Sunday, September 12, 2010

Good weekend. Shatner and the Problems Solutions.

By Thursday evening I hardly feel like leaving the house. I've had two crazy late nights in a row. Designing the poster for Generation Next and then making the mixtape for the Us Kids Know launch, I've been up till after 2 for the past two nights and honestly all I wanna do is stay home, play Heavy Rain and get to bed early. But that isn't really an option. I've got time for dinner, then export my Problems mix, burn it to disc and head through to Wolves. Obviously as soon as I get there I'm totally cool with the fact that I needed to come out. Maybe it's seeing friends or meeting their dads, but honestly it's probably eating hummingbird cake that does it. Hang around for a while and have some lovely conversations with some lovely kids. Most of them seem to be really excited about Generation Next, which makes me happy. Then a I get a whole bunch more happy because Night Sky Empire start playing. Turns out, despite tonight being a Howl, the band aren't doing an acoustic set. Cale has sorta brushy drumsticks, but otherwise the band seem to be playing with the same set up as when I saw them playing their first show a few weeks back. They're holding back for sure though, respecting that Wolves is after all a coffee shop, but it's still a bunch louder than the usual Howl entertainment. Restraint doesn't really suit the band and you can see they'd love to be making a bunch more noise. Still they put on a good show and get a really nice response from the crowd. There's a new song with singing(!) in it, which is really nice. I totally enjoy their set, but all to often I keep thinking about how excited I am to see them at full volume in the Bridge Diner next Saturday.

After their set I hook the boys up with posters and hit the road. I still have an hour and a half of Heavy Rain time before I need to get to bed! But things don't work out that way - when I get home Anja's watching something on the TV. As she announces she's going to bed Chad arrives to collect my mixtape for tomorrow night's launch. We hang out, drink tea, listen to half the mix and talk about how excited we are for what'll be going down the next night... I'm watching the hours ticking by on Friday afternoon. I really just wish this day would end so I could drive through to the Us Kids Know launch - I don't know when last I was so looking forward to a gig.

Once work finally does end I drive straight through to the venue. The party only officially starts at 6, but I figure I'll be able to lend a hand getting everything ready. Which I do, carrying toys and drums into the venue, sticking up decor, trying to blow up balloons, failing and then drawing faces on them instead.

A little before everyone starts arriving Ampersand does a "soundcheck" on the jungle-gym he'll be playing on later. It turns out to be one of the highlights of my night as 5 toddlers crowd around him, clapping along, stamping their feet on the jungle-gym and swinging around like little monkeys.

People gradually start streaming in, lucky packets in hand. I realise that, having arrived so early, I skipped out on paying to get in. I head back to the door, pay cover and receive a lucky packet (the horrifying contents of which are so crazy that they'll be featured in their own post soon!).

Anja and i get some dinner. My Skiprope Team starts his set, which is just great. He plays on the grass alongside a jungle gym we're sit strewn across, looking down on him. He plays a super nice set, the highlight of which is a cover of Porcelain by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Chad disappears and returns with a tambourine. I start banging on the pile of cutlery and plates left after our dinner. It's awesome.

We play pass the parcel, win prizes, laugh a bunch. Head back to the jungle gym to watch "Ampersand the Clown". His set is just too cool.

We return to playing some more games. I'm pretty badass at hot potato, but really really suck at Musical Chairs. The soundtrack for the night has been really fantastic. Between the live acts a little tape player has been blaring out the mixtapes various people have complied for the night. Hearing bits of my mix playing of actual tape gives me quite a kick. There's also another kind of tape going down - VHS! An old tube TV is screening old tapes of kids shows. Later the band unveils a music video for a section of "Solutions". Afterwards they start their set and 40 odd minutes of total joy ensue. The band has really settled into the new direction they've takeN. Cam's fully integrated in all the songs he plays on, rotating between 7 instruments (if you consider a kid's toy telephone to be an instrument). At one stage he even takes over on drums while Chad freaks out on some guitar pedals.

The crowd is totally enchanted by what the band are doing. I've definitely seen gigs where more people show up, but I've never seen one where virtually everyone in the audience is so captivated by what's happening. There's no-one talking in the background, no kids hanging out by the bar - literally everyone there is totally immersed in what Us Kids Know are doing. During one of the songs Chad initiates a little handclap. Everyone joins in, and long after the band have fallen silent the crowd is still rocking this clap - I've never seen anything like it.

All to quickly the set is over, the balloons and pinwheels and fairy lights come down and everyone heads home. We land up in Cam's lounge, hanging out until crazy late and watching educational videos about George Washington. On Saturday morning, after some lovely breakfast with Anja, Matt's little cousin Dana comes over. Dana is a 9 year old kid who's into drawing monsters, dressing up like an anime character and watching Miyazaki movies. Basically she's the coolest person I know who's age is only in single digits. As a total animation fanatic, she came by on Saturday morning so I could show her the basics of how animation works. Together we make 4 shorts clips, a simple walk cycle of dog-man-thing, a boy turning to a scary fish creature, a stop-motion fight sequence between a transformer and a raptor and "Ghost Bear", the heart-warming tale of a bear ghost going shopping. Needless to say I have a lot of fun helping Dana bring her bizarre concepts to life.

