time I was here was to watch the final Shu show and those days feel like a decade ago.

Nothing's changed much, although the venue seems a bunch cleaner/ brighter and the foam panels around the stage means the space will hopefully sound a little better than it did back in the day.

The Mirrors show up. We get all the gear inside. Knock back a beer in the freezing cold of outside. It's clearly reached that point in the year where the weather is discouraging people from coming out. Still, there's a nice little crowd that's faced the winter night air.

We head inside and start setting up. Next thing we know it's already 9 and time for "A Skyline on Fire" to get behind their unconventional set-up and kick out their unconventional jams. Which turn out to be pretty damn cool. There's a pretty dark undertone that runs through everything (which generally speaking isn't my kind of thing) but I'm totally hypnotized by their unique hybrid of post-industrial electronicapop. The conviction with which they're burning through their set and the fantastic way they're constructing songs out of looped vocals, guitars and beats is a total pleasure to witness.

Skyline finish with an ominous cover of Queen's "I want to break free" that ends with them both members loosing it. After some verbal high fives we get up on stage to bring the ELM-power. And it's great. Other than Jason snapping a string and me bumping into the stand mic-ing his amp things go down pretty damn perfectly. The crowd seem to be enjoying us enjoying ourselves.

By the time we finish it's pretty much already time for me to dash off and DJ at Hotbox. I'm pretty bummed to be missing "The ocean doesn't want me", but, given that in 20 minutes I'll be making people dance in my favourite venue, it's hard being too upset about needing to leave Full Moon early.

We find Ingy an awesome little spot inside the venue, so I'm not too worried about leaving Seafox on the backseat. As expected, the cold means there aren't nearly as many people hanging around outside the venue as usual, but when I get inside I'm really happy to see a packed dance-floor full of people brave enough to leave their warm homes.

The venue looks mad, drenched in smoke with red and green lazers dancing above the patrons of the dance-floor. I get behind the kitchen counter to put down my CDs. Joe doesn't even give me a chance to get out of the kitchen and grab a drink before he's thrown in front of the CDJs to start my set.

It's over in a blur. The dance-floor is rocking. Anja, Joe and Henk all keep showing up with drinks for me. I can barely read through tracks, but between sporadic strobe explosions I'm managing. There's a whole mob of Argentinians. They keep coming over and doing the “We're not worthy” bow. Wether it's an intentional Wayne's World references or some kind of Argentinean in joke I have no idea, but I totally join in. There's this rookie lighting guy that insists on standing in front of one of the CDJs. When I ask him if he'd step back he shows me a little remote and informs me he's “playing the lazers”. I explain that I need to “play the CDs” and lighting guys aren't supposed to prevent the acts from playing music. It's kinda a rule.

I finish up at around 12:30. Joe throws his arm around my shoulder and insists Anja and I stay at his place so we can rock out till late. I happily agree and head outside to get some air while Peter and Joe kick off the part of the Dogbox where they start playing drum and bass. I hang with Anja and Argentinians outside for a bit, then realise I have my laptop and projector in the car. Run out. Grab everything. Head back into the kitchen and spring the surprise of some visuals on the party.

The next couple hours fly by. I land up leaving the visuals looping and start mixing with Peter and Joe. Peter leaves. Joe and I keep going till close to 4AM. After we finish he suggests we should grab some late dinner/ early breakfast. Anja and I are dead keen, but land up getting left behind at the venue. After spending a half hour phoneing and searching for the rest of our gang we give up and head home. On the road Joe calls and tells us we should still come over. When we get to Beverly Hills I'm pretty unimpressed with him abandoning us, but all is soon forgiven over a Sega Mega Drive, Snow Bros and NBA Jam. We spend Saturday with my family in an early celebration of Father's day. We get back to Joburg round 6ish. After our ridiculously late night at Hotbox Anja decides she's too exhausted to make the night's party, “Wake Up to the World”. We grab some sushi, Anja heads home and I head into the CBD to try find the Bridge Dinner. I get a little lost, but a phone call from Claud remind me that the start of the Nelson Mandela Bridge splits Juta street in half. A couple minutes later I'm there. Bridge dinner is cool. Pretty tiny but cool. There's a huge screen and Aragorn's already hooked up the projector so I can head outside, hang with the band and high five my few friends that didn't ghey out and stay at home. Fast forward 3 hours and The Mirrors are all set and ready to start. Jason starts the initial loop of “Forked tongue” and excited as we are about the set we're about to play, I don't think any of us have the faintest idea of the sheer awesomeness that's about to go down. There's this “funky” disco light randomly throwing multi coloured squares all over the screen, but Aragorn dispatches it as quickly as he would a midget orc. We're playing on the ground with the crowd. I'm struggling to find somewhere to stand that doesn't block the projector or one of the band members, but by the first rock out part of the set I've come to terms with the fact that I'll be running around in front of them for the most of the set. Every time there's a flash of Metropolis cityscape or machinery, the origami cranes at the end of Jason's guitar strings burn perfect little shadows into the bottom of the screen. Shannon's going nuts. Matthew's going nuts. I'm going nuts. Out of the corner of my eye I'm catching individuals in the crowd going nuts, but mostly they're just staring. By the time this first song ends the modest little roomful of people explode into noisy appreciation. And it feel like after every song that explosion just gets a little more powerful. By the end of the set the the audience's explosion has me grinning like a total idiot. I've just been through one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had playing video, and hearing this little gathering of people loving it so much is just too beautiful for words. I feel like I'm going to faint. I shakily pack up my gear and head outside to catch some air.

