On Friday night Anja and Lindi rock up at my place. I'd say they're pretty merry, but that would be a lie. They're pretty DAMN merry. They both climb into Ingy's back seat and insist I drive them around like a taxi driver. We head through to The Bohemian.
Hang around the venue for an hour or so before Lucky Fonz starts. This time is mostly spent catching up with friends, swapping Oppikoppi stories, drinking beer and talking about comic books.
There's a pretty impressive crowd that's pulled through and a before Lucky even starts his set the place is full of people patiently waiting. He plays a pretty neat little soundcheck, singing "this is not a song, this is just a soundcheck". Flashback to late 2006- on this very same stage I'm seeing Green Is For Turbo for the first time.
Lucky's set is unsurprisingly fantastic. And surprisingly lengthy which nobody seems to mind.
On Saturday afternoon I drive through to Pretoria. Shiva's Rock is not the kind of place I'd usually hang out at. It does stay open later than anywhere else in Pretoria, so there've been a few nights where I've landed up there at 3 in the morning, but it's never like I'm actually excited about going there. Until now.
I arrive at 6ish to check up on the visuals before I meet Maaike and Christian for dinner at 6:45. I run into Andreas and Martinique in the parking lot - give them a hand unloading their gear and head into the venue. We're "greeted" by some dude that turns out to be the rudest, weirdest, craziest door-person of all time. Despite the fact that it's 6PM and we're carrying handfuls of drums and guitars he won't believe we're playing, never mind that this is Martinique's gig. "No, no, no, you need to speak to the organiser" - "I am the organiser!". Eventually he seems to tire of being a total douche and lets us in. Martinique gives him a list with the band members and their guests. Still, as each member (or girlfriend) of Us kids Know or Eyes Like Mirror enters the bar they have the same wide eyed terror at just having had to deal with Lord Douchington the IIIrd.
People are watching rugby on the screen we'll be projecting onto so I don't get a chance to check the visuals before I need to leave for Chineese food. Awesome Chineese food. Unfortunately we can't enjoy it for very long before needing to get the rest of our meals to go and rush back the venue.
By the time we return, Shiva's has undergone a pretty radical rock and roll transformation. 20 little paper machete heads are hanging around the stage. Little cut-out clouds are floating around the venue. A weird, bear/ octopus/ doll creature is hanging at the front door and then these bad boys are at the front of the stage:
If, like me, you were confused by what you're seeing, everything is explained here.
After seeing them spinning around the party for a while I realise I have seen them before - in a music video for one of my favourite bands from almost a decade ago!
We hook up the projector and a William S Burroughs DVD complete the slumber experience. A fair amount of kids have shown up in their PJ's and there are even a couple of friends for the Stitch and Seekat plushies Anja and I have under our arms. This is gonna be a cool night.
The Atom Band start their set. It's crazy hard to pinpoint what they're doing. It's kinda 80ies, kinda 90ies. It's pretty Manchester. There's a keyboard. They do a cover of Echo and the Bunny Men. Whatever it is Atom Band are doing it's really fresh and I really like it and everyone else seems to too.
After their set I hang out with some of the dudes. Turns out it's their first show. This means in the past two months I've seen 3 great new bands all playing shows for the first time. There's definitely a new wave of awesomeness waiting to break over South African music.
"We just really just gotta stick together. Create a community, a scene." the lead singer tells me. I couldn't agree more, but it's sad that he obviously has no idea about the fact that there was a community a few years back. And it's not that he wasn't into music then, it's just no-one recognised what was happening back in 2006 so people didn't even know about it. There were no magazines or websites or blogs documenting the fact that a little army of bands and DJs were getting together every second weekend and playing their hearts out.
All I can hope is with Night Sky Empires, Tennyson Extended, Vampire 9000 and now Atom Band, the new scene will be a little better represented than the last.
Next up it's a band who were a part of the old scene. A band who will no doubt be a part of the new scene. With how they've re-invented themselves, sure as hell sound like a whole new band now.
Us Kids Know get up on stage and start out with thier original two piece lineup. In a few songs brand-new live member Cam will join them, but even while it's just Colin and Chad they're sounding like a very different band from the one they were even a few months ago. Colin's sticking to the aucoustic guitar he was brandishing for Howl at Wolves. And again it sounds awesome. After a few songs Cam joins in. Initially he's rocking glockenspiel and noise samples off a tape deck. Later he switches over to bass.
Us Kids Know where always wildly creative (to the point that many were totally freaked out by thier ADD song writing in the early days). The fact that they re-invented every song for every show meant they were consistently one of the most fun and exciting bands to see live. But now the way they've pulled this total 180, it's just inspiring. It's like they've become the poster boys for fearless creativity - something you almost never see in local music.
Next up it's Make-Overs, who don't work so much in fearless-creativity as they do in creating fear. And this as well is something you almost never see in local music. In a decade of going out to watch bands only a handful have ever truly challenged or frightened me. In 2010 no-one's going to be freaked out by metal or punk bands doing the same thing people we doing 20 years ago. At some point those genre's were doing something new, something challenging, but they've long since become about as safe and predictable as a Bon Jovi greatest hits CD.
There's a mountain of fantastic bands that don't do it, but to me pushing boundaries and freaking people out is one of the foundations of rock and roll. Sadly this is something almost nobody in this country gets this. But Make-Overs are not one of these nobodies.
Andreas and Martinique have been making music together since 2004. Over 3 main bands they've stuck to the formula of both singing, Andreas playing guitar and Martinique handling bass. With Make-Overs they've broken away from this, with Martinique now playing drums. Through the power of a really cheap gaming headset, she still sings and screams along to every song.
Other than this shaking up what they're playing, the thing that's most striking about Make-Overs is how much noiser they are than the their last band, Sticky Antlers. Anyone that's seen the Antlers will understand this is no small feat. The antlers were pretty bad-ass, but Make-Overs are BRUTAL!
Many people are totally freaked out. Of my friends Patrick seems to be the only guy loving the band quite as much as me. Shannon can't stop saying how awesome Andreas' scream is. Some elderly Shiva's regulars look like they're feeling as though they've wondered into hell. It's great.
After they finish their totally rad racket The Mirrors and I take to stage. Awesome times ensue.
The crowd's been thinned a little by the onslaught of the Make-Overs and it's definitely not the biggest audience we've played to since I started jamming with the boys a few months back. But the guys are well on form and we have loads of fun. I spend most of the set on the floor in front of the stage. Rocking out in tracksuit pants and slippers is crazy weird, but totally fun.
During "Math Rock" I run off and fetch Seekat. I perch him up on one of the wooden beams running above the stage. This song isn't about Octopi, but the visuals are, so it only seems right that our plushy blue friend joins the party.
I don't fall over and my keytar doesn't break in the last song! Win!
"You've got new dance moves" Anja tells me after we finish. It must be the PJs and slippers.
I'm exhausted and we quickly pack up and hit the road back to JHB. When I get home I brake my post show ritual of shower and Phonogram. Tonight it's shower and Mondo Urbano.
Sunday is spent the way Sunday's should be. Movies, games, PJs all day and more comics. Good weekend.