Later Ri drops by, we rock an episode of Undeclared and then do a bit of thrifting... ...and head through to Pretoria.

It's too cool being back at Hotbox, there really is nothing else like it. I stick up some posters for "Generation Next" and then hang out in the lounge for a bit. At around 9:30 the Us Kids Know boys head out to start their set. Maximum rock and roll ensues. Besides a little crazy feedback, the sound is great which really adds to what a good show the guys are putting on. Add some smoke and lights and it's a very different (but still very cool) affair to what went down last night.

Next it's Short Straw. Although they've been together for a couple of years now, I've somehow always missed seeing these guys. I'm expecting a two piece acoustic folky thing, but instead they turn out to be a four piece playing more indie rocky stuff (that still has acoustic guitar in it). They put on a really good, spirited show and it's really nice seeing a band like them is around in Joburg. While watching them I can't help but think how nicely their style would compliment Cape Town's "The Plastics" if the two bands played a show together.

Next up there IS a Cape band, New Holland. The dudes have progressed quite a bit since I last played shows with them on this side last year. Their show's become really polished and they're playing a lot of new material. One of the new songs even reminds me of the Tutus and really gets the crowd going. Unfortunately, not very far into their set I realise the CDJs are still standing in the middle of the lounge. Nobody's hooked this stuff up and Ri and I are supposed to start DJing in a half hour! When Joe see's what's happening he just laughs and pats us on the shoulders. "Good luck dudes!".

We run around for a bit trying to find Henk to help us get set up. Eventurally we give up and take matters into our own hands. Maybe I've been spoiled mostly playing Griet shows these days but I'm used to this stuff been sorted out. I've grown accustomed to being able to just start DJing when I'm supposed to start - I've come to expect the equipment will be ready and waiting and all I need to do is get people dancing. Now however I'm rushing around, trying to find out what cables we have, make sure the sound guy understand we need to start as soon as the band finishes, find us a table to play on, hook up power points. We rin into Henk who hooks us up a table. As we're setting it up Joe seems to tire of laughing at how this stuff hasn't been organised and lends a hand. "Okay fine, I can be a trained civilian."

Everything's set up on a table. We squeeze the table into one of the far ends of the stage. I plug everything in, then see the sound guy on stage. Head over and let him know we're good to go when he can plug us into the system. He says okay and carries on packing up mics. The Beastie Boys are playing in the backround and people are rapidly dispersing. As they wander away from the stage Ri and I patiently wait to get plugged in. I'm expecting there's another sound guy attending to this, that any minute now he'll show up, plug in the mixer and the party will start. But it never happens. Eventually I head over to the dude packing up the mics. Considering he might be someone who's only ever done rock shows, I explain that people are now leaving and we need to start DJing as soon as possible to keep the party going. The dude gives me a blank stare and doesn't say a word as he turns and carries on packing up.

I head back to explain to Ri the dude is clearly a rock only man.

We wait.

Eventually the dude decides he'll help us. Plugs the mixer into a DI leaving us with a buzzy connection to the PA. Ri opens with some CMYK. Stage lights shining in our faces mean we can't see the dancefloor at all - it's just a black hole. After I play a track I suggest we try move the table to center stage so we can rock out with the crowd. This proves to be a terrible idea which ends with me accidentally unplugging a CDJ and completely killing the music. Ri and I fall back into our dark corner. 1 on 1 for a bit, but can't get into a groove. Personally I can't get over the panic of needing to set everything up and then deal with the rudest soundguy I've met outside of Durban.

Ri and I deiced to play the rest of the night on our own. Ri takes the first shift and plays a really nice set that features such memorable juxtapositions as Sleigh Bells followed by Weezer. I dance like crazy. "The Get Up Kids" covering The Cure seems to be the perfect opportunity for me to tag in. Having just spoken to Chad about Belle and Sebastian I play some of that. Then the Unicorns which turns into a sing along between me and black hole of the dancefloor. I follow into a little spree of local stuff, Tutus, Greenisforturbo and Kidofdoom. During little excursions to the front of the stage I can see that what's left of the party seems to be really enjoying this stuff, but soon the volume starts dropping on the soundesk, seems the party is over. We hang out in the lounge for a while, theN Anja, Ri and I hit the road back to Joburg.

On Sunday I don't have to do anything and for the first time since getting it from Matthew almost a week ago, I can now finally play Heavy Rain properly. Pretty much anyone that has spoken to me about games will know just how passionate I am about the idea of the medium becoming a really powerful platform for new narrative and artistic masterpieces. Unfortunately, as anyone that's spoken to me about the subject will also know, I'm massively frustrated with how slowly I'm seeing this dream becoming a reality. It's just tragic how almost all games still seem to be about either shooting people in the head, driving fast cars or both. Still, there have been a few games to break out of the mediocrity the rest of the game industry seems stuck in. I'm very happy to now include Heavy Rain in that list. It's a MASSIVE victory for games becoming a new form of interactive narrative. It's so awesome in fact that, when Anja heads home, she forbids me from playing any further because she doesn't want to miss any of the story. In 3 years of dating, this has never happened before. High five Quantic! Thanks to you lovely, lovely French people I can experience a game where I get to play on a see saw instead of shooting people. Fuck yeah!


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