I don't get much of this fresh air; only a few minutes after we head outside I hear some rather mathy guitar tapping, some shuffley high hats and a solid bass groove pouring out of the venue. A brand new band, Night Sky Empires are playing the first song of their first show ever. I grab a couple more breaths of air and head back inside.

Night Sky Empire are a 3 piece. 2 of them total strangers to me, but the guitarist Thato is a kid I've been in touch with for a little over a year. I read about his old band Organized Distortion on Musa Nxumalo's “Alternative Kids”. O.D, a band of dudes from Soweto playing some pretty fiery, off-center rock and roll, at the time seemed like they could have become one of the most exciting young bands in in the country. Sadly shortly after I heard about them, Organized Distortion disbanded. I got to meet Thato after the split. We hung out, traded music, and I even got to catch him doing his solo electronic project, Cartoon Chaos. I totally enjoyed what he was doing with C.C. but still felt cheated at never getting to see him rocking out with a band. On Saturday night all that changed. To put it bluntly, Night Sky Empires are, in my opinion, the most exciting new band to come out of Gauteng in the past year. Sounding wildly diverse for a band that only use a drum kit, a bass and a guitar, they veer between Oxes-style heavy distortion and dancey bit with crystalline guitar not too unlike early foals. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I can't help but hear traces of Kidofdoom's fists-in-the-air euphoria rearing it's head. Before they start their second last song Thato shuffles up to the much neglected mic stand: “This is a post rock song”. It's fucking beautiful. Asqus is playing next, but sadly I need to get home. I grab my gear between fanning out on The Empires. Drive home, bust a shower, climb into bed, read an issue of Phonogram Singles Club and fall asleep one of the happiest boys in the city.

On Sunday morning we hit the comic book store. Anja finds some nice little independent titles. I wanna order We3 and Mouse Guard, but Greg's away and the guys working seem to be very involved in a conversation about how “You can make anything into a Spawn. Except a tank”, so I just grab an issue of Deadpool and we make our escape.

We drop by Patrick's place and pick him and Tess up. We go where we go almost every second Sunday; China Town. We hit this spot for lunch. It has no english name, but it's supposedly “famous around the country for it's Dim Sum”. If this is true or not, I don't know, but their dumplings are fantastic and every Sunday they bring them out of the kitchen and steam them right in the middle of the restaurant, where you can just grab whatever little parcel of joy is calling to you. We play it pretty safe, only really experimenting with little square sweet potato and pork things. They're met with mixed reviews. Afterwards we head down to buy some tofu and veggies. Patrick makes the discovery of the day – passion fruit and basil seed soft drink. Awesome. His love of frenchness also leads him to buy something called “French Pie”. We try go to Wolves but they're closed, so instead we settle for Tea and French Pie at Patrick's place. Surprisingly the pies are pretty delicious. We rock an episode of 6 Feet Under. Colin comes by and we start watching the hilarious horror that is Turkish Star Wars. “Shot” in 1982 this film (actually called The Man who saved the world), shamelessly stole footage from Star Wars and music from Indiana Jones. The story however is completely different; while Star Wars revolves around a small group of various aliens fighting against a racist human empire, in Turkish Star Wars the protagonists are human bastards going around tearing heads of aliens and ripping them in half with their bare hands. While initially hilarious, the film proved far to much for our non-Turkish minds to handle and we had to skip through an hour of it just to see the climactic end battle and final words of wisdom.

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